Fishing a new river is always a daunting task. Learning a familiar haunt is arguably more so.
In recent weeks, I spent two trips fishing the Androscoggin River. I have blogged at length about my trips to this river. I’ve found that, like any big river, the Andro is anything but consistent. Fishing can turn on and off like a light switch.
However, over my last two trips, I have found the fishing more challenging than usual. My usual spots failed to produce, familiar bite windows had seemingly shifted, and takes were less consistent. Both times, I struggled with high winds, bluebird skies, and a rising barometer while trying to decipher the tricky trout. Given the small sample size of trips, it is hard to shift the blame to the weather. Although, at times, it made casting and presenting my flies increasingly difficult.
The silver lining to all of this is that I managed to find success on both trips. My recent struggles forced me to unlearn what I thought I knew, become more observant, and adapt my techniques accordingly. I faced a trial-by-fire situation like this last weekend.
I fished a late-afternoon-and-evening session at a spot on the upper river after hearing recent good reports. An upstream dam had just finished a hydro-peaking activity, and the river was returning to normal flows. Going in, I had a game plan in mind since I knew this spot reasonably well.
After about two hours, I had nothing to show but two smallies. I rotated flies, adjusted angles, etc. I tried my best to match the emerging sulphurs and black caddis. Eventually, something clicked and I landed two rainbows and lost a salmon in short order before the bite shut off entirely.
Whether it was the fly that made the difference or just the timing is the million dollar question. It goes to show that we as fly fishers need to constantly learn and adapt to situations just as the trout do. It also begs the question: Are we ever done paying our dues?