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Unlikely Catches

How many times has this happened to you? You’re out doing your thing, and something unexpected happens, something that makes you sit back and say “hmm”.

Let me paint the picture for you. A friend and I are at a trout lake fishing, having a good time, all the world is great. It was hook’em and cook’em mode so we both had a few fish for the grill. When we get back to the car, he shows me his catch. Now, obviously I am not an expert when it comes to identifying fish species, but I’ve caught enough through my life that I am pretty confident I know what a trout looks like. After looking into the plastic grocery sack my friend was using to carry his fish, I’m thinking, one of these things is not like the others…

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Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that one on the right looks a little…fishy? Bu’dum tssss! I know, bad joke. A good size goldfish was not on the menu, or even on the list of fish to inhabit that lake. Apparently, my friend didn’t receive that particular memo. For there it was, in all it’s glory. Last I talked to him, a Go-fund-me account was being set up so he could get his trophy mounted. Yep, another good day for Utah fishing.

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The Fish Before the Storm.

Is it a myth? A legend? Perhaps a bedtime story crafty fisherman told their wives so they could get out and get some time on the water before the weather turned bad. Is there a scientific explanation? Sure there is…but this isn’t a science blog, it’s a fishing blog. No matter which way you believe, fish bite better before a storm. It’s true. At least as far as fishing the waters of Utah are concerned, it’s true.

I took a “before the storm” foray into the mountains a couple days ago. To give you some perspective, we were sitting mid-eighties, it was sunny and dry. Three days later, and we are in the midst of a late winter storm. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that this counted as fishing before the storm. Up above 8000 feet, there is still snow on the ground, but the ice has been off the lakes for several weeks. A friend and I threw our lines into a chilly lake full of rainbow trout.

It took a minute to find the right fly and the right presentation, but when I did, it was fast and furious. I thought to myself, Yeah, I nailed it. Right fly, right time. I tend to pat myself on the back when the fishing is good, under the assumption that it’s me that made it that way. Of course fish bite better when I’m there…right? To prove my point, I started switching flies at random. First keeping to the slow presentation of wet flies. Success. I then switched to dry flies, even though there wasn’t a tell-tale ring anywhere, nor were there any bugs that I could see in any number. It didn’t matter. I coaxed those babies out of the depths to eat off the surface.20180424_194854

I lost track of the number of fish landed. However, I went through 7 different kinds of flies, 5 wet flies and 2 dry flies, and caught fish on every one. We fished until the sun was low in the sky. So maybe it was the storm…maybe it was me. What matters is that the bite was on, and I was out living it. And for you that want the sciensy part of it, here you go.

https://www.accuweather.com/en/outdoor-articles/sportsman/a-change-in-atmospheric-pressu/63489

But I still believe that good fishing happens because I’m there.

To Fly Fish, or to Not?

One of the best times of the year for me is when the rivers are at their lowest. Especially when it’s cool enough out to need a sweatshirt. My brother and his wife came down for a visit last week. We decided to make a run for a local river that is known to hold some big fish.

Conditions were not ideal, but when has that ever stopped me? My brother is what I would call a cheater. And he is teaching his wife to cheat as well. The three of us set to fishing on a series of riffles and pools. Seeing no surface action or hatching bugs, I dropped a bead head Prince Nymph below an indicator. 20180415_111212

The cold front that had pushed through the day before, along with the clear, shallow water made the fish wary. My first few casts did more to spook the fish than ring the dinner bell. Not far into fishing my brother calls from upstream that he has a fish on. The river run rainbow trout are fast and furious and the one he had on put a nice bend on the fly rod. Since I had yet to get a strike, I swallow my pride and ask what he’s using.

“Worms” was his reply. Worms on the end of a fly rod. I told you he cheated. Well, I hadn’t resigned myself to bait just yet. His wife, however, she was all over that idea. And I can’t say that I blame her. We were there to catch fish after all. I’m happy to say that the cheaters prospered that day catching a mix of browns and rainbows. The trophy of the day went to my brother with a nice brown trout. 46993.jpeg

I stuck with my flies and did an alright job of catching fish too. I give them a lot of grief for going fly fishing with worms, but in truth, I didn’t care. It was just fun to be out together fishing. Did they out fish me? Probably. Am I going to let that slide? Probably not. It just means I will work that much harder next time.

Start of a New Season

I’m BACK!!! Have you ever noticed that a lot of rappers use that term when they release a new song? Like the world almost stopped without them around and we sure missed them? Whew! Glad they came back. Well, I guess that’s what I sort of did. It’s been a crazy start to the new year so far. I hate to even admit this to anyone, but fishing had to take a back burner to “real” life. I know, boo if you want. Trust me, I will be making up for my unwanted hiatus.

I was able to take my first foray back into normal life on a day last week with my father and two of my nephews. And of course, let us not forget my trusty fishing dog. It was a great day on the lake. The day started as it should. My nephew, Eli, catching the first fish. A very proud moment for him until it was time to clean it. It’s possible he is scarred for life.

As fishing was slow, the boys took to hiking and playing on a rope swing while Dad and I baked in the sun. We moved locations and made a better time of catching fish. Even pulled out a couple of nice tiger trout which I filleted out by the water so the boys could watch. Catching fish is well and good, but sometimes it’s what happens in between bites that can leave a lasting impression.

This was one of the rare moments in my life where Dad and I sat together and fished…Dad never being much of a fisherman. We talked about whatever was on our minds. Sometimes we sat in silence. And for a time, I forgot where I was, and what I was doing. I found myself just being in the moment. I am not easily pleased, but for that time, those precious couple of hours, I found myself content with life. Now that summers here, I am looking forward to being content more often.

Dedicated to my Dad.

Memories of My Daughter

I remember a time, a time many years ago. My daughter of 3 years, perhaps it was 4, at any rate, it was a time when my little girl still believed that I was the most important thing in her life. It was mid-summer, two weeks into July to be more precise. Where we live, the second weekend of July is when they open the streams to fishing, following the spawning of the Cutthroat Trout. An aptly named fish for the red slashes with run on the underside of its jaws. It was during that time, all that time ago, where I took my daughter on her first daddy/daughter camp.

I loaded the car with our tent, sleeping bags, and a small cooler full of food. My fishing gear was stowed in the car like it always was. In my life I think it blasphemous not to have some small portion of tackle no matter where I might be heading. It was cool up the mountains and we were soon warming ourselves next to a crackling fire, and roasting hotdogs under a star filled sky.

The following morning, we crawled out of the tent as the sun touched the tips of the southern mountains. We opted for a cold breakfast of Pop Tarts and a steamy cup of hot chocolate. We ate in the car as we drove the five miles to the small stream that awaited us. I use the term stream rather loosely. At its widest it may stretch five feet across and at its narrowest one can easily step across it. The stream ran shallow with a gravel bottom, perfect for spawning fish. Tufts of grass, wild brush jutted out above the undercut banks. Most of the time the water holds a decent population of four, to six-inch fish, products from lasts years successful spawn. During the spawn however, the larger fish would travel into the small streams to lay their eggs.

Other anglers were out for the opening as well. We secured a spot that offered us a few narrow riffles and a couple bends with eddying pools. My daughter was no novice to fishing. She had reeled in dozens of fish over her short life span. On that day we chose to fly fish. The wild fish were wary of predators. The long length of a fly rod gave us the extra stretch we needed to stay concealed. I threw on a whopper of an Elk Hair Caddis. One big enough it could be mistaken for a grasshopper. Together we fished, side by side. Me setting the hook and her reeling them in, and everyone once in a while reeling my own fish in as she would tell me “it’s your turn to catch one”.

The proudest moment was when I helped her layout a roll cast into an eddy. A hungry Cutthroat broke the surface, inhaling her fly. I was hollering like a mad man telling her to set the hook. She did. It was the first time she had made the cast, and hooked her own fish on a fly rod. The light action 4 wt. rod, with a 10-inch fish attached, gave her the fight of a lifetime. I’m sure the two of us could be heard for miles around, celebrating, as she got the fish to the shore. A quick photo and she turned it back to fight another day. This picture now resides on my wall of fame. Each time I see it, I am reminded of that day, and how proud I was of my baby.  I miss the days of being her hero, but I’m always proud of the lady she’s becoming. One that gives me moments everyday where I am proud of her.

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Late Winter Dries

At this point in the year, winter is starting to give way to spring, and for me, that means a change of the flies. Here are the three late winter dry flies that get me through an afternoon on the waters. There are times when the best method is to “match the hatch”. I’ve learned that when it comes to winter fishing on Utah small streams, close enough is good enough. Imagine the life of a fish, every year when it drops below freezing, the fish enter the great depression. Suddenly there isn’t enough water to house them, there isn’t enough food to feed them, and the cold is downright miserable. Imagine the female fish sending out their starving fry to sell eggs on the corner. “Get your eggs!”  “Fresh eggs, just laid this morning.”  “Buy these ones…me mums part German.” “Ah mom, do we have to have water for dinner again?” Sad, isn’t it?

During the winter, the floating buffet table may only come around once every few days. Fish need to take the opportunity when it presents itself. So, as I said, close enough is good enough. What would a winter stream be without midges? These tiny flies love to be out in the slow pocket water and eddies on a sunny winter day and make up a good portion of the winter diet. The ones normally seen in central Utah are black with white wings. They will sit right on the surface or hover and inch or two above it. Many times they can be seen in small clusters. My point is, these midges, for the fish at least, are dinner. I use three patterns with regular success.

The Griffiths gnat I use when I’m seeing a lot of midges clustered together. I see more clusters in the slower eddies and around the foam edges. It’s a little bulkier than a single fly, but bulk is what we’re after. The splayed hackle front to back helps it float high in the water and gives the appearance of several pairs of wings, legs and tails. Generally I tie them 18-20.20180214_191950

A Mosquito is a good all around pattern for any time of the year. In the winter I use them size 16-18 when I’m wanting to imitate a single midge. Don’t let the size fool you. Midges sit with their back legs lagging to the rear,  with a set of antennae poking out the front. These factors make them appear larger than they are. Midges have a slim body, same as a mosquito. I fish these where the current moves a little faster forcing the midges to land and hover repeatedly to maintain their place in the water.20180214_193133

And third, I just call it a midge pattern. There’s probably a proper name. I don’t know it. It’s just something I started tying one day. Tied in size 20-24, the idea was to have a smaller fly, but maintain visibility. This midge pattern is designed to look like a drowned bug. As you can see in the picture, I think it’s “close enough”. Fished low in the water, it’s almost to the point of being a wet fly. The poly yarn for the wings is tied with a figure 8 allowing the yarn to spread like water logged wings. It is also buoyant enough to keep above the surface while the body sits just below.  20180214_192854

Now if i can just get out to use them, life will really be good.