In fly fishing, there are a few bad days, some good days, and some occasional great days. Saturday was a great day.
I got to the Farmington at dawn. Flows were still very high. I went back to a stretch where on the prior day I had landed only one fish. Call me stubborn. Guilty as charged.
I tied up the night before a fly that Damon Matus had shared with me. It worked. I landed four fish fairly quickly, all clean-looking browns. I stood at the bank and fished just under the rod tip, about 10 feet away from the bank. The fish were holding right near shore or among the soft and bubbly water very close by. I tried both tightlining and indicator fishing. All of my hits were on the former.
There’s a particular spot where I saw glimpses of a huge fish in the spring and summer. I wondered if it was still there and proceeded to target the area. At the end of a drift, I felt a grab, set the hook and felt a fish rush out to the white water. Whatever it was, it felt very, very strong.
I pointed my rod tip up river and down into the water to apply some side pressure right away. I gained a few inches on the fish and scrambled down river to keep it above me. I used the butt of the rod on the trout and could barely move it up river. Then, it dove down and hunkered. I continued to apply a lot of pressure and realized: I cannot move this fish.
Normally, I would approach the fish to spook it and get it moving. But, the current was way too strong. Usually, a few gentle pulls instigates a big fish to move again. So, I started to put more pressure on the fish, gradually, hoping that my knots would hold…and, the barbless hook popped off.
Given that the fish took the fly at the end of the drift, I wondered if providing action to my flies would work. So, I cast out and started to pulse my nymph. Eight or so fish flopped into my net in pretty rapid succession. The cream of the crop was a strong brown that taped at 17″. Compared to the One That Got Away, this fish was a cinch to maneuver and to control, which made me wonder how big that behemoth really was.
Fly fishing is such a mystery at times! The prior day, I took only one fish out of that run. This time, I landed four fish right away. Then, I fished the stretch again with the same fly but pulsed it, and that created some magic.
Mid-morning, I headed to UpCountry for a clinic with George Daniel. I don’t think I ever met someone so accomplished who also is so humble. He was fantastic!
We covered some topics and were able to ask a lot of questions, given that the group was limited to six people. After an hour of class time, we suited up and headed to the river, where he gave us some pointers and spent time with each one of us on our technique.
I learned a ton. Honestly, the clinic was a bargain, given the five hours that we spent with George. His truck also has some cool stickers on it.
After lunch, Damon and I fished some more. The high flows made the Farmington a different river. Side channels filled up with water and some fish. Fish were along the bank or close to it. Flies needed to be bright. Normally accessible areas were too dangerous to approach.
At some soft and shallow water, I “floated the sighter.” It is a great way to fish light flies and approach the fish with stealth. An all-mono Euro leader doesn’t slap down the way fly line does at times. Moreover, it was exhilarating to see the sighter dart forward to indicate a take.
While the wading was at times tricky, it was worth it. We found and landed fish. Some were quite fat, gorging on biomass the high flows had dislodged. I usually don’t do well fishing high water. I feel that I’ve made progress.
After almost 12 hours of fishing and talking about fishing, it was time to head home. Dinner was a feast comprised of Thai take-out and cold beverages. What a great day!
Thank you, George and UpCountry, for a great clinic! Thank you, Damon, for the high-water pointers.