An Unexpected Hatch

It was raining hard when I left home at about 12:30pm and didn’t stop after I got to the creek about 40 minutes later.  If you like to fish and you live in western Oregon, a temperate rainforest,  then rain is not something to let stop you.  I prefer it, actually, not because I like to be wet but because many others don’t and so I see fewer of them on the river.  Today I have it all to myself and I’m excited because I haven’t fished this water, before.  The river has been on my bucket list for a while, but I hadn’t felt motivated until my  good buddy had sent me a google maps pin for this particular spot a couple of days ago. He had just fished it for the first time, himself, on his way back from the North Umpqua, and reported that he took a couple of fish on a wooly bugger after they had refused his dry fly.

With this knowledge I arrive at the river bank with my five-weight set up with a 5-foot sink tip and a green sculpzilla on the end.  This is the same setup that caught me my limit a couple of days before on a different river. I was feeling confident, and if you’re a fisherman you know this is foolish.  Arriving at new water and thinking you know what will work is only superseded in hubris by exclaiming that you know you’re going to catch fish.

I swing through the first promising pool several times and received nothing for my effort. After about 20 minutes I move to the next pool downstream which is separated from the first by a narrow chute created by large rocks.  The water rushes through the chute then slows down into a pool about 50 meters long.  I begin to swing the sculpzilla through the head of the pool when I catch a splash downstream out of the corner of my eye.  I stop fishing and watch, and sure enough there is a trout rising at 30 second intervals at the end of the pool, about twenty feet before the water tails out into the next riffle. I very slowly wade downstream until I am reasonably sure I can get my streamer in front of the fishes face.  It’s a fairly long cast as the depth of the water prevents me from wading too close, but I finally get a position that I’m happy with and am able to place the fly where I want it.  This doesn’t do me much good as the trout ignores the sculpzilla three times.

Time for a change.  He’s not sipping dries, at least not as far as I can tell, though it’s still raining which makes it difficult to see if there are really small bugs. My best guess is that he’s picking off emergers stuck in the surface film. I clip off my streamer and tie on a four foot length of 5x tippet to the 3x butt section that comes out of the sink tip. To the tag end of that knot I tie a size 10 brown soft hackle fly, and the end of the 5x I tie on a size 14 of the same color.

I see that the trout is still rising and I cast to him.  I get nothing on the first two casts, and then on the third he slams the soft hackle.  I bring him in a minute later and see that he is a 12 inch hatchery rainbow.  I feel satisfied that I am not going to be skunked and that I’ll have at least one fish for my mother-in-law this evening.  I bonk him on the head and as I return to the water I see them.

Mayflies.  Some invisible switch has been hit, and within a few minutes the current is sweeping thousands of dark brown bugs down the river.  They are two distinct sizes; one is about a size 10 and the other about a size 16.

This is the first substantial hatch of the year that I’ve seen and I feel very lucky to be riverside as it’s happening.  I feel even more lucky as the trout start to roll like crazy in the first pool, snapping up the mayflies.  On a cold rainy day like this I didn’t expect I’d be doing dry fly fishing, but I’m thankful I’ve brought my other rod.  I run to the car, remove the indicator and nymph from the 5-weight sitting in the back, and tie on a size 10 Adams. I run back down the river, cast out and notice that even though I’ve coated the Adams in floatant, it’s sinking like a rock.  I make a note to myself to tie better flies and go to replace it.  That’s when I realize that when went to my car to get this second rod I left my fly box in the trunk.  Ugh. I run back, get them, switch to a better made Adams, and cast out.

A reasonable imitation

There are so many naturals floating in the water that it takes a while for the first fish to choose mine, but when it does it inhales it and is solidly hooked. It’s a small native which I promptly return to water.  A few minutes later I catch a hatchery trout that takes the fly with equal abandon. I bring it in, bonk it and add it to the other that will end up on a plate sometime very soon.  I’ve officially spooked this pool and the trout are no longer rising.  I move the second pool, but can’t convince its residents that my Adams looks as good as the real thing.  I eventually switch back to a soft hackle and after about 30 minutes catch one more hatchery fish.

After another two hours of fishing in a couple other spots, and being very soaked as it’s been raining off and on for the entire time, the darkness forces me off the river.  I decide that three is a good number, and happily drive home.