The day that I fished with Carl and filmed the Goldilocks video I watched him confidently fish a cranefly pattern in the pouring rain and bring multiple trout to the surface when none were rising. He didn’t fish that pattern the entire day and it wasn’t completely effective the entire time we were fishing but that day in particular stuck with me. I began fishing a streamer pattern and pulling fish out left and right then something happened, maybe a change in the water turbidity, but something happened and the trout went from crushing my fly to tapping it where I lost probably 80-90% of the takes. Anyone who’s experienced this phenomena knows it can 1. be very frustrating and 2. be hard to put the fly down and switch to a different pattern as the trout are interested…right? I’m standing in the rain missing fish after fish while Carl is downstream of me, fishing up my slop and bringing trout to the surface. Maybe he didn’t get the same number of strikes as my streamer but the fish that did surface were hooked and landed nearly 100% of the time. I am not an expert and to think I am or that I shouldn’t adapt and learn would be foolish.
Fast forward to this past week and a general goal I set for myself. Revisit generic attractor dry fly patterns and abandon the streamers all together. Conditions weren’t ideal for the streamer in so much as I fished several days during the 10-2pm hour when the trout are typically hunkered down. In my previous experiences streamers may move one or two fish here and there but they may not commit. Contrast that with a well cast hopper placed right on the bank of a stream with over hanging grass and perhaps you only get a handful of fish to come out and commit but those who do are typically hooked and landed. This is just an example of my thought process for that particular time of the day and that though process may change with the stream conditions and type of stream. Rambling now…
It’s Thursday and I opt to take Carl’s lead. Dry flies in the evening moving slowly and deliberately from run to run waiting and watching. Around 7pm a plethora of insect activity kicks off with craneflies, random caddis in varying size and colors, a few small mayflies and gnats all creating a fervor of activity that the trout took notice of. Enter Carl and dry flies on a slow action fiberglass rod he has been enamored with since he broke his graphite rod. Starting with a generic lightly color Elk Hair Caddis, not too small, not too large but maybe a #14-16 he dead drifts it then skates it and it works. When it doesn’t he switches to a #14 Adams which by his own admission works better when it’s sloppily tied and ratty looking. That worked for a short time and we slowly move upstream. We sit on a log and watch the water waiting for the right moment to cast, not much is going on. I try the dry fly I have on with no success and instead focus on the beer in my left hand and the camera in my right. Carl is more patient than I am. I switch to my streamer just to see if perhaps the fish want it over the surface offerings. Two fish come out, one I land but other than that nothing. Carl pulls a couple more trout from that run on his dry fly. We discuss and debate the merits of the streamer in this setting. I tied it on to test the trout, not to assume it would work better than his dry fly and as quickly as I tied it on I cut it off. The sun is setting around us.
It’s getting darker and he has now switched his pattern multiple times as have I. I’m trying flies I have had in my box for years and looked at fondly but never confidently fished. A bit of floatant and a fast skate on the surface and to my surprise fish are surfacing. Fishing dries when a defined hatch isn’t on and switching patterns sometimes multiple times to find one that works, these aren’t new concepts to me but when you’ve spent the majority of the past several years swinging a streamer the outcome is often predictable and perhaps more important it’s safe. Streamers have become a safety fly for me. I shake my head as I write this. I swore off fishing a pink squirrel under an indicator years ago. I dubbed it the “pink safety fly”. It’s not that it’s a bad way to go or that I shouldn’t do it but it became easy to predict the outcome and easy for me isn’t as fun. It became stagnant and years later I find myself in a similar situation. The end goal here would be to become the angler who makes the wise choice, dry fly, nymph or streamer?
Friday evening is a repeat performance. We arrive earlier and fish hoppers and other larger attractor dry flies with minimal success. It makes me think that I should re-visit my nymphing skills. The 6pm hour approaches and the fish are once again lighting up for a well placed dry fly. This evening we switch through multiple patterns again and both have success. Carl even learns to appreciate a Klinkhammer pattern that he tied but was less confident in, that fly crushed trout. Saturday I meet up with Ryan and fish a stretch of “hopper” water. Cow pasture, HI work, plethora of smaller 8-10inch brown trout. At first my hopper works well and I bring up multiple trout. I miss a few, land a few. The gnats are gnarly again. He starts with a hopper but after a short time switches to his streamer, he is more comfortable with that pattern and wanted to catch fish. I continued fishing the hopper pattern with mixed success. On our hike downstream we crossed paths with two other anglers who had fished the water we were hiking towards. I had more success fishing the water they hadn’t been on but maybe that’s in my head. Either way I stuck with the hopper and enjoyed the mid-morning and early afternoon. I thought about tying on a streamer, even a nymph but this section of HI is full of thick weeds that would easily tangle a dead drifted nymph rig and with the minimal success of the streamer Ryan was fishing I stuck with the hopper to round out the week. I need to remember to be more adaptive and get out of the mold of “streamer” fishing or “dry fly” fishing or “nymph” fishing and work towards being a better and more efficient angler who uses all the tools in the correct situation. Pithy writing and reflection done, time for beer.