Sunday, March 25, 2012

Emerging Awareness, Part One (March 10, 2012)

I was surrounded by rings of water, telltale signs of feeding trout that did nothing but increase my frustration as I watched the imitation mayfly drift effortlessly past me, time and again.  The water flow  - actually, it was more of a meander - was completely not to my liking, especially since my repeated casts and drifts were yielding nothing in the way of results. I'd gone as small as I could.  There were no dries in my fly box smaller than a 20, and the parachute BWO I'd chosen simply wasn't to the trouts' liking on this day.  Fishing without any decent sunglasses was leaving a strain on my eyes, my polarized glasses a casualty of my own absent-mindedness.  Somewhere along the banks of the Poudre, my little windows into the sub-surface life of the river sit, waiting for another angler to stumble upon an unexpected gift from the Flywriter.  I was suddenly longing for the smoking hot days of late summer, wishing I could simply toss out a monstrous hopper to active, lively trout that inhale meaty terrestrials rafting down the middle of a fast, shallow riffle.  Instead, I was being taunted by little kisses from below the surface, disturbing just enough water to form dozens of concentric circles in clear, nearly-stagnant water.

I was conditioned from a young age to react instinctively to signs of rising fish.  If they were feeding on the surface, you forgot about whatever nymph you were drifting and replaced it with a dry that resembled whatever bugs were on the water.  In March, on the Poudre, that almost always means an olive hatch underway, and a basic BWO mayfly gives you the results you want more often than not.  That's been my M.O. for years.  Two weeks ago, I learned that it's more nuanced than that.

I suppose I was being lazy, or maybe just hopeful.  I understand how emergers work, and I had a feeling that all the rings on the river's surface were evidence that the trout were feeding on them.  O.K., it was more than just a feeling.  It was obvious.  I was just hoping it wasn't.  I never quite know how to fish an emerger effectively.  Dry fly fishing is so cut and dry.  Cast, drift, watch, and set.  Watch and react.  You're either quick enough, or you aren't.  Casting to trout that are feeding on emergers leaves me feeling like I'm fishing to trout in Never Never land.  Not really nymphing, and not quite dry fly fishing.

No sense watching 'em refuse this mayfly any longer, I thought to myself.  I decided I would have to fact the music and figure out this emerger thing.  Slipping some tippet around the bend of the mayfly's hook, I clumsily attached a basic emerger pattern and sent the tiny bug flying.  The mayfly landed softly on the surface, and I strained to see the emerger.  It was gone, seemingly into thin air, although I knew it was somewhere in the vicinity of the mayfly.  I watched the mayfly intently, hoping it would at least have some utility as an indicator.

Another glance upstream revealed another ringlet of water.  Ten seconds later, I lifted the rod tip and casted to it.  The mayfly landed in the middle.  In the next nano-second, a flash on the water's surface caused the mayfly to disappear, triggering a familiar cognitive reflex in my mind, and I set the hook.  And then...resistance.  The rod tip began to shudder, and the fight was on.  Son of a gun took the mayfly.  Go figure.

At this point, I was puzzled, although my confusion was less relevant after a heck of a fight with a large rainbow.  Twenty casts later, my mind became consumed by it.  The only way out of the dilemma was to continue fishing both flies.  Shortly thereafter, the internal debate grew even more difficult to resolve, as another beautiful trout slammed the end of my line, this time taking the emerger and running downstream with it.

That was it for the day, leaving me no closer to enlightenment than when I started.  I didn't catch enough fish to infer any statistically significant indication of what a trout prefers in March on the Poudre.  Which is good news, in a sense.  All the more reason for continued research!

Hope to see y'all in the laboratory...
The Flywriter

No comments: