Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hot Rainbows, Emergers and 6X Tippet

Yesterday I was able to make it out to the Deckers stretch of the South Platte. It had been a long time, months in fact since I got my boots wet and felt the tug of the river on my legs. Over the years when there has been a dry spell in my river fishing it's been easy to forget that feeling. Sure I always remember the longing to hook up with a nice trout, decipher the hatches and smell the river but that tug somehow seems to fade from memory. Sometimes it pays to have a short memory because it makes the refresher all that much more enjoyable; other times not so much. Such is the case with hot fish and light tippet.

I have a couple preferred spots on that stretch of river and fortunately one of them happened to be open yesterday morning. When I got to the water there were swallows doing their aerial dance chasing multiple hatches of bugs on the wing. Like most outings after a long dry spell this one started out slow. Being out of sync with a river can do that. What's been happening on and in the water is a mystery. All there is to go on is experience and an educated guess.

The first couple hours were just casting, mending, drifting and recasting. Wading the swift current and feeling the tug. I worked the whole stretch pretty fast trying to spot all the holding areas but not fish in too close. There were some fish working deep at the head of the run but let's face it, I would rather sit and watch than spend a day dredging nymphs through a swift 6 foot deep slot. Give me one good trout on a dry over half a dozen on a nymph. I wouldn't say I'm a snob it's just that I never get over the thrill of seeing that shadow appear under a well drifted dry fly; and that is just what happened on my second pass through that stretch.
The Fly of the Day

It started by seeing the shadow of a nice rainbow in a shallow slot. It was feeding actively. It took several fly changes to get it to take. The first few flies, dry and yes a couple of nymphs, got looks but no takes. I would cast and as the fly drifted by it would move to inspect but not take. It even darted back with an aggressive refusal with one of the nymphs. This reminded me of one of the things about fishing heavily fished waters. The trout get used to seeing people and just keep on feeding until you crowd them. Wild fish don't usually act that way. If these heavily fished trout did stop feeding every time an angler approached they might well starve. As it is it gives a stealthy angler the chance to run the gamut of flies until they find the right one.

On the seventh fly change I found the right one. It took three or four drifts but as soon as the fly reached the right point drag-free the trout I was watching and another I hadn't both darted over and the hidden one won the race. After a short but mad dash down stream I had a beautiful 16" rainbow in the net. There is no photo (here comes the fish story) because in trying to keep it in the water it quick released itself from the net along with my fly while I was firing up the camera. Such is fishing for hot trout.

The rest of my morning went pretty much the same way. Heading upstream I spotted and cast to more actively feeding trout. Working a small group of tightly feeding trout I got one from each group to take with the first good drift spooking the rest. Each one made a mad dash around me, downstream and into the fastest current available. The tippet failed to hold on every occasion. I like to tell myself that it is the take that really matters. I carefully smash all my barbs so that the fly will fall from the fishes jaw easily. I did get to see the rises, what else matters really? Sometimes I believe having a good net and camera along can be a jinx in one way or another, angler error from being rusty doesn't help either.

After the fourth hot rainbow broke off it was definitely lunch time. It was also time for a rest to gauge whether the rainstorms were going to hit where I was at. They didn't, instead they moved through at a distance. When I got back to the lower end of the run things had changed with the storm. I figured one more time through and it would be time to head back home. I had after all had a good morning break offs not withstanding.

In the last slot I had fished earlier there was a trout feeding right along the bank. Before lunch another had taken my fly and parted the tippet from a position just out from this one. When that trout took the bank feeder had stopped feeding. Now the bank feeder was back in its feeding position and active again. I positioned myself so that it couldn't see me looming and I could get the fly to land on the water with enough slack that the faster current wouldn't drag the fly before it reached the trout. Easy enough right? maybe but it took me close to 45 minutes of casting and resting the trout before the magical drift.

The best I could tell all the others had been between 16" and 18", give or take. This one was a hawg as they say in the bass fishing circles. From the moment it rose to my fly I could see it was 22" minimum. How can I say that you ask? Twelve years as a fish taxidermist and only being 30 feet away it's a good bet that I could say 24" and be very close. When it leaped into the air twice my estimates were confirmed. There are few fish I lament not getting into the net. I don't know if this will be one of them in the long run. It is one of those for today but I know where he lives., I also know where the others from yesterday live. I'm thinking of a rematch.

** A couple of notes for readers.
1- The rainbow picture is and old one that I added in because what's a good fishing story without a nacie photo of a fish?
2- If anybody is bent out of shape over the specific mention of Deckers get over it. The word is already out and has been for a couple decades or more, John Gierach took care of that and I'm glad he did, it takes the awkwardness out of the mention.

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