Saturday, August 1, 2015

Trouting around

With the Summer heat settling in to the big rivers in the area, colder and higher is usually better.  While some streams closer to Lake level run cooler than even ones that run down mountains, the biggest factor besides the source of the flow is the amount of shade on the water. 

I found myself looking at Google Maps for some new water a few weeks back.  I looked for heavy cover alongside a mountain, which was not hard to find.  There was, however, a 3/4 mile stretch of river where the shade was replaced by sun, the large boulders replaced by sand, and the narrow and deep pools replaced by wide, shallow water.  In other words, not very trout friendly water.  This surprised me, as I'd fished a good 6-7 miles of this river already, and have never run into the same conditions.  I decided to trek in to where the abundance of tree cover started back up on this particular stretch, and fish my way up. 

By the time I got to water, I was pleasantly surprised to see an abundance of deep pools, large boulders and logjams.  I had a bunch of Elk Hair Caddis that were itching to get wet, so I tied one on.  My poor fly was greeted with animosity as soon as it hit the water for the first time.

Being able to witness the fish lock-on to and chase the fly after coming out from an undercut in a rock is always a blast!  I was filled with joy to see such a pretty, wild fish come to hand on my first cast.  I continued on, only to have another fish of the same size shake off after the hookset.  The obvious downside to removing barbs from flies is that many fish will inevitably shake off, but the trade off is worth it  (higher chance of survival)  While 99% of the brookies I catch are usually released without being touched or handled unless necessary (grab the fly and shake off while in the water for the most part) the fish like the one above are handled with care and released immediately. 

While these fish are usually abundant, it doesn't hurt to take extra care in handling them.  You never know when you may run into a large 12 or 13" stream-dwelling giant that may have been a fish that was released a year or two prior. 

After the 5th or so fish in just a few pools, I decided it would be worth it to walk a ways downstream to see how things looked, even IF it didn't look very good on the map.  I was happy to see plenty of pools with undercut banks, and even a 5' deep plunge pool that had a few smaller fish willing to play.  The further down I got, the less desirable the water was.  I chose to fish my way back up to where I started, and walked over to the first pool big enough to hold fish.  A large tree had fallen, and was laying across the river.  Half of it was in the water, and the other half out.  A great place for a big predator to hide.  I leisurely fished my way up, picking up the occasional small brookie.  When I got to the top of the run, I threw out my fly at an angle, landing right above the log.  I skated it halfway across the river before it was pulled under the surface film.  I few quick twitches was all it took before something BIG grabbed it.  At first, it was just dead weight.  I thought I'd caught myself on the tree laying across the river.  Right as that thought finished crossing my mind, it started to pull back.  "wow!" was the only thing I could think of.  Was it a big, wild brown?  I was surprised to watch my reel spin backwards for quite a ways.  Something that is rarely seen when fishing for brookies!  If the fish wouldn't come to me - I'd come to it.  I walked downstream towards the fish, who was bulldogging himself underneath the tree.  I caught a glimpse of it, and assumed it was a brown by the size of it.  It wrapped itself around a limb on the underside of the fallen tree and my heart just sank.  I knew exactly where this was heading..."just another fish story" I thought to myself.  Getting closer to the log, the seemingly shallow water only got deeper.  Before I knew it, I was nearly waist-deep, probing underwater with my leg, trying to find where my line was caught.  Finally, I found the limb and kicked it until it broke free.  I stuck my rod underwater and pulled the fish back underneath the tree....broken branch and all!  Before I knew it, I found myself kneeling on the side of the river, with a big 13" brookie in my net, hooting and hollering.  It was one of the biggest I'd ever caught!

I unhooked the fish and pulled my phone out of my pack to take a picture.  After unzipping the ziploc baggie my phone was in, I positioned it to take a picture - only to find out my net was empty.  I was  Then I remembered the multiple tears in the rubber bag of my net.  It didn't take much for a fish even up to 15" to wiggle its head through and then slip out.  I was more happy I actually landed the fish than upset I didn't get a picture, so I didn't let it bother me that much.  Fishing back up to the car, I found a dozen more fish willing to play, but not any nearly as big as the escape artist. 

This was the widest part of the river I've ever encountered.  It makes it look so much bigger than it really is!

Once back to where I started, I kept on fishing upstream and ended up almost a mile upriver from where I started.  By the end of the day, I'd come across some amazing water and the fishing was great, including a beautiful 14" wild  brown that also managed to slip out through the hole in my net while I got my phone out.  Needless to say that later that night I ordered a new bag for my net.  The 1.25 mile walk back to the car gave me an opportunity to reflect on the days fishing, and determine whether or not it would be worth fishing that section in the future.  The answer was simple - absolutely. 

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