Being Called a Purist
Sunday, February 13th
We were to meet Dan on the Little J for some February trout fishing. Jim picked me up at 7:00 am for this excursion. Jim brought a friend who had never fished the Little J but was anxious to give it a try. During the near 2 hour drive we discussed fly fishing, techniques, and patterns which I always turned the conversation to dry fly patterns and dry fly action. Off the Woodland exit we stopped at a little store to take a break. I had been tying dry midge patterns for the past few weeks for Montana fishing in April. Dan had said that there may be some midge activity on the water surface so I decided to take some along. I didn’t bother putting them in a fly box and just carried them in small bead boxes I had kept them in as I was tying. When we sat down in the small store I showed the black midges, Bivisibles, and cluster midges to Mark.
On the way towards Phillipsburg Mark pulled out a fly box approximately 7”x 4” that was double sided filled with nymph patterns. They were neatly bunched together, side by side, like Sunday pews on Christmas day. There had to be 250 nymphs at the least. Maybe 10 to 12 of each pattern. He took a few out and shown me some with neatly woven bodies. I couldn’t imagine how long it took to tie just one let alone a whole bunch of them. I realized then that he was a dedicated nymph fisherman. I’m not sure how many nymphs one goes through in an outing but that sure is a lot of underwater bugs.
Nearer to Tyrone Mark took out another fly box of the same dimensions. Again nymph patterns were side by side. With these I seen a few rubber legged foam sandwich hoppers he said he used for indicators with a dropper. The nymphs were a little more colorful and plenty with beads. It reminded me of the ladies at Easter morning mass displaying their new spring collection. They looked so pretty I’d be worried about getting the darn things too dirty if they were mine!
We parked along route 453 and stood for a while, looking over the water, waiting for Dan to show up. I took out my only nymph box, a #66 Perrine, and opened it up to show Mark my nymph collection. I should have been embarrassed but I wasn’t. When I opened it, it looked like the guys were having a drunken party. They were in no such order and a few of them were just lying around unattached from the hidden springs. If they could talk I’m sure they would have been hollering, whooping it up not like Mark’s which would have been as solemn as an opening prayer. I told Mark this was the only nymph fly box I had. This is when he called me a purist!!!
After Dan showed up we followed him downstream a piece and parked along the river. While the others were assembling their rods Dan handed me the 9’ 4wt. ’Big Sky’ rod. It felt very light in my hand. I attached an LLBean #1 reel to the reel seat with 444DT line. I went upstream to test the rod while the others went downstream. From the rocky shore I roll cast the line, quite easily, out into the open water. I worked my drifts, high-sticking, and followed my indicator with the rod tip. I wasn’t paying as much attention of my nymph fishing as I was searching the water for risers. When I looked down for the indicator it was being pulled downstream below the surface. I hurriedly lifted the rod to set the hook and only felt a slight resistance before the line went slack. I got a glimpse of the shiny side of a rainbow as it rolled and disappeared. This got me to pay more attention to my nymph fishing the rest of the day.
I glanced downstream and Jim was nymphing in a run of water just below where we parked while Dan and Mark were down further fishing a riffled run. It didn’t take very long before I connected with a brown trout so I pretty much stayed put trying to coax another. After a bit I looked downstream again and noticed Dan pulling trout out where Jim had just vacated. When Dan came up to where I was, Mark started to fish in the area Dan vacated and he too connected with a couple of trout. I eventually ventured downstream for some new scenery and hopefully to find some risers. Around a bend I caught sight of two subtle rises. One was in the shallows near the shore line in gin clear water just below me while the other was beneath a tall overhanging branched tree in a tricky current flow. I tried for both but they failed to be tricked by my dry midge. I ended up catching one more brown trout on a nymph before heading back up stream for lunch.
We ate a sandwich while passing on some stream info and giving micro beer reviews. I had a few cans of beer I’ve wanted to get rid of and passed them out to the guys. Dan passed around a bottle of Basil Hayden’s and I shared my flask of Goldschlager. Needless to say it was the best lunch I’ve had in a long time.
Our next stop the guys headed downstream to fish more flowing water where as I went upstream to the slower water. I had my G2 Scott rod in my hands now in hopes of finding some risers beneath the afternoon sun. I wasn’t seeing any so I continued to nymph my way upstream. The other fellows soon joined me but the fish just weren’t cooperating so we got into the vehicles and drove to another section of water that I just so happen to be more familiar with.
This put us in a section that gets a lot of fishing pressure but the section is wide and deep so I was sure we’d find some takers. I crossed the river while the other three worked from the near side. It wasn’t long before Dan started hooking up with those bubble lipped scaly browns. He’d bounce his secret fly along the bottom; the rod would bend downward as he would set the hook. The tip didn’t dance about like a hooked trout. It was just a tug and a pull thing that eventually got a bubble lip landed with few escapes. Mark even joined in a few times and netted the scaly things trying to make the whole ordeal look more prestigious.
After some time Mark eventually ventured downstream for faster water. I hooked into a nice female rainbow, with a nymph, but because of the cold conditions it wasn’t much of a fight. Meantime Dan was still hooking into those bubble lips. After he cleared some of them out of the way he started to hook into some real brown trout now and then. When Mark came back upstream to join us is when I noticed a couple of bats darting about above the flat section down from where we were standing. This was my cue and besides that it seemed like the right time to enjoy a cigar. I slipped the Helix Maduro from the tube and, cupping my hand to avoid the breeze, lit the end. The tightly wrapped cigar tasted a little stale at first but I got used to it quickly and it wasn’t so bad after all.
I crossed the creek and slowly waded my way down towards the flat water while nymph fishing. The two bats were diving sharply towards the water, gliding just above the surface and than tap the water before rising up into the air again. They’d leave an expanding swirl upon the water that was hard to tell if a fish rose if I weren’t looking. I was continuing my nymph fishing half-hazardly while searching the water for any surface rise. The setting sun’s rays glazed off the smooth water surface and a gentle riffle ¾ the way across the river. Snow covered the streamside banks while tree shadows lay upon the water surface. At one point I seen a swirl and didn’t notice the bats presence near by. I got a chill down my spine as I nipped off the nymph and knotted on a piece of 7x tippet to the 6x tippet and about 8 feet of tapered leader. I took out one of my bead boxes and tied on one of my #22 Para-black midge patterns. The Scott G2 easily and gracefully looped the 5WF line and leader forward. It laid the line upon the water with smoothness. I continued to softly lay a slack line down letting the midge drift, drag free, downstream. It was hard to see my fly because of the glare but I kept my vision within the vicinity where I figured my fly to be.
Than it happened!
I saw a trout nose break the glass surface of water. I wasn’t sure how much slack was in my leader, and with the #22 midge, I didn’t want to force the hook set back too harshly. I lifted the rod quickly and, as the fly line lifted off the water, I wristed back on the cork grip. I felt the resistance and felt the soft rod tip flex towards the diving fish.
“Oh ya, got one” I hollered out to the others.
“Got’m on a dry” I added cheerfully
With the rod held high I brought in the tight line with my left hand until the 10” brown trout shook near my waders. I lifted him and detached the hook from the tip of his mouth and than released him back into the cold water.
After that, for the next 5 minutes or so, I cast aimlessly hoping for another rise. Surprisingly another trout sprung out of the water attacking my midge as if it was going to emerge from the surface. I wrist back but failed to hook up with the air born fish. I wasn’t too upset because I knew it was harder to hook an active, aggressive trout on a #22 midge pattern. I find it a lot easier to hook ones that are sipping instead.
It’s been a long day and I could see Jim and Mark were ready to head back. Mark was standing just behind Dan who was continuing to bottom feed the bottom feeders. Jim was drifting nymphs upstream without success. There wasn’t anymore risers I could find and besides that my cigar was smoked out.
Back at the vehicles Dan got out a few other sample rods and Mark and I cast a couple with a new Cortland series of line. Dan demonstrated how well the line shoots out of the guides by casting the full length out of the rod tip. I got a look at the new Diamondglass 6’6” glass rod and when I seen the new, precious looking, Flawless rod I knew I better turn and walk away before I started to pull out bills.
It was a great break to trout fish with a few friends. Nice fish, nice water and nice sampling a few new series of rods. Not without mentioning, this purist, catching a trout on the dry in February!
_____________________Make‘m rise ~doubletaper