A Time to Reflect

As the end of the year draws close, it’s time to take a look back at this year’s fishing experiences.  Note that fishing doesn’t always include catching.  The catching is nice when it happens, but it’[s not always the real reason for going fishing.  Sometimes fishing is just the opportunity to get away for a while, to unwind, or even rewind a little.  Sometimes the main focus isn’t the fish, but the people you are fishing with.  And for me, when I’m traveling and don’t have a lot of time to really fish,  it’s the opportunity to scout a new area, to  get some information about it, and to line up some contacts so that I can plan a more serious outing the next time I’m in the region.

For me, the past year has included all of these in my fishing adventures.  Some of my outings included fish – sometimes a lot of fish – while other outings were void of any catch.  But looking back over the year, I wouldn’t have skipped any of them.

Fishing on “home waters” was a little limited due to the traveling that my wife and I did this year.  And the local weather sometimes messed things up – too hot toDSCN0139 pressure the fish, or too much rain that messed up the streams.  Still, I had some good times on the water, especially when fishing with other locals.  If the fish were hitting, we would be throwing advice and encouragement back and forth.  If they weren’t hitting for us, we would share stories about “the last time . . .”

Travels for my wife and I started last Easter, with a trip to Bennett Springs State Park in Missouri.  I was going to spend the weekend fishing, while she hiked the trails, red her book, and practiced her watercolor painting.  Unfortunately, a couple of IMG_1799days before we arrived, a major storm system dumped a pile of rain on the area.  The river was completely blown out.  I got in a lot of casting practice, we both hiked the trails, enjoyed some really great meals at the lodge, and just plain relaxed.  From there we planned on heading to the White River in Arkansas for a little tailwater fishing, but found out that wad fishing was out of the question because of the storms.  Instead, we headed to Branson, Missouri, and enjoyed three nights of superb entertainment in the theaters, and some relaxing sightseeing.  Not the trip we planned, but it still turned out to be fun.

In late June, we headed north for an Alaskan land-and-sea tour, something we have talked about for years.  In the time we were there, we rode on planes, trains, buses, boats, and a ship.  We experienced the most spectacular scenery and wildlife we have ever seen.  I’d have to say, it was the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip thatDSCN0152 everyone dreams of.  While we were in Denali National Park, I had the chance to do a guided fly fishing trip for grayling one morning.  I was one of five clients working with two guides, and was the only client in the group that had ever fly fished.  I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out, but I had nothing to worry about.  When we got to the water, my guide pointed to a nice pool on a bend in the river, and told me to give it a try while he got another client started.  In the first 6 casts that I made, I landed two beautiful little grayling.  The entire morning was like that.  The guide would check on me, give me a couple of hints, point me to another honey hole, and go back to the other client.  In the course of the morning, I released about two dozen grayling, ranging from 9 to 14 inches.  To say the least, I had a blast.

August took us on a trip to Colorado to visit our second son and his wife for a few days.  On the way, we stopped to check out the South Platte River for a day.  While no fish were caught, I discovered a great fly shop and some nice cabins right along the river.  Next time we head there, I’ll schedule some time with a local guide, and spend a few days exploring the waters more thoroughly.IMG_3654

After spending time with the kids, we took a day to visit the Poudre River Canyon, again exploring for a future fishing time.  There were some nice campgrounds that we plan to use next time through there.  We also found another great fly shop, a comfortable little inn, and a really good restaurant in a near-by town that we would be very happy to visit again.

In September, we headed east to visit our youngest son and his wife in Maine.  For weeks before the trip, I tried to find a guide in the Rangeley Lakes region, DSCN0191where we all planned to spend a few days of hiking and fishing.  Everyone that I talked to was booked while we were there.  We found out that this time of year is normally when the landlocked salmon start their run, and all the regulars had scheduled their guided trips.  Several of the guides that I talked to were nice enough to give me lots of information that would help us to be successful on our own.  Weather threw us a curve, though.  The waters were lower and warmer than needed, and the fish were not moving.  I was hoping that my son would be able to land his first fish on a fly rod while we were there, but no such luck.  Still I was able to spend time fishing with my son on some unbelievable pretty water while we were there.  That’s always hard to beat.

The highlight of the year, though, was the birth of our first grandchild.  Our son and daughter-in-law in Colorado had a beautiful baby boy just a week before IMG_4704Thanksgiving.  It was an unbelievable feeling to be able to hold him when he was just a few hours old.  And what can I say.  They live in Colorado.  We will be making regular trips there to see them.  Of course, I’ll always be sure to find some time to fish the waters while we are there.  After all, I need to figure out the perfect place to take my grandson for his first fly fishing trip.

Winter Fly Fishing for Trout

                It’s that time of year.  The temperatures have dropped, the snow is falling.  It’s time to hang up the fly rod for the season and just stick to the fly tying bench until the spring thaw.  Right?  Not necessarily.  As long as there is open trout water, there is trout fishing.  The conditions have just changes, so our tactics will have to change, too.

The fish are going to be slower as the water temperatures get colder – it’sIMG_1714 their way of conserving strength and energy.  You need to follow their lead.  Let the flies dead drift – the fish are not going to chase them for a meal.  Also plan on going deeper – fish a weighted fly, or put some weight on your leader.  Don’t be afraid to use the high-stick method – keep most of your fly line off the water. Sleep in.  The fish may not get active until around mid-day.  You should do the same.  Give the water a chance to warm up a little, then the trout, and the insects, will become more active. There is a lot of disagreement over tippet size for winter fishing.  Some favor lighter tippet, others opt for heavier.  Match you tippet to the flies you are using.  A little heavier tippet will turn over better if you are casting a heavier nymph rig, but with smaller flies, you’ll need the lighter tippet.  For me, it’s a matter of what I feel comfortable with. I have a few favorite flies for this time of year, and there are a few new patterns I’ve come across that I plan to try this winter.  Most of what I’ll use are nymphs, but once in a while, a small dry will be the ticket. In my box this winter, you will find: John Barr’s Pure Midge Larvae, size 16 – 20IMG_0176 This fly just works for me.  I tie it with a red, green, or tan body with a black head, or all black.  Drift it behind a larger nymph. Bead-eyed ScIMG_0160ud, size 14 – 16 I carry this one in olive, gray, and rainbow colors.  Those big, buggy eyes seem to do the trick. Disco Midge, size 16 – 18IMG_0155 I like this one in red or green the most, but have also used it in black.  I am thinking about trying it in blue this year.  I’ll do some with a poly wing, and some without. Parachute BlIMG_0143ue-Wing Olive, size 16 – 20 I’ve just always preferred parachute dry flies.  The BWO can be productive on the right winter days. Griffith’s Gnat, size 18 – 22 This fly imitates clusters of midges on the surface.  In fact, add a wing of white CDC to it, and it’s called the Cluster Midge.  Either way, it works. Some new patterns I’m going to try include: English Pheasant Tail Nymph, sizes 18 – 20 This is a slimmer version than the American PTN.  It’s supposed to be a better imitation for the BWO and for small brown stoneflies. Zebra Midge, size 16 – 18 Tied in black or red with a silver tungsten bead, this bad boy will get down into the deep holes where the fish are hopefully stacked up. ICSI (I Can See It) Midge, size 22 With a gray body and an orange parachute post, this as a floating midge pupa pattern that should be easy to spot on the surface. Finally, just a reminder to help you stay comfortable while you fish on these cold days.  Dress in layers.  Star with a good wicking layer next to your body that will move the perspiration away from you.  There are lots of new technical materials in different weights that will keep you warm and dry in almost any temperature.  Follow that with something warm, but breathable.  Wool is always a good choice, but again there are a variety of new materials that can really get the job done.  Finally, the outer layer should be wind and water resistant.  Keep some snacks in your pocket or your pack – it will help keep your energy up and will also help maintain your body warmth.  Also have something to drink.  You will be surprised how much perspiration you give off by being active on a cold day.  And for safety’s sake, fish with a buddy.  Better safe than sorry in this weather. So get out there and enjoy the challenge.  Keep your feet warm and dry, and your lines tight. CJ