Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fly box didn't have the right stuff

Snow and ice are not without some flashes of beauty. Just up the road a bit from our cabin, the ice had that frightening beasts-with-teeth appearance, with long, vicious fangs of crystal grinning maliciously at passersby and, if you could let your imagination fly, the fanged beast was being held in check by ancient icemen with flowing beards.

To either side, ice maidens with waist-length locks glistening in the late afternoon sun kept the old timers company, and perhaps held the leash keeping the fanged beasts back.
It’s been cold. And way too windy for an enjoyable day fly fishing for trout.

But then it warmed to an astonishing mid 40-degrees and out came the rod, waders, vest, boots and fly boxes to toss into the back of the rental car. The ice whiskers on the side of the mountain now looked like the remnants of last night’s candle, melting into a puddle near the ground. After a couple of early morning errands, I was knee deep in the Davidson River looking like a fool waving a stick back and forth over my head.
It felt more than wonderful to be outside again. It didn’t even matter if a trout hit the fly. It was enough to breathe air not clouded with auto exhausts and to bask in the rare warmth of a February sun.

Once again, all was well and good with the world.
I kept changing flies. Trout kept ignoring me. The little Adams dry fly should have been a hit with these fish, but they let it pass by with the rest of the river traffic.
These trout were not exactly tearing the surface up eating floating bugs. I counted one rise in two hours.
I changed to a little caddis dry, for there had been a little hatch the previous day where those hyperactive insects bounced in the sunlight like tiny helicopters, up and down, up and down. They were smaller than anything I had in the fly box, and besides, that hatch was on another river on another day.

Streamers didn’t work, wooly buggers attracted no diners and even the smallest nymph was ignored like an ugly girl at the prom.
Sometimes, when all else fails, you can learn something from the other anglers around you. First, I watched from the bridge and then moved downstream when nobody caught anything. There were a lot of puzzled fly fishers changing flies over and over, but the trout were not puzzled at all — they simply ignored all that fur-feather-steel floating by.

What was needed, I figured at last, was an itsy-bitsy midge nymph, about the size of a freckle on a kid’s face. Red or black should do it, with the fly little more than thread over hook and lacquered on top to give it some shine.
With at least several hundred flies in a half dozen fly boxes stretching the seams of the fishing vest, you would think there would be at least one little midge nymph in a size 24 or 22.
There was not anything even remotely like that in that mess of flies.

Well, I kept trying.
And the trout kept ignoring me, so I quit.

As I was pulling off the wet boots and waders, a fisherman walked by in a kinda hurrying sort of way.
Any luck? I asked. Yep, was the answer. Eighteen so far and 11 of those were over 20 inches. Just caught a 20-inch brown.

As he walked away I naturally asked what the trout were hitting.
And he replied, red midge.

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