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.
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).