It was a great day.
After the Covid-19 ordeal the past few weeks and losing a big brown last time out at water new to me (details here), maybe I was due or maybe it was just luck? Either way, I’m in.
I thought about that big brown this past week and tied up flies, some old and some new, that I thought would dupe such a big creature. And, this morning, I again woke up at 2:30 am to be on the water by dawn.
Flows were much lower than last time, and so, I started to tightline in the general area where the brown had been. I targeted dark water. I caught some ‘bows and decent browns but no behemoths. I worked a 50′ x 50’ grid for a few hours and was starting to feel tense. I waded as quietly as possible.
Loads of midges and some small mayflies were popping, and I saw a few rises at the far side of the river, way out of casting reach. I tried all sorts of nymphs and then decided to dab a dry-dropper, hoping to entice a monstrous strike. I was thinking of throwing a bobber but felt that might put down the fish. There really wasn’t more I could do on the technique front. None worked.
Eventually, I waded deep into the river to access the head of a run near the other bank. It looked like a spot where a big fish might hang out. First cast in, I felt a tap on my micro-thin Euro leader. Then, I was off for a ride.
I don’t know if it was the same fish as last week, but it certainly fit the bill for a good-sized fish. And, it pulled just as hard, darting this way and that, as I hoped my knots would hold.
Eventually, I won the battle. The fish taped at 19″. I was so relieved when it flopped into the net. The three hours of flogging the same stretch were worth it.
I have to say that a “thin to win” Euronymphing leader has some drawbacks, but it is ridiculously sensitive for detecting soft takes. Many thanks to George Daniel for the clinic (here) explaining why and to UpCountry for hosting him.
After releasing the trout, I felt tremendous joy and satisfaction. The pressure was off somehow, and I just started to play around with new flies. Mentally, I felt that the day was largely over. After lunch, I nearly bailed to head home. My college reunion was to be this weekend, it was cancelled, and a large group of us instead was going to jump on Zoom. And, I didn’t think I could out-do that brown.
But, I thought it would be fun to float the new Mole flies I had made after seeing this Charlie Craven video, thinking that I at least could scout some new water. The forecast was for rain all day, but I was hoping it would continue to hold off.
I drove over to a new spot and leisurely walked around. Then, as I turned a bend, I was shocked. Fish were rising all around. I slowly eased into the river and waded into position. It didn’t take much in the slow water to ripple out disturbances.
I put on a homemade Harvey Slackline leader, a favorite of mine for dries, and added 7x tippet. Then, it was go time.
Fortunately, either the fish were relatively uneducated, or the sight of a sitting-duck emerger was too tempting. I landed a few right away. After a long winter and cold spring, it felt so peaceful to throw size 18 and 20 dries at slow water. I mean, is there any better way to fly fish?
Soon, the wind really picked up, which put down the trout. You had to wait for a brief casting window when the wind died. Like clockwork, fish would again start rising, and you’d have the shot at one or two casts before the wind picked back up. But, the rain held off.
This game of “wind and seek” kept going and going because I fortunately kept duping fish. I checked the time, nervously and periodically, and did the mental math as to how long it would take me to walk to the car, take off the gear, and zip back home if I eschewed a bathroom break. I was nearing the break-even point.
In the end, I made the right choice: I picked the fish.
The action continued periodically. When one Mole fly became too gummed up with mucus, I switched to a different color. No color did better than the others (I threw brown, black, and olive), and the fish cooperated. The best of the lot was this clean-looking brown. I really liked the spots.
Soon, the fish were down for good, it seemed, and I grudgingly walked to the bank and to the car. I dialed in via Zoom audio from my car, which made for a short drive. It was good to hear some familiar voices from the past. No, it wasn’t as good as a video conference, but I figure I will see my college friends in another five years (Boola, Boola). It’s tough to walk away from good dry-fly fishing.
A huge thanks to Joe Drake for Mole fly-tying tips, by the way. That guy is a fish hawk, and it’s been a pleasure to be blog colleagues with him.
It was a great day: good brown and an afternoon of dry-fly fishing. Amen to all that, I say.
A peaceful Memorial Day weekend to all….