Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BWOs, RS2s, and H2O (or, Something Other than Caddis)

Every now and then I get lucky.  It's rare in my fly fishing world that the weather, water levels, and bug choices mesh perfectly into a nicely executed two-and-a-half hours of trout stalking.  Today was one of those days.  A nice taste of early Colorado fall put a positive spin on a day that had previously been painfully monotonous and mind numbing.


It's been a long, hot, dry summer here in FOCO, NOCO (that's Fort Collins, Northern Colorado).  The fishing this summer has been fantastic, and progressed through a familiar seasonal routine.  After a spectacular opening to the season back in April, when tiny blue-winged olives netted me a number of 20+ inch rainbows, the Poudre settled into early summer nymphing, with fish hitting largely on small nymphs - pheasant tails and princes in particular.  Caddis hatches have dominated late August and September to this point - at times, it seemed like the trout in the lower Poudre wouldn't dine on anything else.

Today, we finally got some overcast weather with a brief period of light rain.  On my bike ride home from work, I noticed a significant amount of surface feeding, with subtle little rings of water suggesting the fish were feeding just beneath the surface.  No dramatic, splash-creating rises, just little kisses at the surface.  My mind kicked into high gear - a rare occurrence on most days - and I started formulating a plan for some evening trout catching.  In the last few minutes of my ride, I decided on a mid-size caddis as a lead fly with an RS2 trailing behind.

An hour later, I stepped into the Poudre in the middle of a very slight drizzle - actually more of a mist - and a full feeding frenzy.  The combination of the overcast sky and the light rain seemed to be the dinner bell for the fish, and within ten minutes I'd taken three nice little fish.  The caddis was simply window dressing at this point, serving no other purpose than functioning as a strike indicator.  The fish were sucking the RS2 out of the film just the way I thought they would.  Unfortunately, I'd only managed to tie one RS2 before leaving.  I'm at a loss as to why my box isn't filled with them; with the exception of the split tail, they're an easy tie, and all the wisemen in fly fishing Blogdom (here, here, and here, for instance) consistently sing the pattern's praises.

After three fish, my lone RS2 had taken too much of a beating.  The light rain stopped, but the feeding continued and the fish got more aggressive and began rolling over flies on the surface.  Noting that none had bothered to hit the caddis yet, I decided that a small BWO might be a nice substitute for the RS2.  After tying one on behind the caddis and immediately nailing a few more fish, I stuck with the caddis/BWO combination the rest of the night.  During the second hour, the fish alternately hit both flies in almost equal proportions, although I'd give the BWO the edge.  All told, I netted somewhere between 15-20 trout, all in the 10-12 inch range, with the exception of one really nice cutthroat that was probably around 14 inches.  The Poudre slam eluded me once again - the picky browns apparently didn't like the bugs I was serving up.


So there you have it.  No nymphs were harmed in the making of this blog post, but a number of dry flies and one emerger sure had the hell beaten out of 'em.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  It's a beautiful thing, this obsession of mine.  I'm pretty sure there was nowhere I'd have rather been between 5:00 - 7:30!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Old-School Dry Flyin'

Like a lot of things, fly fishing has gotten gadget-happy, with all sorts of toys and accessories ranging from the ornamental to the useful.  I'll admit to having spent my share of dough on some bells and whistles over the years, but I've tried to make sure that I keep the hobby itself in perspective.  I fish with a pretty cheap rod, a small bag to hold a flybox, and a lanyard around my neck for quick access to tippet and various small tools (nail clippers, forceps, etc).  The frame on my net is aluminum; while I prefer the classy look of the wooden frame net, my wallet prefers the aluminum.  When the water cooperates, I go without waders, which always seem to spring a leak anyway. I did, for obvious reasons, recently splurge on a new pair of boots - the old ones were becoming a safety issue!

When you get right down to brass tacks, fly fishing doesn't really need to be all that complicated.  My most enjoyable days on the water have been those that required the least amount of planning and the fewest number of logistical challenges.  So Doc and I went old-school yesterday afternoon - pretty much on a whim, thanks to the Poudre's proximity.

The river is lower than I've seen it in months, and the nightly caddis hatches have been ridiculous lately.  When you combine those two variables, you've got an ideal equation for some good, old-fashioned dry fly fishing.  Grab your 5-wt, tie on a big ol' stinkin caddis with plenty of hackle, grease it up with some Gink, and cast to the rises.  Old-school.  No frills.  The way you did it when you learned as a kid.

Turned out pretty well.  The Poudre continues to fish great.  Numbers-wise, I had a solid double figure day, and Doc did the same, only he nailed a couple with some serious girth.  I toyed briefly with a Prince nymph when the surface action seemed to slow up a bit, only to abandon that idea as Doc tied into a big rainbow.

Doc puts a bend on the rod.

Fat Poudre rainbow

By 8:00 p.m., we were looking for any excuse to keep fishing.  The flies were impossible to follow, but we rationalized that if we could simply follow the flyline downstream, it stood to reason that the fly would be floating somewhere in the near vicinity.  Just before the last bit of light, Doc saw a fish rise not too far from the end of the fly line and instinctively set the hook, landing one final chunky rainbow to end the day on.

Tough way to spend a Friday afternoon.  Somebody has to do it, and it might as well be me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

No moral victories here...

You won't see any photos in this post.  That's because I blew it - twice - with two of the nicest browns I've tied into in quite sometime.

For over a month, I've been seeing signs of big fish in a certain holding lie along the far bank of one of my favorite stretches of water.  The don't show themselves very often.  Normally, I'll hear a big splash and then turn my head to see evidence on the water of a large trout taking a bug off the surface.  They hang out under some overhanging tree branches, and they're difficult to cast to because the water in front of them tends to run pretty swiftly on most days, making the drift of the fly difficult to control without sinking it.

Tonight, the water level was just perfect and the caddis hatch was in full force.  When the sun set in the west, the trout started their characteristic evening feeding.  After landing a few normal (10-12 inch) rainbows and chatting with a couple other anglers, I noticed some aggressive feeding starting to happen.  I tied on the biggest caddis fly I had and started casting directly to the spot.  After a few drifts, I saw a large, golden flash on the fly and set the hook.  Too gently, I'm afraid.  Just as the angler downstream was remarking that the fish looked considerably bigger than the others I'd landed, the fish thrashed once and spit the caddis back at me with disdain.  I'm embarrassed to say that an expletive escaped from my lips, hopefully not loud enough for the kids upstream to hear. 

By 8:00 p.m., I was having difficulty seeing the fly, and was growing frustrated that fish continued to rise somewhere in the vicinity of a fly I couldn't see.  On the final drift, I tried to imagine where the fly was on the water and decided to set the hook at any rise that could have conceivably been directed at my fly.  I'll be darned if I didn't briefly hook up with another one, who promptly threw the fly back in my face. 

Fun respite from the world at large.  I now have a keen sense of what other anglers mean when they refer to fish that are destined to be caught on another day.  I'm just serving notice right now that I'm going back for one of those two.  I'll post the picture when it happens.