Posts Tagged ‘skwala’
It’s all about the Caddis! The river system has changed dramatically in the last week. You can still catch a fish on a “Slow Stone,” but the fish are moving off that bug. There are still some small bugs with a large BWO and some midge hatches, but the new game in town is a caddis. The fish are banging them in the riffles in the mid afternoon to darkness and they’re doing it with serious intent. Most of the fish I caught were hooked back in the mouth which indicates they are not tentatively coming to the fly, they’re eating it.
Fish that feed on caddis in a riffle are always a challenge to hook for a couple of reasons: Number 1 – the fish are not posting up and eating in a trough, they’re moving to targets. A fish that eats in one location can be six feet away from where he previously ate in a matter of seconds. That means that you must wait for the fish to rise and immediately land your fly exactly out front of him about five feet and hope that your fly is his next target. Number 2 – the next problem is fast water. Your fly will be floating very quickly. That means it’s a short, fast window that the fish must identify your fly and react. You may have to cast to that fish several times before he targets your fly. Amazingly though, if your delivery is perfect, you’ll hook that fish on the first cast a large percentage of the time, and your odds of a hook up lessen the more time you cast to that particular fish. Be patient and make that fish give away his location before you cast because if you have to pull your line out, false cast, then deliver, in most cases you are too late. I love caddis in a riffle; it’s fast, it takes pin-point accuracy, and the take is always aggressive and often splashy.
For the first two hours, the fishing was a little slow. I worked a Slow Stone for a while and hooked one fish, then targeted occasional feeding fish with an Emperor Caddis Green #20 and landed two more. Around 2:30, I moved upriver and was driving by a short riffle when I noticed a big ol’ Brownie rise up right in the middle of it. I backed up to the parking area and sneaked down the bank to the river. I changed rods to my 4wt, and my tie-on bug was an Emperor Caddis Black #20. I guessed the right bug, and the first fish that peaked its head up ate the fly on the first delivery. I landed the fish then hooked a fish in frog water right against the bank and then another fish on the edge of the riffle. From there I slowly hunted the riffle; and when a fish rose, I’d hit him. Most of the fish I served ate the bug, but the fish were not the giant variety. Most of the fish I was hooking were anywhere from 14″ to 17″ long, fat as a toad, and fought like a dickens. Many of the fish even jumped.
I worked that short riffle for a few hours; by the time I was done, there wasn’t another bang at the surface to target. I moved downriver to another riffle to finish out the day. It was the same as the previous riffle: Occasional fish attacking the surface to a caddis. I picked quite a few frisky Brownies out of that riffle and ended the day catching a bright colored fish out of a foam line above the riffle.
All indications are pointing toward early hatches this year. There are numerous Sallys hatching. I saw a few large Callibaetis the Size 12 variety and smaller Callibaetis on a Size 16. There are a few large Baetis floating the surface, and at least three varieties of Caddis.
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.
Every so often you fish and everything that could possibly go wrong…goes wrong. We were trying to pick up a few fish on the tail out of the skwala hatch; and every time we had the camera out, it started raining. We’d put the camera away, and automatically we’d hook fish. There were no real hatches that came off, so the small bug fishing was slow. So that’s the way our day went, catching a few fish when the camera was off and finding few windows when the rain and wind weren’t blowing.
We ended up catching 14 fish, none of the real large variety except a 19 1/2-inch fish that Geoff caught in the rain. We had three fish come to the Slow Stone, but none of them ate the hook.
Flies that caught fish:
1) Blood Midge #20
2) Caddidge #22
3) BWO No Hackle #20
4) BWO Colored Emerger #20
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
55 Degrees, rain, then partial sun (little wind)
This blog is going to take a lot of time….
I started the day about mid river. It was raining, semi warm, and I stood at the top of a beautiful stretch of hatch water expecting the BWOs or midges to appear at any moment. It didn’t happen so I moved down toward Cow Creek hunting heads. I found no heads so I decided to hunt a stretch of water at ground level. I never saw a fish rise through the run, but I saw a big fat skwala.
So I rigged my 5 wt. with a “Slow Stone” and moved to a nice, deep riff raff edge and began fishing it blindly to holding water. After covering 30 yards or so, a fish false takes the Slow Stone and never comes back. Then another false take; and on the third false take, I set my hook up into the high branches of a tree. It was a terminal snag and it broke off at the tapered to tippet knot. I re-rigged and fished the rest of the run without hooking a fish.
I moved downriver below Cow Creek; and on one of the points overlooking the river, I spot fish rising on a slick a quarter mile upriver. You should always carry field glasses if you dry fly fish; I’d have never seen the fish without the glasses. After wading the river and moving up into position, I’m finally addressing fish feeding on large midges and some BWOs. I skipped the tail out of the run and moved up to the riff raff edge toward the top of the run. Immediately I see fish rising in the soft foam lines inside the hard current. There was no way to approach the fish from above, so I was forced to deliver quarter-angle casts up over the top of the fish. The fish didn’t like my BWO Comparadun #20, so I changed to a BWO Colored Emerger #20 and bingo, that was the ticket. I hooked three fish out of that pod and landed two of them.
The more I studied the bugs at the surface, the more I realized the large midges were the most prevalent insect. I changed flies to a Blood Midge #20 and began fishing the 40-foot riffle coming into the run. I could see numerous fish feeding from frog water all the way out to hard current. I very slowly and methodically hooked every fish that peeked his head up and I hooked a few other fish that came up blindly and ate. By the time I hooked the last big rainbow at the top of the run, I’d landed eight fish almost in succession and there wasn’t one fish that refused the “Blood Midge.” There was one very large fish in that group; he was a real dark colored male with brilliant red markings.
I ran into one of our fishermen who was pretty new to the South Fork, so I joined up with him and we walked down below Danskin. It was 3:00 and the rain had subsided, the wind was calm and there were virtually no fish feeding at the surface in the first run we viewed. We moved further downriver and studied another hatch run. There were no obvious feeding fish at the surface. I began to study the far bank in close to the edges and felt pretty confident there were fish feeding on emergers. As I waded closer, sure enough, there were tiny rings forming and a pod of fish was on the hunt.
I positioned below the fish and Mike was above them and we began to attack from both angles. Mike got us started with a nice bow, and then I hooked up and landed a fish. I hooked another fish, then Mike landed a fish. There were no more fish feeding, so I started casting blindly into a soft foam line about 6 feet off the edge of the river. I could see my Blood Midge perfectly as it rode the slow current. Suddenly there was a tiny ring at my fly and I gently set the hook. The fish roared out of the hole to deep water, then raced downstream. I wasn’t concerned because I thought it was a small fish in accordance with the small ring when it took. The fish felt heavy and he was owning me down river. I had to follow. The fish zings across the river and I’m nearly into my backing. I’m thinking maybe I snagged the fish. Eventually I got the fish in close enough to see him for the first time. He’s large…very large. That puckered me right up a bit and I went into “serious mode” to get this guy to the net.
Meanwhile Mike hooks another fish, lands it and releases it, and I’m still trying to land my fish. I finally slide the fish into the net. Wow! He was really big, slightly over 20 inches, and super heavy. It was another gorgeous male fish. We admired the fish for a long time, revived him well, and watched him melt away into the abyss. I would have been totally happy if I didn’t catch another fish on this day, but that’s not the way it happened.
Mike and I split forces; Mike stayed and finished out the run where I had just caught the big fish, and I moved upriver to the next run. I settled in on a slow-moving edge with foam lines and a large cluster of boulders at the top of the run. It started innocently enough—as I was casting my Blood Midge blindly, a big old fish head comes out of nowhere and eats my bug. I land the fish and then went on a maniac run of big fish. I saw a couple of fish rise that immediately ate the Blood Midge, and I caught another run of fish that came up blindly and ate the bug. I was at the top of the run where there was a big tree with limbs that overhung the river. There was a soft current and foam line that ran under the tree branches. I softly landed my fly in the slow-moving water under the tree. I’m staring at my fly and another big fish sips my offering. I set the hook and immediately the fish had a plan. He raced out to deep water, wrapped around a large boulder then jumped about two feet out of the water. I see there’s only one way I’m going to land this fish and the chances of pulling it off would be slim. I raced up along the bank to the point I was even with the boulder the fish was wrapped around, then I waded out, stuck my rod over the top of the boulder, and miraculously the fish comes loose and heads downriver. After a knockdown, drag out brawl, I finally land the fish. He wasn’t the largest fish (about 18 inches) I’d hooked on the day, but he was a no-good, dirty rotten dog with a lot of tricks. Little did I know, Mike was on the trail above me and watched the whole boulder issue unfold.
So I had waded up through my fishing water to land the last fish; all that was left of my run was a fast riffle section at the top of the hole. I sent Mike up to another run and I stayed to finish out the riffle. Instantly I see a fish rise in a fast section of the riffle and after about six casts, I finally get it perfect and the fish eats my Caddidge #22 which I had changed to for fishing the faster water. The Caddidge is a lot more visible than the Blood Midge. I land the fish and continue up through the riffle. I was casting way out ahead when I see a giant fish head appear about 10 feet in front of me ahead of a boulder in a little foam line. There was a lot of drag on a short cast but I finally put it on this big guy and he ate my Caddidge the same way I saw him rise before, full head out. I set the hook and he shot downriver toward a very large boulder in mid-stream. I knew I couldn’t bring this fish up through the fast current so I elected to wade the river and guide the fish out of the boulder patch and into the cobblestone riffle. He almost wrapped me on the boulder, but I shook him loose and we carried on our duel in the riffle water beyond the boulders. I thought it would get easier; it didn’t The fish went broadside on me in the faster section of the riffle and I absolutely couldn’t pry him out. I’d make a little progress and then he would roar back out to faster water. I kept moving downriver thinking I could maybe get under the fish. I couldn’t the fish just kept to fast water and moved down ahead of me. After at least 10 minutes at the very bottom of the riffle 100 yards below where I hooked the fish, I slip the fish into the net. It was a spectacular sight with a giant fish in the net and a little tiny Caddidge stuck in the point of his bottom lip. I enjoyed a sacred moment looking over a South Fork monster and I thanked him then watched him swim across the shallow cobblestone bottom of the river.
I met Mike at the bridge and we finished out the day hooking five nice rainbows in the run above the bridge. We caught them all on a size #22 Caddidge.
So that was my day on the South Fork of the Boise River, and I’ve given you exact details as it happened; the only thing I don’t have are photos to share. I forgot the camera and the only photos I’ll have are the ones Mike took and we were only together for two fish photos. It was a bad day to forget the camera!
Flies that caught fish:
BWO Comparadun #20
BWO Emerger #20
Blood Midge #22 and #20 (2 trips in a row this fly has brutalized the bug fish on the South Fork)
I headed to the river yesterday with no intentions in mind, just huck a big bug (Slow Stone 2013) all day until a hatch comes off, and then I would adjust to the hatch accordingly. The big bug fishing was pretty good throughout the day, but the “Brownies” were not cooperating with the small bugs. I never saw a fish peek his head up until 3 pm. There were midges on the water and in the air, there were even BWO duns on the water, and still not one fish was raising his head. What’s a man a do? Keep hucking a size #10 Slow Stone Skwala.
I hit my first run of the day around 9:20, and I had my first fish in the net at 9:34. I was thinking to myself that this is pretty early to be landing my first fish, but I was elated nonetheless. I finished working that stretch of water and then I headed downriver to hit another run of water. I just started working Mr. Slow Stone and all of a sudden, a beautiful “Brownie” rises up and annihilates my bug. I set the hook and fought him around and put him the net. Two fish in the net and it wasn’t even 10:30–pretty awesome. After releasing that fish, I started working the water and all of sudden behind me I hear, “Geoff is that you?” I holler back yup, it’s me. It was a good friend from the Central Oregon Fly Fishers, Lee Ann, and she was standing up by my truck on the road. I reeled up my line and decided to go see what she was up to. After catching up, we decided it was time to go fish, so downriver we headed.
We settled on the next stretch of water and I was explaining to Lee Ann how we were going to attack the water, and it did not take her long to see the big picture. Within five minutes she had a beautiful “Brownie” in the net, and then she proceeded to hook two more right in a row. She had a grin from ear to ear and she just had to say, “Geoff, I love your bugs!” After finishing that run we proceeded to run downriver in search of some more browns that wanted to eat Skwala. We found another section of water that just had big “Brownie” written all over it.
I waded across the river and put Lee Ann in a great run and I told her I would meet back up with her at the truck. I walked downriver from her through a bluff section of river. I found myself in some waters that I guarantee hadn’t seen an angler in years. I snuck down to the brush pile that was by the river and decided I would cast behind it first before I stepped into the water. I cast my Slow Stone and I was hunkered behind the cover. My bug was not on the water for five seconds and I see a monster mouth just come up and surround my bug. I set the hook and the war was on; I had no idea the size of this fish, but the way he was fighting, I thought he was fouled hooked. After about three big runs to deep water, I finally get this fish worked in. To my surprise, he wasn’t foul hooked; he was just a flat-out giant. My net is 24” long, and this hog was longer than my net, and he weighed a solid 5 pounds; not bad for just coming out of the winter. It was an absolute gorgeous Owyhee River hog! I have got to have a talk with Lee Davidson from Snake River Outfitters about the net I traded flies for. The fish on the “O” and South Fork of the Boise River are far too big to effectively use this net!
After fishing a few more runs, we decided to head upriver in hopes to catch up with another crew member who has been a pretty good fishing partner on the Deschutes River. We meet up with Eric on a stretch of water that had Skwala written all over it. Eric takes one cast, and bam! There is a fish. While he was fighting that fish, I knew another one would be lying in there; and like a low dog, I cast up in there, and sure enough there he was. We had a double on and the laughs began. We landed the two fish and were taking a few photos right about time Lee Ann steps into the hole and lands a fish. We had a triple in one short run in a matter of four minutes. Pretty spectacular!! After Lee Ann released her fish, she decided to move up in the run. That was a good choice because she landed another two fish.
All in all, it was a great day to be on the water with good fishing friends. Lee Ann had the hot rod—landing the most fish among her husband, Eric, and I. Eric ended up landing five fish; and as for me, I didn’t care because the 24” plus fish flat out made my day. Sometimes it is just amazing the things you see when you are using a dry fly!!!
Flies that caught fish:
Slow Stone Orange #10
Slow Stone Olive #10
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