I took a long lunch, the day before Independence Day, and made a quick trip into the mountains. A great benefit of both living where we do, and my ability to work from home/by cell, is that it makes it possible for me to fish a reasonable stretch of various rivers and still get 8+ hours of work done, on a given day. It’s a nice balance to those years where I rack up almost 100K miles flown, and continue my progress through the Marriott “Lifetime” elite status tiers!
On this trip, I found that the breezy day, rapidly warming temps of mid-afternoon, and the lack of scheduled needs allowed for just such a trip. I hit the road with the truck telling me the temp was in the high 70’s. There were scattered clouds, and the wind was light and breezy, so I was looking forward to at least a beautiful day.
I pulled into the small road that leads to several good start/stop points along a favorite river, and noticed a marked lack of fellow fly fishers. Not sure if this was a good or bad sign, I rolled into one of my favorite spots and started to gear up.
I guess I have a habit of picking spots early in the season, then trying them on successive outings, until the fish in each spot finally seem to wake up. The first one I tried, on opening day, was clearly not ready. On the next trip, I connected with a couple of smaller fish. On the following outing, I switched to what is usually a favorite and generous area, and had only small success, so now it was time to retry that one.
The water was just over 60 degrees, as I stepped in, which is good, as I had chosen to gear up for wet wading! I found the gusts were a bit more concentrated up in the mountains, so it took a bit of time to sort out the strength and cycle of them. I have to admit that it is kind of fun for me to have to overcome mildly windy or occasionally gusty conditions, even if it does entail intermittent periods where one stands with the arm and fly rod extended to the sky and the line trailing off behind you, almost parallel to the water!
On one occasion, while stranding in this fly-fishing statue of liberty pose, I happened to look down and noticed an eye-catching level of activity at my feet.
I’m used to finding the Caddis cases littering the rocks, but rarely see them all wrestling into position! As I waited for my fly-tipped wind streamer to settle down, I found that EVERY rock was bespeckled with Caddis, as far as I could see.
So, I did some mental estimations, and came up with the following:
- Breezy with stronger gusts – Minus side
- Warming up in air and water temps – Plus side
- Caddis out in numbers, in their cases, but not emerging – Minus side (because I’m too much of a Dry Fly junkie to nymph enough to get any good at it!)
- Almost the 4th of July, so patriotic fish should cut me some slack and throw themselves at the fly – Plus side
Okay…stretching it a bit…my final conclusion was: keep my #12 Parachute Adams on (grizzly tail and rusty orange hackle/body) and expect nothing more than a beautiful day!
That in mind, I made my way up to the outflow below one of my favorite “mini waterfalls” (really just a set of energetic riffles that drop into a pool, almost perpendicular to a sheer rock face. Sometimes the last edge of the riffle has a 6″ drop into the water…hence the label), and noticed that something was taking from the surface, along the left seam line of the central outflow from the area.
The wind played tricks with my casting, largely due to the odd airflow patterns around that rock face, but I found the almost horizontal cast to get in under it, after a few different tries. 5-6′ below the rise I had observed, I connected with an excellent Cutthroat, just off the same seam.
He was a lively, 10″ Rainbow, with some of the most vivid coloration I have seen in a long time. I minimized handling him, easily released the hook, and watched him rocket off into the deeper side of the outflow area.
Pausing for a few minutes, to be sure the one that was rising was not put down by this activity (no, it made a somewhat splashy grab pretty soon thereafter), I just smiled and enjoyed the beautiful day and the fact that the fishing was already successful.
If only I had known…
Moving slowly upstream, I took aim at the area immediately below the rise. Careful to drop the fly on a left side hooking cast, fly line to the right of the debris line and mostly outside of the nearer seam, I worked my way slowly into position to land the fly far enough ahead that it drifted as naturally as possible into what I thought was the sweet spot.
After a few casts, I realized that the rises had stopped, and suspected that I was found out! Not one to lack persistence, I started working my way through the different fly positions, just in case…
When the fish hit, I had no time to set the hook. It gulped the fly, shot to the bottom, then went straight downstream in one continuous and commanding sweep!
Although not big enough to pull out the drag, for a river that often refuses to offer up specimens large enough to consider keeping (8″, per the state), this was clearly a great catch. When it hit the point where I refused it downstream movement, it circled me a couple of times and tried it’s best to avoid coming within 6′ of where I stood, but eventually came to my net.
Roughly 15″ long and fat enough that I could not get my hand all the way around it! For this river, that’s a monster!
The fly, barbless hook – as always, came free as soon as I netted the fish, making the picture and return to the river very quick.
As I think I have said before, I tend to only keep maybe 1 fish per year. On this occasion…I was kicking myself for not bringing my portable live well, as this was certainly one to hold onto, if possible.
Maybe we will meet, again.
Now extremely happy with my success, I worked my way closer to the pool, and continued trying the various smaller outflow points, etc. The frequency with which I connected with fish seemed to accelerate, as the wade progressed, much to my enjoyment. I spent roughly on hour and ten minutes in the water, working the pool area, the riffles above, and the run that is upstream of them. Really just barely a long lunch. In that time I hooked 13 fish, with only four of them under that WA State 8″ threshold! Of the rest, another four of them were at least 12″, including this additional volunteer, hooked just before I waded out and returned to the truck:
An excellent day and a great reminder that, although we may think we can qualify those factors that influence trout activity, we really just do the best we can and success will either happen…or not. No reason to fuss or get discouraged, as it will not make a bit of difference.
As is often said…you would have to try very hard to find an ugly place to fly fish. Enjoy being in nature and accept whatever level of success you may have. That’s all a bonus, after all.