Trutta hooks

Eight or so months since I last posted. What can I say? winter can be depressing! Perhaps the long dark days would have been brightened by writing about fishing. I’ll try to remember that next winter. Meanwhile, spring has landed upon us. Perhaps it’s the increase of sunlight that has inspired me to write about a fish hook.

Let me state, first, that I’m not generally a big fan of fly fishing product reviews on blogs. While in the aggregate advances in fly fishing gear technology have moved our ability to catch fish forward a lot, after 5 years of fishing I realize that what really improves my ability at this point is being out on the water. Not buying fancy new fly tying materials or using a new kind of float. And boy does the fly fishing industry give you chances to buy stuff. So what’s so special about the Upside Downie Trutta hook? I write because my hookup rate was such an improvement over the norm that I though I should share.

I had read about Trutta Upside-Downie hooks (jig hooks) in comments on the fly fishing subreddit. People said they were great, and I’d seen some nice looking nymphs tied with them. So, thought I’d give them try. I ordered a pack of size 16s and with bunch of 2.0mm jig-head tungsten beads already in my droor, I tied several of my favorite standards: Frenchies, Copper Johns, and Princes.

My first day on the water was in mid January. This is typically a very good month around my parts for tailwater fishing, and that day was no exception. The rainbows were aggressive and the river was full of them; I hooked 15 fish in about 2 hours. This wasn’t much different than what I expected.

What surprised me was my landing rate. On this water I was used to about a 50% landing rate when using small nymphs. Lots of hookups, but lots of grabs and spits and lost fish during the fight both with jigged and regular hooks. So, I was astounded when I brought to hand 11 of the 15 fish I hooked. I also noticed that the “soft-hookup” – where I totally miss a strike because my line is slack either from rod tip to indicator, or indicator to nymph – was noticeably higher. In other words I missed setting the hook, but the fish gets well hooked anyway (basically hooking itself). This I attribute to the large gape and point that angles back towards the shank of the Upside Downie. It really hooks well.

So, I have ordered size 14s and 18s, as well as beads, from Trutta, and all my nymphs (save for longer bodied ones) will now be tied on them. The hooks and beads are super economical – 50 to a pack.

I’m a fan. 🙂

The River Giveth, The River Taketh Away

Since it’s been so hot in the valley I’ve been heading up highway 58 to get to the cooler waters of the middle fork around Oakridge.  Unfortunately the demands of my life require that I go during the middle of the day, so it’s blazing out.  Not exactly ideal fishing conditions, though it is way better than fishing near Eugene where the water temps are way up.  I had good luck about two weeks ago despite this by finding a stretch of water with lots of tree cover and some depth.  After catching nothing on the dry or the dropper through this stretch, I thought I’d try a heavier bottom fly.  I put on a size 16 red wire copper john and added a bit of tippet so that it could get near the bottom.  I immediately started to pick up fish.  After exhausting that hole, I moved upstream to the sunnier section you see, above.  I had one grab in that section, but that was it, so i decided to head back home. On the way downstream to the car, as I was stumbling through that same section where I had caught fish, I saw a glint in the water.  I reached in and pulled out a nice, heavy duty pair of line nippers. Not the style I’m used to using, but I figured I would find a use for them, if only to clip wire when I’m tying flies.

Fast forward a week.  My buddy Stew and I decided to head up to one of the Cascade lakes to see if we could pick up some brook trout.  We didn’t want to arrive in the dead heat of the day, so we stopped at this same stretch of river to fish it a little bit before continuing on.  Like the week before, we found action under the shade of the trees.  We fished for about 30 or 40 minutes, then headed back to the car.  As we’re driving away, I realize I do not have my smartphone in my wader chest pocket. I knew I had it when we arrived at the spot. Yikes. Cue scrambling around the passenger compartment, the back of the car, and even the boat.  I then remembered stumbling at one point, my chest coming parallel to the water as I grabbed a tree root to steady myself. Adding to my growing dread was the knowledge that I have a terrible habit of not zipping my wader pocket. That must have been it, I realized. We called it, and it went straight to voice message, and I knew it was over. I had had full battery.

Was that a fair trade, river gods?  A pair of line nippers for a $500 phone?  I can only imagine I’m paying some other karmic debt.  Either that or the river gods don’t really differentiate between shiny things.  You take one, they take one.  My family tells me that I shouldn’t take my phone on the river anymore.  But then I couldn’t take photos, like this one, of the fish I caught yesterday on a black copper john in a deep hole of a tailwater I frequent (with my “new” used phone):

 

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.

The Spring Transition

Salmonfly hitching a ride on my boat.

I was able to escape the family and work four or five times during the last month to fish. Not nearly as much as I’d like, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I drifted the McKenzie a couple of times, fished the middle fork of the Willamette and a couple of the other tailwaters. Spring has definitely sprung, and there are plenty of bugs around, with fish occasionally taking them on the surface.  As the days warm that should only increase. Yesterday I drifted a section of the McKenzie in town with Stew and we caught a bunch of cutthroat who rose to size 12 caddis patterns (best success with the Butch Caddis.. I’m really appreciating how hard it is to sink this fly even after fishing it for an hour).

Despite warmer weather and bugs starting to make a show, April isn’t my favorite time to fish.  Fly fishing heresy? Perhaps.  I know that most fly fishermen anticipate the end of the cold, dark months with excitement.  Maybe I feel this way because fishing becomes a little harder as trout have a more varied diet to choose from and therefore won’t go for whatever I throw at them.  I find that I really need to transition my strategies, and I realize I’m not the fly fishing genius I thought I was. Maybe it’s also because the dams dial down their flow which stops washing through all the big hatchery fish into the rivers.  Since I always return wild fish to the river, and I won’t keep the 8 inch stocked fish that ODFW has just dumped into local waters by the thousands, I have nothing to bring my mother-in-law at the end of the day.

Speaking of which, I was on my way down highway 58, passing Dexter reservoir, when I noticed an ODFW truck on the covered bridge that crosses the lake. I knew what they were about to do so I stopped to film it:

The guy managing this operation hollered at me that the fish hadn’t been fed in a couple of days preceding the stocking.  Of course I had to throw my line in.  I immediately caught a trout and… decided this would be no fun. I might as well have held a basket underneath the stream of trout shooting out of the truck.  Fishing has got to be a lot harder.  It’s got to involve some level of skill.  And it’s got to require that I’m wading in or floating on a river for a couple of hours.  Otherwise it’s just catching, and who wants to do that?

 

 

 

The Middle Fork of the Willamette

I had been looking at the weather forecast over the last couple of weeks, waiting for a break in the rain to get some fishing in. Today was that day, so after work I drove to one of the few rivers nearby that wasn’t the color of chocolate milk or swelling past its banks. This was a tailwater, and the US Army corps of engineers must still be filling up the reservoir because there was barely a trickle coming out of the dam. Too little, I realized very quickly after beginning to wade downstream. My favorite pools were puddles and the runs were so shallow I knew no self-respecting trout (or one that wanted to survive an osprey’s claws) would be hanging out there. I decided to give it a go, anyway. Nothing was rising, though there were a bunch of caddis flitting about. After swinging soft hackles for a little bit, I switched to a dry caddis (Kelly Galloup’s high floating Butch Caddis pattern) with a size 16 bead-head prince nymph dropper.  I tied a few of these recently after listening to Kelly talk about what a great floater this pattern is because of the inclusion of the hollow part of the deer hair.  He’s not wrong – it is a great dry fly to drop something off of.

I caught a mountain whitefish on the dropper out of one of the puddles and after I let him go I realized that I had already waded half the water I was intending on fishing. I decided to quit while I was ahead to make my way to the middle fork of the Willamette. It wasn’t too high, according to the USGS website, and not that far away from where I was. I drove over there and was relieved when I pulled up and saw no cars.  On a day like today when there weren’t many other options for good water I counted myself lucky to see no one.

I went to the bottom of the topmost riffle of the very long inside turn that would take me an hour or two to fish if I did it thoroughly. There were bugs flying about; caddis and various mayflies heading upstream and some diving to lay eggs. Not a major hatch, but enough to bring some fish around I thought. But no trout were rising as far as I could see. I tried my caddis dry/prince dropper combo to start with absolutely no luck. I briefly considered swinging soft hackles but concluded that if the fish didn’t want to rise for a juicy caddis or the prince nymph hanging a foot under, they weren’t going to rise for a size 16 soft hackle either.  Another one of those times when I came to the river really wanting to fish the surface but had to admit that it just wasn’t happening. Time to go deep.

I tied on a size 8 mega-prince as a lead fly and then an unweighted size 16 pheasant tail off the bend of the hook. I put a couple of tin-pellet shot on about 18 inches up from the prince to get it down quickly.  I started working the water and quickly had a grab by something fair sized.  The hookup lasted only a few seconds before the fish broke off. I wondered which fly he had taken. I worked the run for the next 45 minutes with nothing more, until finally my cork indicator took a dive and I set the hook on a fish I knew was big.  After a short fight I brought in a beautiful 18 inch wild rainbow with my mega-prince in his mouth.  As I unhooked it I smelled cigarette smoke and realized there was someone waiting near the spot where I had parked.  Waiting to fish, I guessed.  Feeling satisfied with my result, and figuring I should give someone else a turn, I decided to call it a day.  As I walked back I saw three cars next to mine with fly rods inside.  Too late, suckers, I got the big one!

Falling in a Boat

I drifted the McKenzie today – Deerhorn Landing to Hendricks Bridge. Swarms and swarms of black caddis everywhere.  Lots of March browns.  Tim at the Caddis Fly told me fish had been popping in the afternoons for the last several days.  And me being an idiot on the river.  This was the first drift of 2018, so maybe I was just too excited for my own good.  Here’s my list of goofs from today:

  • I decided not to bring my waders.  I wasn’t planning on wading since my friend and first-time floater, Jim, didn’t have any.  A little voice was telling me that they might come in handy but I leave them in the car, anyway.  Forgetting – of course – that I keep my flotant, my two best fly boxes, and hemostats in my wader pocket.  I realized it about 10 minutes down river…doh.  So much for the dry dropper combo I was hoping to fish.
  • This being the first drift of the year I had put my boat in order and untangled my anchor rope.  This resulted in the very tame coils of rope slipping right out of the pulleys and into the river after I had anchored us because I didn’t secure the rope in the cleat.  I look down, see no anchor rope at all, and look behind us to see the rope floating about 20 feet upstream.  I huff and puff to row us up river to get the rope. As I’m pulling the rope into the boat I lose my balance and fall backwards into the center of the boat, feet up in the air, flat on my back.  Right in front of  Jim.
  • I chose to go down a braid of river and it turns out the the riffle is too shallow.  Not drift boat shallow where you can scrape along, but like one inch of water. We get stuck, and neither of us is wearing waders. We both hop out and wet pants and shoes for first timer Jim as we drag the boat down because the captain made a bad choice.
  • As we get off the shallow riffle I hop into the boat and get into the rowers seat as fast as I can, but I’m in a rush because I see we’re headed for the far bank with some branches hanging over the river.  I slip and fall in front of the seat, this time landing on and breaking my Echo Carbon XL 5 weight.  Right then I figured Jim was thinking he might not make it to the take-out alive.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to get Jim to connect to a fish.  We swung wet flies throughout the drift, and I kept catching them.  This was Jim’s first time fly fishing and so I was doing my best to get him at least a solid hookup. I gave him my best fly, adjusted his setup, paddled the boat to swing his line through good water.  None of it worked.  Jim has fished a lot in his life, however, so he seemed like he had moderated expectations.

I think all of this could have been avoided if I had told myself to slow down a bit.  The fishing gods don’t appreciate me rushing around, urgently scrambling to get to the fish. Next time I’m going to go for my zen place before I even start the car.

Cheap Wading Boot Studs

Anyone who is into fly fishing knows that the sport provides endless ways to gear up and spend tons of money doing it.  I’m not complaining, I like to think about new gear as much as the next guy. Occasionally, though, you find members our beloved fly fishing industry devising ways of parting you from your money that seem more than a bit greedy.  Case in point:  Wading boot studs. A couple of years ago I was in need of replacing the studs on my boots and after shelling out $30 for a package of 20, I found myself doubting the goodwill of said companies. I knew there had to be an alternative, and after searching around the fishing forums for a little while, I happened upon a this Hatch mag post that describes one.

The answer? Motorcycle/ATV ice studs.  If you want to take your motorbike on the ice, regular rubber just doesn’t cut it. Screw in a bunch of metal studs into your tires, though, and you’re good to go.  As you might imagine, each tire requires a lot of studs to get a good grip, and so the price is very reasonable.  A package of 250 “Kold-Kutter” 1/2 inch studs is $20 or so.  Less than ten cents per screw versus more than $1 a screw charged by major fly fishing gear companies.  I decided that if they provided a decent grip and lasted even half as long as the screws I had been using this would be totally worth it.

I purchased them and screwed them in (an easy feat with an impact driver as they have hex screw heads).  The results?  I’m very satisfied with the grip I get from the ice studs;  it seems comparable to what I get with specialty wading boot studs.  I’m not sure if they last quite as long, but with a per-piece price of less than 10 cents I  don’t sweat it.

An important note is to consider the length of screw you are buying. I misplaced my original bag of 3/8″ screws a while ago so I bought another bag, this time accidentally ordering 1/2″ studs. I thought perhaps these would be too long, but was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were they not too long, they stayed in my boots better than the 3/8″ length (which sometimes came out after a while).

 

Oregon Coast Winter Steelhead Trip (in Early Spring)

In the four years I’ve been fly fishing I have primarily targeted trout.  They’re a (fairly) soft entry into the sport, and fishing opportunities are available year round just minutes from my house. Not to say that I never get skunked – sometimes I can’t solve the puzzle as to what (or where or when) they’re eating – but as I’ve gotten to know my local rivers and improved my fly fishing technique I’ve become more reliably successful.

About two years ago, my good buddy Stew and I started swinging flies on spey rods for steelhead.  We haven’t gone steelheading nearly as much as we trout fish (and me less than Stew), but we go when we can negotiate the time away from family and work. We’ve been on guided trips with Matt Ramsey on the Willamette and Dillon Renton on the North Umpqua which were invaluable. I learned a ton from them about reading water, spey casting and steelheading in general. Stew and I have gone after summer and winter steelhead in nearby watersheds since then, both drifting and wading. Stew has caught several, but prior to this last weekend the five steelhead I have had on my line have thrown the hook or broken me off after a short fight.  It was always exhilarating, though, and I knew the score:  steelhead are the ‘fish of the thousand casts,’ and if you spend the whole day fishing and you get a single grab, that’s a good day.

Which brings us to this last weekend.  A couple of months ago, Stew and I had made plans to fish the North Umpqua, one of the best – if not the best – steelhead streams in Oregon.  The North river is fly fishing only and has exceptional restrictions that protect the watershed so that it has remained a healthy environment for fish in a context of declining salmonid populations.  The recent rain had made it higher than ideal, though, and it would take a while to drop into shape.  We needed to look at other options. Stew is great at researching what’s available to us, and after he put a bunch of thought into it we settled on a few of the coastal Oregon streams which had also risen from the rain but tend to drop into shape quickly.

Neither of us had fished the streams we were heading for which made it an exploratory trip and cut down the odds even further of catching anything.  That was OK because both of us have the fishing bug and would enjoy being on the water regardless of whether we caught fish. We talked about gear and flies early in the week, and I began tying a bunch of MOAL leech flies.

MOAL Leeches

We hit the road yesterday at 5:30am.  After Google maps misdirected us a little bit, we finally found our way to our first stream by 7:30am.  This watershed has many rivers in close proximity and we had plans to hit at least three of them before the day was done.  We fished a few runs in the first one, hit a second one (I fell in and a bit of water down my waders to keep me nice and moist for the rest of the day), dipped in a third, and finally made our way through forest service roads to our main destination.

We weren’t sure what we would find at this last river, but when we arrived both of us were stunned at its beauty and perfect shade of “steelhead green.”  Even better: While we found fresh footprints, dropped hooks and fishing line around the banks of the runs, we were the only fishermen to be seen. With the nice weather we were both pleasantly surprised at this.

We began fishing the runs, leapfrogging each other when we finished each one.  We were both challenged by getting deep enough when swinging through the pools. I had 10 feet of T-14 sink tip at the end of my skagit head, but it wasn’t quite enough.  I had packed a RIO iFlight skagit head that had left in the car which was half floating and half intermediate. I planned to start with that the next day, but to get by I added a little pellet shot to my leader.  It made it harder to cast and swing but I thought it was worth the sacrifice.

Regardless of the (arguable) improvement to my rig, I wasn’t getting any grabs and neither was Stew.  We did catch a few coastal cutthroat in one run who were hungry enough to bite a leech imitation one third the size of their bodies, but they weren’t the kind of tug we were after.  At about 5:30pm, after 10 hours of solid fishing and with darkness approaching, we both decided to fish one last run each and then pack it in for the day.

I walked downstream of Stew to the run I had fished once already when we first arrived at the river in the morning.  I began wading through the center of the shallow riffle at the head of the run with my eyes on the pool about 40 feet downstream. This was my target.   As I walked downstream I kept casting my black and purple MOAL leech to both sides of the river as it slowly deepened,  getting out more line with each successive swing in preparation for the longer one I would make into the pool.  I cast to my right into about two feet of riffled water with my 23′ skagit head just out of the last ferrule of my rod.  My fly stopped dead about halfway through the swing and I felt the pull of the water on the bowing line.  “Great,” I thought, “Snagged a rock.” I gave the rod a few tugs to free my fly.  Still stuck. And then the “rock” rolled under the surface and line started peeling line off my reel. A big fish. I yelled upstream at Stew, “Steelhead!” and gesticulated wildly.  He couldn’t hear me over the sound of the water but knew something was up by the crazy dance I was doing and hurried towards me.

My Reddington Dually 7-weight spey rod was bent in half as I tussled with the fish. I brought him close several times and each time he bolted for deeper water. I kept wondering if this would be the fish that I actually brought to hand after so many tries. After about 10 minutes he seemed tired enough that as I brought him close I reached for his tail with my left hand.  Upon touching him, he bolted again, slapping his tail in the air as he did so and hitting the third section of my spey rod which I had let draw close to the water.  Under so much tension, the impact of the big fish’s tail broke the section in two.  He was still hooked, though, and I was determined to finally bring a steelhead to hand.  After about 3 more minutes he tired and I drew him close. Stew was able to grab his tail and bring him to rest in shallow water.

He was a buck about 35″ long with brilliant red coloration on his cheeks and down his sides.  We wondered how long he had been in the system to get so colored up.  His tail was thick enough that I needed two hands to fully encircle it. After a few pictures, we let him go.

Adrenaline slowly fading, I was high.  Yes, my rod was broken, but I didn’t care (Stew pointed out that if there was a way to break a rod, this was the way he would choose. I agreed.) We drove to our dumpy hotel that we would sleep in until early the next day when we would hit another river, hung up our waders, and passed out.

The next day was sunny and warm, and the river we went to was astonishingly beautiful.  While not so good for fishing, the cloudless skies and warm weather let us shed our jackets and we enjoyed our hike upriver through old growth forest.  There’s nothing quite like rounding a bend of an unfamiliar stream and taking in the features of a run for the first time.  For me it represents possibility and the excitement that comes along with it.

After 4 hours we had to turn back.  Family life was calling. We caught nothing on this river, but we both agreed that we would come back again to the Oregon coast watershed.  What a beautiful treasure we have in this state!

 

 

 

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.