Posts Tagged ‘black gold’
After putting the final touches on our new television program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id4MveRQsW0&list=UUWM-ZSQE4zIPwVuiBsUpWTA&index=1), I decided it was time to go let off some steam and sore mouth some brown trout on the Owyhee. It was a spur of a moment notice, and my buddy Brandon R., met me at the freeway in Caldwell and we were off to the river. It was around 2:00 when we finally had our rods rigged, waders donned, and ready for the river. The first stretch of water we hit looked very promising and there were a ton of Sallys floating in the air, sometimes landing in the water, but there were absolutely no fish feeding on them. There were a few other bugs coming off in very low numbers (Callibaetis mayfly, sporadic caddis, and a few midges cruising around). There just wasn’t enough surface activity to really generate a hatch, but when you are a dry fly fisher, you have tricks up your sleeve to address these situations. My tie-on bug was an Empress Sally #18 and Brandon had a PMD Searcher #16. We analyzed the river and saw virtually nothing happening so we decided to go blind fish the beautiful riffle that was in front of us with a foam line that looked like a buffet line for feeding fish. We fished the riffle hard for 30 minutes; and out of the corner of Brandon’s eye, he saw a fish rise and put the perfect cast on that fish and BAM! Fish on and the battle was on. That fish wanted nothing to do with Brandon and decided to bolt down river. It was a long, drawn-out battle, but Brandon finally defeated his foe with a beautiful 19-inch brownie in the net. Once that battle was won, we fished the last sections of the riffle with no other willing takers so we headed up river.
We stumbled on a great section of river that, much to my surprise, no one fishing it. We decided to check out the river; the second we entered the water, there were consistent feeders on the far bank. Immediately we ran back to the truck and grab the rods and proceeded to go after those fish. Brandon still had his PMD Searcher on and I still had an Empress Sally. We split directions and I headed upriver and Brandon stayed down below. I fished the Sally for another 45 minutes in a gorgeous riffle and never got one fish to even come up and look at that bug, so it was inevitable—time to change out bugs. I went with an Emperor Caddis Black #18 and started working it around for a while. After about 15 minutes, there were starting to be a few PMDs hitting the water and the fish were sipping emergers, so I went with Callibaetis Tantalizer #16 and started addressing fish. It didn’t take long before the first fish succumbed to my net. Meanwhile down below, Brandon was just dead drifting his PMD Searcher and hooking fish pretty consistently. The PMD Searcher is a truly amazing bug because Brandon was in very slow moving water, and the fish had a lot of time to evaluate his fly, but they were not fazed by the size or silhouette on the water. Six fish later, the pod had pretty much dissipated and it was time to traverse upriver.
As we were driving upriver, I spotted my dad’s rig (he left me home to work, and he went fishing) so I pulled in and had to see how his day had been going. Much to his surprise, he said the fishing had been pretty tough, but every fish that hit his net was 18 inches or better with a couple pushing 22-23 inches. That inspired Brandon and I so we said goodbye and headed upriver. We reached another great section of river with no one fishing it. At this point I am thinking the fishing gods are on our side because this was two runs in a row with no one fishing it (sweet)! We pulled in and immediately Brandon saw fish rising down below so went after those fish. I headed straight to the riffle with a nice foam line running right down through it. I had a Peacock Caddis #16 tied on and in the first cast in the riffle bingo! I fought that fish around and finally netted him, he was not a giant, just a pesky 17-inch fish that thought he could lick me. After a couple photos, I released him and started serving the Peacock Caddis back into the foam line. After about 5 casts another feisty 17-inch fish came out of nowhere and smacked my fly. I set the hook and this fish was slightly nicer but not by much. I netted him and took a few photos and then off he went. After that, fishing got significantly tougher; they would not come to my Peacock Caddis, so I decided to BLACK GOLD them. Black Gold never even got a courtesy look, so if they won’t take a caddis, Black Gold, what was my next option? I tied on a Black Searcher #16 and started hucking it around. Nothing. Downriver, Brandon was still fishing his original PMD Searcher and having some great success in the riffle down below me. It is a terrible thing to forget your Searcher Box because I had tied up a dozen PMD Searchers and Callibaetis Searchers. With that box at home with PMD Stimulators in it as well, I was pretty much drawing dead. I finished my run and met back up with Brandon. He had smiles from ear to ear because he pretty much did nothing all day but hook fish.
At this time it was getting pretty late. We decided we had time to fish one more run before dark. We didn’t have to travel far before we were overlooking a group of feeding fish on a long slick. I told Brandon this could be tough fishing because the water was hardly moving and it was very calm. We snuck down the bank to the river and I immediately tied on a Caddidge and started serving downhill to the fish. The Caddidge was not the bug to go with for this particular run because the fish were keying on the emerger phase of the hatch. So after a couple false takes, I tied on a Blood Midge and started serving that bug down to them. They were not convinced on that bug either: A couple of false takes and nothing. At this point Brandon had tied on a Callibaetis Tantalizer #16, and on his first cast, he landed a 21-inch toad of a fish. On the very next cast, he hooked into another nice fish but the fish kicked his bug. He yelled at me and said they are taking the Tantalizer. So I looked in my box and found a Baetis Tantalizer #18, so I tied it on and within 5 casts finally no false takes and a willing customer came right up to my fly. I fished the Tantalizer for another 30 minutes hooking a few more, then a giant wind storm kicked up. I told Brandon I was heading back to the rig. He agreed it was time to go, but on his way back across the river, he saw a pod of feeding fish—about 30 of them—all staged up in the riffle. He did not hesitate and started picking off fish one right after another. By black dark, he finally made it back to the truck. Let me tell you at this point he is on Cloud 9. Brandon had himself an epic day on the river; he probably netted 15 fish in the afternoon.
It was a great decision to cut out of work and hit the evening hatch on the “O.” The river is in prime condition and running very clear. If you want to tackle this river and really give it a butt kicking, it is going to take some patience, wise bug selections, and just fishing it until dark. The PMD Searcher was by far the bug of the day, with the Tantalizers coming in at a close second. I guarantee you this, the next time I hit the “O,” I will have all my boxes and especially my Searcher Box.
Flies that caught fish:
#16 Callibaetis Tantalizer
#16 PMD Searcher
#20 Emperor Caddis Black
#16 Peacock Caddis
#18 Baetis Tantalizer
Day 2 found us back on the same stretch of river we fished the day before with an idea that we apply what we learned from yesterday. We didn’t anticipate that the river would absolutely shut down. No feeding fish, no searcher bug working, no takers casting to the edges…no everything. We caught 2 small fish for miles of river and we entered the top of the Chester Back Waters. Looking ahead there were fish feeding, lots of them. We pulled the boat in above the fish as the sky above us began to threaten rain. We spread out along the bank setting up on fish. Joe struck first with a 14-inch “Brownie.” I had my fly (#20 Emperor Caddis Black #20) surfing the water below me as I was positioning for a feeder, and a fish almost yanked the rod out of my hand. I landed a 14-inch “Brownie,” then set up and hooked a 15-inch rainbow. The wind started blowing upriver so I began fishing upstream on the edge of the riffle. A nice rainbow comes out of nowhere and eats my bug. I land the fish as the wind intensified; and during the time I released the fish, a gale force wind was upon us.
It was impossible to fish with 4-foot white caps exploding in the wind and spreading a mist across the surface. We laid up on the grass bank, semi-sleeping and waiting for the carnage to end. The storm went on for over two hours right in the prime hours of dry fly fishing in the afternoon. Around 7:00 you could feel the wind begin to wane, and by 7:30 there was a mild drop of water across the back water.
We headed downriver hunting heads, but the fish were not cooperating. It wasn’t until about 9:00 until a few heads started to appear. We chased them in the boat casting to them at long distances. I hooked a couple of small fish as we moved, then all of a sudden a fish rises about 20 feet from the boat and I immediately serve him a #18 Green Tantalizer. The fly settled, I twitched it and a large mouth appears around by bug. Bingo! The fight was on and we finally put the fish in the net. He was a “Brownie” about 20 inches, very healthy and gorgeous in the waning light.
Our second day wasn’t quite as good as the first, but we still netted over a dozen fish. The big wind storm right as we centered on feeding fish really hurt. That’s fishing so let’s fish on………..
Flies that caught fish:
Black Emperor Caddis #20
Green Tantalizer #18
When you have fished a river and won big, there is a very high bar to hurdle; and even though our two days on the Henry’s was pretty successful, we conceptually didn’t set a higher bench mark. All conditions indicated there should have been tons of fish working the surface. There were swatches of caddis, March Browns, midges, and BWOs, but the fish just didn’t react. We had short runs at targets at the surface, but they were few and far between. In the interim we worked for fish–searcher fishing the edges and the riffles which brought some fish to the net, but not the size or the numbers we’re accustom to.
We entered the river below the Ashton Dam with our fishing buddy, Joe Bare. The welcoming committee was a swarm of caddis all over us as we launched the boat. That was an encouraging start, but the river didn’t reflect the bug activity and there were virtually no rising fish. Joe oared across the river and we spread out to find fish. Geoff and Joe went upstream and I stayed on a riffle down below. I searcher fished for the first 20 minutes with no takers, and then I began seeing a few fish hit caddis way out in the riffle. I waded to them and watched; then right on cue, a fish rose and I served him an Emperor Caddis Black #20. After a few casts….Bingo! I got him to eat and I landed the first fish of the day, a frisky fat 13 inch fish that thought he was big. I proceeded by missing a fish on the swing, and then losing another small fish. Geoff landed a feisty 15-inch rainbow and Joe hooked a small fish then we moved back across the river to fish a foam line.
At the top of the foam line across the river, I got over the first small pod of feeding fish. The fish wouldn’t eat the Emperor Caddis and it appeared the fish were eating an emerger, so I changed flies to a Baetis Tantalizer #18. On the first cast I hooked a pretty nice rainbow, worked him out of the run and asked Geoff to continue working the pod of fish. I landed the rainbow down river from Geoff. He was a plump 15 incher with an attitude. Geoff couldn’t get any other fish to take so we headed down river.
Fishing from the boat was fruitless; in two days we never hooked a fish from the boat with the exception of a few small fish. So we hunted heads, pulled in, and wade fished the riffles and continued to try to find a magic bug that would change the day. The magic didn’t happen, but we still engineered fish to the net in a slow, workman-like pace. That’s the way our day progressed, never finding large pods of fish feeding and grinding out success a few fish at a time. That suddenly changed an hour before dark at the confluence of the Fall River into the Chester Back Waters.
We’d landed a few fish floating through the Chester Back Waters, but from a distance, you could see the real party going on ahead of us at the Fall River. There were fish feeding and some of them were larger. We slipped the boat in and began addressing a fairly large group of feeding fish. It was twilight and darkness was quickly closing in. The window to see well enough to tie a fly on was quickly closing so I looked at the fish and guessed emerger. I tied on a Baetis Tantalizer #18 as my fly to go to darkness. Geoff and Joe were working Emperor Caddis.
The targets were on the move, feeding aggressively and not staying in a trough. You had to know his direction to have a chance. I put the Tantalizer over a few rises that didn’t eat or moved out of sight of my bug. I finally hit a fish perfectly and bingo he ate. The fish was on as he roared out to deep water almost to my backing. I brought him back and he bolted to my backing again. He made three runs like that before I finally netted the fish. He was only 18 inches long, but he did nothing in his spare time but eat, and his thickness displayed his overeating habit.
Geoff then hooked and landed a 15-inch “Brownie” and night was closing in fast. I saw what looked to be a very large fish feed going by about 30 feet out and I immediately made an interception cast. The fly settled, I twitched it slightly and in the final glimmers of light, I see a large head appear at the fly. I set the hook gently knowing my 5X tippet had just got a major workout from the fish before. The fish swirled at the surface in a giant boil, and then plunged into the abyss of the Chester Back Waters. He headed out slowly and powerfully, occasionally performing a strong head shake. Before long I see my backing begin to crawl down the eyes of the rod and the fish just kept going away. I couldn’t turn him and I never slowed him, he just kept going and shaking his head. On one of those head shakes, he kicked the fly; and in the last twinkles of light, I was spinning a lot of line back on the reel.
So that ended our first day on the Henry’s Fork. We had caught quite a few fish, but we had to chase them.
Flies that caught fish
Emperor Caddis Black #20
Emperor Caddis Green #20
Black Gold #16
Black Gold Hardback #14
Emerger Searcher #14 2X Long (Tester Fly)
Green Tantalizer #18
Peacock Caddis #16
Eric Steele, this blog’s for you!
It just felt like a Black Gold kind of day on the South Fork, and that is just what I did. My tie-on bug for the day was a Black Gold Hardback #10, and my reasoning behind this pattern was with the temperatures reaching close to 70 degrees, I thought that maybe some skwala would be roaming the banks. My theory was great, but I saw no skwala on the banks and I saw no skwala on the water. That did not stop me because I still thought deep down inside that they would take this bug. Black Gold has been a flat-out South Fork Killer, but I was using a different Black Gold that is significantly fatter to imitate a skwala, so it was going to be a little experiment.
We showed up at the river bright and early arriving around 10:30. We decided to head downriver from Danskin; and I hate to say it, but after working a show this past weekend, I really did not want to see or talk to anyone. So we dressed down and hit the trail downriver. We wanted to get as far downriver as possible thinking the water would be slightly warmer for some big-bug action. I got to my fishing water around 11:30. The party did not take long to start with the first rainbow hitting the net at high noon. I was working a beautiful foam line that goes in and around large boulders and is a natural for fish to stage in. The Black Gold Hardback fishes beautifully in these types of water where it is not raging water—just meandering current pushing foam lines. It was a great section of river to spend Easter Sunday.
The fish were active throughout the whole run, and they really did not seem to care that I was throwing a size #10 2Xlong fly at them. For every fish that hit the net, there were probably just as many false takes with it. For a long time growing up, false takes used to irk me because I wanted to see the fish in the net; but now a false take is just as cool because the fly did its job in luring the fish to the surface. There were no real giants in the bunch, but they were all fat toads that wintered well. I spent 6 hours working beautiful foam lines and hucking a Black Gold Hardback. I just kept hearing a voice in my head saying, “Go Black Gold,” and I knew I just had to keep throwing it. Thank you Eric for inspiring me to keep throwing my Black Gold!
I don’t know how many fish succumbed to Black Gold, but it was enough for me not to want to change out tippets and leaders to chase feeding fish upriver. Good bye sweet South Fork of the Boise River—I will see you in a couple of months. Thank you for giving me an awesome Easter service on the river!!!
Wow!! It was an awesome way to shut down the season on the South Fork of the Boise River. Geoff and I drove from Salt Lake, made it home at 1:30 in the morning, and found ourselves on the South Fork at 10:30 on Sunday.
We hiked down below Danskin with one thought in mind: I really wanted to fish a big bug on the last day. I had fished the river twice in the last two weeks, and both times the fish were keyed on a small bug; and when the river tells you something, you should always listen. On Sunday I wasn’t listening. I tied on a #12 Halloween Hardback and started hucking it to holding water.
It didn’t take long for the action to begin. It was my intention to fish way down below Danskin, but when I reached the No Trespassing sign, I had to try that riffle. I was above the riffle and I decided to run my Halloween down through the holding water. On the second cast, just left of that giant boulder, a 17-inch bow came right up and ate the bug. I landed him, waded the river, and on the riffle on the far side of the river, I hook and land three more fish. At the base of the riffle as the water slowed, I changed flies to an Orange Slow Stone thinking it would be a better fit for slow water. I had a couple of false takes then moved downriver. The cool thing about the first four fish was that they were directly below me when they ate and I could see straight down their throat.
I went on a big dry spell for the next 45 minutes as I made my way downriver. There was a short riff raff edge that I finally settled into the fish. Immediately I see fish feeding above me; and of course, they were eating small bugs. I didn’t want to change out of my 4X tippet so I fished over four fish that I know I could have hooked on a small bug. I stuck with the plan of a large bug. The fish were pretty hesitant to take my “Slow Stone” so I changed to a Black Gold #14 and they didn’t like it either. I did fool one fish on the Black Gold, but I was beginning to see more fish targeting midges.
I succumbed to the fact a big bug in a midge hatch just wasn’t working, so I changed tippet and tied on a Caddidge #22 and in a period of ten minutes, I landed three fish with that bug. I decided to go back to the Slow Stone and moved to the top of the riffle. I drifted the Slow Stone through the fast water section. It was a good choice; I began hooking fish on big, long drifts down through the chop water. On one of the drifts, a really big fish ate the bug. When I set the hook, he raced across the river, tail walked for at least six feet then plunged into current so fast that he popped my 5X tippet. That was the first of two big fish I hooked that day that absolutely kicked my hiney and ate my lunch. I’m not sure how many fish I ended up landing in that run but it was quite a few.
I moved upriver selectively delivering the Slow Stone to choice holding water. I’d caught three fish by the time I’d reached the run of water at the No Trespassing sign. There was a fairly large group of fish feeding at that run, but I was back on the big bug and they wanted nothing to do with my offering. I crossed the river and landed a nice fish on the trail side with the big bug.
I decided the old reliable “Black Gold” pattern had been badly neglected so I tied him on for a try. At a fast riffle upstream, I started working the Black Gold; and sure enough, he came through again. I landed three fish in the riffle and one of them was a gorgeous 19-inch fish with absolute brilliant colors. I met up with Geoff on that run of water and we hiked upriver. Geoff wanted to fish one more riffle and I decided to hit the run of water at the bridge. I finished my day at the bridge with a plump 16-inch fish in the net.
Although I had numerous false takes on the big bugs, and I know I could have upped my fish count by paying attention to small bugs. I pretty much stayed on task most of the day. I only slid once on the midge hatch downriver; and as always, the Caddidge was a good choice.
Flies that caught fish:
#10 Black Slow Stone
#10 Orange Slow Stone
#12 Black Gold
#12 Halloween Hardback
#10 Black Gold Hardback
It was my intention to catch a fish on a big bug. Geoffrey had a pretty good day on Skwala patterns on the “O,” and he was rubbing it in about hucking a “big bug.” Don’t get me wrong, I love to fish a small bug and there is immense power in those small bugs, but after fishing for four months with the largest fly being size 20, you begin to salivate for the splat of a size 10 2X Long. My objective was to hook a fish with that size of hook.
So I found myself at mid-river on a riffle at 10:30 zinging a Slow Stone #10 and relishing in the fact that I could see it at all times. The only problem: The fish weren’t falling in love with my bug as I was. I was near the top of the riffle on the inner edge, and I see a large fish tracking my fly. He came right to the bug and actually lifted it about an inch with his nose, but he didn’t eat it and I didn’t set the hook because I could still see the bug. The bug drifted about another two feet and then he attacked it full on. I set the hook and the fish roared out to deep water and all of a sudden I lose the fish. When I retrieved the fly, there was a big ol’ fish scale on the hook; so after all that, the fish never really ate the bug, he just swirled at it. That was as close as I would come to hooking a fish on the “Slow Stone.” I switched flies to a Halloween Hardback and then a Black Gold, and I worked those patterns for another hour without a fish rising to my offering. It was time to hunt heads and focus on what the fish were really eating–midges and BWO’s.
I kept the big bug on my 5 wt. rod and rigged my 4 wt. with 6X tippet, and yes, a small bug. I settled in on a shallow riffle down toward Danskin and began working a Blood Midge. About the third cast….Bingo, a nice rainbow rolls up and eats the bug. I land the fish and then went on a run of catching six more in almost rapid-fire succession. I had the 7th fish in the net when I had a visit from a couple of game wardens. They were a bit astonished when I showed them the “Blood Midge”on which I’d been hooking fish. One of the officers commented, “That fly looks like a whole lot of nothing.” I could tell he wasn’t a small fly connoisseur. The officer asked for my license, which was back at the truck, so I had to pull off my run of fish and retrieve my license. I left my net on the bank thinking I’d be back. While I’m displaying my license I see a fish feed on the opposite side of the river from where I’d been fishing. Then I see another fish, then another. The hatch was on. So I said goodbye to the wardens and snuck in on the blossoming hatch across the river, without my net, which would prove to be a problem.
I slowly entered the water above the fish and immediately I see fish feeding out of casting range below me. I knew those fish weren’t going anywhere so I studied the upper end of the run. I see a very large fish flash about a foot under the water by a large boulder just below me. I put the Blood Midge on him thinking the fish might come all the way to the surface for the right bug. On the third cast he did come up and explode on my Blood Midge. I set the hook and the fish goes totally ballistic. He jumps three times, races downriver almost to my backing, and then tries to wrap me around every boulder in the run. I finally get him tamed and I reach back for my net when it dawned on me that it was sitting on a rock straight across the river from me in a place I couldn’t wade. So be it. I slid the fish up on a quiet edge and admired him. He was a gorgeous 20-inch fish with brilliant colors.
After releasing the fish, I systematically worked my way down through the run. A target would appear and I’d hook him on the Blood Midge. Later I changed to a BWO Colored Emerger, a Caddidge, and a BWO Emerger with a CDC shuck, and all the flies caught fish. Then I went on a “Rookie Run” where I overset the hook and lost my fly, forced a fish too hard while trying to land him and he broke me off, and more or less made a fool of myself losing fish. I got over it and finished out the run by landing some beautiful fish at the tail out.
It was around 5 when the wind intensified and most of the feeding fish I had either hooked or they had lost interest in the hatch. I caught a couple of stragglers; but for all intents and purposes, the hatch was over.
I remembered my objective of the day: To catch a fish on a large bug; so I went back to the car, grabbed the 5 wt. and went back to the head of the same run I’d just fished. The wind was howling by then, but I kept feeding the “Black Gold,” which was my tie-on bug through the feeding zones below me. I was about midway through the run and my fly was floating big just in front of a sunken boulder. I see a very discrete break at the surface right on my fly. I set the hook and commenced to land my last fish of the day. It was a beautiful, shimmery 17-inch rainbow with a Black Gold hanging from her head. It was a refreshing sight….Life is Good!!!
I’d like to share a tip that I see fishermen do wrong all the time. We have a tendency to fish too fast when we’re working a hatch. When we see a big fish rise down in the run, we want to run down on him and serve a fly. “Slow Down;” that fish will still be there. Fish methodically and super slow. Identify all fish in the run by their feeding locations and memorize where they live. The slower you move, the more targets will appear and you can maintain that perfect position above the fish. By fishing too fast, you never maximize the fish that could be caught and you’ll put down a ton of catchable fish by wading over them. Yesterday I fished a stretch of water that wasn’t 50 yards long for 5 hours.
Flies that caught fish:
Blood Midge #20 (They were on this bug, big time)
BWO Colored Emerger #20
BWO Emerger #22 (CDC Shuck)
Black Gold #12
Can you spell “Butt Kicking?” When the river humbles you, it’s a stark reminder that you fish with a rod and a bug and not a net stretched across the run. You also realize there are days when all of your strategies and all that you know is worthless to the stubbornness of the fish. When there is no hatch and your “Searcher” bugs are not dredging up fish, your options then become limited.
That was my dilemma on Wednesday. The South Fork never produced a hatch; I may have seen a total of 10 heads above the surface and there were only 2 heads that were large. By early afternoon the wind kicked up and camouflaged anything that might have been a hatch. So what do you do? Serve “Searcher “bugs of course, but the fish were just glued to the bottom. I fished slick water, structure water, riffles, and back eddies and all I had to show for it by 2:30 was 3 small fish—not of the photo variety.
What does a dry fly fisherman do when every possible roadblock falls on the same day? Here’s what you do:
1) Go back to the basics.
2) Don’t focus on fishing the whole river from bank to bank. Fish the soft foam lines in shallow water against the edges because if the fish are stuck to the bottom, at least the bottom is closer to the surface. That means the fly is in close proximity to the fish.
3) Select a universal fly that would be commonplace to the season. It’s winter so I tied on a #22 Caddidge.
4) The wind by midafternoon was stiffening and blowing up river; that would mean I’d fish upriver with the wind.
5) The final ingredient would be to wade carefully and quietly and position to where all your deliveries land softly at a quarter angle. Fish are super skittish in shallow water.
So that was my new strategy; and 15 minutes into it, I still had not brought a big fish to the hook. I was thinking about changing flies as I watched the tiny caddis slowly drift the edge. Quietly and suddenly I see half a head rise, a mouth opened, and my bug was eaten. I set the hook gently with the 6X tippet and the fish roars to deep current. I’m really hoping to land this fish so I’d have at least one fish photo for the blog. After a small brush over a boulder, a couple of spirited jumps, and a 20-yard chase downstream, I land the 18-inch rainbow. At 3:00 in the afternoon I land the first quality fish of the day!
I continued to work the Caddidge on the edges for the next 2 hours and the results were the same: Multiple quarter angle casts and then out of nowhere a fish would eat the bug. In that time period, I didn’t see one fish rise and there were literally no bugs of any kind in the air. I ended the day landing 9 fish, 3 of which were small, but at least I salvaged something out of a day that had all the potential of spanking me. Make no mistake about it though, I tipped my hat to the fish for giving me every body blow I could handle; they just didn’t quite knock me out.
Note: we have a major cold front coming which it will improve the fishing dramatically. Our recent 60-70 degree temperatures were not conducive to winter bug hatches, but the 45-50 degree days will pop the midges and BWO’s.
Bugs that caught fish:
Oh the South Fork, the trials and tribulations one faces every time one hits that river. I was dressed and hiked down the hill by 11:15, and the first thing I see when I hit the stretch of water I intended to fish was a pretty good hatch of midges. My tie-on bug was a Dual Wing BWO #22 (tester fly), and I never even casted it one time because the writing was on the wall—that the fish were looking for midges. So I clipped that fly and put it back in my box and I tied on a Caddidge #22. I started “Searching” with that bug until I saw my first customer appear at the surface. I made one cast to that feeding fish and BAM! He viciously attacked the fly. I set the hook and landed a nice 16” rainbow. First fish in the net at 11:30; I thought it was going to be banner day! I picked up two more fish with the Caddidge, and then I could not get a fish to come up and look at the Caddidge. By 12:15 there were BWOs starting to pop, but it wasn’t intense enough to turn the river upside down, but I picked up a few more fish with a BWO No Hackle #22.
After landing those fish, I couldn’t get another fish to come and look up at the No Hackle, so what is a man to do? I tied on the Black Searcher #16 and started casting it to holding waters. I picked up a few fish casting blindly, and picked up a couple that were feeding at the surface. Like how the day began, I could not get another fish up to take the Searcher. I tied on Black Gold #16, and picked up 3 more fish at the top end of the run where there was a little more moving current and the Black Gold fishes beautifully in that kind of water. I got to the top end of the run and I walked up river to the next run. It was around 1:30, and that is when the fishing finally got consistent.
I tied on the BWO Comparadun #20 and I started head hunting. Every single fish that I had an angle at, I would hook that fish every time. If I had to cast over the tops of their heads, they were not having anything to do with my offerings. The water is gin clear and these fish have PhDs on anglers’ bugs. I had several false takes in those situations and I put a ton of fish down casting over their heads. I finally wised up and left them alone and only pursued the fish that were at appropriate angles from me. I picked up several fish quarter angling the feeding fish, and I reached the top end of the run where I saw about 20 fish scum sucking on the bank. I was on the trail and I casted to the first feeder. The fish took my fly and I immediately pulled him out of the run where the other fish were continuing to feed. If you do not get them out of your run instantly, there is a good chance that fish will boo your run. I landed that fish and released it as fast I could. I made another cast from the trail and hooked a very nice 17” fish that jumped in the hole, ran through it twice and put every single fish down that was feeding in the top end.
I landed that fish and released him, and I started surveying the water for the next customer that wanted to eat my BWO. It was 3:30 when I landed the last fish at the top of the run, and there was fish feeding down below me again, so naturally I change directions and started fishing down on them. I landed three more fish coming down on them, and then the light switch got turned off, and there were no more feeders at the surface and the BWO hatch was waning fast. I hiked out of the canyon and got to my truck at 4:00. I tried one more run that was in close walking distance,but there was not one head to target and it was time to call her a day.
The day I had on Sunday was nothing short of amazing. I had to change flies about 10 times to fool certain runs of fish, and then once the BWO hatch began, it was like shooting fish in a bucket (no pun intended). I should never grab the camera one day after dad fishes because I only had enough battery life to shoot about 15 fish and then the camera never turned on again. I don’t know how many fish I landed on Sunday, but all I know is I saw a ton of action at the surface, and I saw some amazing takes!
Flies that caught fish:
BWO No Hackle #22
BWO Comparadun #20
BWO Single Upright Wing #22
Black Searcher #16
Black Gold #16
Dual Wing BWO #22 (Tester Fly)
We as fishermen become creatures of habit. We fall in love with too few flies, and we have a tendency to always show up at places where we’ve hooked fish before. That strategy will lead to two things: 1) You don’t have a large enough selection of bugs to meet the demands the river throws at you; and 2) You’ll hover over a familiar stretch of water without catching fish while other stretches of water on the same river will be bathed in the hatch. To consistently catch fish on a dry fly, you cannot be married to a small group of flies or a few runs of water. Proof in point follows.
I went to the confluence of the South Fork on Saturday anticipating a BWO hatch to materialize around noon. At noon there were virtually no bugs or fish at the surface. I messed around chasing a few rises, searcher fishing, and I was catching sporadic fish, but the hatch was not coming off. At 1 p.m. I moved upriver leaving the comfort zone of a hatch I was sure would happen before the day was over and trading that for a chance the hatch would be happening someplace else. After a 15-minute walk upriver, I settled in along a riff-raff edge with a large foam line that stretched upriver for about 100 yards. There were no fish feeding at the surface as I began to work a #16 Black Gold over the sunken boulders in the foam line. I hadn’t casted 10 times when I began to see adult BWOs floating on the edge of the current, and then almost as immediately, I see the first fish rise and and eat. I changed flies to a #22 BWO Single-Upright Wing Mayfly built to float in faster moving water. By the time I’d tied on the bug and applied floatant, I had a half dozen fish in casting distance. Let the party begin!
It was exactly 1:25 p.m. and from that time until roughly 4:30 p.m., I did nothing but hook and land fish, one after another. At times I could look upriver ahead of me and identify the feeding slots of dozens of fish. Each slot was carefully marked for the best approach to catch that fish when casting range was attained. Slowly and systematically, I hooked most of the fish in the run to the point I could look behind me to almost no feeding fish. On occasions, there would be a fish rise in the riffle water in center current and when I got above them, I’d turn and serve them the bug. I caught almost all of them also.
I prefer to serve fish in a hatch from above, but the riff-raff edge I was fishing was not accessible to a downstream cast. I was able to get away with casting up over the top of the fish for two reasons. There was moving current with a heavy foam line that camouflaged my fly line, and I was using 16 feet of tappered and tippet, so a targeted fish would not be in contact with the dry fly line. Add to that, very soft deliveries and subtle movements wading out and wading in to get quarter-angle devlieries on each fish. Often times it’s the small details of delivery that hook a lot of fish and put few fish down.
The single-upright wing BWO #22 I was using was the exact right bug. You can always tell by the way you hook a fish and how many fish you lose after hooking. Look at the photos of the hooked fish and it is obvious these fish were not nibbling, they were eating. I lost one hooked fish in that whole run.
In the top quarter of the run, I changed flies to a #20 BWO Comparadun, and it was equally as efficient as the Single-Upright Wing BWO. I changed flies because the Comparadun is easier to see and has a little more float for the faster water entering the run.
When I was at the confluence in the early afternoon, I ran into one of my fishing buddies. He and a couple of his friends had stayed at the confluence after I left. The hatch did materialize there, but it was way late, around 3 p.m. Where I fished, the hatch kicked off almost an hour and half earlier and I was only upriver from them three-quarters of a mile. Go figure!
Don’t get married to your bug, and expand your river zones to fish. It won’t always pay off, but you must be willing to move and serve the right bug.
Flies that caught fish:
1) Black Gold #16
BWO Single-Upright Wing Mayfly #22
BWO Comparadun #20
I arrived at the South Fork around 11:30 and the usual was happening: No bug hatches and absolutely no feeding fish anywhere. After fishing the “Fork” for 25 years, you have to have some aces in the hole, and the one I had was a Black Gold #16. I made my way to the confluence which was about a mile hike. By the time I reached it, I had to “Searcher” fish for about 20 minutes. I caught one fish with a Black Gold within the first 5 minutes and then I could not get another fish to take it because my good friend Blue Wing Olive showed up in huge numbers. At 1:15 the hatch begun and fish were starting to congregate near the shore where the BWOs were accumulating. The writing was on the wall and I was going to have to change out bugs; and in the words of my father, “Don’t get married to your bug.” I have been really impressed with the BWO Comparadun on the South Fork so that was the bug I was going to try on these fish.
The fish were starting to feed right under the trail and I knew I couldn’t walk by the fish so I decided to cast to the fish from the trail. I picked up 3 nice feeding fish casting from in the middle of the trail. After catching those fish, it was time to enter the water and look for some more heads. It did not take long to find the next customer. The water from shore to shore was full of feeding fish and it was my job to start peeling them off one at a time. The river was completely turned upside down with every fish looking up for BWO’s. All I had to do was hit their trough and a fish was going to eat my Comparadun. For three solid hours I did nothing but hook and land fish. It is very sad when you own a fly shop and you only have two BWO Comparaduns with you! I wore both of them out completely; if you have any experience with these Comparaduns, you know that it is one tough bug. After I wore out my second one, I decided that I was going to try the BWO Single Upright Wing #20. That bug performed just as good as the Comparadun. It was truly one of the wonders of the world: A BWO hatch on the confluence of the South Fork of the Boise River.
At 4:15 the hatch began to wane and there were no more targets at the surface. In the three hours I fished the confluence, I may have fished a total of 25 yards of water and picked up one fish after another. I saw all varieties of fish yesterday as well. Some were the native rainbows that live in the South Fork year-round, and then there were the fish that come up from Arrowrock Dam. Regardless of which fish it was, they all had one thing in common—jump, head shake, bolt down river, bolt up river, rock me up, and purely electric. It was truly a great day to be a dry fly fisherman in the late fall. I strongly suggest not putting your fly rod away quite yet and grab some BWOs from Dry Fly Innovations and go hit the rivers. The fish are willing and hunting for BWOs.
Flies that caught fish:
Black Gold #16
BWO Comparadun #20
BWO Single Upright Wing #20