Spring Has Sprung!
Just before my trip to fish with my brother and father last week I fished with Gene from Backwater Angler up on the Gunpowder. This was one of three trips in a row where I’d sat on the freeway in hours of traffic while watching the weather go from perfect to awful before I was even close to the river. Gene and I fished a stretch of water I’d fished many times. Gene fished a wooly bugger ahead of my wet fly rigs and absolutely schooled me. I’m not ashamed. It happens and he’s a good angler. While we argued about how many fish he caught, I caught a skunk, so I lose any argument.
The weather broke right before Easter weekend and I had a chance to get out of the house with no curfew at the tail end of a week at home with the kids alone. Mother Nature could have unleashed a snow-tornado and I would have hit the river just for the alone-time. I got lucky and it was 75 and sunny. I met up with the guys from the shop after closing time and we hit the same stretch of river we’d fished two weeks before. A few heavy rainstorms had blown thorough since my last outing and the river bottom was clean except for neat rows of net-builder caddis. I’d spent an hour on the river alone before the guys showed up and seen a few Hendricksons. We were all stacked up in one long run and I watched as these young guys precisely delivered nymph rigs over and over, working their way down stream, until they were out of sight.
I knew the run held fish. I wasn’t budging until I saw some action from the head of the chute. I picked up two fish on an old soft hackle before giving it to the tree gods. A few mayflies blew by me and I switched to an emerger pattern that hadn’t seen daylight since last spring. On my first cast my fly was met with a crashing take right after it settled into the flow. I picked my way through the 50 yard run picking up one fish after another.
It was two hours before I saw my fishing companions again while working my way downstream. I left no pocket or seam un-cast. By the time we’d met up I’d caught thirty or so fish. Some where in the middle there I found myself sitting on a gravel bank watching a brown trout come out from a log jam to snap up emergers from a slim line of foam. In between this fish and I were three speeds of current. I cast to him from upstream, across and down stream. It was only when I waited and watched the frequency of his rises and held a well-timed drift free of the conflicting currents that I finally managed a take on a large rusty spinner. After reeling him in and releasing him I sat and recalled a spring evening with my father and a friend when I’d found myself sitting on the gravel and timing a fish just like this. As I landed that fish it was at the end of the night with my father and his pal watching me make “one last cast” for a quite some time. I felt like I’d reached another echelon. Both admitted to taking a shot or two at him before moving on. Hearing that from two seasoned anglers made the catch even sweeter.
So what was it about this day that made it a catching day? Spring had finally arrived and that certainly helped. It helped that I wasn’t high-hole from one of my pals chucking streamers and stirring things up. What I was doing differently than my pals was I was moving slow; I took my time and fished in close before making the money shots up against the banks half my takes were in skinny water that most anglers would slosh through to get to the “good-looking water.” During the evening I worked from wet flies, to emergers, to spinners as the “hatch” progressed. Why the switch to a spinner? It was when I saw the number of emerging insects dwindle and the number that seemed to be above my head growing that I knew things were evolving. It was a classic night it was that night when the weather was just right, the bugs “happened” and the pieces all came together to add up to a lot of tight lines.
Knee Deep Fly Fishing