Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Magic Hour







A nice day recently.  In contrast to a windy previous day, this day was calm.  A quiet morning, with light snow gave way to a pleasant day with peeks of sunshine.

I nymphed half heartedly in the morning, then quit by eleven, hoping to find a few rising fish.

I broke for tea.  Settled in, and waited.

And waited some more.

After an hour, a fish rose.

Eventually, another.

After a half hour three fish were working.  Something had their attention.  It was time to slip into the water for a closer look.

A few midges buzzed but the fish weren't interested in my offerings.  

Midge cluster.  Nope.

Hatching midge.  Nope.

Pupa.  Nope.

A blue winged olive drifted by.  Well now.  I better take a look in my fly box.






The fish were rising more steadily now.  Their rises more enthusiastic.  Not the soft dimple of midging fish.

A fish ate on the first cast with the cdc olive.  It was a beautiful cutthroat.

I dried the fly, waited.  The next target rose, close.  Another cast.  Another eat.  This time a rainbow.  He jumped six times.  A great fish.






More rises, more eats.

In between fish, I doctored and revived the fly with the magic powder.  I marveled that a few dabs with the brush turned a matted feather into its former fluffy self.  I also noted that my supply of Frogs Fanny needed replenishing.  I'll have to write a note to Santa.

This day, if the fish saw the fly, they ate it.  There weren't enough of the real thing to distract them.  It was gratifying to cast and expect a take.  Not only that.  But to cast, watch the drift, say to ones self..."now" and have the fish eat, right then.   It doesn't happen near often enough. 

In a little over an hour it was over.  But what an hour it was!











Friday, November 25, 2016

Spring Creek Twig Eater






One recent day, with the days fishing done, I sat and watched this fellow as he munched on the streamside dogwood and willow.  Isn't it amazing that an animal could get so big on a diet of twigs?

The young bull moose seems to have found the spring creek riparian areas to his liking. He's been a local resident for at least a month.   I hope he spends the winter.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One Colossal Brown Trout






I noticed this big dead brown trout on DePuy Spring Creek a week ago.  It was longer than two of my size 12 wading boots, and would have been the fish of a lifetime for most any fly fisher.  I concluded that the likelihood of landing such a fish on a three weight, small fly and light tippet was virtually zero.  At least I got my hands on a big one, even if it was dead!

I encounter a few such big browns each fall.  They're covered with a white fuzzy fungal growth known as Saprolegnia, which attacks fish that are stressed and weakened.  Spawning takes a toll as fish jostle on redds, chasing and biting each other, removing protective mucus and thus opening the door for the fungus to take hold.  


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Five Days in October






It's midge season, again. Time to get back to spring creek fishing. The mornings are extraordinary.  Most days, I spend the better part of the first few hours just gawking, watching the light change, snapping photos.






The game starts once the the fish start rising.  Nothing visible in the current, little on top.  Midge adults skitter sporadically on surface.  Is that what they're really eating?  The fishing is challenging and frustrating.  In a perverse way, I prefer it to all other fly fishing.  Heaven forbid that I get a sore arm from catching too many.  

I while away the hours.  Get a fish or two.  It's the usual routine.  Hook a few.  Break a few off. Some are really good ones.  It's shallow water fishing.  The fish know that they're vulnerable. Once hooked, they vacate the area in a hurry and put extreme strain on the delicate rigging. Often, the departure is sudden and leaves me questioning the tippet, my knots, both.  At home I tie up a new leader, test the tippet.  It breaks, at the knot.  I try again.  Is 6X meant to be blood knotted?  I wonder, and tie a surgeons knot instead.  It holds.






The age old question with fishing midges?  What is the right fly?  Is there a right fly?  I get a few on just about every midge pattern.  Nothing is the hot item.

I've maintained that even on a spring creek, with the requisite educated trout, one can always find a few fish that are willing to eat just about anything.  In contrast to midging, I've seen anglers use some of the ghastliest of rigs to catch these "sophisticated" trout.  How about a dropper rig with a San Juan worm the size of small anaconda trailed by an egg cluster?  Some creative anglers reverse the order and also add enough split shot to securely moor a naval vessel in the strongest of rip tides.  And yes, they do catch fish.  It makes little sense to an angler using 22's or 24's.








Given my predilection for a challenge, I'm determined to crack the midge code at least once.  Just one day where I raise most of the fish that I cast to.  Lately, the usual killer gray cdc pattern with the grizzly shuck has been shunned by most of the fish.  So, I tie up a light tan version since I think that's what I see the fish take.  Next trip they'll probably eat something else.  Maybe they'll be eating the gray pattern and I won't know it.  Who am a kidding?  Maybe I'll just tie up a midge pattern that looks like an egg cluster......







Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Clearwater








October means steelhead season, time to make the annual drive to Idaho.  I've been doing this for ten years.  I left a fog shrouded Gallatin Valley, full of hope and anticipation, as usual. After a summer of fishing with a three weight fly rod and minuscule trout flies, it was time for a change. Big rod, bigger flies.  Tippet?  No more screwing around with 6X or 7X.  It's ten pound test Maxima.

It's a simple routine.  Up early, out late, usually.  I perk coffee in the predawn dark.  The little single burner propane stove and lantern soon warm the tent and add cheer.  Caffeinated, I drive to the selected morning spot and wait for the light.  







It usually takes me a week of wading, casting, and occasionally falling in just to catch nothing.  So, first morning, I fish a new run.  It's showery, so I don't sling my camera.  Half way through I get a pull.  Line peels from the reel.  The fish jumps, a big one.  He's going downriver, cartwheeling, taking line, backing. Oh boy, this one's pretty special.  Several minutes into the struggle the line goes dead.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.  I try to retrieve line. No go, I can't get any back. What's going on?  I pull back with the rod, get an inch or two of line, grudgingly.  Repeat a few times.  I'm perplexed.  Then I get a foot.  I pull again, something pulls back.  Wow, it's still on.  I realize that the fish has wrapped my line around a rock.  I wade out as far as I dare and see the culprit.  A rectangular rock quartered diagonally, pointing to the opposite bank, river right. I pull, the fish pulls back.  We do this, back and forth, angler and fish in a minutes long stalemate mediated by a rock.  I can't believe that we're still attached to each other.  I pull, and pull, and pull.  Inch, by inch, by inch.  Then the line comes free. The fish goes nuts, jumps.  Line peels from the reel, again.

The battle resumes.

I start backing into shallower water, stepping over and slipping on the rocks.  Soon I'm knee deep, getting back line. Minutes later, I've got most of the Scandi head drawn in, then the leader loop approaches the rod tip.  The fish is opposite me, then I lead him upstream.  I can't believe that this is happening.  I let up and the fish drifts down towards me.  I grab the wrist of his tail, drop the rod in the water.  Just then a jet boat goes by.  I victoriously lift the fish. They wave, I smile.  Hell yes I'm happy. Big red stripe, red gill plate, head as big as my hand and outstretched fingers.   Then I notice the adipose.  Nice.  Gosh, what a fish.  I can die now.  The steelhead of a lifetime, mine anyway.  Of course, as I said, no camera.  Not that I could have handled the fish and snapped a photo.

I think that I should quit for the day.  But, it's still early, as in morning.  And, I quit drinking years ago.  Still, I relish the thought of a good beer.  You can have one for me.  

As I exit the river I notice one wading boot is a little sloppy.  No, it's falling off.  What the heck? One of the wires on my Korkers has been severed.  No fixing this.  I head to Lewiston, find a sporting goods store, and buy a new pair.  The old ones were pretty well worn.  Still, I hadn't planned on getting a replacement while on the road.  The new pair does fit pretty good though.

A few more days on the Clearwater and it's off to the Ronde, for a change of venue.






I'm in the water at first light as usual.  I get a grab within first few casts.  Three or four good pulls, then it's gone.  Disappointed, and fearing that I'd missed what may be my only chance for the day, I get out, step back upstream and resume fishing. Soon I get another pull.  It's a spirited fight, the fish jumps several times.  I carefully back out, trying to step over the big rocks. Eventually the fish is near and I close my hand around its tail.  A pretty hen.  An "A run" hatchery fish. This time I snap a few photos while she rests peacefully.  Then I send her on her way.

Later in the day I get another, bigger one, this a "two salt" fish.  No photo.

I must say that it's usually warm and dry, sometimes downright hot when I fish this area in early October.  Pleasant conditions for camping and fishing too.  This year I was not accustomed to, what in my mind, was a "damp" week.  I often woke to the patter of raindrops on the tent fly.  A few drops hitting tight nylon sound like a deluge and can cause paranoia.  Fearing the "reprise of the ark", I'd peer out and see that it was inconsequential.  One morning I woke to a bath tub sized, inch deep puddle outside the tent door.  Try stepping into that at three in the morning.  I did.  Still, fishing under sometimes overcast and drizzly skies was a pleasant respite from heat and bright light, even if the fish didn't cooperate.









And so, the rest of week was slow, productivity wise.  I never touched another fish.  It appears that I'd burned up my luck on the front end of the week.  The remainder of my stay would be devoted to casting practice.  Not a bad thing, except for those moments when my casting went to hell, usually when I got tired.  Still, on average, I think that I did better than in the past, and made more good or at least better casts than poor ones.







On what would be my last day, I drove back over to the Ronde on a surprisingly foggy morning. The drive over Rattlesnake was even slower going, given the near zero visibility.  Halfway down the "other side" it cleared.  

I expected a fish, or at least a pull or two, but got none.  C'est la vie.  It was a beautiful day, damp in the morning but bright for the remainder.  Later, I watched a bald eagle pursue and try to wrestle a fish from an osprey.  That the eagle was nimble enough to chase and stay close was a surprise.








That afternoon, as I drove along the river, I watched a group of anglers, their raft beached, net a fish.  I pulled over and watched as they posed for photographs.  That's the only fish that I saw that day.  Later, I visited with a technician doing creel surveys.  She indicated lots of anglers, little success.  The fish it appears had forgot that it was steelhead season.  At the least, they took the day off.

I had time for one more pass through a favored run and watched as the sun faded from the hills.

So went another year.

And now, it's back to the three weight and 6X or 7X.












Thursday, September 22, 2016

Silver Creek Interlude







Spring creeks are singularly beautiful, and Silver Creek in Idaho is no exception. The Silver Creek Preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy.  It's open to the public for a nominal five dollar daily donation.  While fishing is the main draw, many folks come to bird watch, canoe, walk the trails and take in the scenery.  It's also a photographers dream.












Silver Creek should be on the life list of any spring creek fisher.  And, as a devotee of spring creeks, it's one that I'd wanted to visit.  With a few days off, that fortuitously coincided with a favorable weather window,  I made the drive and was rewarded with a couple of delightful nights of camping.










Daytime temperatures still touched into the eighties and warranted an afternoon break from fishing.  The September nights were most comfortable and capped off with a moonlight serenade of distant bugling elk. A bull moose also included the Hayspur campground in his after dark wanderings.








I only spent two days on Silver Creek.  Let it be said that the fish are constantly harried by some of the best anglers.  I had dues to pay, and they wouldn't be paid in two days.    I wandered, explored and cast to persnickety fish on the first.  I slid the net under a few the next.  A black cdc beetle saved the day.  As a bonus, the "camp water" within the campground was worthy of an hour or two of casting exercise.  Too, those fish were spooky as hell, but I got a few.












Fishing aside, I couldn't get enough of the landscape.  Had I not fished I would have been pleased to wander about with my camera.















Earnest Hemingway was an area resident.  He fished Silver Creek for its trout and hunted ducks too.  Just upstream from Kilpatrick Bridge is this memorial.












Friday, September 2, 2016

First Day Blues

 




Another year.  Another first day of September.  The traditional opening day of mountain grouse season in Montana.  Older dogs.  Older humans too.  And a pup just to round things out.

Typically, it's warm.  No exception this day. Fortunately a breeze and a few clouds early on  would make for pleasant walking.

Birds?  Not many.  Addie pointed a couple of blue grouse around mid-day.  They gave us the slip.

No shots fired.







For the pup, just another day of adventure........












For the older dogs, another day at the "office".  But it sure beats work!











I later bumped and flushed a single.  A big male blue.  Of course he lit in a tree and peered down at us defiantly.  Treed birds aren't fair game.  When they fly, ok.  He flew.






Shots fired.  He's probably still flying.  At least Katie got a whiff of bird.

One final mid afternoon walk and we were played out.  Katie found part of a deer leg.  She proudly carried it back to the truck.  In her mind the day was a resounding success.

Who needs birds when you've got a bone?






Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...