Rambling on about BWO's on Sunny Days

I live in a place with four distinct seasons, and for many reasons I am glad for that.  From a fly fishing perspective each season brings new hatches, and a new approach to the rivers and lakes I love to fish.  It seems that every time the seasons change I catch myself saying "this is my favorite time of year to fish."  The changing seasons and their effects on our favorite fishing waters have a way of keeping things interesting.  And it is true that each and every season is my favorite one for fishing.  If asked to pick one, I will pick whatever current season we happen to be in.

Now since we find ourselves smack in the middle of the fall, and around here that means BWO's in big numbers I figured I would touch on something I have notice this fall in fishing the small baetis patterns.  It is fairly common knowlege amongst fly fishers that some of the worst fall weather is prime time for fishing these bugs as they seem to emerge in prolific numbers during those more adverse weather conditions.  If you are lucky enough to be able to pick and choose last minute the days you are going to fish, it may be no problem to wake up, look out the window, see perfect BWO conditions and make the decision then and there that you are going to hit the water.  But for others that may not be so lucky, it will invariably happen that the day you can fish is the brightest sunny day of the fall, and is not so ideal for a large BWO emergence.  However BWO's still hatch on these days it just may require a little more effort to find them, and to find the fish up feeding on them.

It seems that the hatches are a bit shorter lived on those sunny days, but they do exist.  From my experience it may happen a little earlier in the day than it would on the nastier days, but not always.  It will require a little scouting and moving around, but often the bugs and the fish rising to them can be found.  When I get to the river on those bright sunny fall days the first places I will look are the portions of river that will be the first to be shaded by the afternoon sun.  I don't necessarily know if the sun is an aversion to the bugs themselves, but I do think that the fish will be more likely to rise for the bugs if the high afternoon sun is not beating down directly on the water.  

For example on a recent trip to a favorite fall river in the area, on one of these sunny days, I drove into one of my favorite fall holes, that fits the description above perfectly.  It is also a perfect BWO run.  A nice moderate riffle, a perfect place for a BWO nymph to live it's pre-dun life feeds into a long, slow, and deep section of water with a lot of scattered boulders and structure.  The bugs hatch up in those riffles then the sailboat profiled duns drift slowly along the slower stretch attempting to dry their wings enough to be able to take flight.  The fish will often be in the tail of the riffles, and scattered through the slower water picking off duns, but also looking for any of those less fortunate bugs that have had difficulty emerging.  Helplessly they too float along the current, powerless against the river, or the fish that lurk below.  These cripple and stillborn bugs provide an easy target and the fish know it, and they do seek them out.

This run also happens to run against a steep hill side that casts a shadow on the river very early in the fall afternoon.  On this particular day as I arrived at the run I jumped out of the truck and pushed through some bank side brush to get a peek at what was happening on the river.  While I knew with the bright sun overhead there was a chance that not much would be happening I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed several fish feeding near the far bank.  As I sat and watched the activity in the run for a few minutes it became clear to me there was a distinct pattern to where the fish were feeding.  The pool was half in shade, half in the sun and a large pod of fish were feeding here, but they never fed out in the sunny portion of the river.  As the sun moved slowly overhead, and thus the shadows crept down river, so did the feeding fish.  Big trout would feed right up to the edge of the shaded section, but no further.  There were plenty of bugs on the water in the sun, but it was becoming clear, it wasn't the bugs avoiding the sun, it was the fish.

In the fall many of our rivers are also at lower flows, and the water is usually very clear.  The low, and clear fall water conditions, means fish have to be especially mindful of the threat of predators.  The fish will be very careful to avoid the revealing light from above, and will try and stay close to deeper holes, and structure as they come out to feed.  Finding stretches of river like this run is the key to finding fish up on BWO's even on sunny days.

On this particular day I landed several smaller fish in that shaded section of the pool, but as the hatch waned, the pool quieted, and the river that had just seemed loaded with fish, suddenly appeared deserted.  But I knew there were still opportunities there.   I carefully waded up the now completely shaded side of the river, tight against the bank, pausing to examine every little pocket, exposed rock, tiny current seam or other structure along it.  Suddenly my eyes were drawn to a dark spot that barely made a ripple in the lazy current, just to the right of a small exposed rock.  The naturally broken current as if flowed along the rock disguised a well hidden fish, sipping the scraps of dead, spent, and half hatched bugs being congregated along the bank, and then funneled off the current seam this little rock created.  The rises were methodical, but so subtle they could easily be missed.  This is when I often catch some of the larger fish during a hatch.  After the frenzy has subsided, and the bigger fish come out to snack on the easy prey that the buffet of helpless scraps presents.  They take the best lies where the wind and current collect the helpless insects and sip subtly to their hearts content. 

I waded into position and made sure my CDC Wing Sparkle Dun was ready to go.  I checked my knots one last time, and stripped out several arm lengths of line.  Hoping to time things just right I waited for the fish to rise again before making my cast.  His dark nose appeared once, then twice, and I knew it was time.  A couple false casts to work enough line through my guides and I let it go.  The line straitened perfectly dropping the small fly just ahead of the feeding trout.  Sure enough as the fly pushed off the side of the rock floating with the current that gentle sipper took it just like he had been taking the naturals.  Bringing up the rod I felt the heaviness of a big bodied trout that immediately bolted for the middle of the river.  Slugging it out there and hoping to not let the big fish get downstream of me where it could really use the current to it's advantage I put a bit of extra pressure on.  The fish was strong and surged against that pressure, but I managed to keep it under control.  As it slid closer to the net I admired a hefty fall fish that would easily go over 20 inches.  Exactly why fall is currently my favorite fly fishing season.  But winter is on deck.


The Best NFL Sack Celebration Ever

Willie Young DE for the Detroit Lions obviously spent a little time with a fly rod in his hands during the NFL lockout this summer.  He's got a pretty good casting stroke.

The cameras cut away a little early on his celebration, but if you watch the end of the video above the Punter's head you can see the celebration in it's entirety playing on the stadium jumbo tron.  Willie may become one of my favorite players!


A Morning on the River

Here is just a little sample of one of my usual morning jaunts up the river. I am still learning a lot when it comes to video but here it is:


The Fish Are Getting A Little Tight Lipped

Early Morning Hopper Muncher
 Fishing has slowed just a bit here in the last month or so, but there are still fish out there willing to take an artificial fly.  When fishing highly pressured trout streams in the late summer I have found that you just need to poke your fly into those little nooks and crannies that are overlooked by the bulk of fishermen.

The tailwater river I fish on a regular basis gets a lot of traffic, and it was about a week and a half ago I really noticed a shift in the way the fish were eating my grasshopper immitations.  They still take a look, they will still eat, they are just a lot more cautious in this act.  And they don't mash the hopper like they did a few weeks ago.  Many fish I was taking two weeks ago I was hooking deep in the corner of their jaw, or even in the back of their throat as they really committed to eating the big bug.    As they have been stung by the hook a few too many times these last couple weeks I have noticed many more false rises, false takes, fish that come loose after a couple headshakes, and even the fish I do bring to the net seem to be hooked just in the edge of the lips.  Never the less the fish are there and they are eating, just much more cautiously, so a bit more patience is required on the anglers part. 

At times like this you still should been able to go out and have some good success but the willing fish are not going to be in the same places you were catching them before.  Don't get me wrong, the fish are still in those obvious places everyone and their dog throws a fly into, but the fish there are going to be extremely careful right now. 

As an example I have a favorite run that three weeks ago yielded one of my best mornings fishing hoppers ever.  It is an obvious spot that gets a lot of pressure for several reasons.  One, it is right off the road.  Two the near bank is relatively shallow and easy to wade, and three, there are always fish rising here.  I picked off six big fish on six casts, in the span of about 10 minutes on an amazing Friday morning at the beginning of this month.  All six fish were spotted rising along the roadside bank before I casted to them.  All six fish took the fly hard and deep making it easy to bring them in without fear of losing the fish.  It was a great little span and a morning I won't soon forget.

But just a couple weeks later I fished that same run with no luck.  Every little lie I had seen and caught a fish out of last time still had a fish visibly rising in it, but they were not going to fall for the hopper trick.  As I moved fishless up the run this week having multiple looks, but no takes I was wondering if the whole river had become educated on foam hoppers and I was going to have to shift my strategy a bit.  While I welcome the challenge, I was a little disappointed.  Then on a whim I decided to cross the river and fish the other bank.  Now this is what I am talking about when I say be willing to look in the not so obvious spots when the fish get lockjaw.  Their was a fairly deep channel I had to cross to get to that side that would have kept slightly more cautious waders from fishing that side much, and quite frankly the water did not look that fishy.  It was shallow, 5-10 inches in most spots, and slow moving.  However as you looked at this bank carefully you could pick a few spots that could hold a fish or two.

The first of these was a simple little slick where the water flowed off the edge of a small brushpile.  Here the water was more on the 5 inch deep side than 10.  Not much water, but I could see that the way the current flowed there was the opportunity for food to be caught in the little eddy behind the brush pile, then as it got pushed out it would funnel right off the edge of the currents seam flowing off the brush.  I made the cast, and watched the fly pick up speed as it hit the faster current in the seam and drop into the "hole" where I hoped a fish would lie.  Sure enough a big snout rose up and engulfed the fly as if on cue.  And this was not a soft take.   A few moments later a nice 20 inch fish slid into the net.  Don't be afraid of shallow water.  Big fish can lie in some surprisingly shallow lies. 

I continued down the run and found another little nook that I thought would possibly hold a fish.  It was a tough lie, but the current cut back into the bank a bit here and the depth of the river changed a few inches while overhead willows hung over the water offering great protection, and just down stream there were dead willow branches in the water.  These dead branches caused the current to slow just enough that I could see any drifting food getting hung up here a bit, and an opportunistic trout lying in wait.  The problem with the lie is that it is basically a one and done deal.  It was a shoe box sized area, and if you let it drift any further than that little window your fly would surely become one with the dead willow branches in the water.  So in such a small area I would be forced to rip my fly out of there while still in an area that any fish that was there would surely be spooked.

I lined up the cast and dropped it just ahead of the target, and watched it drift into the sweet spot and just as I suspected, because of the current the hopper slowed up and swirled just a bit before continuing tight to the bank.  Precious inches passed in slow motion as I watched the bug near the end of its narrow window of opportunity and I was preparing for the quick rip that was going to be necessary to haul my fly out of danger as it approached the dead willows.  I bravely watched as the fly curled just around the first branch, and figured it was over, no fish.  But just as I started to take up the line the skinny water exploded and a fat 21 inch buttery Brown attacked the hapless hopper. 

As I continued down the bank each small potential lie held similar fish who were far less shy about taking the big fly than their comrades across the current, and what had started out as a morning of frustration ended up being one of my better mornings on the water.

So when fish get tight lipped, do a little thinking outside the box.  It pays.

Looks like the fish aren't the only ones getting fat off the abundance of bank side hoppers


My first attempt at videography

And it probably shows. This morning I made a point to try and get a set up with the video camera on a feeding fish and see if I could get the take on film. Turns out that is a bit tougher than it sounds. Especially when you are a one man operation.

I recieved one of these gorilla pods for Fathers day back in June and it really came in handy when I was looking for a place to put the camera while setting up for these shots.

The first set up I tried I got a little too close to the fish, and the commotion put the fish down. The second set up results in the opening scene of the video where you will see the wake of a nice fish take off from the left side of your screen.

Finally I put the camera away to work the next feeding fish I found and promptly hooked up and landed a nice brown. With that monkey off my back I decided to search for another opportunity to catch a fish on hook and video. I spotted a likely canidate just behind a white bankside rock. And this is where the second scene of the video picks up. I made several casts into this pocket and once again came to the conclusion that my set up had put the fish down. I was getting a little frustrated when I spotted a subtle feed just upstream of the white rock, and it was still in frame of the camera. So I moved up a couple feet, loaded the rod, and on the first cast was rewarded with the welcome sight of a big white mouth engulfing the fly.

It was fun to try something a little different, but I do have to learn just what is in frame as you will see later in the video. Other than that I am pleased with the results and hope to occasionally come across set ups that lend themselves to videoing and doing a little more of this.

Be sure to expand this to full screen if you can while watching it. So without further ado, here is the resulting footage.


Lights, Camera, Action

It's been a while since I actually posted a fishing report around here. My waterproof camera went on the fritz in Maui back in June and any fishing trips I have taken since have been lacking in pixels.

It looks like for the time being though, I am back in business. I purchased a new camera and took it for a spin this week.

The fishing may have been a bit slow for the most part, and I really didn't get many pictures, but we still had a great time. I find that when I go on a trip in the drift boat it is hard to get pictures because I am either rowing, or fishing. But we did land a few fish, and they were really healthy. So hopefully you will see a few more posts coming from my in the near future.
Kelly with a colorful Rainbow

The Big Fish of the Trip


Then I Notice I am Holding my Breath

As I watched this great little video the narrator utters the line, "Then I noticed I am holding my breath." What a great line that describes the intensity of the focus in that moment as you watch your perfectly placed fly drift slowly into the feeding zone of a big fish. It's just you, the river, the fly and the fish. All else is forgotten for that little instant in time. Perfection.



Here is a quick report to let all those that read the blog and know exactly where I spend most of my fishing time to let you know that the river is shaping up nicely.  Today the flows dropped to the 600 cfs range and this afternoon we took the drift boat down from just above the tunnel to the bend just above the bridge.  It was about a 4 1/2 mile float and it took about 4 1/2 hours so you do the math and tell me how fast we were going.  Good news is there are still a lot of fish in the river.  There was a pretty good showing of caddis all afternoon, and I noticed quite a few Yellow Sallies crawling around the brush both at the put in and take out points we chose.  We stuck to streamer fishing though as it was providing non stop action all afternoon.  Cast after cast the fly was either chased, batted, nudged, and sometimes even eaten.  There are still a lot of fish in the river and every one we caught was as healthy looking as I have ever seen the Browns here.       

It was a great float, and the weather was perfect.  Let the games begin because the river is about to round in to shape real soon.

***6/22/11 edit***
As of this morning flows dropped again to the normal summertime levels of 238 cfs.  Vacation is over for the fish in the river.  I can hear the low rumble of a felt sole stampede brewing over the horizon. 

A year in the business from Ben Paull on Vimeo.


Two Wheeling!

A little deviation here from my usual posts. This weekend brings us fathers day, and I have to share a simple little moment we had this week that stirred up a few emotions.

Nothing makes a dad prouder than to see your kid struggle to grasp a concept, then to see the light bulb go on and witness the transformation from frustration, to supreme confidence. Last night as I watched my oldest boy learn to ride his bike without training wheels it became one of those moments that you want to hold onto forever. Learning to ride your bike is a simple childhood rite of passage, and one I didn't expect to mean so much to me, but for some reason this little milestone really brought home the fact that he's growing up so fast.

I admit to having my own doubts as my wife insisted we try to take off his training wheels before our evening walk around the neighborhood. As he struggled to make it once around the block even with me holding on to the seat most of the way, my doubts grew. There were plenty of "I can't do this" moments, and a few tears shed, but then all of a sudden the switch flipped and the whole family shared in the excitement as he took off racing down the street in front of our house. I don't know what made me happier, the fact that he succeeded or just simply seeing how proud and excited he was the rest of the evening. Good times.

Good job Keaton. Dad's proud of you.


Brown Trout on the Edge

I could watch stuff like this all day.


Bike ride anyone?

Something a bit different since the fishing is slow right now. 


The Brown Trout and the Mayfly

There is some very neat footage here.

Fly Fishing Media from ErdemAs on Vimeo.


Fly of My Dreams

Yes, it's true. I admit that I have woken up in the middle of the night suddenly struck by a great idea for a fly, which will certainly fool that big trout that I threw everything in the fly box at the day before. Now it wasn't quite as an elaborate concoction of materials as the fly in this fun song but I can relate to the humor in this little ditty.


Rivers are high or closed...

Expect more short video posts over the next few weeks of stuff I find while surfing the net. 

Here's one of some Sea Run Brown fishing off the coast of Denmark:

Stevns with Allan from Inwaders Media on Vimeo.


Rowing Practice

As you know if you have been reading here, the river is blown out.  That much I think has been made abundantly clear.  But when life hands you lemons, go make lemonade I guess.  So having not touched a fly rod in a couple weeks we decided it was time to check the river out from the inside, and dusted off the Alumaweld and launched her into the great wide current.  We floated a little over 8 miles of the river and threw streamers at the banks, and half exposed willows the entire way.  We received nothing to show for our efforts other than a little exercise.  Not a single follow.  Here are just a few observations and tidbits from the day.

  • First, it took about three hours to float the approximate 8 miles.  We swung around a couple eddies but really we didn't dilly dally at all.  
  • There are no riffles on the river.  the river is deep, deep, deep.  Part of the reason I don't think we caught anything.  These fish have a lot of water and with the curve ball they have been thrown I wouldn't be surprised if they have found a rock deep in the river and tied themselves to it for the time being. 
  • It was a nice day for a float.  A bit windy for throwing streamers, but it was a nice little outing none the less.  
  • Didn't spot any bugs in any significant numbers. 
  • Saw two fish rise in the three hours on the river.  One soon after we put in in a big eddy, and one towards the end of the float, again, in a big eddy.  Both were single rises with no follow up.  We watched the area for quite a while after each one.  They never reappeared.  
  • I had anticipated a tougher float, but it was fairly simple to navigate the river.  Most of the rapids have been smoothed out, and the river is high enough most rocks are safely under water.  Only a couple spots required a little thought about how to attack them and there was plenty of room to maneuver around any potential hazards.  
Here are a couple photos of the day:

After the float we checked out the glory hole and the dam so here are a few of those shots as well:

(Click for larger image)


Thar She Blows!

The selfish side of me is a bit bummed.  The river I fished 100+ days last year, is blown out.  And I mean real blown out.  Flows in the winter here are around 30 cfs, and in the summer they bump them up to around 200cfs.  Well last week due to a high level of late winter, and early spring precipitation in the watershed that feeds the reservoir behind the dam they started the big dump.  It was stepped up somewhat gradually, but on this last Saturday the reservoir spilled over the glory hole and flows bumped to over 10,000 cfs.  It appears that flows will be high for a while as the bulk of the snow melt still has yet to occur.  So it looks like I will be tying a lot of flies over the next couple months.  There is that side of me that is not happy about the situation, but although I have no knowledge about how this is actually going to affect this fishery, I do tend to have an optimistic approach to the situation.

So what is the good news?
  • These fish will finally have a bit of a break from angler pressure.  This is a short river that is open to fishing and normally is at wadeable flows 365 days a year.  Smaller rivers with a lot of 20+ inch Brown Trout don't stay secret for very long in todays environment.  These poor fish are hammered by fishermen day after day, and now for the first time in a while they will be spared this constant barrage.    If they can find good holding water, and there is still plenty of it, the fish will be fine and may actually end up being healthier in the long run.
  • The river will be different.  Yes that can be a good thing.  Especially for a guy that fishes it as often as I do.  Not saying at all that I had the river figured out, but when you fish it as often as I have the last couple years, there can't help but develop a sense of familiarity.  I tend to look at it from the angle that now I will have the opportunity to relearn a river and go through the process all over again, like reacquainting yourself with an old, long lost friend.     
In the mean time, I will be behind the vise stocking up the fly box.

Here are a couple pictures of the river.  These will mean a lot more to those that have been there and are familiar with it at lower flows.

Just above the hot springs looking back down the river
 OK now let's take an eye test.  The first picture was taken yesterday.  The second picture was taken last year at about this time. 
This year
Same spot last year
 If you can't spot the difference, it's official...you need glasses, or maybe a new prescription.

More miscellaneous pictures:

At normal flows the tip of the rock you can see a little down and right of the center of the picture is the largest and one of several large boulders that stick out of the water a good distance, making a nice little rock garden.  Not right now.

What is normally a narrow channel is now a wide flat river.


Meat Eating Browns are on the Prowl!

One of my favorite streamers to fish for big browns.
 This is a report I had written up from a trip to the river this week but am just getting around to posting.  It's just a small look into the excitement that is fishing big meaty streamers.  It's an indulgence I don't often partake in, but one that I always wonder why not after an outing like this.  
The river I fish often is about to blow. Rumors of a big release from the Dam starting this afternoon and then doubling again by the end of the week prompted me to take advantage yesterday of one of the few remaining days this spring I may get to fish it. Although if it goes much higher we may be able to break the Drift boat out a little early and get some of the rust off my rowing shoulders.

With the river already having bumped up from 30 cfs to 222 cfs in the last week and the water running a little off color I decided to fling some streamers and see what happened. I certainly wasn't disappointed.

I fished a bank I have come to affectionately call "The Butcher Shop." It is a great Streamer bank with a shallow gravel bar along most one side making it easy to wade along that side and throw big streamers to the protected far bank that drops off quickly into a nice trough with a lot of overhanging brush, exposed rocks, as well as other cover. And to top it off the current flows through there at just about the perfect speed.

I started in at the bottom of the run in a shorter run before it drops off into a minor riffle and then dumps into another long run that lasts about 100 yards. My first cast the Conehead Zonker I was fishing pulled across the current untouched, but as it swung below me and came into view I clearly saw the dark form of a large fish on it's tail. I gave the fly a few twitches, but the big fish was not enticed and I watched the shadow dissipate back toward the center of the run. My heart was officially beating now.  Streamer fishing is not for the faint of heart, as I have had more heart stopping moments tugging big flies than any other type of fishing. I had several on this day and this was just the first.

A few moments later I learned, or should I say, relearned, a lesson I should have known...well okay...I knew better, but I failed to heed my better judgment. Never just assume that the 4x tippet that is already attached to your fly line is an OK choice, and for the sake of convenience ignore the nagging voice in the back of your head telling you to change that or you are going to regret it. Well that's exactly what I did. Anxious to hit the river I had decided to just tie the #4 Zonker on what was left of the leader already attached to my fly line, and soon I got the wake up call I needed. Off the bank came a hard crashing fish, he grabbed the fly and turned back to his lair in a flash, and I hardly even felt it. It was that quick, the separation of fly from the leader was swift and clean. Large fish smacking a moving fly on a tight line can make quick work of too light tippets. I humbly stood in the stream and did what I should have done 15 minutes before.

Back at it after re rigging a much stouter and shorter leader, I hit the short riffle between the long banks. Casting into eddies and pockets behind boulders along the far edge I was coming up empty for the first half, as I casted, and stepped downstream, working the bank thoroughly. At the bottom of the riffle there was a bigger eddy with a nice foam line that looked like a good place for a nice trout to lay in ambush. The streamer landed perfectly at the head of the little pocket and I began the strip. The fly had just entered the faster water when the surface exploded and I clearly saw a beautiful buttery brown roll above the water and come down on top of my streamer. I have had this happen a couple times when fishing streamers, and every time I can hardly believe my eyes. I think if I had a video camera and could slow it down and zoom in on the fishes eyes, you could see they would be glowing red. Sometimes these fish just get crazy mad. He grabbed the fly on the way down and I felt the heaviness for a couple seconds, but just like the other times I have had fish attack the fly like this, it was short lived. It seemed to be an attack out of anger rather than hunger, and that happens in fishing these meaty flies, but it didn't help the thumping in my chest any.

It was only a few casts later when my fly swung across the bottom of the riffle that I felt the hard strike and the heavy weight of a nice fish that played a little too close with that fine line and managed to hook himself. One thing I will say, I have never had a fish that hit a streamer, just roll over and come to the net easily. These fish were mad before, and the sting of the hook takes that rage to a whole new level. I finally landed this fish and it was a very fat 20 inch Brown that was as healthy as I have seen this year on the river.

Big fish like this are the reason I will occasionally fish streamers even in the midst of a heavy hatch, like the BWO's that were popping on this day.

As I continued up the run several more big shadows ghost up behind my fly as I bring it across the river, but none that are willing to take the plunge and grab a bite. Finally I came to a section with a lot of old dead branches hanging over and into the water, and in amongst them was a big nose rising methodically, probably to midges as I see them congregating along the current seam that feeds his little haven. It's a tough lie, and he's sipping dries, so I wonder how willing he would be to grab a streamer. It's worth a try though. My cast hit just above the brambles, and I let my heavy fly sink and tumble with the current into the big fishes feeding lane. As it arrived in the zone I could no longer see the fish, or the fly in the murky water but I figured it was time to start stripping it out of there. As I began the strip I immediately met resistance and felt the heavy shake of a big Brown's head. I managed to sneak him out of the bramble patch he was in without him wrapping me around a branch, and slugged it out with him in the middle of the current where fewer hazards existed. Finally a few moments later I was able to raise the big head and slip another nice trout into the mesh.

The day continued with this theme and by the end of a couple hours 7 big heavy fish had found their way into my net, all on streamers, right in the midst of a massive Blue Wing Olive hatch that I simply ignored.  What a day. Nothing like the heart pounding action when the fish are mashing streamers.
This nice fish put the finishing touches on a great day on the river.


The Joys of Spring, Blue Wing Olives, and...Popcorn? Part 1

I will admit in the past Spring has never been my favorite season.  I know the ideal image of spring brings to mind thoughts of fresh sprouting green grass, soft gentle rains, budding willows, and freshly bloomed daffodils, but it seems that the reality is often closer to dull gray skies, harsh winds, and sticky brown mud...everywhere.   Okay that may have been the pessimist in me coming out.  But in the past I have always felt that Spring was a bit overrated as a season, and just a necessary transition that must be endured until summer finally arrived.  As a fly fisherman though I have garnered a whole new found respect for that formerly overrated season, thanks to one tiny bug.  The Blue Wing Olive.  

A freshly hatched BWO rides along the calm surface.

The reality is that BWO's can have a presence throughout the year, and make a strong reappearance in the fall, but their spring time arrival is about as welcome an event as you can have for both fly fishermen and fish alike.  Other hatches get all the hype, but these little bugs can make fish go bonkers, and in weather conditions that used to rank right up there with the reason I felt spring was over rated, these bugs flourish.  If you ask me now what days in the spring I look forward to it would be a fairly cold 45-50 degree day with overcast skies spitting a few rain showers, with even a little breeze thrown in.  Of course not enough of a breeze to make casting a fly rod difficult, but just enough to push those little sailboat profile mayflies around on the water, and concentrate them between a swift current seam and a grassy bank.  Natures way of creating an all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry trout coming off a cold lethargic winter of snacking on whatever requires the least amount of energy to be expended.

As I stood in the midst of a frenetic river last week watching one of the most amazing hatches of Blue Wing Olives come off, it reminded me of watching popcorn, except, unless you really like popcorn, a bit more exhilarating.  There is the quiet calm where the kernels sit quietly in the slowly heating oil.  It can be hard to tell when this stage starts as all the action is underwater, hidden from the anglers eye.  It may look like the water is quiet, but underneath  the surface things are starting to happen.

Then the oil starts to sizzle and pop.  Like when you start seeing those first rises.  Usually just dorsal fins, or tails as the fish take the rising nymphs as they swim for the surface.  Things are getting more heated now.  And the first kernels are starting to crack.   You hear that first pop in the pan, or you see that first dun on the surface gliding slowly along drying it's wings.  A fish here and there begin rising for the later stage emergers, and  a couple are even up on the few duns floating down river.

Suddenly, like that moment that the kernels begin exploding, not one at a time, but  at a constant thunderous rate, things get bananas.  In that run you could have sworn was void of any fish just minutes before there are more rises than you can count.  One look at the water and you see exactly why.  The evidence is littering the surface as the small sailboat profiles are everywhere.  Where once a sporadic bug or two drifted alone, there are literally hundreds...no thousands!  It gets crazy.  You hope this crescendo lasts for a while.  The fish are going nuts and so are you.  In the right conditions (see my new favorite spring weather above) this stage can last quite some time, and when it does I count my lucky stars or what ever that saying is.

Then just as quickly as they started popping things subside.  Again you can only see a couple duns drifting on the surface.   Some of the stragglers, like those half popped old maids in the popcorn bowl, are struggling to make it off the water.  Something has happened in  this process for them and they aren't going to make it.  Like those half or unpopped kernels that settle  and collect in the bottom of the bowl, these wounded and battered bugs get pushed helplessly by the current into protected pockets or up against a grassy bank where they become more concentrated.  Much of the surface activity has subsided as well, but a few of the wiser and larger fish are still around.  Tucked into those little nooks where those crippled and half drowned mayflies have been rounded up against their will they sip away quietly.   It's the tail end of the action, but the careful eye of an observant angler knows there is still action to be found in seeking out these protected areas and keeping a keen eye out for those stealthy rises.  Then the river is quiet, waiting silently for the next out burst. 

I am no entomologist, and certainly no fly fishing expert.  I just know I love to watch a good hatch develop and reap the rewards that come along with it.  There are plenty of frustrating moments in this process for myself. But it is what keeps me coming back.  If things were always easy, then what would be the point?  These BWO hatches have given me some great study material this spring.  I have learned, and I have gone back to the drawing board.  Many times, but it's all part of the process.

A nice fish that came early in the hatch on an early stage emerger pattern.
This fish fell for a more standard upright wing pattern mimicking the BWO Dun

One of those fish spotted after the hatch sipping cripples that collected along a shallow grassy bank.


A Great Day on the River

Not a lot of big fish but the day was perfect for a BWO hatch. Fifty degrees, overcast, drizzling on and off. A sure recipe for hatching bugs and the fish were eating. Midges also made it onto the menu.

Average size of the catch was down today, but the numbers were on the rise. Maybe spring is making a comeback after all.


Kids and Fly Fishing

Thanks to the fly fishing frenzy for finding and sharing this video on their blog.  I just had to post it here as well.  Good stuff. 


Early Skwala Eater

I have a tendency to start fishing Skwala Dry patterns earlier than I probably should be able to get away with.  This time of year my most productive patterns are usually small midge pupa patterns and my preferred method of fishing them is in a hopper dropper type set up.  I will use a parachute adams or some other adult midge or mayfly pattern on occasion but I usually look for any excuse to use a bigger fly when using this set up.  The last couple weeks I have noticed a lot of Skwala nymphs as I turn over a few rocks on the river and although it is a little early for them to be hatching in any significant numbers I went ahead today and started fishing a bullethead skwala pattern followed my the old reliable Zebra Midge. 

Last year the first fish I managed to catch on a Skwala dry fly was on February 17th, so we are right in that time frame this year.  However I was not real hopeful that I would be able to fool a trout any earlier than that date, so I was content to use the skwala as my indicator for the midge pupa dropper.  As I prospected a nice little trough between two rocks I was not surprised when my indicator fly dipped and I set the hook on a nice little brown that had taken the dropper.  I quickly landed it and set up to get another drift in that same slick.  On my next cast I did get a little surprise.  I flipped up in the center of the narrow chute again and an eager little 10 inch fish mashed the Skwala.  Not a big fish by any means but the first sign of a fish looking up and willing to go for the bigger meal.  This may be my indication that the Skwala hatch may hit a little early this year.  We will see.

Not a monster by any means but he is the first Skwala muncher I have come across this year


It's been slow

I have not gotten out and done much fishing lately.  Things are busy, but today I managed to sneak away for a bit. 

It was not the hottest action I have ever had but the fish were there.  I found a nice run with fish rising all over to midges easy enough.  I waded in and proceeded to flog the water for nearly an hour with very little of what I would call, results.  Just a couple fish that nosed the tiny midge pattern I was using but no full on slurps, and with the number of natural insects on the water it was a bit overwhelming to imagine my little pattern getting picked out of all those choices.  To top things off the fish were not setting up in a feeding lane but feeding on the move making it a game of anticipation and timing.  Both of which I apparently lacked today.  Finally I decided I was tired of that game and I went with a set up that hardly ever fails me when fish are snacking on midges.  I tied on a nice sized parachute adams with a easily visible white post and dropped a #18 zebra midge off the back of it with about 18 inches of tippet.  Sure enough a few casts later I was hooked up on the midge pattern.  It capped what had been a bit of a frustrating outing but let me finish things off on a positive note.  So for the first time in a few weeks here is an actual fish picture.


Ice, Ice, Baby

This weeks report is full of it.  Ice has taken over the river and very few stretches are open.  Thankfully we have had a day or two where the temps have actually gotten above freezing so there are a couple stretches that are fishable.  I took a drive up the river this week not expecting to do any fishing.  Last time I was out there were no fish rising and I didn't find enough fishable water for me to even break out the rod.  I expected this weeks drive to be much the same.

About halfway up the canyon, still looking for any sign of rising fish and coming up empty I spotted something interesting standing on an ice shelf in the middle of the river.  By the time I got the truck stopped, backed up, and the camera out it had taken off but I managed to get this picture of a nice big bald eagle.

Continuing up the canyon I stopped at one of my favorite spots.  In my last report just before Christmas I had caught a couple fish here but as I broke through the brush I could see it wasn't going to happen this day.  The picture below shows the ice over the top of a run that held at least 7 feeding fish last time I was here. 

Another Shot of an Icy River

Finally I stopped at a run that I have had good luck with finding rising fish but I thought for sure it would be iced over as it is a fairly calm bend.  Even the riffles were frozen solid in some places so I figured there would be no way this place would be ice free.  I could see though, as I approached, several Ducks swimming in the run, so I knew that was a good sign.  When I pulled the truck up and hopped out I was greeted by a welcome sight.  One hundred yards of very accessible water.   The only thing I needed now were the fish to cooperate.  The surface was pretty calm and so I decided to walk slowly down the bank and see if anything showed up.  I had just turned my back on the river to duck under some brush when I heard a slurp.  Quickly I turned back to see the dissipating ripples left by a rise.  Then the white mouth of a nice fish appeared again and took another midge from the waters surface.  That's all it took to get me in gear.  I slowly backed away from the bank then sprinted to my pickup, jumped into my waders, and grabbed my fly rod.  A couple minutes later I was hooked up with my first fish of 2011. 
Happy New Year!
 The fish kept rising but I went through a dry spell after that fish was landed.  Then just as I was about to leave, and call it a day, another fish took my fly and fish number 2 came to hand.  This fish was nearly a carbon copy of the first.  In fact I had to compare the pictures to be sure they weren't the same fish, but it turns out it's pretty obvious they are not. 
Fish Number 2

There is something very satisfying about fooling fish in the dead of winter on a dry fly.  It is one of the most rewarding things I have done as far as fishing goes.  I am beginning to really enjoy the winter fishing season.  As long as there is open water.


Jump Creek Flies

Welcome to the New Year and something new here on the blog. As of January 1st I will begin making a few of my best producing patterns available for purchase here. To the right you will see the storefront where fly patterns will be made available for sale. You can use that application to order, and pay for your flies.  Also feel free to visit www.jumpcreekflies.com

All flies I sell will have been tied by me personally. Every pattern will also be one which I personally have proven. I will never sell a pattern that has not produced for me on a regular basis. I plan to offer a small selection of high quality, hand tied flies, with a personal touch, and at a very reasonable price.

Thanks for looking and hope you have a New Year filled with Tight Lines.

Benji Sorenson