Anybody Missing a Jigged, Bead-head Pheasant Tail?

Stew and I drifted the Upper McKenzie on Saturday evening.  We didn’t get on the water til 6pm, which was later than we wanted, but pretty good for two guys with family and work. We were both hoping for surface action, of course, so we started by fishing green Caddis since they had been about in good numbers.  There were a few takers here and there, but these were juvenile fish who were willing to run the risk of coming to the surface.  The bigger guys were doing something subsurface. As usual.

Things got going about an hour in.  We anchored just before the drop off of a shelf that gave way to some choppy water a few feet deep with a nice seam along the right side.  We hopped out of the boat to be able to spread out and wade the whole section.   It turned out that fish were happy to oblige us by hitting soft hackles fished just underneath the surface.  Both of us had some nice fish on, and lost several (Afterwards I realized we should have switched to 3x instead of 5x;  These fish weren’t shy and we could have landed more of them with stronger line).  I commented later to Stew that if I had to calculate the ratio of the time I take to tie a particular pattern to the success rate of that pattern catching fish, the soft hackle wins by a mile.  I tie one in about 2 or 3 minutes, and it always seems to produce when the fish are looking up, even when they’re not visibly rising.

Not my nymph!

One of these fish I brought in had a jigged bead-head pheasant tail in the corner of his mouth.  It was in good condition so my guess is that the fish had been hooked and broken free within the last couple of days (if not the same day).  There’s something about catching a fish that you know someone else lost that warms the heart.  I was also glad to see how someone else ties their flies – this pheasant tale had a much larger bead than i would have put on for the hook size.  This fish hadn’t seemed to mind, clearly.  I might up the size of my beads and see if I can still get the same results.  Always good to have more weight than less to get down to the bottom when nymphing.

Anyhow, if you lost a fish somewhere between Finn Rock and Silver Creek on a pheasant tail, hit me up.  I’ll send it to you (the nymph, not the fish.. my father-in-law ate it).

Soft Hackle + Crystal Minnow = Catching Cutthroat

It’s been a busy month and so while I’ve fit in fishing here and there, blogging not so much.  Family is coming over the summer and so my wife has strongly encouraged me to get some house projects done to make everything look nice.  As I was stripping and then restaining the deck I felt like Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid: I was paying my dues so that later I would get to do the fun stuff. That makes my wife Mr. Miyagi so maybe that’s not the best analogy.  Personally, I’d be OK with a burning tire on the front lawn if it meant I got to spend more time on the river, but we can’t always have what we want.

As a result of the house work, I’ve been going to the water with the least travel time from my house, which is the Coast Fork of the Willamette. Between there, the McKenzie, and a couple other tailwaters, the Coast Fork is the least productive, but there’s a lot to be said for increasing the time on the water to driving ratio. This has forced me up my game to see if I can get the fish to take what I’m offering.

A week ago I was able to pick up a few fish swinging flies.  At first I was getting no grabs, but once I added a few small splitshot 18 inches above the top fly (I was fishing two soft hackles, 5 feet apart), things picked up.  Apparently the fish were eating lower in the water column.  These were juvenile fish, though, nothing bigger than 8 or 9 inches. What was interesting, though, was that I noticed that in a couple of the deeper parts of the run, I got a couple really solid tugs. Bigger fish.  No hookups, though, not even for a second.  My hunch was that the strikes were actually on the row of three splitshot.  I didn’t have anything resembling that in my fly box, however, but I resolved to come back with something about that size and color.

Yesterday, before heading out the Coast Fork I tied an epoxy minnow with the thought in mind to make something metallic, shiny, and roughly the same size as the row of splitshot that had been on my line. The minnow didn’t consist of much more than some lead wrapped around a size 10 (2x long) hook, mylar wrapped around that, and then a bunch of  thick epoxy cured with UV.  I put that as my bottom fly.  About 4 feet up I put my soft hackle. The minnow was heavy enough that I didn’t need to add split shot. Once I started casting it occurred to me that perhaps it looked like the minnow was chasing the soft hackle, but who knows what the trout think of it.  The bottom line, though, was that I picked up a bunch of fish, catching one 15″ cutthroat among the bunch. At one point I had two fish on at once.  I noted that the catch was split evenly between the two flies.

Who knows if it was the new combination of flies I was using that resulted in the better action – there are just to many variables to conclude such a thing.  But like I do most of the time, I’ll start with what worked last time the next time I’m on that water, and adjust as necessary.  I noticed a ton of little yellow stoneflies laying eggs while I was on the water yesterday, so I’ve been tying a bunch of Yellow Sallies and yellow stoneflies today.  When will I get to try them out?  After I sand and restain this wooden chair.  God, Mr. Miyagi is so strict.

Yellow Sallies and Golden Stones. And one lonely Prince Nymph.
Yellow Sallies and Golden Stones. And one lonely Prince Nymph.