Had to…

Friday, the day after I tied the strange Renegade variant, I used another of the PTO days to hit the water, early, and give it a try. Although the day was supposed to peak out in the high 70’s, I headed out a bit after 10AM to clear skies, almost no breeze, and temps in the low 60’s. I had decided to fish the same stretch on which I had used the more traditional Renegade, to get something of a comparison of the success of the two types, and was looking forward to seeing the results.

The drive was quiet and smooth, the traffic light for a Friday, and the temps (according to Nissan) slowly climbed to just shy of 70, then dropped back to low 60’s as I passed roughly 2400 feet in elevation. In anticipation of the cooling weather, I had brought the waders, rather than repeating the wet wading I had been doing, when the daytime highs have been in the upper 90’s.

I arrived to find none of the pull-offs in the area occupied, and very few people even in the campgrounds that one drives past, to get farther off the main road, and deeper into nature. Just the way I like it. I found the same parking spot, geared up, and headed downstream. The truck had told me it was 65 degrees, and still no wind had picked up. I walked a fair distance, slipped into the brush at the side of the road, and found the water’s edge.

I paused to check the water temp (58 degrees), and started quartering upstream, to see how the fly rode the water. Surprisingly, given the extensive hackle presence, it did not sit at an odd angle!

In the first stretch, I saw no signs of fish or interest in the fly, until I got to a small section of riffles. Once I started casting into the edges of the main flow, smaller fish started lunging at the fly, some appeared to bite the hackles and drag the fly down! Always nice to see something I tie fool the fish. In this case, even more exhilarating, being a variant I threw together.

I worked up past that section, with many nibbles, but nothing hooked. In the next section, the same thing. Finally, I stopped for a moment, reeled in the extra line and took another look at the fly. Although the hackles in the back half did not seem to be preventing the fly from riding fairly level, I thought there might be a chance that they were extending past the point enough that the fish were not having to try to swallow the fly, so I trimmed off the tips of the hackles, back to just above the point.

Modification made, I resumed casting, with smaller fish still toying with the fly. I also noticed that the sun was really starting to heat up the day, and tried to keep myself more consistently in the cast shadows of the tall trees, to prevent overheating.

This stretch is far more shallow than most of the sections before me, after I get another 100 yards upstream, so I took a moment to pause in those shadows, cool off, and prepare to make my way through the sunny stretch that leads to the fallen pines that cross the river. Once I stood still for a bit, I also realized just how peaceful that spot is. No road sounds, no buildings, no sign of others. There was a small breeze starting, and the brush of it on my face was very relaxing. I gave myself maybe 3 minutes, then shifted to my left to start making my way farther upstream.

As soon as I turned, I realized that there was movement in the water, not eight feet farther to my left. It took a moment for it to sink in, but there it was: the dark green back of a trout cruising right past me! In a river where a 10″ trout has pretty much been the largest I have caught, here I was sharing a quiet moment with one that had to be at least 18″ long!

Trying, mostly without success, to remain calm, I let it slide past me and head upstream. I had at least enough presence of mind to not flail about readying my gear, when I was fully in it’s peripheral view. When it was 10′ away, and facing the opposite direction, I tried to cast ahead of it. First cast fell slightly short, but the fish appeared to not notice. Second dropped the fly maybe 6″ in front of the fish! Too close, but it still did not bolt! I tried a few more times, suppressing the urge to try to wade forward to keep up. In this relatively calm patch, where most of the river is at less than a foot deep, I was unlikely to avoid splashing or otherwise alerting the fish.

Wow. What a great chance that was. As the fish slipped out of view, upstream, I noticed a white stripe on it’s back. It looked like perhaps a raptor took a shot at it, and didn’t fully connect. I was a bit disappointed that I had not enticed that fish to bite at the fly, but also so happy to have seen such a pretty specimen in the wild. I again paused to reflect, take note of the area and conditions, and calm back down a bit. I rarely get to sight fish, where I spend my time, so of course I got a bit more wound up than necessary. After a couple of minutes in that spot, I made ready to wade upstream, again.

I took one step…and an odd white flash in the water drifted into my peripheral vision, from the left.

The trout was cruising the pool!

I watched him, intentionally not moving the rod into a casting position or make any other moves that could alert it, in an attempt to gauge it’s movement. It was following the edge of a tree shadow, making it’s way across the river. When it got to the tip of that shadow, it turned softly to it’s left, more directly upstream, and started towards the tail end of a long stretch of choppy water, with larger rocks in it. When I did shift my weight to get the rod into casting position, I saw the tail flutter with urgency, and it took off.

Smiling to myself, I made my way upstream and started making mental plans to return to this spot, in the near future, with more patience and perhaps spend some time up the slope to the south, to see if I am right about the fish cruising this pool, maps it’s movement, and see if I can’t get a chance to bring it to hand.

Passing into the area of the crossing pine trees, I noticed a decrease in interest in the new fly. Despite this, I continued on. I had decided not to change out the fly, unless it got broken off, so lack of interest was a sign to move ahead.

The next pool also offered no signs of interest, and I started to wonder if it was the fly, or if that big trout had scurried this far upstream, and put down all the smaller fish on the way. The channel under the pine trees was deep, but the trough in the next section was far deeper, and might have provided the kind of safety a big fish like that would prefer. Moving past this, I entered into a smaller pool with a very noisy and choppy riffle coming in at the top. As I started casting to the tail of the water coming out of that riffle, the fly got tagged, the line went tight, and I quickly brought in this little guy!

He flipped sideways just as I prepared to immortalize the first catch on the fly variant, but still a nice catch on that little river!

After that, the pocket waters above the riffle offered up a couple more, and then came the large, calm pool that on a previous outing I had rippled on my entry, and put down all the fish I knew (hoped?) would be there.

On this day, the body of the pool still showed no signs of interest…but the head of the pool, just below a cascading pocket water stretch, had me releasing fish, repeatedly! In one series, just to the side of the bubble line on the near side, I had 3 fish on 3 casts!

Further satisfied that this fly does well on broken water, I continued into the pockets and riffles above the pool, bringing a couple more to hand, then found I had waded up to the path back to the truck.

A great day, with many fine fish, and a promise of something for the future! What more could I want?

At the end of the day, the trimmed version of the fly was not that different, and certainly proved it’s worth to me.

Tight lines.

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