Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Fishing

A lingering cold has kept me from wetting a line in over a month.  I had the Christmas week off and I saw a break in the weather.  I started sending the word out to see who else was interested in going.    I wanted to try a wild stream I had never fished before.  Another member of the club I had not met before agreed to meet me on the stream.  This is always an interesting arrangement.  You really put trust in a lot of things.  First being on time.  Nothing is more annoying than waiting for people.   The second is can you tolerate the person?   Luckily this guy was on time and a pleasure to fish with.  We tried what I like to call the sucker pool first.

  It's a place right off the road and it always has a few nice fish in it.  This section is hatchery supported and it must be where most of the fish are dumped in.  The fish get educated quickly and the ones left ignore any of your offerings.   Sometimes you get lucky and a fish will strike but it's rare and you have to be ready at all times. We discussed a plan for the day while watching the fish move out of the way as our flies drifted by. We'd hike up a wild section and if it wasn't good we'd try another stream. I was eager to get the hike started just to warm up. The air temp was 26 degrees and even in multiple layers I was chilled. After a few glimpses of the creek and the first wild trout sign I didn't think about how cold I was anymore.
I kept moving upstream trying to keep a decent distance from Jason so I wouldn't spook the water he was going to fish above him. The trail would change from a well traveled path to what looked like a deer trail. There were multiple obstacles where you had to duck under a tree or climb over logs. It's always fun to walk on the edge of a steep hillside putting all your trust in a 2inch diameter branch holding all of your weight. Now and then I'd cough and be reminded I probably wasn't totally over this cold yet. The ice in the guides reminded me of the temperature too.
The best cure was to keep looking at the view and pushing on. The fishing made me forget about everything and for the first time in awhile I could just relax and take it in.
There was so much fishy looking water but I couldn't even see any signs of fish. Not even shadows darting away as I stalked small pools.
I knew the fish had to be there but where were they? I tried many different combinations. A dry and a nymph, two nymphs, streamers, egg patterns. Nothing seemed to work.
I worked my way back and met up with Jason. He said he managed a couple fish and he hadn't hiked nearly as far. I was looking to move to another creek but after a brief discussion we decided to explore this creek more. There were multiple trails that ran along the stream and we found if we kriss crossed the hiking was a lot easier. As we got higher the water looked better and better.
The fishing continued to be ice cold. Jason had a stream thermometer and said the water was 40 degrees. There were no bugs in the air and we both figured the fish had to be deep. It's tough to fish heavy with a lot of weight when the average depth is about a foot in a half. We still tried of course. How could you not with water like this.
Eventually it was enough. I was tired of hiking and tired of going through the motions. I couldn't see the fishing getting any better. No matter what we did or where we fished there was no action. The hike back we still hit the spots that just looked too good to not try one more time. Back at the car we worked the sucker hole again. I talked about a section that was good to me in the past. There wasn't much daylight left. There were cars parked near the stream and after talking to some other fisherman we found they were having similar luck. Then as I was walking downstream I ran into two more. These guys said they had been catching fish all day. They told me of a place just upstream and explained that all the fish were up there. You always have to wonder when someone you don't know gives you a tip.  Are they helping you or helping themselves? I guess it's the skeptic in me that thinks that way. I've heard stories many times about fisherman telling people the wrong location of where fish are just so they won't fish "their" honey holes. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and headed upstream. What did I have to lose? Sure enough just like they said above the first rapid I started to see fish. There had to be 50-70 fish in this long calm run.  Some of them monsters.   Jason had already found the place before I got there. The fish were hitting something tiny off the surface. I started with an egg and a nymph. The fish would follow the egg but never commit. These fish had seen everything and we got the familiar feeling like when we fished the sucker pool. The fish continued to feed off and on on the surface which gave us hope. I think I tried about 20 different flies and my leader was getting down to the heavier section. I was tired and felt lazy. I didn't want to tie on more tippet. We knew if we could just throw something these fish hadn't seen before we'd probably have success. I started throwing multiple streamers and the fish would follow but never strike at the fly. Then I noticed something.

I was fishing a pink and white clouser with red eyes. If I let the fly sink to the bottom the fish would swim over and inspect it. Once I lifted the fly and gave it some action it seemed to turn the fish off. The big trout were super interested when the fly dragged across the bottom. Maybe these fish had some how learned that if food is just settling on the bottom it most likely isn't attached to anything. I tested this theory and on my second cast one of the largest trout in the pool made it's way towards the fly. The light was fading to where I could see the fish but I couldn't really tell where my fly was. I watched the fishes body language and it was definitely in attack mode. I thought I saw the fish make a move like it was hitting and turning. I went to set the hook and my fly shot out of the water. Did the fish hit it? I knew I didn't have that many casts left before dark. I cast again and let the fly crawl on the bottom. The big trout again started to follow. The fish followed the fly probably 15 feet or so. I saw the fish almost go into a carp feeding position with the head down and tail up. The head slashed then turned and I saw my fly line jerk. I set the hook and saw the fishes head shake. I yelled to Jason "get the camera ready!" I expected a long fight because I was using a 3wt and this fish had to be close to 4-5lbs. The fish never did any drag singing runs. It thrashed and bulldogged near shore far enough away to where I couldn't net it. I put constant pressure on the fish. I felt confident the heavier section of the leader would hold fine. I was more worried about the knot I tied on the fly and my issue grabbing the net. I just received a new rubber net for Christmas and the bungee thing had been giving me fits all day. The net was constantly swinging around banging my feet and getting caught on branches. I had a difficult time holding the fish with a lot of pressure and reaching behind myself to get the net. I did get the net and missed the fish about 3 time before I finally slid the fish in. I ran over to Jason and he never knew the fish I hooked was one of the larger ones in the pool. He snapped a couple pics and the fish was released. What a way to end the day.


  1. Wonderful happenings.
    Winter angling is special. The hookups are a bit sparse but that fish that comes to hand makes the outing well worth the effort.
    Nicely done.

  2. Kevin
    After reading your great post here I am convinced even more that I need to fish the numerous small streams that I live close to here. Granted they don't have the trout but the gills and spotted bass would be a lot of fun on the fly. Those steams in your post are addictive. Thanks for sharing