Jan. 30th, 2011: Stonefly Lessons

I spent Saturday reflecting on the 28th and what I would have changed about my fly selection or choice of presentation that might have altered the outcome of the day before. Sunday I was given the go ahead to wrestle my demons and headed to the water arriving at roughly 11:40pm. Similar conditions to the previous Friday, heavy overcast with a minor breeze. The air temp was a few degrees colder but not much (~20). I rigged a #8 Hairball (Tan) with no [singlepic id=1987 w=320 h=240 float=left]additional weight. First thing I took note of was the minimal impact it had entering the water, exactly what I was looking for. This pattern also has less flash and the flash it does have is pretty subtle.

I started fishing up a long slow section of creek that I knew held quite a few fish, upstream a hundred or so feet I could see dimples. The trout were up, I tossed my fly and very very slowly brought it back to my feet. I got a few strikes fishing the shallow edges of the creek. My thought was if I put the fly in on the edges and let it sink it would have less of an impact and thus disturb fewer fish. What I found was that I was tossing the fly basically on top of some of the trout, a few took the bait but most took off for deeper water. I hooked into a smaller brown but lost the hookset on a nice flying leap.

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I moved downstream and fished the same fly through a deep run getting only one strike. I added weight and an indicator to fish the very bottom. I took my time and waited maybe ten minutes hunkered down in the snow watching the midge before I presented my fly to that group of fish again. Despite waiting nothing was having my fly. I moved downstream and lost the #8 Hairball to a snag, rather than tie on another I opted for a #16 Orange Scud. The first cast I made and moments after my line left the rod I had a strong strike that caught me off guard, it was a decent brookie that flashed me its colors quickly before throwing the hook.

Hiking further downstream spying rising trout through the trees. I moved to a run with multiple snags, lost two more Orange Scuds then, a bit frustrated I tied on yet another #16 OS and moved back upstream. From the banks I could see a pod of trout and ocasionally the larger ones would open their mouths wide, white inside, and pick something from the drift maybe a foot under the surface. They would move up in the water column a good foot to pick from the drift then settle back to the stream bed. [singlepic id=2241 w=380 h=300 float=right]My location wasn’t ideal, a barbed wire fence and steep bank forced me to spend ten minutes very slowly crawling to get in position. Sitting next to a feeder spring I took a couple of minutes to settle, I spied a bright blue can laying in a pile of water cress. I love beer but not here and not like this, it had to go.

I added another 18inches of 6X tippet and trailed my scud with a #20 Miracle Nymph. I removed the single splitshot and waiting until the largest fish I could see ate in front of me. I let 20 feet or so of line drift downstream to get it in the water and off my spool without spooking the fish, then I proceeded to make the first of three roll casts. The first fell short and sent two fish downstream, I waited and tried again the second got a look but nothing. The third and I felt a jolt. Although my target was across from me as I sat on the bank I put my flies upstream so they would have enough time to drift down and into the target zone (1-2feet below the surface). The strike came from a fish hiding out of view further upstream from my intended target. I set the hook and the fish ran down and into the target group [singlepic id=2240 w=320 h=240 float=right]sending them scattering, it then promptly raced for a snag and took my flies with it. Alot of prep work to sight fish a nicer 18inch brown to have it ruined by the unseen 13inch fish holding upstream but fun just the same. Upstream to finish the day where I began it.

I slapped on the #8 Hairball pattern again and sent it through the same slow straight section of water I began on. I targeted the middle of the creek, earlier hiking downstream I had been kicking up quite a few fish that were hanging in the shallows on the very edges of the creek. I believe they were in the shallows because tiny black stoneflies were emerging. As the afternoon progressed (~2pm) their presence in the snow in higher concentrations tipped me off. These stoneflies emerge as adults by crawling to the shallow edges as mature nymphs then splitting their carapace to allow the winged adult to continue the journey crawling through the snow. By 3pm the ratio of stoneflies to midge was almost at 1:1 making this one of the largest emergences of this [singlepic id=2243 w=320 h=240 float=left]particular insect I’ve seen. A few minutes later after slowly dead drifting my fly down the middle I hooked up with a 15inch Brown that fought well and soon made my day. I opted to finish the stretch and head home, last cast of the day proved to be a good one as a 13inch Brookie was waiting for me. I got to drive home with a smile on my face and the smell of trout on my hands. A good day.

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