Friday, January 8, 2016

Winter Fly Fishing at Its Finest

An approaching tide of ice on the river banks hints at a winter waiting for release, but for now the open water flows without much worry.

I wade in and eye a run where I have caught a few trout before. It is a little wider and deeper, and there are beachball-sized rocks that provide breaks in the currents.

On the second or third cast I get a strike but fail to the set the hook. I see a large, light-colored shadow in the water, at first wondering if I brought up a piece of debris, but then I see it's alive as it swims deeper to where it wants to be.

Another cast or two later, I succeed. I haul in the line and net a 14" brown trout. He looks a little dirty and worn, but is a pretty fish nonetheless. My fingertips, numb from the cold, can't release the size 24 zebra midge on their own, so I reach for my forceps and they do the job. I take a few quick pictures and gently release the brown into the water and watch him swim away.

First trout of January. 

The dropper fly. Size 24 Zebra Midge which caught the first fish. 
January: check. My first trout ever during this month and also a new personal record for a trout on the smallest fly.

The story could end there, but it doesn't.

A few casts later in the same stretch of water and my strike indicator submarines and I lift the rod. I knew right away this one was bigger. The drag screams with a satisfying Zzzzzzzzz! which sparks an adrenaline rush. The fish is not just bigger. It's much bigger.

I hooked the trout about a dozen feet away and it's now four times that downstream. I work it towards stiller waters while wading closer and reeling in the line. Several moments pass and I can see him now, and I confirm it's a brown. My shaking hand lowers the net. Got him!

I exhale a vocalization of amazement and relief. He is huge! His hooked jaw from spawning season is still there. His colors are clean and his spots are beautiful. With my wrist straining from the weight of the netted fish, I notice that he opted for the point fly, a size 16 mercury blood midge. I unhook him, take a few pictures, and then measure him against the opening of my net. He spills at least least 4" past the 14.5" inch opening. It's possible that he might have been at least 20", but I will never know for sure.

The brown kracken
Hook jaw
Size 16 Mercury Blood Midge. The point fly which the big brown couldn't resist.
I release the fish and watch him swim away, adding a fist pump and a yes! I soak in the moment for a few minutes and then decide to fish downstream. No action there, so I head back up to the honey hole and this time I hook and net a very healthy looking brook trout.

As I'm trying to take a picture, a fellow appears on the bank. He is friendly but overly talkative. Distracted from the one-way conversation, I give up trying to take a photo since my phone was acting up and I put it away. The gentleman still rambles on and at last there's a gap where I can speak and I excuse myself, saying this run of water is done and I head upstream.

The sun has reached the horizon now and the temperature has dropped. My line grows rigid and ice accumulates in the guides. It's time go. I drive away, knowing this is one of those days I'll never forget.

Ice.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter Fly Tying

This is the time of the year to stock up the boxes. Whether it's to get ready for spring or to supplement what flies are used in winter, this is when to do it. With the deep dark of a cold winter night just beyond the window, a glass of brand and quality old school bluegrass playing in the background make vise time all the more comforting.

I tied some more Zebra Midges the other night, this time in size 24. The size 20s have been working well, but it makes sense to diversify.



Santa also brought me a nice Christmas present: A UV lamp and resin. I'm long overdue acquiring these and put them to use this morning. I experimented with tying up a few Evil Olive variants in size 18. They turned out okay, but I could have worked up and tapered the body better on most of them.

Working with the resin itself was great. I look forward to getting more comfortable with it and already appreciate what it'll allow me to do.