I went a whole month without fishing. Yes it's true. I didn't like it either. Actually the drought stretched almost two months. The last time I was on the water was around my Birthday in early December. So for the first month in almost three years, I did not catch a fish in the month of January this year. That's my sob story, but there is only one way to fix this problem. It was time to take action.
This winter has been fairly busy, but still there is no excuse. My fly tying has taken off and really kept me busy but that is definitely not an excuse. Honestly I do enjoy tying a good fly almost as much as fishing, so the time spent at the vise these last couple months has been very enjoyable. Maybe that's one reason I haven't fished as much. Keeping busy tying scratched that itch just enough. But still there comes a time when a person just has had enough and needs to hold the cork,waive the stick, and put some of those creations from the vise in front of some fish.
There is a moment of self doubt when I pick up an activity again after a little time off. Each winter the first time I hit the ski slopes, I always wonder on the lift ride up the mountain for that first run if I have completely forgotten how to ski. In the case of skiing my fear is often very legitimate though as I take my first run of the year tumbling down the mountain. So as I drove up the road to the river yesterday I wondered if in two months off from fishing I had forgotten how to properly present a #22 midge to a wily brown trout.
However as I pulled up to the first run I wanted to check out and looked down into a stretch of water filled with rising trout, instinct took over and I became a flurry of activity. Waders on, Boots, Fly rod rigged, off to the water without even a second thought of how well I would be able to present a fly to these fish. Then as I reached the edge of the water it hit me. This is real. The frantic pace at which I had gotten ready quickly shifted to a much slower gear, and every step in the calm section of river was made with extreme caution not to make any sudden movements that throw ripples over these fish, and tip them off to my presence. Getting my wading legs under me proved interesting. In my eagerness I placed a boot on the side of a hidden rock and slipped a bit. Careful. Pausing to give a chance for the slight disturbance this caused to subside I saw the fish were still slurping away. No harm no foul. But now the doubts were back.
These fish were not going to just come to the net. They were feeding in a calm slow moving section of river on midges, and from my experience, more likely half emerged midges, not the fully hatched adults that littered the surface. I tied on a Harrops Transitional Midge, one of my favorite midge patterns and took aim at the closest snout.
First cast, you guessed it, the back cast got caught up in a bank side willow I had misjudged my proximity to. After slipping a few times getting in, and not wanting to wade back to the shore if I could help it, I took the lazy route and tugged on the fly a few times and was pleasantly surprised when it popped free still attached to the tippet. Without examining the fly I loaded the rod and dropped a fair cast in the feeding zone of the nearest trout. Sure enough, my fly selection had been spot on, as if on cue the trout rose and grapped the bug. I set the hook, but it popped free. Oh well I had got a take, my confidence was improving. But it quickly turned to frustration.
The next three fish all had the same story. I would finally get a good drift, have them take, and have the hook come free on the set. I am just rusty I thought. But I decided to take a look at the fly. Well it seems the fly I was using was missing a key ingredient. The hook point. Apparently popping the small fly out of the willow, had broken the hook at the bend, so I was practicing the ultimate in catch and release techniques. As I examined my fly box for a replacement I realized that this had been the only transitional midge pattern in my box. So much for all that time at the vise, apparently tying every pattern but the Harrops Transitional midge.
So I resorted to trying out several patterns over the next 15 minutes, mostly they all were meant to mimic the adult midge, but I tried to modify and fish them as much like the transitional as possible. It wasn't working. The fish ignored every other fly. Then I had an idea. I have a mayfly emerger pattern I tie that uses a similar CDC bubble on the back of the fly that really works well during the appropriate mayfly hatch. The Bubbleback Emerger.
As the fish took to the air, then ripped up river, then back down, I simply put my head back and breathed a huge breath of fresh air, relishing the moment. The fish was a healthy 18 incher that didn't come in without a fight. Finally a fish to hand.
As the hour wore on I hooked and landed 5 more fish on the BWO Bubble Emerger in the midst of a blanket midge hatch, and discovered a new use for one of my favorite mayfly emerger patterns. Life is good, and I can still catch fish. Ahhhh.