I live in a place with four distinct seasons, and for many reasons I am glad for that. From a fly fishing perspective each season brings new hatches, and a new approach to the rivers and lakes I love to fish. It seems that every time the seasons change I catch myself saying "this is my favorite time of year to fish." The changing seasons and their effects on our favorite fishing waters have a way of keeping things interesting. And it is true that each and every season is my favorite one for fishing. If asked to pick one, I will pick the current season.
Now since we find ourselves smack in the middle of the fall, and around here that means BWO's in big numbers I figured I would touch on something I have notice this fall in fishing the small baetis patterns. It is fairly common knowlege amongst fly fishers that some of the worst fall weather is prime time for fishing these bugs as they seem to emerge in prolific numbers during those more adverse weather conditions. If you are lucky enough to be able to pick and choose last minute the days you are going to fish, it may be no problem to wake up, look out the window, see perfect BWO conditions and make the decision then and there that you are going to hit the water. But for others that may not be so lucky, it will invariably happen that the day you can fish is the brightest sunny day of the fall, and is not so ideal for a large BWO emergence. However BWO's still hatch on these days it just may require a little more effort to find them, and to find the fish up feeding on them.
It seems that the hatches are a bit shorter lived on those sunny days, but they do exist. From my experience it may happen a little earlier in the day than it would on the nastier weather days, but not always. It will require a little scouting and moving around, but often the bugs and the fish rising to them can be found. When I get to the river on those bright sunny fall days the first places I will look are the portions of river that will be the first to be shaded by the afternoon sun. I don't necessarily know if the sun is an aversion to the bugs themselves, but I do think that the fish will be more likely rise for the bugs if the glaring sun is not beating down on the water.
For example on a recent trip to a favorite fall river in the area on one of these sunny days I drove into one of my favorite fall holes, that fits the description I am talking about. It is a perfect BWO run. A nice moderate riffle, a perfect place for a BWO nymph to live it's pre-dun life feeds into a long, slow, and deep run with a lot of scattered boulders and structure. The bugs hatch up in those riffles then the sailboat profiled duns drift slowly along the slower stretch attempting to dry their wings enough to be able to take flight. The fish will often be here picking off duns, but also looking for any of those less fortunate bugs that have had difficulty emerging. Helplessly they too float along the current, powerless against the river, or the fish that lurk below. These cripple and stillborn bugs provide an easy target and the fish know it, and will seek them out.
This run also happens to but up against a steep hill side that casts a shadow on the river very early in the fall afternoon. On this particular day as I arrived at the run I jumped out of the truck and pushed through some bank side brush to get a peek at what was happening on the river. While I knew with the bright sun overhead there was a chance that not much would be happening I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed several fish feeding near the far bank. As I sat and watched them for a few minutes it became clear to me there was a distinct pattern to where the fish were feeding. The pool was half in shade, half in the sun and a large pod of fish were feeding, but they never fed out in the sunny portion of the river. As the sun moved slowly overhead, and the shadows moved down river, so did the feeding fish. Big trout would feed right up to the edge of the shaded section, but no further. There were plenty of bugs on the water in the sun, but it was clear, it was the fish's preference to avoid that sun.
In the fall many of our rivers are also at lower flows, and the water is usually very clear. The low, and clear fall water conditions, means fish have to be especially mindful of the threat of predators from above. The fish will be very careful to avoid the revealing light from above, and will try and stay close to deeper holes, and structure as they come out to feed. Finding places like this run is the key to finding fish up on BWO's even on sunny days.
On this day I landed several smaller fish in that shaded section of the pool, but as the hatch waned, the pool quieted, and the river that had just seemed loaded with fish, looked deserted. But I knew there were still opportunities there. I carefully waded up the now completely shaded side of the river, tight against the bank, pausing to examine every little pocket, exposed rock, tiny current seam or other structure along it. Suddenly my eyes were drawn to a dark spot that barely made a ripple in the lazy current, just to the right of a small exposed rock. The naturally broken current as if flowed along the rock disguised a well hidden fish, sipping the scraps of dead, spent, and half hatched bugs being congregated along the bank, and then funneled off the current seam this little rock created. The rises were methodical, but so subtle they could easily be missed. This is when I often catch some of the larger fish during a hatch. After the frenzy has subsided, and the bigger fish come out to snack on the easy prey that the buffet of helpless scraps presents. They take the best lies and sip subtly to their hearts content.
I waded into position and made sure my CDC Wing Sparkle Dun was ready to go. I Checked my knots one last time, and stripped out several arm lengths of line. Hoping to time things just right I waited for the fish to rise again before making my cast. His dark nose appeared once, then twice, and I knew it was time. A couple false casts to work enough line through my guides and I let it go. The line straitened perfectly dropping the small fly just ahead of the feeding trout. Sure enough as the fly pushed off the side of the rock floating with the current that gentle sipper took it just like he had been taking the naturals. Bringing up the rod I felt the heaviness of a big bodied trout that immediately bolted for the middle of the river. Slugging it out there and hoping to not let the big fish get downstream of me where it could really use the current to it's advantage I put a bit of extra pressure on. The fish was strong and surged against that pressure, but I managed to keep it under control. As it slid closer to the net I admired a hefty fall fish that would easily go over 20 inches. Exactly why fall is currently my favorite fly fishing season. But winter is on deck.
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It is about that time of year when we start to really see the prolific Blue Wing Olive Hatches again. I really look forward to those epic hatches and with that I wanted to usher in a new fly pattern for the catalog to ring in the changing of the seasons.
This BWO Sparkle Dun uses a turkey biot body to give the fly a slender, naturally tapered profile, and as opposed to the Deer Hair wing on a standard Sparkle Dun, it uses a CDC wing. The CDC provides excellent natural floatation, and is also very lifelike and natural on the water. This fly really works when you come up against a particularly finicky fish. I remember one occasion where I was working up a run picking off fish with a more standard Deer Hair Wing Sparkle Dun, when I came to a stubborn fish that refused to even acknowledge the Deer Hair wing fly. Out of curiosity I switched to this CDC Wing pattern, and on the first cast it was fish on. It was one of my bigger fish on the river to date, and it just needed that little subtle change to be convinced my fly was the real thing. Since that time I have always carried a few of these in my box to compliment my other patterns, and as a go to fly when the fish get tight lipped during a mayfly hatch.
Let's all get ready for some great Blue Wing Olive hatches in the near future!
|Early Morning Hopper Muncher|
The tailwater river I fish on a regular basis gets a lot of traffic, and it was about a week and a half ago I really noticed a shift in the way the fish were eating my grasshopper immitations. They still take a look, they will still eat, they are just a lot more cautious in this act. And they don't mash the hopper like they did a few weeks ago. Many fish I was taking two weeks ago I was hooking deep in the corner of their jaw, or even in the back of their throat as they really committed to eating the big bug. As they have been stung by the hook a few too many times these last couple weeks I have noticed many more false rises, false takes, fish that come loose after a couple headshakes, and even the fish I do bring to the net seem to be hooked just in the edge of the lips. Never the less the fish are there and they are eating, just much more cautiously, so a bit more patience is required on the anglers part.
At times like this you still should been able to go out and have some good success but the willing fish are not going to be in the same places you were catching them before. Don't get me wrong, the fish are still in those obvious places everyone and their dog throws a fly into, but the fish there are going to be extremely careful right now.
As an example I have a favorite run that three weeks ago yielded one of my best mornings fishing hoppers ever. It is an obvious spot that gets a lot of pressure for several reasons. One, it is right off the road. Two the near bank is relatively shallow and easy to wade, and three, there are always fish rising here. I picked off six big fish on six casts, in the span of about 10 minutes on an amazing Friday morning at the beginning of this month. All six fish were spotted rising along the roadside bank before I casted to them. All six fish took the fly hard and deep making it easy to bring them in without fear of losing the fish. It was a great little span and a morning I won't soon forget.
But just a couple weeks later I fished that same run with no luck. Every little lie I had seen and caught a fish out of last time still had a fish visibly rising in it, but they were not going to fall for the hopper trick. As I moved fishless up the run this week having multiple looks, but no takes I was wondering if the whole river had become educated on foam hoppers and I was going to have to shift my strategy a bit. While I welcome the challenge, I was a little disappointed. Then on a whim I decided to cross the river and fish the other bank. Now this is what I am talking about when I say be willing to look in the not so obvious spots when the fish get lockjaw. Their was a fairly deep channel I had to cross to get to that side that would have kept slightly more cautious waders from fishing that side much, and quite frankly the water did not look that fishy. It was shallow, 5-10 inches in most spots, and slow moving. However as you looked at this bank carefully you could pick a few spots that could hold a fish or two.
The first of these was a simple little slick where the water flowed off the edge of a small brushpile. Here the water was more on the 5 inch deep side than 10. Not much water, but I could see that the way the current flowed there was the opportunity for food to be caught in the little eddy behind the brush pile, then as it got pushed out it would funnel right off the edge of the currents seam flowing off the brush. I made the cast, and watched the fly pick up speed as it hit the faster current in the seam and drop into the "hole" where I hoped a fish would lie. Sure enough a big snout rose up and engulfed the fly as if on cue. And this was not a soft take. A few moments later a nice 20 inch fish slid into the net. Don't be afraid of shallow water. Big fish can lie in some surprisingly shallow lies.
I continued down the run and found another little nook that I thought would possibly hold a fish. It was a tough lie, but the current cut back into the bank a bit here and the depth of the river changed a few inches while overhead willows hung over the water offering great protection, and just down stream there were dead willow branches in the water. These dead branches caused the current to slow just enough that I could see any drifting food getting hung up here a bit, and an opportunistic trout lying in wait. The problem with the lie is that it is basically a one and done deal. It was a shoe box sized area, and if you let it drift any further than that little window your fly would surely become one with the dead willow branches in the water. So in such a small area I would be forced to rip my fly out of there while still in an area that any fish that was there would surely be spooked.
I lined up the cast and dropped it just ahead of the target, and watched it drift into the sweet spot and just as I suspected, because of the current the hopper slowed up and swirled just a bit before continuing tight to the bank. Precious inches passed in slow motion as I watched the bug near the end of its narrow window of opportunity and I was preparing for the quick rip that was going to be necessary to haul my fly out of danger as it approached the dead willows. I bravely watched as the fly curled just around the first branch, and figured it was over, no fish. But just as I started to take up the line the skinny water exploded and a fat 21 inch buttery Brown attacked the hapless hopper.
As I continued down the bank each small potential lie held similar fish who were far less shy about taking the big fly than their comrades across the current, and what had started out as a morning of frustration ended up being one of my better mornings on the water.
So when fish get tight lipped, first try the other side of the river so to speak, away from where the highest pressure is going to be, and then pay attention to reading the smallest details of the water. Really look for those smaller lies that may only hold one or two fish, but where fish that are tired of being hammered while eating in the obvious spots will go to find refuge. It's always rewarding to pull that big fish out of a less than obvious spot.
|Looks like the fish aren't the only ones getting fat off the abundance of bank side hoppers|
The FT Hopper in Action!
Jump Creek Flies is proud to announce we are adding a new section to our catalog. We will start offering a limited selection of Daiichi hooks for those of you that tie your own flies. Daiichi has staked claim to the title of "World's Sharpest Hooks" and after trying many different brands I have to agree. Where other hooks have often left me wishing for more, Daiichi has always delivered. Their strength, sharpness, and uniformity have made tying on Daiichi hooks easy, and not having to worry about one failing in the lip of that 26" brown trout is priceless.
For now I am going to begin by selling their 1120 Heavy Wire Scud hook in sizes 18 and 20. I will continue to add more hooks to the catalog as I get them in.
The 1120 is the go too hook for many nymph, larvae, pupae, and scud patterns that I tie. The heavy wire sinks the fly fast, and the hook is exceptionally strong. The point of this hook remains sharp fish after fish.
I have sizes 18 and 20 hooks in stock, but if you want to order another size, just let me know and I can order them in (sizes 6-16). So get your hands on the best hooks on the market at a great price, and as always, shipping is free.
Have you ever had one of those outings where fish were rising all around you, obviously feeding on something at or near the surface, but have all your best dry fly offerings refused? The answer to this frustration is most likely emergers. Fish love to key in on these mayflies in the midst of their transformation from Nymph to Dun as they struggle in this vulnerable position. Half hatched and not yet able to fly, they make an easy target for hungry fish.
My favorite early stage emerger in these cases is the above pictured CDC Bubble Emerger. It fishes well early in a hatch when fish are just beginning to show themselves on the half hatched mayflies, and it works great later in the hatch when you catch those lazy slurpers feeding along the banks, eddies, and in current seams where crippled and stillborn mayflies that were unable to leave the water are pushed by the current. This pattern fills a very nice hole in the arsenal between the nymph(Marabou Nymph) and the late emerger, and dun stages (BS Sparkle Dun).