Liz and I hit Iowa on Saturday and came across a spectacular emergence of fall Baetis. We parked the car at ~12noon and observed consistent rising almost immediately. The creek was running clear and maybe just a hair low, the air temp was in the low 50′s but a strong sustained wind of 20+mph was felt the entire time we were on the water. Despite the wind we opted to take advantage of the rising trout and put on dry flies knowing full well that casting a tiny dry in
high winds can be a potential recipe for disaster. On a whim I stuck on a #12 Stimulator simply because it happened to be right at my fingertips, the second cast produced a ~13inch brown that sipped my fly. Convinced that as long as we could battle the wind, dry flies would be the best way to fish the afternoon. Several #18 BWO’s were seen drifting from the riffles many of which became trout lunch before they could take flight.
Liz needing to work on her backcast and dry fly presentation took the challenge of the wind in stride and opted to fish a #14 Adams at first. We chose that fly simply because it was a bit bigger and easier for her to see, it became painfully obvious after a dozen or more good presentations that the trout were not having the larger dry flies. We followed the
dry fly creed and downsized the fly and went darker with a #18 BWO’s I tied in my fishing infancy. Most of the #18 BWO’s in my dry fly box looked pitiful and would not pass any sort of test, however, I did manage to find a couple that were worthy of placing in front of trout and it became clear after only a few presentations that the trout would accept these imitations.
Many of the rises we observed were in slower slackwater areas that posed a greater challenge with respect to dry fly presentation, we scanned the creek as we hiked upstream looking for a section of faster broken water with trout steadily rising to concentrate on. As we hiked I looked for specimens to document when I bent down near a small patch of water cress. When I knelt down became clear that we had arrived at the tail end of the hatch, looking at a one square foot section of watercress just downstream from a riffle I observed over fifty male and female Baetis duns sitting in the safety of the cress. The trout continued to rise and I sent Liz upstream to fish while I hung back to document as many Baetis mayflies as I could.
Moving upstream I saw exactly the spot I was looking for. After watching a faster broken run for a couple minutes I witnessed several rises in multiple spots, off to both sides of the seam, in the tail end of the run as well as splashy excited rises coming from the head of the run in the fastest water. I knew if she could get her fly up far enough without spooking the trout they would crush her imitation. I sat back and observed, she almost got hung up in a tree but working a side arm cast we avoided the first challenge. The second issue became the largest to overcome, the 20+mph wind. Despite her best efforts to produce a decent backcast the wind would blow hard and rather than allow a tight loop to form used to propel her line forward the wind caused the line to blow back at her taking all the energy out of line and rod. She kept getting her fly blown into her rod, tangled on the tip or at the fly line/leader connection. Frustration was mounting. I continued to assist her any way I could, often just untangling her line quickly so she
could attempt another cast. After ~30minutes she hadn’t gotten a decent cast and thus presentation to the trout, she was stubborn and determined to sit there as long as the trout were rising. A few minutes later a colorful brown rose for her fly but a lack of line management failed to produce a good hookset and the trout was “quick-released”.
Her frustration continued and mine was building, I knew if we could just get one trout to hand she would relax and things would move along more smoothly. It took another ten minutes of trying and one more poor hookset before she nailed the first of a handful of nicer sized browns with the #18 BWO. After the first came to hand the second, third and fourth followed steady suit, all the while I sat back and sipped my coffee. We continued fishing to those rising trout until she had moved up the entire length of the run and either caught or put down every trout showing it’s face. Frustration turned into accomplishment, working a small dry fly in the strong wind was a good test of reslove. It should also be noted that even a 6inch fish would have been enjoyed but she managed to take two trout over 13inches with one pushing 14 and a half. I watched as it rose quickly thinking it was smaller than it
actually was, not until it lept from the creek and came down with a deep smack did I have any idea it was as nice a fish as it was.
By this point the BWO’s had run their course, the trout ceased rising and we moved upstream. I stuck on a #8 Hairball and we proceeded to search close to a mile of new uncharted trout water. We never lingered long at any one spot but made a cast to almost every place that looked worthy of attention. I picked up a dozen browns and two rainbows within the first quarter mile of creek. We observed a dogger chase down my fly only to spook near the surface before it committed. We fished upstream until ~5:30pm then turned to hike out, I made a handful of casts as we did so but felt the day was a resounding success and as such I was content to enjoy another beautiful fall sunset rather than continue tempting trout.