Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Go with the Flow…

Literally and figuratively. The Cannon was in line to present very good flow conditions for pursuing the buffalo herd that is most definitely present. However, the rain Friday put the flow even beyond what John Montana and I observed last weekend. High, turbid and unwadeable. I could have driven 60 miles one way to cast from the bank, but I’m not interested in burning a day to take chances like that… Need to wade amongst those beasts to really get at them. Looks like that may be possible by the end of this week – we’ll see what happens.

As an alternative I took 3.5 hours yesterday and hit a local water for some trout. The recent buzz regarding the gray caddis hatch helped draw me out. I don’t fish dry flies too often. It was a decent outing. Here are the highlights and some pics:

I went to a water that I’d never fished before. I’ll be doing that a lot, as I learn our new Rochester-based landscape. Very, very fun and interesting to explore and to see all the map space that I haven’t yet met. First I came to a traditional corner hole that looked fishy as hell. There were caddis everywhere but I didn’t see fish rising to them. I flipped a nymph in and right away hooked a trout but it popped off. Then I saw a few sporadic rises… so I put on an EHC. I used a slightly larger and lighter fly than I should have. It managed to hook a fish anyway, but I lost that one too. To perfect the LDR-triad I proceeded to hook and lose another fish swinging a soft hackle (I’d be interested to hear any thoughts on why swinging a soft hackle didn’t seem to work during this caddis hatch). So all three methods got action but no fish to hand. To make it worse, a couple came in just downstream of me and they both hooked fish on dries. They both gave me looks as they played fish too. Ha! I packed up and went on to the next piece of water. Little did I know that despite having ~2.5 hours remaining in my day, I would not proceed any further upstream.

Found this muted reach – not too fast, but just enough velocity and depth to hold fish – some good boulders hidden in there and some woody debris along the opposite bank… Right away nymphed up a couple and then actually caught one by accident as nymphs swung up at end of drift… that tipped me off and I proceeded to hook and land a couple more swinging not a soft hackle but the entire nymph rig – they were taking the lead fly which was a #16 DLK HE. I imagined folks would be cursing me for using nymphs with all these caddis on the water… and the longer I hung around, the more rises I saw, so I eventually switched to another EHC and found some decent success.



IMO, it’s tough to present a dry fly really well. Especially when you’re used to nymph rigs. Probably 60% of the casts were worthless and I could tell each time when a dogmeat drift was coming – usually picked those up and tried again. I was dealing with faster water in the middle of the flow – trying to cast over to slower water on far bank… I was trying the “reach casts” and aerial mends, etc. that a person reads about regularly. Eventually I got it down and pretty much 50-75% of the good drifts that I got with that EHC produced strikes. I missed a few but landed a moderate number – not excessive but enough to keep me very excited and full of anticipation.

The coolest take was on a drift that maintained some decency even as the EHC came to a point straight out in front of me – I saw a silver arrow shoot up from the depth of the flow, inhale the fly and like lightning turn 180 degrees and head back the way it came… that turned out to be a nice little rainbow. I’ve caught some rainbow on dries out west, and a number of browns/brookies on dries here in the Driftless, but I believe that was my first MN rainbow on a dry fly.

Another cool take was a nearly imperceptible sip that occurred just as the drift turned sour… got lucky on that one. It was almost like the fish was tracking a good drift with confidence, and then as drag started the fish had some second thoughts but half-heartedly ate anyway.

Regarding stomach contents – some interesting notes: while most of what I saw was caddis of some sort, this one had hidden away a black beetle and a hellgrammite (Dobsonfly larvae I think). What a find that must have been for the little 9” Salmo trutta.

I ended the day with a 15 minute jaunt on my way out to another little piece of water… went through the thalweg and plunged well below my hip boot tops… loved it too. I saw a big jangle of caddis in the slack water behind this rock… and a brown rocketing up in regular fashion to take one now and again. A couple casts to the still water got him.

Sloshed my way back to the car. What a day it was – weather was perfect. Virginia waterleaf all around, and plenty of flowers in bloom…. Stinging nettles talking about how big they’ll be in a few weeks – threatening me but being gnashed underfoot for now. Birds singing and sun shining down.

It was a good reminder that a guy can feel like a complete idiot one minute, and then a genius the next. All those caddis on the water and it took me ~45 minutes to land a fish…. I heard voices mocking me and saw heads shaking at my failure. But then to find sweet connection…. It’s peaks and valleys. Maybe the sign of a mature angler is an even-keeled confidence and a true it is what it is attitude. Not sure. I know a lot of guys would have caught a lot more of those fish on dries. Okay. I’m grateful for those that I caught and for the five that came home with me.

11 Comments:

Blogger Joe Watkins said...

I wish I could have been there with you...stalking some trout. Looks like fun...water looks beautiful.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

It's that cycle of failure and success that I love about fishing. The best days are when you can complete the cycle in one outing, and maybe even learn something.

3:45 PM  
Blogger john montana said...

Excellent. That sounds like a superb outing J, a little bit of everything.

There is something about dry fly fishing, but then there is something about nymphing, and swinging a soft hackle, and sight fishing with crayfish...it is all good but a day like this one when you get a nice variety is tough to top.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Jean-Paul Lipton said...

Looks like the grey caddis must be active up here too, I found two in my house when I got home last night.

Great show of humility in your post. I know too well the angst of dry fly fishing, especially when about 99% of your fishing is done swinging nymphs or streamers. The presentation and those drifts can be a bitch some times.

One of my favorite quotes by Gierach:

"If people don't occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you're doing something wrong".

Kind of been my mantra on the water; it helps keep it real for me.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

The range of emotions I experience while on the water is wide. There is always an underlying good feeling though.

You guys are right on...

8:06 AM  
Blogger vanckirby said...

very cool and nice trout!

do you mind if i add your blog to my links at fladuckdays?

11:31 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

No problem - add a link. Thanks.

1:00 PM  
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