Sometimes, size does matter.
I should clarify that I'm referring, of course, to fishing, so there's no need to avert your eyes. As the summer closes, I've developed a fascination with big bugs; specifically, grasshoppers and any artificial variation thereof.
Ever since I can remember, grasshoppers have been a scourge to those of us in northern Colorado, particularly those of us who've made any earnest efforts to grow corn, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables. They don't seem to make much of a dent in zucchini or cucumber plants, but I'm convinced that grasshoppers bear sole responsibility for several failed corn crops in the last few years. As a child, I used to get a kick out of frying them under the concentrated light beams of a magnifying glass, and to this day I like to hone my fine motor skills by running them over as I pedal my bike to work along the bike path that follows the river to town. It likely comes as no surprise, therefore, that I would find delight in the revelation that big trout will seemingly rise to the surface from a deep slumber to suck the big, juicy bugs in a mid-day feeding frenzy.
Last weekend, Doc and I discovered first hand what many before us already knew. Our day trip to the lower Poudre started off no different than most. After quickly scanning the water for rising fish and seeing nothing, I hastily secured a Pheasant Tail nymph to some 5X and unceremoniously descended the bank to the river, bidding Doc good luck with an equally hasty "I'll catch up with you downstream."
For awhile, it seemed like the right choice. The PT nymph with a gold bead head (and usually a rib of red wire) has become my go-to fly for the Poudre when no obvious alternative reveals itself. On this particular morning, it was enough to fool two browns within the first half hour, one of which was as healthy looking as I've seen on this stretch of river. The PT also produced a really nice cut-bow that fought like a demon and measured about 16".
After an hour or so, feeding on the PT came to a halt, and I took a moment to gather my thoughts just in time to see Doc pitching something big into a fast riffle that emptied into a nice run of heavy, deep water. Curious, I made my way dowstream. In the time it took me to wade the hundred or so yards between us, I watched as he consistently casted, drifted, and yanked back the rod in several attempts to set the hook. Just as I arrived, he brought one to net and remarked that I'd missed the first few he landed. He was throwing a fly I'd tied for him that's basically a large caddis with legs. The trout, he said, were inhaling it in the fast water. I reasoned that if the large stimulator-esque creation was drawing attention, it might be fun to see if any of my amateurish hoppers would produce similar results.
I think two things happened in the next couple of hours. One, I think we happened upon a genuine "honey hole" that happened to be full of stout, actively feeding trout; and two, the trout weren't the least bit interested in carefully examining or scrutinizing the bugs we threw at them in the fast water. They weren't necessarily hooking themselves - a bunch of missed hook sets prove that we still had to actually try - but the fish were hitting the hopper in a pretty convincing manner.
On a humorous note, I also spent the better part of 10 minutes earlier in the day sight fishing to a mysterious fish that rose every couple of minutes and created a huge splash each time. When I would cast upstream, I would hear the splash downstream. At the downstream end of a drift, the splash could be heard upstream. Finally, and too close for my comfort as I drifted the PT fairly close in front of me, I got a visual on the source of the splash and realized that I'd been fishing to a mink who was out for a frolicking swim. He popped out of the water no more than 10 yards from where I stood, stopping my heart momentarily before rolling over, darting underwater, and resurfacing on the far bank, content to burrow into what I'm sure is an elaborate underground network of secret tunnels. Needless to say, he startled me enough that I saw imaginary mink flashing about for the next half hour.
This weekend, I'll be changing scenery a bit and venturing up the canyon to fish some of the upper stretches with a good friend of mine. I have the feeling I'll be trading green drakes in for hoppers, but I'm hoping for some more of the same action. The Poudre seems to be fishing great these days, and the trout I'm landing appear to have benefited from the long runoff period, with increased size and far fewer battle scars.
With love to the Hopper....