Fishing Journal Week 3

February 23
A bit of a disappointing day on the water. My first skunking in a while. It was a beautiful day but the sun was very bright and the water was very clear. The wind was also blowing a bit and all these added up to not much happening on the surface. I tried anyway and did get a few takes that I missed as they were just lightly grabbing the fly. I switched up my flies a bit as I went with the RK Emerger as a dropper instead of my usual Zebra Midge. Midges where hatching in mats on the river but evidently the fish where not too excited about it. All in all it was still good to get out and get some fresh air though.

February 24Fish were rising at the tailout of a riffle right as it dumped into a large deep pocket with big Boulders sticking up. I took a 12 incher out of the lower part of the run with an RK Emerger dropper. A little further up an 18 incher took the Skwala pattern off the surface. It was a real skinny fish. I think the females are the thin ones as I have caught some real fat healthy looking fish and some real skinny beat up ones. The females look like they had a tough spawn then went right into the winter season. Good outing though.

February 25
Another fairly slow day on the river. Fish were not rising except for in the same small slot they were in all week in the tail out in the big boulder pool. I had one take the RK Emerger lower down in the smoother water but I didn't connect with the hook point. Finally I switched my trailer fly to a Zebra midge and had a large fish take on my first cast up higher in the riffle in the more choppy stuff. I fought it for long enough to know I tied into a heavy fish before it broke the 4x tippet I had my dropper tied onto. It was disappointing but on one of my next casts in much the same spot I hooked into another fish. This one I finally landed but it was a small guy. A 12-13 incher that fought hard on my three weight.


First Steelhead

Saturday morning my friend Jeff and I got up early to see if we could awaken any Steelhead on the Little Salmon River. It turns out we hit it right. I am pretty inexperienced when it comes to Steelhead but for some reason I felt good about this trip once I got over my usual feeling that Steelhead are a made up fable much like unicorns and fire breathing dragons.

Everything went off without a hitch, and we arrived on the water just at day break. It only took three casts on this morning to make me a believer. As my indicator dipped below the surface and I brought the rod tip up half expecting to be hooked on a decent sized rock my rig had just passed over I was greeted with the heavy tug that was definately not a rock. The fish made several powerful surges and put a good bend in my fly rod, but after a few minutes I was able to bring the hatchery born, 27 inch buck to hand.

It was a morning to remember, catching my first steelhead, on a fly rod, and on a fly I had tied. Here are a few pics of the morning.

Hooked up


Fishing Journal Week 2

February 12
Got to my favorite run at about 1:00 pm and was rewarded with fish rising in the slack water between two riffles. I tied on a CDC wing midge and a Zebra midge dropper. Fish were really working the midges. I caught a very nice fish right off the bat. A 20" healthy looking Brown. I worked up the run but after about 20 minutes the wind really picked up and made fishing difficult. The fish would quit rising every time the wind brought any chop to the surface. Finally I moved up to a nice rock garden above the riffles and a few fish where rising in there. I caught one fish but it got free before I got it to the net. It was a smaller fish than the first one I caught. I got into a nice pod of fish right before I left but as I began to work up my strategy the wind came up again and things shut down. It was another good day on the river but I learned just how much these fish do not like the wind.

February 15
Only fished a little less than 25 minutes. Found plenty of feeding fish low on the river. I snuck up on some slack water and found fish cruising a big flat slurping midges and gulping some emerging pupa. I stuck with a zebra midge dropper off the end of a Skwala pattern that I used mostly because of it's size and flotation. I wasn't expecting anything to even take a second look at the big fly but wanted it as a good strike indicator for my zebra midge. I was quite surprised when a fish rising directly across the river to midges responded when I flipped my set up over into it's feeding lane not by immediately gulping my midge pattern but by coming up and giving the Skwala pattern a good look. It did not take it but it really gave the fly the once over. A couple seconds later it did grab the zebra midge and as I set the hook I felt solid contact but it ended quickly as the fish popped off.

I continued to work my way upstream toward a rockgarden of large boulders the I knew held fish. Still in the open water of the slow moving pool I had another fish closely examine the Skwala pattern before it decided not to fall for it. I think these fish have been seeing the skwala nymphs get a little more active lately and they are anticipating the day that the big bugs start hatching.

Finally I arrived at the rock garden where the fish were more concentrated in some more defined feeding lanes as the current swirled around several large boulders. I immediately had a fish take the midge but come undone on the hookset. Then close to the same spot on my next cast I finally hooked up with a nice 15 inch fish. A couple casts after that another fish came from the same area. This one went a little larger but still a little below average for this river.

At this time I noticed this zebra midge that has landed 10 fish over the last week and a half was coming unraveled. I had not brought my flybox today so this was my only fly. I gave a couple more casts into the run wondering if this fly could still fool a fish. I didn't have any luck and it was getting time to get back to work. All in all a good Presidents day outing.

February 17
Arrived on the river and fish where rising. They were feeding mostly in the calm water and the river was even clearer than on Monday. Because of this those fish feeding here were extremely leader shy. I had a couple take my Zebra Midge but the bite was so soft I had no chance to even set the hook on them. A couple fish again made googly eyes at the Skwala but still weren't up for taking a bite.

Finally I moved above the slow water into a pocket below some riffles. There was a little more chop and some foam on the water so the fish could not get quite as good a look at the flies. I spotted a fish feeding on the far edge of a little eddy. I got a good cast on the first try and sure enough he took it. He put up a great fight going airborne three times in the battle. Finally landed it after a bit. As I held it in the current he opened his mouth and a big black cloud came out of his mouth. At first I was thinking how could this guy get so much dirt in his mouth. I thought I had kept him pretty clean as I landed him. Then I saw it wasn't dirt but he had belched up a cloud of midge pupa he had been munching on in the eddy. It was by far the fattest fish I have landed this year on the river. He was pushing 21" and had some real girth to him. Great fish.

February 18
It was a relatively slow day as the sun was bright and the water was very clear. The water has been clearing all week. I fished my way up the run fishing to some risers that were taking midges in the tailout below the bottom riffle in the run. I just hit the end of the action though and soon after I started fishing the rises shut off all up and down the river from me. The wind was blowing pretty hard during the first half of my outing. This always seems to put the fish down on this river. Finally I headed up to the long slow pool that I caught a nice fish in last week that is between the rock garden and the riffles.

I have been fishing with a Skwala pattern and a zebra midge dropper for a couple days now. I was using the Skwala mostly as an indicator for my zebra midge as it is easy to see on the water. I was just about ready to accept my first skunking in a while and pack it up to head back to the office when I threw one last cast up into the foam line that comes down this nice pool, not expecting what happened next. I was staring at the Skwala waiting for it to dip below the surface when a big snout pokes up out of the water and inhales the big fly! I brought a nice 21" fish to hand a few minutes later. What a thrill seeing a big fish inhale a big dry fly with 10 days left in February.

It's Skwala time!


Skwala Pattern

This pattern is to me the most appealing of all the Skwala patterns I have tied up this year. We will see what the fish have to say on that matter soon.


Fishing Journal Week 1

February 9th

Not many fish rising on the river this day. I had to drive almost all the way to the dam before I found some fish feeding in a very slow stretch of river. They were cruising and feeding on midges so fishing to them was tough as they did not just stick to one feeding lane. There were a couple real toilet bowl flush type rises that made me wonder if their were any Skwalas on the water but I did not see any and did not try any Skwala patterns due to the limited time I had to fish. Only fished about 15 minutes and had no takers.

February 10th

Got to my favorite dry fly run and fish where rising everywhere. I tied on the cdc wing midge but the smallest I had was a #18 and the bugs hatching were much smaller. I got a couple that nosed the fly but I could not ever connect with the hook point. I switched it up to a smaller Griffith's Gnat and had better luck getting fish to nose the fly but still could not get a solid hookup. Very discouraging but I think these fish where pretty wary and did not commit fully to the take on anything that looked suspicious. The run is right along the road and there are fish rising here quite often. They get fished hard.

With about 10 minutes left to fish I switched over to a Skwala pattern. Since I had heard a couple big rises yesterday I thought it was worth a try. I tied on a zebra midge as a dropper and hooked up immediately on the dropper. A nice 15 inch fish with a lot of spunk took the midge at the bottom of a riffly run. It put on a pretty good arial display but was not real hefty or tough to bring in. Then just as I was about to leave my Skwala dipped again further up into the choppy water below the riffle and when I set the hook I knew I was into a nice fish. It did not put up a huge fight but it was heavy and when I brought it in it turned out to be a very healthy looking male with a hook jaw. Measured against my net he was exactly the same length which is 20 inches. Nice fish. Fun day.

February 11th

Hit the run right against the road where I caught a 17 incher last week. Fish where rising in here but I quickly discovered that they seemed to be small fish. All about the same length from 10-14 inches. They were all spunky and put on good ariel displays but lacked much heft. Caught 5 fish in about a 4 foot x 4 foot area on the near edge of the tailout in a line of foam. It was fun seeing how many fish I could yank out of that hole but wish I could have gotten into something a little larger. Oh well a fun way to spend the lunch hour.

Also saw the first BWO of 2010 today on that river. Right above the riffle where I caught all these fish I noticed a fish begin to rise as I was getting ready to leave. I assumed it was on midges so I tied on a CDC wing adult midge and made a cast. My leader got twisted on one of my first casts and the big tangled ball of leader, line and fly put the fish down for good. As I stood there waiting for a few minutes to see if he would begin to feed again I noticed a bug that appeared to have a mayfly profile on the water, but figured it must be a midge sitting up high. As it drifted right down to me though I could see it was a BWO cripple that hadn't quite made it free of its nymphal shuck. I did not have time to tie on a Sparkle dun but I look forward to the next few weeks when, if things continue to warm, we should see some pretty good BWO hatches especially on those overcast days.


Steelhead Anyone?

Last night after getting tired of tying #20 and #22 midge patterns I stuck a #2 hook in the vise and just winged it.



Courtesy of some chickens raised by my parents. Thanks to my mom for going to the work of preserving them to use for some flies. They make good Matukas. Now for some Photoshop fun:


Midge Mania

First fish of the year. Dry fly fishing in early February. It doesn't get any better.

A couple times this week I made it a point to take some time out of the middle of the day and get an hour on the river to clear away some of the cobwebs in my head created by staring at a computer monitor all day. Yesterday it was 1:30 when I arrived at the waters edge and discovered a run that was boiling with fish sipping midges off the surface. Amazing in that it was 36 degrees out and a pretty good snow storm had blown through a couple hours ago. I had not expected to see many fish up on the surface when I headed out to the river but was rewarded with quite a show.

I have to admit though that I still managed to go fishless. No excuses but when you know you only have an hour or less to fish and the water is boiling around you with rising fish it can get your adrenaline pumping to the point where simple tasks become very complicated. It was hard enough trying to tie on a #22 Griffiths Gnat with fish dimpling the surface all up and down a short run of river. Then I messed around thinking that maybe I should tie on a little zebra midge dropper as well which may have been a good idea in theory but only made for a few big messes as the two flies kept tangling around each other. Could have been bad casting, but I was blaming twisted tippet. I am sticking with that story but the point is I got skunked.

My mistakes didn't stop with hurrying to get rigged up. I missed several fish that slurped my fly but only after I had taken my eyes off the drift. I had a problem staying focused as I tried to keep my eye on the tiny drifting fly only to have fish slurping bugs all around me. It's hard to pick your fly up after diverting your eyes to the perfect rise just 10 feet from where your standing. I had one good take that I was ready for but still missed as I tossed the fly across the slow current to a sipper just off the opposite bank. Sure enough my fly had had no sooner hit the water when the fish quietly nosed it. I brought up the rod tip and felt that brief heaviness and head shake of the fish but that's it as the fly popped from its mouth.

I left the river feeling great. I have not often been in a situation where fish where feeding so actively on the surface in such cold weather conditions. It was a sight to behold for sure. Then at exactly 2:30 pm it was like a switch was flipped and the fish just stopped. Just like that. Luckily it was time to head back to work anyway.

Now today I had a different opportunity as I headed out to the river. The midges where hatching but their were no pods of fish feeding like I had gotten into the day before. There were individual fish working large areas of water cruising around and picking up adult midges. I found one fish feeding in the foam line below a small riffle. It was moving up and down the pool sipping some unusually large sized midges. I tried the Griffiths Gnat that had worked yesterday first.

The fly was difficult to pick out against the reflection on the water and amongst the natural bugs, and foam drifting in the feeding lane. One occasion had me staring intently at what I thought was my fly but turned out to be a real bug drifting on the surface. I was fixated intently on the dark dot against the cloudy sky's reflection on water surface when suddenly a nose poked out and ate the fly. I jerked up only to watch my fly get picked up a couple feet to the right of the fly that was now fish food. It sent quite a jolt through me though as my intense concentration was broken by that subtle slurp.

I decided then that it was time to change things up. The Griffiths Gnat was not what this fish wanted. I had drifted it through the feeding zone many times and hadn't interested the fish yet. I switched to a simple adult midge pattern with a CDC wing. On the first good cast I got into the feeding lane I was rewarded. The fish took the fly and immediately bolted downstream, hooked firmly in the corner of the mouth. It felt good to have caught my first fish of the year, and to have done it on a dry fly was even better. With that I packed up my gear and headed back to the office. Lunch on the river was a success. I could get used to this.


This Looks Fun

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