Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Muddy Waters

Not Trout
Overnight rain, sometimes hammering hard on the skylight, was all the proof I needed that small streams would by up and muddy in the morning. As I ran some errands I gathered additional evidence -- the sight of swollen, muddy rivers.

The gauges told me that the large rivers weren't yet up and my gut told me a certain run that Jonny and I fish on the Housatonic River would be wadeable even if the water was coming up. And it held trout.

Black Articulation
A few weeks ago I got it in my head that I needed some articulated streamers so I tied a few. They're no particular pattern. I'm sure they're in Kelly Galloup's pattern book somewhere; a Circus Peanut coupled with a Sculpin mixed with a few random pieces on my fly desk. I tied three, one each in Yellow, Olive and Black.

I had some luck last fall fishing streamers. It was one of those days when things just worked better than one has a right to expect. Yellow is a great color for the Housy whether it's stonefly nymphs or streamers and yellow streamers were the key to that day. It's a day that planted a streamer fishing bug in my brain and I've been doing a whole lot more recently.

Zebra Caddis
When I first got to the water, there were mostly Zebra Caddis on the vegetation stream side with a smattering of  small tan caddis. As I walked downstream the Zebras petered out and the were tons of the tans ones swirling crazily in the air every time I approached a bush. I looked to the water and so nothing coming off. Maybe these were yesterday's hatches though the birds were on the water so something was happening.

I was disappointed at the color of the water. The drive to this spot required my to follow the river for several miles and I had convinced myself in those ten minutes that the color I was seeing was not in fact chocolate milk. But then standing knee deep in the chocolate milk I couldn't see my boots. This was going to be a challenge.

I had strung to rods so I leaned the nymph rig against a tree and waded out to start swinging and stripping streamers. Black was first at bat and got a good hit and brief tussle a couple casts in but nothing after that. Yellow was next and on the first cast was hopelessly lost to some unseen obstacle. Which left green which fared even more poorly than black. No doubt visibility was helping but the fish may just have been off streamers so I waded ashore, walked back upstream and changed games.

Also not a trout.
A #8 Yellow Stonefly Nymph was on point with a #14 Zug Bug dropper -- the dropper was the first to score bringing to net an energetic Fallfish. It wasn't a trout but it was a tug on the line.

The rhythm that is indicator nymphing then took over. Step. Cast. Rinse and repeat.

It's during the not catching part of trips that the mind usually wanders to appreciate the other things that are going on. Streamer fishing is an especially good time for this sort of daydreaming and observation because the fish usually hook themselves. Nymphing on a tight line can also give one the opportunity to watch a Blue Heron ply the angle upstream while attempting to find fish yourself. Of course this sort of daydreaming can lead to what is commonly referred to as "not fishing" or "standing in the water looking like an idiot".

After a bit of tedious casting and no additional tugs I amped up the weight on the leader and swapped out the dropper to a Lightning Bug. The weight seemed to do the trick. The trout began to see the Yellow Stonefly and come to hand.

Trout that cannot be still for a photograph
Fighting and landing fish in muddied water is kind of like catching at night. You can't see the fish. You can barely keep track of where the leader is. The fight is done very close at hand because the fish can't see you. It's all very strange when this happens during the day, but that's the effect of the muddied water, all the fish were fought inside a rod's length and I didn't see them until just before netting.

Making a mess of my lens
A handful of Browns were tricked to the net before the light began to fade. Around 7 p.m. it became noticeably darker as storm clouds pressed low. Sunset was still a few hours off but I began to feel like it was time to go.

But then I saw the spinners. And I saw a few trout rising. And I tied on a #14 Rusty Spinner and had a go. Two more to the net including one surprise that came to the fly after the fish I was casting to missed the fly. That was very satisfying; a runner up, if you will, but no less satisfying.

Quitting the water before dark felt like I was leaving the dinner table before dessert. Instead of stripping off the waders I went upstream to a popular dry fly spot to see if maybe there was a better spinner fall. The short drive informed me only that I had wasted ten minutes as all the anglers at this spot were standing on the bank commiserating about the awful day of catching.

We exchanged greetings. "A couple" was my answer to the obvious question. We all watched the water hoping for something to happen and dispersed rather quickly when it didn't.

I was pretty pleased that through the mud I was able to find something in the arsenal to work a trick or two. Sometimes its persistence and creativity. Sometimes its knowledge of the particular body of water; intel gathered from someone in the know is equally good. Saturday was a combination of the above plus a bit of luck. And I'll take that any day.

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