Sunday, February 23, 2020

Back At It

While at a professional development conference for music teachers someone randomly said, "You sure fish a lot!" This wasn't someone that I knew all that well and the statement kinda surprised me. My response was, "It doesn't feel like it." or something to that effect which left me wondering what a "lot" was. 

 While at the conference I got to catch up a little with another guy that fishes a "lot" and some loose plans were made. I always enjoy fishing with Lane. He's a good fisherman and I always learn something from him. It's also interesting to watch someone who knows what they're doing and compare that to what I would do. It's also nice that he doesn't plan on coming home early, doesn't get pissy if the fish don't cooperate and doesn't steal flies from me. 

A couple of texts and the plans were finalized for the day after Valentines Day, and even though I went fishing with my Dad on Valentines I was really excited to hit another stream. I had lost almost all of my #18 Red Zebra Midges, so in the morning before heading out I made sure to tie a quick half dozen. I knew they might not work as well today, but if I didn't have them I'd regret it. After that it was out the door to meet Lane in an abandoned K-Mart parking lot. Not sketchy at all....

Not red, but you get the idea...

The drive was filled with talk about our jobs, places we have fished and some hunches that we're planning on checking out soon. We checked on a couple of different spots, but ended up at a spot that neither of us had fished in years. I decided to start with a fly that used to be a go-to for this stream, a gray scud. The first cast showed it was a good choice and several small fish came to hand at the first hole. Nothing huge, but a nice mix of brown and rainbow trout. 

Usually, there would be a pic of my hand holding a fish right here. Unfortunately, I've misplaced my waterproof camera and history has shown I can't be trusted to use my phone anywhere near water...

It took a minute, but Lane started finding some fish including a nice tiger trout that was a surprise. We didn't even know there were tigers in this stream. While Lane started pulling in fish one after another, I picked up a bunch of golf balls that littered the stream. I was a little surprised to find them, but I was even more surprised that no one else had picked them up. This is one of the most popular streams in the state and I know there are a lot of people who have stepped over all the trash. I know you might not be the problem, but you can be the solution. I'm going to put a bag in my vest and try to be better about picking up some trash each trip. Hopefully we can make a difference out there in the places we love.

We moved upstream, finding a few fish in each hole until we came up to a large run that looked awesome. Having not been here for so long, it was way different than before, but still great looking. Had trouble figuring out what the fish would take until I got a nice whitefish on a Frenchie. This was the first fish I've ever caught on this pattern, and one of the biggest whitefish I've caught on this stream. Too bad it was a fluke, no other fish fell for the Frenchie.

A few rising fish tempted Lane into switching flies to a dry, and he caught one bow on a Griffith's Gnat. Slow fishing that normally would've sent us upstream pretty quickly kept us there with the occasional rising fish, or a decent brown/whitefish on a nymph, but never the same fly twice...

Deciding to try a different spot, we headed for the truck. Lane stopped to fish a likely looking spot and managed to hook one more small bow on the dry fly even though he didn't see the take - he just heard a splash and set! I figured we were done at this point, but Lane said he knew of a spot nearby to try. Always up for one more cast we drove to a spot that Lane's Uncle had shown him, but it was a spot that he hadn't fished in about 15 years. During the walk in, Lane described the way it used to be. A smooth pool where a few spooky fish might be, but even if they were it would be a short game. What we found was a pool with a good run and some complicated currents.

It took a minute to figure out what they wanted, but once I tried on a #18 Red Zebra Midge and fished the middle of the water column it all came together. Several fish came to hand, including some nice browns. At one point it was obvious that they liked what I was serving better than Lane's flies so I lent him my rod and he quickly missed a few takes and landed a good fish. 

We finally called it a day when the sun starting going down and our hands started going numb. A great day on the water with great company. 

Hope you're as lucky,


Monday, February 17, 2020

Valentine's Day

Paper hearts, chocolate, love notes and romance are what most people think of when February 14th comes around. This year I had a day off and thoughts of hitting a stream with my fly rod was all I could think of. This is the time of year where fishing could be great, even if it's unlikely. Most of the time it's a lot of casting, lots of fly changes, lots of layers of clothing, lots of ice in the guides and (if you're lucky) a couple of trout that freeze your fingers. Still, the need to get out and do something can really weigh on you until you start to lash out at those around you without cause. Spring Fever. 

A few years ago, I lived just minutes from the Weber River and rarely fished it. Different streams and lakes held my attention along with going to school and providing for my young family. Still seems like I squandered some opportunity, but with it in the past there's nothing I could do about it even if I wanted to. Now, it's a long drive passing by several other places that I like to fish and a drive that I haven't been up to make for a while. My dad grew up fishing the Weber and with him being retired now it didn't take much to talk him into it. 

The drive up went surprisingly fast, and before I knew it I was meeting Dad at his house for the final push to the river. Our first stop was a spot where we've fished before and found some success, although the water this time was really low and clear. I was worried that fishing would be tougher than we were up for but when the first whitefish ate a red Zebra Midge on the first or second cast my fears subsided and we just fished. 

Dad usually loses enthusiasm for fishing nymphs under an indicator pretty quickly, but he seemed happy to just be out fishing no matter what the method. With an indicator, weighted flies, and additional weight all trying to go different ways with each cast tangles were inevitable. A mixed bag of browns and whitefish were the payoff, with both of us finding fish.

I know that some people have some disdain for whitefish, but I don't share it. Growing up, we only fished dry-flies on the streams so we never caught whitefish. I've spent most of my adult life living in Southern Utah where there aren't any whitefish in the local streams. I think they're a fine fish. Like a grayling without the showy dorsal fin. Many times, especially in the winter, catching a whitefish is the only thing that keeps the skunk off.

Another peculiarity of winter fishing is that we don't cover near the water that we would in the warmer months. Eventually, the first hole stopped producing and we decided to move up stream. The second hole wasn't as productive as the first, but it did give up some good fish including a brown with a deformed mouth. Not sure what happened, but it didn't stop him from eating. 

There's always a hope that temperatures will climb high enough to get some fish looking up. Dry fly fishing is always a welcomed reprieve from fishing weighted flies, but when the wind kicked up significantly our hopes of dry flies and rises went out the window. In fact, the wind started blowing so hard that the water was being churned up pretty good. Before retreating to the the truck I had to try a few casts back into the hole where we had started and I was sure glad I did! The wind made casting difficult, but anytime my flies hit the water it seemed like the fish would eat. The fish kept up the excitement up for a few more minutes, but once the bite slowed down we headed for the truck and a break from the wind. 

We made one more stop on the way back to my Dad's, but we decided to not fish even though we spotted a very large whitefish from the road. I had some stops to make and Deli was home waiting for her Valentine's lasagna dinner.

Hope you're as lucky,

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Winter Fishing

This time of year is usually the least favorite of fly fishermen. The cold makes us retreat to our tying vices or give into the temptation of staring down a ice hole, either way visions of hatches and warmer days distract us from our pursuits. A new saddle hackle has me excited to tie (thanks FlyFishFood) but every fly has me thinking about a different piece of water that I'm looking forward to hitting this summer. 

The stream down by Jeff's house was weighing on my mind and I knew we'd have to try it again before too long. Hoping that not much had changed we hit it early and went to an area that I've had success in the past. Unfortunately, the water was up, cold, and a little off-color which changed the everything we thought we might know about what the fish would be up to. Oh well, a Wired-San-Juan-Worm is always a strong option and we found a few willing fish. 

Working every night doesn't leave me with much energy when it comes to the weekends, but Super Bowl Sunday brought some super weather with temperatures climbing up into the low fifties. I decided to wait until mid morning before hitting the water. Rather than waste the early hours lying awake in bed I decided to tie up a few flies that I hoped would come in handy.

The morning was warming up nicely, but the snow melt was making the water a little cold. I started out without much confidence but the first fish was a nice one that took a pink scud and gave the 6x all it could handle. 

It was slowing going from there until I found some fish rising! The low, clear water made the approach difficult but I tied on some extra tippet and worked hard to keep my shadow off the water. A bad cast had to be left on the water until it drifted past the risers. I didn't think one would swim 3 feet out of it's lane to take so to say it caught me off guard might be a bit of an understatement. Another understatement would be how badly I missed the take and that blew the hole. 

I did manage to hook and land a couple, but most were just close calls that I managed to mess up in one way or another. You can't catch them all, but I wouldn't want it any other way and had a great time giving each fish my best shot. You can't ask for much more on a winter's day, but I'm more excited for spring fishing now!

Hope you're as lucky,