Tuesday, December 23, 2014

An Early Merry Christmas

Why an early Merry Christmas? Well I wanted to make sure I did send greetings to everyone and given how things are I could well miss my opportunity.

I'm 2 weeks post op from my knee reconstruction and things are going well but as these things go some days are better than others thanks to the good ol' oxycodone blues. I had hoped to be up and at 'em to some degree by now but my view of the world mostly consists of my toes pointing toward the ceiling elevated high above my horizontal body. In short I'm still on my back waiting for that over-sized water balloon to vacate my knee.

Tying is out of the question just yet unless someone can tell me how I can prop my vise on my chest without getting the material trimmings up my nose. Yes I tried it last summer and I have never had so much marabou fluff up snout EVER! The up side is that I have a wonderful wife who happens to make a great nurse and as long as I don't act too big a fool she waits on me hand and foot. Case in point she told me tying on my back was a bad idea and refused to bring me Kleenex (at least right away) when I started sneezing colored turkey fluff.

The weather is decent for winter here in the heart of the Rockies. I have a pretty decent view of the front range from my location and the cat helps to keep me warm. There is also a good supply of hot tea, cocoa and coffee for warming our insides. Most of all the thing I/we have to be thankful for in the Wood house is it looks like this knee may actually take us far into the future. Really that's the one thing I've wanted for Christmas for a few years now so things are pretty good.

My wish for you all is that you too are having wishes come true this Christmas and you are all looking forward to a positive and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back in the Saddle

If you read the last post before my recent knee reconstruction you may, like myself have been expecting a longer hiatus from yours truly. Well no such luck, I'm back in the saddle already but it will still be some time before my feet hit the trail. So far post-op has been far easier than in the past. Does this mean I finally have a knee that will work with me and not against me? We can only hope and pray that this is the last round......I think 6 is enough.

As a general rule I don't make predictions after these procedures but I'm going to make an exception. I hope to be in front of my vise at the beginning of next week and cranking out, although slowly a couple fly orders. Beyond that work on my new website can begin and with any luck at all it will be up and running before the new year or shortly there after. Where net building is concerned I won't be making any predictions. That requires a good amount of standing time which is completely up in the air at the moment.

At any rate I just wanted to check in say hello and that all is looking good this time around. I'll be in touch but for now I have a little physical therapy to attend to.

Net 61 Giveaway

I was contacted a while back by Howard of Windknots and Tangled Lines about helping him with a new years giveaway. Happy to oblige a fellow blogger, fly fisher, old guy. Us mature, if not old, guys need to stick together as much as possible in what is quickly becoming a youngster dominated sport, or at least it feels that way some times.

For details pop on over to this post and get all the details of the giveaway.

And the winner is Brian Schiele.

This net is a Pocketwater model that is constructed using highly figured maple for the handle.The hoop is a three layer construction with 2 laminations of white oak and 1 layer of poplar. Like all the Pocketwater nets it is fitted with a soft, knotless nylon which extremely catch and release friendly. There are 3 measure dots set into the handle at 15", 17" and 19" from the top of the net.

The Pocketwater is a super lightweight net that is crafted for use in those small, secluded streams that don't attract crowds, they attract dedicated anglers. The trout in these streams are small by trophy hunter standards but the rewards are immense in solitude and beauty. These diminutive nets celebrate those streams and the trout that live there. This net is so light you won't know it's there until you need it for that 16" cutthroat or brookie you weren't expecting. The traditional teardrop shape and super soft, knotless nylon bag are catch and release friendly for both fish and angler.

19 1/2" overall length
8" x 14" hoop opening

At the moment I don't have all the details on the giveaway but will post them as soon as everything is ironed out.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

That Time Again or The BUT Post

Yes it is that time again BUT not Christmas, New Years or any of that other festive stuff everybody else is having fun with. What "that time again" means for a lucky devil like me is another reconstructive surgery on my bum knee. Sounds fun right, well maybe though probably not. BUT with any luck at all this could be the last reconstruction and I can get back to being on the water regularly next year. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer and send well wishes please.

It has been a while since I've posted anything. It has been crazy getting things done what with a flooded kitchen and a leaky shower that ruined the bathroom. The kitchen and bathroom are back together BUT I would rather have been getting in a little time on the water, blogging and tying flies. BUT that as they say is how the cookie crumbles. Who are "they" anyway?

This post is a heads up to let you know it may be a while longer before you see any new posts, at least for much that's coherent. BUT anything you do see from me over the next few weeks could well be influenced by pain meds so try not to take it too seriously.

On a completely different and much more positive note next year looks pretty exciting from where I sit at the moment. Some time in January the field tester program will be getting underway in earnest. I've been working on a new website for J Wood Fly Fishing complete with a forum and a whole passel of new and crazy ideas for fly designs, some new net models, new net features and some new and redesigned leaders. All in all 2015 has the potential to be a pretty good year.

BUT we'll just wait and see.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Twisted Emerger


Twisted Emerger

The first version of this fly came about from watching callibeatis hatch from my float tube. As I slowly paddled around on a late morning in July I could see the speckled gray wings pop up out of the surface and fly away within seconds. The trout were leisurely feeding on the emergers at the point they bobbed up into the film.
I put my rod down and moved to where the heaviest callibeatis activity was at the time. Slowly kicking across the windless surface of the lake I stared down into the ultra-clear water. The first emergence I saw didn't register until the wings popped out of the insect’s husk. The next one caught my eye immediately and I was able to witness the transformation. For the next hour or so I just wandered around the surface of the lake watching while the wheels turned in my head.
Callibeatis Tan

As the nymphs rose to the surface I could see the gas bubble in husk and the bubble at the tail. It was much the same as I had witnessed when the idea for the Popcorn Midge popped into my head the spring before. This also confirmed why the Soft Hackle Emerger had always been so effective. I was able to witness first hand these emerging nymphs being intercepted by the trout as they headed for the surface. The ones that made it to the surface suspended there from 2-3 seconds to 15 seconds before their husk broke and allowed them to pop out into the world above the water’s surface. This was when most of the emergers were taken.
BWO Olive

It took some tinkering with the original idea to eventually come up with the Twisted Emerger that actually worked. The May-E Merger and Film Star are incarnations that have proved successful in slightly different situations.
BWO Olive Brown

Since its inception I have effectively fished versions of the Twisted Emerger in lakes and rivers.

The Twisted Emerger is designed to be fished on the surface film. Although it was originally intended for stillwaters it has proven extremely effective in moving water also. For the most part it is most effective on flat or moderately broken water. The CDC wing allows the fly to be fished dry without any dressing. The body and tail of the fly will, when wet, penetrate the surface film and suspend horizontally just under the surface. This allows the fly to be seen by the trout from some distance. I have witnessed fish move several feet across or upstream to intercept these flies.
PMD Yellow Olive

During hatches of mayflies on still and moving waters there is a period when the emerging insect is for lack of a better word stuck in the surface film inside its shuck. This is only an instant in the life of the insect but the most opportune moment for trout to take them. This is the reason trout will many times slash with what appears to be total abandon at the emergers. They recognize the window of opportunity but also recognize it to be a short one.
Callibeatis Ginger

On moving water fish the fly on a moderate to long leader of 9-15 feet. Grease all but the last 12 inches of the leader using a good paste floatant to keep it from sinking and putting downward drag on the fly. As a general rule it is best to present the fly upstream of the feeding trout with a drag free drift. However there have been a number of occasions when very slight twitches will induce strikes from otherwise wary trout. It’s important to keep in mind that the insect you’re imitating is struggling to get free of its shuck. The marabou used to tie the fly generally imitates this movement sufficiently but sometimes a little extra helps.
Callibeatis Pale Olive

The only downside to this fly, if it can be called that, is the CDC needs to be dried after catching a fish if it becomes “slimed”. To do so place it underwater and gently rub the CDC between your fingers. Dry the surface of the fly on a piece of cloth then false cast on a short line several times to fluff the CDC. Once the CDC is fluffed the fly is ready to fish. I find this to be a minor inconvenience for such an effective fly.

Available in - 
BWO - Dark Olive, Olive Brown, Olive, Pale Olive
Size 16 - 24
Callibeatis - Tan, Pale Olive, Ginger
Size 12 -16
PMD - Light Olive, Yellow Olive
Size 14-20

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Non Specific

Non Specific

This is the first of many incarnations of this pattern. Without the initial success of this original fly none of the other marabou flies found on my website would exist. The success of this pattern lies in the triggers that marabou inherently possesses. It is not intended to closely mimic any particular insect or food item though it often does. In most situations this pattern just looks buggy and alive. The constant movement of the tail, the silhouette of the fly, the semi- transparent glow and the pulse of the body all add to its effectiveness.

I first used this pattern on stillwater trout in four of Wyoming’s most heavily fished trout lakes just outside of Cody. All have been featured in multiple magazine articles over the years and receive a huge amount of pressure from both locals and visitors to the area. Subsequently the trout residing in these lakes are highly conditioned to anglers, flies and the consequences of taking a false food item. In other words on almost any given day they are tough to catch.
Dark Olive

The very first incarnation, a size 10 dark olive version was used to imitate the damselfly nymphs present in the lakes. With it I was able to land numerous trout on multiple occasions when other more elaborate patterns would fail and other anglers were having little or no success. It didn’t take long before I was carrying multiple color and size combinations. This pattern consistently caught numerous fish under multiple hatch conditions and stages even when other more elaborate patterns failed. This caused me to explore the possibilities of other small marabou flies. The Twisted Damsel, Not Much, Twisted Emerger and Soft Hackle  Debutante are all immediate descendants of the Non Specific.

I now use a Non Specific for much of my searching and it is frequently my starting point on unfamiliar lakes and streams.

The Non Specific is a do-all catch-all fly. You can fish this fly effectively in almost any situation including hatches with great success. From top to bottom coldwater or warmwater it will do the trick. Dead-drift or swing it in rivers to elicit strikes. Strip it or suspend it in stillwaters to take everything from trout to largemouth bass and carp.
Pale Olive

This may sound a bit vague but when I started trying to describe all the ways I've caught fish with this fly it turned into a book.

Available in - Dark Olive, Olive, Light Olive, Yellow Olive, Olive Brown, Pale Olive, Black, Red, Brown, Ginger, Tan, Insect Green, Bright Yellow

Size 10 -24

Yellow Olive

Bright Eyed Damsel

Damselfly nymphs are one of the staples of the stillwater fish diet throughout the spring and summer. The Bright Eyed Damsel is a deceptively simple looking fly compared to how effective it is. This fly has accounted for everything from bluegills to trophy trout. Tie one on and see how you like it, or better yet how the fish like it!

The Bright Eyed Damsel is a resulting incarnation that came from my first outings with the Non Specific and later the Twisted Damsel. On bright, sunny midday outings I found the need to go deep even when the damselfly nymphs could be seen high in the water column. As with the Twisted Damsel I experimented with the fly adding all sorts of appendages with a plethora of materials trying to devise a perfect deep water damsel pattern to be fished on a floating line. All the experimentation kept bringing me back to this point. A simple, no frills fly that catches fish very consistently and has repeatedly out fished more elaborate deep damsel nymph patterns.
Olive Brown

During the spring and early summer damselfly nymphs migrate from deep to shallow water. Once in the shallows they seek out vegetation, rocks or anything else that protrudes above the water’s surface. Cattails, lily pads, bank willows and a multitude of others are perfect locations for them to exit the water, climb aboard and emerge into adults. Once out of the water the damselfly nymph sheds its outer husk and transforms into an adult. The final stage of transformation is of little interest to feeding fish however the migration stage is of great interest.
Light Olive

Damselfly nymphs live for up to two years in lakes and some very slow-flowing streams as aquatic carnivores. They go virtually unnoticed by fish throughout this stage of their lives. They stay within the aquatic vegetation feeding on other insect larvae and nymphs. Their natural camouflage is to take on a shade of olive, green, yellow, brown or tan that helps them to blend completely with the vegetation. It’s not until nature urges them to transform into adults that they become vulnerable to feeding fish.
Dark Olive

Damselfly nymphs are slow swimmers making them easy pickings for feeding fish as they swim in open water. The fish will pick them off at any stage in their migration. Leaving deep water they make their way toward the water’s surface. Once they near the surface they are big, tasty, slow swimming morsels silhouetted against the sky. This makes them easy to see and easy to consume.

The Bright Eyed Damsel is a simple fly to fish. On bright sunny days in extremely clear water the damsel nymphs may be migrating but the fish can be reluctant to make the move close to the surface in water of 6 feet or more in depth. When this is the case use a Bright Eyed Damsel. Use a long leader of approximately one and one half times the depth you are trying to reach. Allow the fly to sink using the countdown method.
Yellow Olive

Once the fly has reached depth use a retrieve that consists of long, extremely slow pulls. Slow cannot be overemphasized! Because of the weight of the fly long pauses can be troublesome, especially over vegetation, so keep the fly moving but ever so slowly.

As for color selection I've found that a counter intuitive approach works far more often than not. If the vegetation and subsequently damselfly nymphs are dark colored use a light colored fly. If the vegetation is a lighter shade use a very dark fly. I am not sure if the color contrast makes the fly easier to see or the unusual color triggers the take because the fly stands out among the naturals. Either way it works! Because this is not always the case I will often start with a Dancing Damsel as a “dropper” in a color that more closely matches the naturals.
Pale Olive

Available in - Dark Olive, Light Olive, Yellow Olive, Olive Brown, Pale Olive, Ginger, Tan

Size 10, 14


Dancing Damsel

Damselfly nymphs are one of the staples of the stillwater fish diet in the spring and summer. The Dancing Damsel is a deceptively simple looking fly compared to how effective it is. This fly has accounted for everything from bluegills to trophy trout. Tie one on and see how you like it, or better yet how the fish like it!

Slowly paddling my float tube across a high prairie lake a wriggling form caught my eye several feet away. I changed course and paddled toward it. Swimming practically in the surface film was a damselfly nymph. Though this was my initial firsthand encounter it was obvious what it was from all the literature I had read on them.
The first thing that struck me is how hard it appeared to be working compared to the trifling distance it was covering.
Light Olive

The second thing I noticed was the slender profile this creature had with its legs tucked while swimming. It wasn’t until it stopped briefly that the legs appeared at all. This encounter is one of many that led to the design of the Twisted Damsel and Bright Eyed Damsel. It was quite some time later however before I tied up my first Dancing Damsel. Like the Twisted Damsel I have added and subsequently taken away features because the first and most simple version elicits more takes than the more elaborate versions.
Olive Brown

During the spring and early summer damselfly nymphs migrate from deep to shallow water. Once in the shallows they seek out vegetation that protrudes above the water’s surface. Cattails, lily pads, bank willows and a multitude of others are perfect locations for them to exit the water, climb aboard and emerge into adults. Once out of the water the damselfly nymph sheds its outer husk and transforms into an adult. The final stage after transformation, the adult, is of interest to feeding fish and anglers however the nymph migration stage is of greatest interest.
Damselfly nymphs live for up to two years in lakes and some very slow-flowing streams as aquatic carnivores. They go virtually unnoticed by fish throughout this stage of their lives. They stay within the aquatic vegetation feeding on other insect larvae and nymphs. Their natural camouflage is to take on a shade of olive, green, yellow, brown or tan that helps them to blend completely with the vegetation. It’s not until nature urges them to transform into adults that they become vulnerable to feeding fish.
Yellow Olive

Damselfly nymphs are extremely slow swimmers making them easy pickings for feeding fish as they swim in open water. The fish will pick them off at any stage in their migration. Leaving deep water they make their way toward the water’s surface. Once they near the surface they are big, tasty, slow swimming morsels silhouetted against the sky. This makes them easy to see and easy to consume.

Originally the Dancing Damsel was designed to fish in the surface film which has proven very effective but using different techniques it can be fished at any level successfully.
Surface fishing is the simplest technique to use with the Dancing Damsel. A cloudy day with a light breeze is the perfect time to surface fish a Dancing Damsel. Using a floating line the fly is simply cast out and retrieved with an excruciatingly slow retrieve interspersed with long pauses. The “Booby” eyes allow it to hang in the surface just like a natural at rest. Days when a light breeze is creating the slightest ripple are prime time to fish it at the surface. During pauses the ripple action imparts a movement that can’t be mimicked by any line action or retrieve.
Dark Olive

Though the inclination is to fish a surface fly with light tippet, that practice is hard to advise when fishing the Dancing Damsel at the surface. The majority of takes will be, if not violent, robust. A large morsel hanging helplessly at the surface can do that!
As a general rule as wind speeds increase so should the retrieve rate but once the wind picks up to more than 10 mph the fly loses its effectiveness.

On bright, sunny days on clear lakes the Dancing Damsel can be fished English “Booby” style. This technique in effect involves swimming the fly just above the vegetation along the bottom of the lake. This can be done using a full sinking line and a leader of a length that is one and one half to two times the suspected depth of the vegetation. Alternately a high density sinking head on a mono running line can be used just as effectively.

Pale Olive

Cast the fly out and allow the line or sinking head to sink fully to the bottom. As the line sinks the fly stays suspended off the bottom above the vegetation. At rest the fly will float up away from the bottom. When the line is retrieved the fly is pulled downward as if diving toward the vegetation. This action can cause some highly aggressive takes because the fish sees perceives the fly to be retreating and grabs it quickly. For this reason 3X to 0X leaders are advised. Because of the heavy leader use an open loop connection to attach the fly. This will allow it to move and “dance” freely during the retrieve.

On days when the fish are suspended and lethargic the Booby style of fishing can save the day like few other techniques. The enticing action right at the level of the fish is all but irresistible. Think of it as having a cheeseburger in front of you even when you’re not that hungry. It’s very tempting!

Available in - Dark Olive, Light Olive, Yellow Olive, Olive Brown, Pale Olive, Ginger, Tan

Size 10, 14

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lamson Liquid Review

A while back I was surfing the internet and happened to end up over at the Waterworks-Lamson site. Watching the slideshow banner I notice a couple of new reels, one of which turned out to be the Liquid. Curiosity got me to reading about it and doing a little more investigating. I suppose the first thing about the Liquid that caught my attention is the price. The second is the use of Lamson’s conical drag system. The third is the look and finish of the reel.

For those of you who have not followed me here or at the DragonflyAngler blog I love fly fishing gear (who doesn't) but like most of the working stiffs out there I have a limited budget to draw from. I've been fishing pretty much the same reels for decades now because I just can’t afford to pay what most reel makers want for new quality reels with a good drag. Until now!

When I saw that Lamson is offering a reel for $99.95 I had to get my hands on one and check it out. For my personal use there are three requirements for a fly reel; 1- it needs to have a good drag, 2-it needs to be fairly light and 3- it has to fit my budget. The Lamson Liquid easily fits all three of these requirements. Another thing that drew me to the Liquid so quickly is the Liquid 3-pack that Lamson is offering with this reel. The 3-pack offers you a reel and two spare spools for the price of a reel and one spare spool and you also get a handy, dandy carrying case. This is very appealing for those like myself that frequently fish different lines.

Immediately after reading about the Liquid I called our local fly shop and after a short wait for the first ones to arrive I had one in my hands. The reel features a pressure cast spool and frame. You can read about it here. The finish is matte black which I really like for stealth purposes. The center of this reel however is the Waterworks-Lamson conical drag system. This is the drag system they use on all their reels from top to bottom.

When I got the 1.5, 3-pack home I immediately put line and backing on all three spools. The 1.5 is designed for 3 and 4 weight lines. I spooled up a WF3F, WF4F and WF5F line on the three spools. For the past three years I've been using a Guru 1.5 as my go to 5 weight reel. Personally I want the smallest, lightest reel I can get an adequate amount of backing and let’s face it if you need more than 75 yards of backing on a trout reel you’re probably not going to land that trout anyway.

While loading the spools, which I do manually, I was impressed with the smoothness of operation. I was also impressed with the weight or should I say the lack there of. There is a slight amount of play between the spool and frame but not enough to concern me at all. The real test of the reel would be when in use under pressure from a nice, fat trout.

This past week I was able to get out and apply the pressure needed to test the reel in use. It took several hours on a local tailwater to hook into a trout large enough to put it to the test but once I did I was completely unaware of the play I had noticed on the bench when loading the spools. After 5 hours of constant casting I was very happy with the lack of weight and casting fatigue. This reel balance very well with an Orvis 8’ 6” PM10 5 weight that weighs in at a paltry 2 5/8 ounces.
The bottom line here is that I am more than thrilled with the 1.5 Liquid. I honestly believe that you will be hard pressed to find a reel that performs like the Liquid for 2-3 times the cost. Waterworks-Lamson has definitely come up with a winner here. I am just glad I don’t work for another reel company. If you’re looking for a great reel at an even greater price find a dealer near you and check them out. Keep in mind that at the moment you may have to wait a bit, I did and it was worth it!
If this sounds like a commercial I won’t apologize. It has been a long time since a piece of fly fishing gear has got me so excited. In case you’re wondering I am not on the Lamson payroll although it’s a thought.

 I already have plans to add another 3-pack to my arsenal very soon, with a Liquid 2 in the not too distant future. If these hold up to extended use I will be adding a 3.5 to the arsenal in the slightly more distant future. They are selling 3-packs in the 1.5 and 2 models for $149.95 and the 3.5 model for $159.95. I could scrimp and save and fret and worry about spending the money to buy more expensive reels but why would I? So far, and mind you this after only a few hours on the water, I absolutely love this reel. For me it has everything I want in a fly and nothing I don’t, specifically an astronomical price tag.

Before I forget there's one more thing about the Liquid that I really like. It looks really cool. What more could you ask for?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

South Park Shenanigans

Earlier this week I was able to get out again and experience some of the great fishing central Colorado has to offer, specifically the South Park area. There are numerous places to fish within South Park but in all the time we've spent here I've only sampled two of them; Spinney Reservoir and the Dream Stream below the reservoir, at least those are the only ones I’m going to tell you about.

In the weeks prior my fishing time has been spent on another stretch of the South Platte but it was time for a change. The fishing has been really good at Deckers and should only get better over the next couple months but the crowds have been a bit encroaching.

I fully expected a good crowd at the Dream Stream this week but was pleasantly surprised. Upon my arrival around 9:15 there were only two other vehicles in the parking lot. Even more surprising is that there were never more than 5 vehicles in the parking lot all day. In all the days I've spent fishing here I've never ventured out of sight of the parking lot. This is partly due to the fact that the stream meanders through a nearly flat meadow and partly because there is no need to venture too far. You can pretty much count on one or more good trout coming from the stretch adjacent to the parking lot. Two of the biggest stream trout I've ever hooked came from that stretch of river while all the occupants of the numerous vehicles in the parking lot were well out of sight.

I made the trip up hoping to find some of the spawning lake fish that annually make the jaunt out of Eleven Mile Reservoir. On the drive up from the Springs I had visions of hefty kokanee and brown trout. If you've been following along lately you may have the idea that crowds and fishing don’t fit together well with me. Actually that’s not completely accurate. Friendly crowds a just fine and that is what I've come to expect at the Dream Stream.

An early parking lot encounter is a prime example. The young man I met there while rigging up said he had been hitting the river weekly for the past few waiting for the lake fish to move up but so far it hadn't happened. Well there went my chance at a first kokanee, c’est la vie. The drive up was worth the price of gas. The aspens are starting to turn and some of the views are spectacular. Driving over to Deckers the past few weeks the scenery is pretty nice but a good portion of the drive the views are obscured by the forest. Another stretch the landscape is still scarred by a fire that took out a good portion of the area in 2008. All in all it’s still driving around the Rocky Mountains but it lost some of the charm after the burn. It had been so long since making the drive to Spinney and I had forgotten how beautiful the drive is from Divide on.

The fishing usually works out well on this section of the South Platte no matter the conditions or time of year; it’s known as the Dream Stream for good reason. Typically, for me at least, a good number of small rainbows and browns can be taken nymphing. This day was no exception in fact I can’t even accurately estimate the number of trout under 12” I landed throughout the day. This seemed to be the same story for those anglers I spoke with as we passed each other heading to our next favorite holes. This isn't one of those streams where you set up in a particular run and fish through the day. Most everybody that has spent much time fishing here has a few runs they want to hit through a day of fishing. It makes for some jockeying through the day but also contributes to the friendly atmosphere.

Several years ago I recall a man spending close to an hour just watching me not catch a single trout from a huge pod of risers in the bend on the upstream side of the parking lot. After I became frustrated and relinquished the bend we chatted about what the trout might be feeding on. I admitted that the trout were most likely feeding on the tiny Tricos but that the smallest fly I had was a size 18. I was just hoping for an overzealous feeder that would take my fly anyway. I took a seat at the picnic table he had occupied and watched as he purposefully waded into position and quickly landed two respectable rainbows. Noticing I was still there he waded out, came over, gave a copy of the fly he was using and relinquished the bend long enough for me to land a fat 15” rainbow. Knowing better than to look a gift horse in the mouth I gave him back the bend and moved upstream to another pod of risers. There are few places that kind of camaraderie between strangers ever takes place.

Another afternoon I spent over two hours sharing a good bend with a total stranger. The bend was loaded with feeding trout in a seam taking emerging BWOs. This time I had the fly, a soft hackle that was taking the feeding trout. He had become frustrated at a number of refusals and asked if I wanted to try for them. I took a 12” rainbow on the first downstream swing and shouldn't help but pass on the favor I had experienced the year before. We traded off turns taking a trout each until we had worn the pod out and they stopped feeding.

The weather forecast predicted a shower around 2 pm which usually produces some kind of hatch. The wind which is often brutal at worst and annoying at best was just a breeze throughout the morning. Multiple hatches made for interesting fishing with Tricos, BWOs and midges hatching in alternating waves. Trying to keep up involved paying very close attention and making multiple fly changes. The effort was rewarded with several small trout and a hook up on one hefty specimen I never saw before it buried into a heavy patch of vegetation and broke off. It came during the last hatch, Tricos just before the wind set in. When I say set in I mean set in. Fishing dries became impossible. Not only could you not see the tiny artificial on the water, the trout had stopped rising given that all the naturals were being driven down to Eleven Mile on the 20+ mile per hour steady wind and into the canyon on the gusts that had to be pushing 30.

Being somewhat of a veteran of these conditions changing to a hopper dropper rig came quite naturally. It was quite natural for the trout too. Without skipping a beat the marabou pheasant tail style nymph began catching right away. The wind usually signals lunch time and being a fan of lunch I heeded the signal before heading up toward the dam.

The wind did not die down as hoped when the clouds thinned out making it difficult to spot the feeding trout taking emergers near the surface. I fished up one of the riffles taking small trout from the creases in the vegetation occasionally taking a 12-14” specimen. One of the stone current breaks that cross the river yielded a pair of the better trout. Catching good numbers of small trout can put you in a bit of a happy trance that makes you laugh inside every time one takes. It’s a situation that can cause you to readjust your expectations to tinkering with the little ones and that’s okay. For a fisherman catching a multitude of small trout easily beats most things in life especially a day at work. I found myself laughing out loud every time the hopper darted to the side or straight under the surface signaling another take.

Working my way methodically upstream I set on yet another take when the hopper stopped to find real weight, the kind of weight that immediately re-readjusts your day. As I applied pressure a golden streak in the 18” range bolted from beside the boulder it had been nestled next to. That’s when the shenanigans began. Usually when fighting a big trout the first one to make a mistake loses the fight. When the brown trout took off on a run downstream the lose line shot up around the rod butt. I turned and stumbled but somehow kept my balance. As a feeling of panic set in about the line around the rod butt the brown turned and headed straight back at me giving me an opportunity to unwrap the line while stripping in line as fast as I could. It wasn't pretty but a pair of jumps and a few strong runs later I had a very healthy, brightly colored brown trout in my net.

After a few snaps and release I took a deep breath and went back to tinkering with the small eager trout. Going back to catching numerous small trout after a really god one there’s a persistent feeling that it could happen again, that is one of the reasons we spend so much effort at fishing. Truth be told catching small fish is fun but deep inside we all want to hook and land big fish and a lot of them.

The wind continued and so did the small eager trout. Pushing on upstream it was if every small trout in the river was on the feed. It’s times like this that it makes you wonder if the larger trout are feeding also but they can’t get to your flies before a smaller one gets there first. I reached a small area where the trees lining a long lazy bend blocked the wind from the surface of the river. It was easy to spot pods of three to five small trout holding along the edges of the thick mats of vegetation. I couldn't help but laugh with exuberance as I cast to these pods every trout in the group would dart toward the nymphs to be the first to get there. It was here that on twice two trout were hooked at once, one on each nymph. On one occasion I had three hooked for a few seconds when one also took the hopper!

The wind was really starting to wear on me so I made my way back to the truck for a short breather and a snack. When I opened the door and stepped out of the wind I realized just how loud it had been. I also realized that my face was getting wind burned. For several minutes I considered packing it in for the day but it was just 3:30 and sunset was still quite a while away. I had landed more trout through the day than I had landed over the past two years, by any standard that has to count as a good day. The season is coming to an end though and other plans are going to keep me off the water for a couple weeks so the decision was made to press on until sunset when the gates are locked and the park is closed for the night. To combat the wind and sun burn I greased up my face and neck one more time with sunscreen and headed downstream one more time.

My plan was to hit an area of carefully placed boulders beyond where I had fished earlier in the day. Plans don’t always work out whether you’re fishing or just living. Before I could get half way there my bum knee started rebelling abruptly and intensely letting me know the day was coming to an end sooner than I had hoped. I hobbled to a nearby short, steep bank and had a sit resting and letting my legs dangle in the cold current for several minutes. The cold water felt good and helped with the cramping pain that strikes out of nowhere much more often than I’m agreeable with. You've heard it before and you’ll hear it again; getting old is not as much fun as it could be in some respects. In other respects getting older can be a good thing. When I was younger and much more oblivious to pain slowing down for the day would have been out of the question. Being a little less resilient than in years gone by I decided not to continue the hike and just sit for a while. A light feeling of melancholy self-pity set in as thoughts of mortality suddenly consumed my day. These feelings have nagged me far too often the past five years; the realization that a little hiking is tolerable but the days of hiking up the side of a mountain to secluded fishing are over.

Sitting, studying the current a flash caught my eye along the far bank. It’s funny how the flash of a trout can help a fisherman with a rod in his hand shift gears from self-pity to excitement in the blink of an eye. At some point the wind had subsided to a tolerable level, snapping out of that dark state it came as a pleasant surprise when I realized how calm it had become. I could also see a pair of small trout feeding along the same bank where a good number had risen to a dry before the wind had kicked up earlier in the day. I thought about retying the leader and switching to dries again but the wind hadn't subsided that much.

I pulled the leader from the reel foot letting it catch in the wind and removed the lower nymph from the guide where it was hooked near the tip of my rod. I peeled line from the reel and made short flip casts working more line off the reel. Standing up I worked my way out to where my casts and drifts could reach the far bank. It only took two casts to realize the wind hadn't abated enough to consistently cast a three fly rig thirty feet without some gnarly leader tangles. Shifting expectations I shortened the line and re-positioned to work the deep slot closer in and upstream.

At the head of the slot the bottom drops out to a deep trough. On the shallow side of the trough is a heavy patch of vegetation that reaches almost to the surface. I worked the near, shallow side of the vegetation with several casts as the wind picked up again. Feeling confident the near side had been covered I moved closer and made a cast to the other side of the vegetation. There are times, and they don’t come very often but an overwhelming feeling just tells you that a good trout is in that spot. Sometimes it works out that it’s nothing more than a feeling, this was not one of those times. At that certain spot, at that certain time the hopper stopped dipping under the current.

There’s a difference between the way a small trout takes and the way a big trout takes. Most often small trout take with all the vigor they can muster, sometimes moving a great distance. Older, bigger trout learn to feed with a minimum of movement and calories burned. Instantly I could tell this was a good size trout. I set back with minimal force and immediately felt the weight of the trout that completes the hook set without risking breaking the delicate 5X tippet. The hefty rainbow made its first surge against the sting of the hook coming near but not breaking the surface.

There’s an immediate mix of panic and joy that comes over you the instant you realize there’s a big fish attached to the end of your line. The panic comes from the fact that it only takes one mistake to lose a good size fish especially in a strong current. The joy comes from hooking a good sized fish.
Unlike before there were no shenanigans just what seemed like a very controlled coercion getting the trout into the net. There are times when landing a fish like this can go on for what seems like an eternity. Instead it went more like a choreographed ballet. Using the current and the length of my rod it was like leading a fat man to a medium rare ribeye. Just like that I had a second big trout in the net. Big is a relative concept in fishing but when you've spent the day catching mostly 6-10” trout anything over 18” is big.

After releasing the rainbow back into the river I took a few minutes sitting on the bank. Letting the slow, easy current wash past my legs I started to reexamine my earlier mood. In the words of John Gierach “They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things and, suddenly they’re just not that big a deal anymore”. After all I was sitting on the bank of a trout stream where I had landed more trout in a day than I had in the past two years. I may not be able to hike up the side of a mountain as in days gone by but I can take a short hike on one of the best trout streams in the country and land a pair of trout that would make most fly fishers jealous. Who wouldn't like to get in on those shenanigans?