Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rocky Mountain trout

We go hopefully down to a famous river. Usually I avoid famous rivers with their sophisticated fish and crowds. Today @_andy_man is here from Australia and keen on some famous Rocky Mountain trout, plus friend Greg is a habitue on this stream who can guide us.

Greg seined the top of the run above the pool, came up with expected midges, caddis, and also two stonefly nymphs, a golden and a black.

These are basically trout candy, like Snickers bars or cheeseburgers and fries. The golden was passive, the black crawled around vigorously, lifting its head to look around. I was reminded of Patrick O'Brian's line, "like an intelligent spaniel that thinks he just heard someone taking down a shotgun".

Cold morning and nothing seen in the clear green waters.

I fish sitting down, which does not deserve a response.

 Standing up didn't change the luck though.

Eventually a couple good ones showed up in the big lazy eddy at the head of the pool. They were mostly loafing though and swam oblivious past our offerings. This is what I'm used to from famous fish though, am mostly inured to being ignored.

Niece Dr. Exceptional Jessica was along for the excitement of watching us catch nothing. Luckily she had Trevor Noah's autobiography to read on the cold island.

After some time a couple of fish showed up deep, mouthing something. A nice frisky 15" brown took the pheasant-tail nymph about 3 feet down.

A few rises started to appear in a flurry of light snow, then saw the blue-winged olive mayflies coming off.. a veritable hatch of mayfly, never actually fished one of those before. Fortunately I had bought a number of BWO tiny flies based on the assumption that Greg would drag me out to one of these famous places. Thanks Greg.

A #22 parachute BWO (see pic below) worked beautifully as long as it got a drag-free drift, which seemed to need a leader terminating in four feet of a lighter line than I'd usually fish, 6x. The actual flies looked to be more an #18 to me but that size didn't work nearly as well. The fish would wise up after a couple of drifts and move over to the far side of the current, fall back, move up, etc, so it was necessary to change up occasionally or rest them. I lost count of fish landed, though it is true I can't count very high, deliberately forgetting numbers after a hand or so.

Andrew is a fine saltwater and bass fisherman (here with a queenfish) but had not attempted finicky tailwater trout before.

He hooked and lost one on a #22, then switched to a #6 beadhead green woolly bugger, and caught two good fish on that. So much for selective tailwater trout.

 Here's a #22 fly on a quarter, and a #6 woolly bugger to contrast.

My best fish was a brown trout about 18" in one of the snow flurries. He rocketed up from the green deeps, turned back down across the pool and ran up, into a sort of fold in space/time. The line arrowed into the water, extending clear to the other side, a white curve in the clear green: yet the fish was still running, apparently through rock.

Charmed and a little astonished to land it. A couple of fish later hooked a strong 18-19" rainbow which popped the knot on his second run. That was entirely my fault for not retying. Here's another picture of the brown, to salve the memory of the broken-off fish.

Interestingly I could see the #22 fly on the water often enough to keep track of it, even when the vitreous detachment blurries came sweeping over my vision. It was a pleasant surprise to find this and fish without any strike indicator. It's likely I could have caught more fish with a trailing pheasant-tail nymph, but was getting a good deal of fun out of the simplicity of a single dry and the challenge of getting it to drift free. The water was clear enough to be able to distinguish browns from rainbows as they hung in the feeding lanes.

The hatch tailed off in the later afternoon, but still had the odd riser rolling up in the slacker water. I tried a number of drifts downstream to what I thought was a big brown, taking flies all around mine but not it. Sneaked around to get a different drift and retied with a longer leader and smaller fly. By this time I was cold enough that thinking wasn't going too well and the fingers had turned into bunches of sausages. The retying took about 15min by which time I fully expected the trout to have stopped rising. On the fourth drift he sailed up and took the fly down with just the same rise form as all the others, how delightful. Ran strongly for the rapids out of the pool, surprised that the 6x held, landed him an 18” rainbow, and called it a day.

My apologies to Greg and Andrew as I think I got a little over-focused there. It's that fish lust problem again - fishing as if my dinner depended on it, emitting the occasional half-crazed monomaniacal cackle when a fish takes.