Posts Tagged ‘midges’
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
Almost all days you dry fly fish there becomes a theme. On one day it’s caddis in the riffle, another day it’s midges on the slick, and on another day it could be “Searcher Bugs” on the edges. Well my day had a theme alright….it went like this: Hook a big fish, chase him to Parma and land him, or sometimes chase him for 75 yards and lose him. No matter where I was on the river, the scenario continued right down to the last fish I landed at 8:45 (after I chased him for 80 yards through an underwater boulder patch and finally netted him). The other consistent theme was flat-out having to deal with some big, nasty, dirty rotten “Brownies” that knew how to make the fight a fight.
The sections of river I fished had no consistent hatches, but I saw a plethora of bugs. In the mix were Sallys, a few PMDs, a large Callibaetis, midges, BWOs, caddis in two distinct sizes, and a handful of unidentifiables. There were few targets and no large groups of fish stationed up in a feeding position. So I did what we do…tie on a searcher bug and start hucking it to holding water. My bug of choice was a Tan Searcher #16 and it was a pretty good choice, because the first four large fish of the day ate that bug. I hooked those four large fish over a 100-yard stretch of river; and interestingly enough, I landed each of those fish in the same spot: A large boulder in the middle of the river. Every one of those fish, when hooked immediately, turned and bolted downriver and I had no choice but to chase it.
I used the Tan Searcher until I served it against a slow, deep edge and a giant “Brownie” false took on it. Knowing the fish would never come back to the Searcher, I changed flies to a Bare Belly Caddis (Green) #18. I served the caddis back to the fish; and on the third cast, a big, old head appears and eats my bug. I set the hook and the fish screams out to deep water and rocks me up. I run out to the rock cluster, free my line, and the fish is still on. The fish roars straight downstream almost to my backing with me in hot pursuit. I catch up to the fish; he turns and starts running up river. I hold my ground; the fish runs upriver 30 yards and rocks me up again. I can no longer feel the fish, so I wade up to the rock where I anticipated to maybe saving my fly. I stick my rod tip above the rock and pull, and damned if the fish doesn’t blow out from under the rock and head off downstream again. While I was wading upriver to free my fly, the fish was simply resting under the rock. My tongue’s hanging out from chasing this dude and he’s resting under a rock and comes back out with renewed invigoration. The only thing he doesn’t do is slam a fin in my solar plexus as he went by. He runs downriver into my backing this time and I’m hot on his trail. I catch up to the fish and begin to move him into slower water; he comes begrudgingly. The fish is now below me in softer water and starts head shaking. On about the fourth shake, my line goes limp and I watch the big old guy swim away. He actually broke the 5X tippet, but the real problem was he totally serrated part of my tapered leader and my entire tippet. So I not only lose the fish and my fly, but I have to totally re-rig from the butt piece down. Can you spell “Butt Kicking?”
I finally get back upriver where I hooked and lost the last fish and immediately I see a very large fish porpoise in the center of the riffle. On the first cast the fish eats my caddis; I set the hook, and right on cue, the fish zings off downriver. I was beginning to feel like the fish were just having a good time walking their dog. One hundred yards downriver on the opposite bank, I land the fish.
At the top of the run, the hard riffle flattened out into a slick and I ran into the first pod of feeding fish. There were several fish stationed up around a cluster of underwater boulders. I positioned above the fish and systematically caught them all, plus two bonus fish that were nestled up against the far shore. That was the only group of feeding fish I served to all day. The afternoon went flat. I hunted heads with no success and worked a couple of runs of water with a searcher with the same results. For about a three-hour window, I picked up two fish.
I finished off the day on a riffle on the low side the river. It was the caddis hour, but the caddis forgot to come to the party. I saw two fish rise in the riffle and I hooked and landed them both. It was darkening quickly, the clouds were heavy and it began to sprinkle a little rain. I decided to call it quits for the day and saw an opening across the river through the willows that I could get back up to my car. I slowly waded back across the river looking for heads and my fly line was hanging in the water still ready to deliver if I saw a target. I was almost back across the river when looking upstream and out of the corner of my eye I think I see a fish break the surface right against the bank about 10 feet ahead of me. I dry the fly and flip it into the cubby hole where I thought I saw the fish. After a few casts I figured my eyes were playing tricks on me in the fading light. I took one step toward the shore and a gorgeous, big, golden-colored “Brownie” rises in the same spot I’d seen him before. The fish is less than a rod’s length away from me and he rises again. I pull my tippet inside the eyes of my rod and flip my Emperor Caddis Black #20 to the fish. I don’t see my fly but the “Brownie” did, and he came straight at me, opened his big white mouth, and ate my caddis. It was really dark against the edge of the bank and the white of the fish’s mouth looked fluorescent when he opened up. I’ve seen many cool takes, but that rates up there with the best of them.
I set the hook and the fish went loco; tearing downriver in a burst that put me in my backing in about three seconds. As I had done all day, I began wading after the fish. I got my dry fly line started back on the reel and the fish rips me right back into my backing. I move downriver, and finally in the last moments of daylight, I land the fish. He was spectacular, about 20-inches long, very golden, and super heavy.
Postscript on Thursday, May 16:
I woke up this morning, rolled out of bed and almost needed a wheel chair to get to the bathroom. It was a gentle reminder of what the fish put me through yesterday.
Flies that caught fish:
PMD Comparadun #18
Bare Belly Caddis Green #20 & #18
Tan Searcher #16
Emperor Caddis Black #20
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
There are days in dry fly fishing when you catch 20 fish and you still feel you didn’t capture the river on that day. Our day on the Big Lost River seemed a little like that. We saw larger fish than we caught even though some of the larger fish were on the reds and we stayed clear of them. There were hatches that came off, a few BWO and some tiny midges, but we never really found the bug the fish salivated for. So we did what we do….take what the river offers and try to solve the puzzle. That means a lot of changing flies and hucking the bug; sometimes to a feeding fish and other times, to holding waters.
Some fly patterns were pretty successful and we’d hook a few fish, then the next run of water they’d treat that bug like dirt and we’d change flies again. By the end of the day, I think I tied on 10 different flies to net 20 fish. The fish were not really big–ranging from 9-14 inches, and they were persnickety little poops. There were numerous fish feeding that didn’t eat our offering.
So in the end, we had a great afternoon on the Lost; but I felt like the fish lost a few skirmishes yet ended up winning the war.
Flies that caught fish:
Black Emperor Caddis #20 (Pretty successful on the Lost)
Black Ant #16
Dual Wing BWO #22 (Tester Bug)
BWO Colored Emerger #22
There are days when dry fly fishing just seems easy and everything you do results in another fish eating your bug. There are other days when the fishing is flat-out tough and you have to grub to catch a half dozen fish. Then there are days like yesterday that I would refer to as “Grinding it out,” when you had to earn every fish you caught but by the end of the day you caught quite a few fish. So you had to make 100 casts with a #10 Slow Stone to get a fish to eat, or your delivery had to be placed exactly on the fringe of the cut bank to get a commitment, or you had to run the caddis straight down the fish’s throat to get him to return to the surface and eat your Emperor Caddis Green #20. That’s the way it went on Thursday. Geoff and I relentlessly served the bug, and occasionally we were rewarded.
There were no real solid hatches that came off on any stretch of river we fished except one. In the late afternoon on a small section of river, there was a monster hatch of baetis green caddis size 16 ½ . We did a little business with some fish in that window, but the hatch fizzled fairly quickly and it was the only place we saw concentrations of caddis. There were other minor bug hatches with some BWOs, midges, some large mayflies that looked like Callibaetis, a caddis with bright green abdomen but none of the hatches were intense enough to earn the respect of the fish and make them eat. So we were never able to stage up on a group of fish and catch a lot of fish in one location. It was two here and three there and then move again to find fish.
Geoff started the day working a size #10 Slow Stone thinking the fish would eat a skwala; and even though there were live skwala at the surface, the fish had little interest in them or our imitation. Geoff ended up catching two large fish on the Slow Stone pattern, but they were hard earned after numerous casts.
I took over the rod in mid afternoon and fished a small bug. There was some caddis in the air so I tied on a #18 Bare Belly Caddis and began casting it blindly to holding water. After a quite a few casts, a big old “Brownie” broadsided the bug and we landed the first fish on a caddis. After that, two fish false took on the Bare Belly and I switched flies to a #22 Caddidge to fish a slow moving cut bank.
The cut bank was a challenge because the fish were absolutely buried in under the foliage, and every so often they would eat a bug and expose themselves. Every fish took a special set up on a perfect angle to get the bug placed where he lived. At times it took numerous deliveries before you hit the sweet spot; but almost every time, you’d hook the fish. We picked three fish off the cut bank then moved down river.
There were a lot of fishermen on the river, and most of the runs of water were taken; but we pulled out on a corner and to our surprise, fish were banging the surface on a short riffle and a tail out. I made a terrible mistake by stepping out of the vehicle on the bank 50 feet above the fish because a pod of large fish feeding on the other side of the river went down and never returned. “DO NOT STAND ON THE BANK ABOVE FEEDING FISH.” I knew better, I just didn’t do better and I lost half the feeding fish before I started.
We walked up the road, slipped over the bank, waded the river and moved down into position to address a group of fish feeding in a fast riffle. Immediately there was caddis all over: in the air, bouncing on the water, and settling on the surface. When they settled, a fish would bang them. The problem with banging fish in a fast riffle is you’re not serving a fly to a permanent target–that fish eats then he moves on to another target. You must hit that fish with your fly the second he rises and your cast must be out front of him far enough so your fly is his next target. You can only cast to a feeding fish and the cast must be perfect. If you hit him on stride, he’ll eat your bug and the same fish that banged a natural two seconds earlier is now hooked on your fly. It’s one of my favorite hatches, caddis in fast water because it will truly test your ability to deliver a perfect cast.
I got lucky quite a few times in that run and it was beginning to look like we were going to take the fish to the wood shed for a good whoopin’, but the hatch slowed and the targets disappeared from the surface. We moved downriver thinking that another caddis hatch would materialize, but not only was there no caddis, there was no hatch of any kind; and for two miles of river, we didn’t see a fish rise at all.
We ended up going back to the big bug–the Slow Stone–and fished a stretch of water downriver. After an hour of hucking the bug without a single fish rising to eat it, we called it a day.
Flies that caught fish:
#10 Slow Stone (Black)
#20 Bare Belly Caddis Green
#20 Emperor Caddis Green
#16 Get Her Done Caddis Green
Note: We are approaching one of the most productive time windows on the Owyhee River. The small bugs of winter are waning, the skwala are basically done, but the “Big Bang” of caddis will be on soon. We fished the leading edge of the hatch yesterday. I would strongly suggest you purchase the following group of flies for the next three-week window on the “O.”
|Caddidge #22||Get Her Done Caddis
Green #16, #14
|Bare Belly Caddis Green
|Emperor Caddis Green
|Beetle #14, #12
(Fish it in any water conditions
but make it move)
Baetis Tantalizer #18
| Adams Caddis Green*
*(Fish this bug in fast riffle or skate it). Fish the larger sizes of caddis in hard riffle and use smaller sizes in slower moving water.
Can you spell “wind”? Yes wind; hard wind all day long, mostly blowing downriver, but sometimes swirling. You couldn’t hide from it on any turn of the river, and it was relentless. At times it blew so hard that it would simply lift the fly line out of the water, and it would be straight down river ten feet above the water. So what’s a person to do? Tie on a “Slow Stone” size #10 and serve it downriver to the edge, of course. One thing I would mention, if you’re going to catch a fish on a skwala pattern, you better get it done because the fish are beginning to move off that bug. I had numerous false takes and several fish that followed the fly then refused it.
I started the day above the first bridge and worked a run of water without one fish even coming to the surface for a courteous look. I moved upriver; and even though it was windy, there were still a lot of people on the river and most of the fishing runs were covered. The weather began to worsen and rain and hail put most of the fishermen in their campers or cars. The only idiot still fishing was me; I had my rain jacket and I was there, so naturally you fish on.
I settled in on a long line of riffle about mid river. As I was wading the river to get in position, I see a fish rise against the far shoreline. When I got in range, I served him the “Slow Stone.” Without hesitation, the big, old “Brownie” rolled up and ate the fly. I set the hook and the brownie did something unusual—he jumped about 18 inches out of the water. He was a frisky customer, but he eventually succumbed to the net. I then went maniac on fish; and within the next half an hour, I landed another four fish almost in succession. Things were looking up and all of a sudden the wind became a hurricane and it began to hail really hard. I was forced to take shelter at the base of a tree while the storm raged on. When the storm let up, I had to go back to the car for a new disc for the camera so I decided to move downriver and fish the base of the run.
I entered the river on a rocky shoal and it was my intention to fish the far side of the river; but as always, you must put your fly in any water you intend to wade through. This time it paid off and a brownie ate my bug on the first cast. I landed him then proceeded to fish the run across the river. The fish were really shy against that shoreline. I had a half dozen fish rise to the fly and not one of them ate it. I changed skwala color and they still refused the fly. I ended up catching two more fish in the run, but they were both hooked on the road side of the river in very shallow water.
I finished the day on a riffled, deep edge casting the “Slow Stone” as close as possible to the edge. Toward the top of the run I hooked and landed the last fish of the day.
Flies that caught fish:
#10 Slow Stone Olive
#10 Slow Stone Orange
It just was one of those days where the weather was gorgeous, the river was beautiful, and midges flying all over the place. We arrived at the river around 9:45 and found a stretch of water that I have not hit yet this year. It just looked flat-out like it would produce some fish. My tie-on bug was a #10 Slow Stone Olive; and I knew if I just worked the waters slow and methodical, a fish would take it. The party did not take long to start with the first 20-inch fish hitting the net at 10:30.
The section of river we settled on had beautiful foam lines going in and out of boulders that were submerged underwater. It was a natural for a fish to hold in with structure and moving current and an absolute buffet line running through it. We made a conscience effort at working the water slow, putting our Slow Stones in every nook and cranny in the run. The fish on the Owyhee are really starting to wise up with the skwala because for every fish that hit my net, three fish would come up and false take or just swirl around the fly. Such is life when you are throwing around a big bug in the early season—most of the fish are still keyed on small hatches. The fish that were takers were all just spectacular fish with brilliant colors and toad-like bellies. We caught a few small fish in the run as well as 12-inch varieties; and even those fish have wintered well.
Around 2:00 we were through fishing the first run and we decided to run upriver and see some other stretches of water. As we were driving upriver, it really struck me as odd that the traffic was really down compared to other days I have been on the river. We got up past the tunnel and every section of water that we wanted to hit was available, and once again I thought that was pretty strange. We kept driving upriver along the river, and I started to notice that there was a lot of debris floating in the water and the river was slightly more discolored. We pulled over to fish a run, and it finally sunk in that they had opened the flood gates and the water was rising right before my eyes. Much to our dismay, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, fishing was completely done upriver and our only hope to salvage the rest of our fishing day was to cruise back downriver in a hurry to get to a stretch of water that had not been blown out. Typically what happens when high water hits is the fish have a new source of food that is coming out of the dam, and that means they could care less about BWO, midges, or a skwala.
We raced downriver to find a new section of water to finish out our day on the Owyhee. We hit a section of water down around the hot springs and it was a very short run, but it was worth our time giving that run a go. The fish must have known something was happening to their river because we never got one fish to come up to our skwala, and we left that run catching zero fish. On the day my fishing partner, Brandon, caught one fish that was almost the length of his net, and I ended up landing about 10 fish; three of those fish were over 20 inches. It was a pretty spectacular day on the river seeing some gorgeous “Brownies” in the net and being on the ”O” in 70 degrees. If you want to dry fly fish the Owyhee River, you might want to give it a couple of days for the river to settle and let the fish have a chance to readjust to their new surroundings.
Flies that caught fish:
Olive Slow Stone #10
Orange Slow Stone #10
Slow Stone 2011 #10
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