I've been looking forward to this date ever since trout season closed last September.
My friend Shane, who is a fellow PhD student in my lab, was also excited. Even since I took him out fly fishing last fall, he had been bitten badly with the fly fishing bug. He went and bought waders, a fly rod and reel, and recently flies.
We had been discussing where to fish and tried to set out a game plan. However, the weather got a little colder and threw our game plan a wrench. Luckily, the wind managed to stay down so our newbie Shane was able to put his casting practice into real fishing situations.
I also invited my buddy Matt to join us. Shane and I got there first. We were a little discouraged that the access parking already had 6 cars and 2 more people arrived as we were suiting up. However, it was a surprise that my favourite pool had no one fishing.
We started off with my staple fly - the Elk Hair Caddis. As we were wading, we could feel the water was near freezing. The fishing was very slow due to the low temperature.
Shane managed to struck first with a nice little brookie to christen his rod. It did take about 30 minutes of fishing to find this willing participant. This was unfamiliar to me.
I switched to a pheasant tail nymph and managed to catch one as well. I always take a picture of my first brookie of the year but I'll spare you the unnecessary picture.
Matt finally arrived and joined us. It was so slow that after an hour of fishing, Matt decided to quit. It was nice to fish with Matt again though since we're now both busier and we haven't fished much together.
Shane and I soldiered on and I caught any little brookie on the nymph as well. We finally moved to fish downstream through all my usual hotspots, but the cold weather really kept the fish inactive.
This is not the first time I've found a tough bite due to cold water. A couple of years ago, I had the same situation and with a bit of exploring I found a really good spring time spot. So I suggested to Shane that we should try it.
A short drive away we got to Spot 2. By now it was about 11am and the sun was out. The water was warming and we were hoping it would turn the fish on. We saw a handful of blue-winged olives (BWO) in the air. No fish were rising but I was positive about it. We already had beadhead pheasant tail nymphs tied on and a few drift later I had a brookie trout on! Alright!
From there on, we didn't look back. The nymphs were unstoppable! It actually got stupid for a while when we were getting hit or hooked a fish almost every cast.
Most of the were 5-6" long, but I did land an 8" brookie that got out of my hand as I was ready to take a picture.
A few casts later, I caught a beautiful 7" model that deserved a posed picture.
After a while, there were a few more BWOs in the air and we decided to change to a parachute BWO. Strangely, the fish didn't really want the dry fly. As I was carefully picking through the area, a father and son came to check things out.
You have to understand that we never know what kind of people may show up and may ask questions. This section of stream is regulated water with single hook point, barbless, artificial only, catch and release limitations, yet, many times there are people fishing with worms and spinners with treble hooks. I am very secretive about my success on this stream if people ask.
So as the father and son watched me for a while, I cast deliberately into unproductive, rough waters where I know my dry fly would be sunk immediately. Surprisingly, on one drift I saw a flash of silver below my sunk fly. I'm not sure if the father and son caught it, but I certainly did. I felt a little tug but I didn't want to set the hook. It was a good size fish about 12"...but now I don't know if it could be caught again. All this to ensure the secrecy of the little fish in the stream. :wink:
About 10 minutes later, the father and son left. I quickly told Shane what happened...and then feverishly looked through my fly box for something that may trigger the fish to strike again.
I settled on a #10 copper beadhead stonefly nymph. It's big and meaty...something a big fish would probably hit. I drifted this fly through the area a number of times and didn't get a hit. I decided to take a step 5 feet downstream and drift the fly slightly further down. On the second drift, my fly just stopped dead and then a strong tug. Immediately, I saw the glint of silver and I knew I had him!
I yelled to Shane that I got the big fish and Shane came over. He was surprised that such a small little stream held fish this size. It took a few tried to get the fish into the net, but finally Shane got the 13" rainbow trout in the bag.
This picture couldn't do the fish justice. It was absolutely crimson and emerald!
We continued to pick away at the fish on nymphs. We decided that the fish wanted elk hair caddis and the fish agreed. It was just fun watching the fish come up to grab them in earnest.
By 3pm, it was time to leave. We lost count the number of brook trout landed. I probably was in the high 20's and Shane's count was in the teens. That one big rainbow trout was the bonus though.
Shane and I discussed plans to check out another stream for brown trout when the water warms up a little. I hope we can have another successful day in the future