Monday, August 1, 2011

A Hopper Kinda Day

A Hopper Kinda Day

 After parking in the small parking area the first thing I did was to walk down to the river and check the water temperature. On down the lane butterflies rose up and fluttered about from my presence. Down at the river the water was moving with good flow. They evidently were letting enough water out of the bottom release dam keeping the river at good height for the fish, fishermen and other water sports. The clear blue sky showed signs that the heat wave would continue today but for now the green forest trees were blocking the rising morning sunshine leaving a nice shadow over the clear water. The water felt cool to touch and after dipping the thermometer in a gradual flow, it read 59 degrees. It feels like good water temps to do some trout fishing.

 Since I came back from fishing the Shenandoah, and because of the heat wave, I’ve been concentrating on smallmouth fishing in these warmer conditions. During the week I was getting the itch to trout fish and needed some relief. With the hot weather and lack of rain fall I was looking for some cool water and enough water to trout fish in without causing them too much stress. I’m sure a trickle of a mountain creek might have served me well but I wasn’t in the mood for the tight quarters or frustrations that sometimes go with it. I had talked with Jim and we agreed to meet along the river up north. Saturday morning I ate a good breakfast and headed north east for a day of trout fishing.

 After seeing the water was a balmy 59 degrees I went back to the van to gear up. I decided my 3mm neoprene hip waders would ward off the cool water temps. I added a few items to my trout vest from the vest I had been using for smallmouth. I decided the SAS Scott rod would do well today. With its medium-fast action I should be able to cast streamers and dries with good distance as well as extending my arm over choppy water if I desire to nymph fish. I selected on a weight forward floating line figuring long easy casts would be made more often than roll casts. Being the first on the water I was hoping to get a few trout to rise but it all depends on their mood. I grabbed a couple of stogies and a lighter and was ready for the river.
 Once in the river I checked out the clarity of the water. Looking down in the foot or so of water, I was standing in, the fish no doubt would have the advantage of seeing me within short distance. Once the sun reaches over the trees I’m sure my tippet, leader and fly line will become a factor of my presence. The deeper water looked a bit cloudy beneath but I was sure the fish would be able to see any passing dry if they were in a feeding mood.
 I decided to add on a foot or so of 5x tippet and to this another foot or so of 6x. This gave me a total of around 9 ½ to 10 ½ feet of overall leader/tippet. This should give me enough distance from upstream looking trout not to notice me.
 I decided a buggy looking hopper pattern might attract some attention in the wavy to riffling current. I noticed lots of grasshoppers behind the shop recently, and though it’s still morning, a trout might decide on a big breakfast. I started with short casts upon the wavy shadowy water near the far bank. It wasn’t long before a trout slapped at the passing hopper and I was quick enough to get a hook hold on him. The brook trout scurried about as I brought him to hand. A nice way to start off the morning. As a reward I took out a long National Churchill and lit the smooth blend of tobacco. I figured it would make the morning a little more relaxing and keep me from moving too quickly downriver.
 After a few more casts I soon found out that the big hopper pattern was a bit too much for my 6X tippet. It spun the 6x into a long twisting knot. I clipped off the 6x and tied on a foot or so of 5x fluorocarbon. After a few casts I found this corrected the problem and I continued on my way.

It was slow going as I cast out under branches and against the far bank where I was able to reach without getting tree branch caught. Within a half hour I found myself a few feet out from the shoreline with a good deeper flow of water, in front of me, downriver from the thick overhanging pine boughs. With trees along the shoreline I had to side arm a cast to keep from hitting the branches directly behind me. With a smooth sweeping sidearm cast I let the rod tip move upstream as my fly line followed in a big arc. I dropped the rod tip and the line fell to the water with plenty of upstream arc. This gave a drag free drift to the hopper that plopped just this side of the overhanging pine boughs. I took in some line and lifted the rod enough so I didn’t have too much slack not to be able to get a good hook set. I watched the floating, buggy looking hopper roll with the small waves within the shadows of the trees. From beneath, a long glimmering fish rose and nonchalantly sucked it in. I was already waiting when I first seen him rise so I had no trouble timing his bite. He darted beneath on the hook set and put on a half decent fight in the semi-fast current. I got him around a subsurface big boulder and he twisted a bit, in resistance, before I got a handle on him.

 With watching the way the rainbow took the hopper, in his nonchalant way, I figured he knew it couldn’t just fly away like a mayfly. It looked clear enough to me these trout have seen hoppers and knew once the hopper was on the water they had all the time they needed to feast on one. After one more rainbow, under the limbs and a couple of misses, a couple of the top feeders, in the slower current, weren’t attracted to my big pattern. I noticed a few caddis appearing now and then and decided to give one a try. One of the risers wasn’t more than 20 feet from me upriver a bit. Because of the deep water I wasn’t able to see him but knew where he was. I tied on a caddis and cast upriver. Pulling in line, to keep slack from occurring, and holding the rod high I was able to present the top feeding trout with a drag free drift. He rose quickly but I was able to see him way before he took the caddis. A quick rod tip jerk and I had myself another trout on the other end.

 Jim was supposed to meet me around 11:30 so I didn’t want to go too far downriver. I knew it was getting around that time, with the sun now above me, so I figured I’d give him another half hour before moving out of sight. I was switching different patterns with the sun above now. I tried a bugger and even a couple of nymphs with no results. I seen a trout rising under the pines now and then so I tied on a beetle and got a good first cast towards his whereabouts. He came up after it sooner than what I expected and I missed out on the perfect, first time, presentation. Sticking with the beetle I managed hooking a big rainbow that got off as I tried to hand net him. A few casts after that I did manage a half decent ‘bow’ on the hopper pattern that I switched over to.

 By now I figured Jim wasn’t showing up. He must have had more honey-do chores than what he figured on. I slowly started wading and fishing my way downriver to the faster, narrower part of the river. I caught a glimpse of two big trout holding near a snag pile but they wanting nothing to do with my offerings. Near an overhanging leaning pine I cast deep towards the shoreline. It was a long, extra effort, cast getting the beetle into the shade provided by the tall pine tree. I was rewarded with a sipper that had no idea I was waiting!! After a scurry I brought him to hand.

Just after the catch there was a conglomerate of kayaks, canoes and float tubers that happen to appear. I let the string of floaters go by before starting fishing the narrower water.

 From here on it would be mostly wavy, rippled water for a while. Shade was had nearer the far bank just deep enough to hold a wild brookie or two. The nearer bank, which would be the most common entry and exit from the roadside, was deeper and channeled water beneath branchy brush now and than. The middle part of the river was deep but still able to be waded in most areas. It also was in full view of the hot sun so I decided to wade the center as much as possible while casting to each bank. I lit an Oba Robust Maduro and continued my fishing outing.
 Now and again I would cast downstream with a lot of slack letting my hopper drift drag free. I came across pools of deep water as well as nice water falls creating back eddies I could cast into from down stream. The going was slow paced and enjoyable. I covered the water around me practically foot by foot giving any fish around a good eyeful of my hopper pattern. In shallow riffles that most fishermen would skip over I caught wild brook trout that slapped at the faster moving hopper pattern. In the slower deeper sections or brief slow pools that appeared within the wavy current, rainbows would rise in an easier manner and take my offering. With the cigar between my lips, the sun was bearing down but the cool air rising from the 59 degrees water kept me content. It was peaceful, serene and picturesque. Like the cloud above me, I had not a care in the world. Besides that I was catching trout on a very visible hopper pattern!!

I was getting weary as the day wore on. The heat was bringing sweat to the brow and my casting arm needed a break. Every time I wanted to call it quits and returns to the van I would look downstream and see another bank-side or shady area looking fishy enough to hold trout. Continuing on I came to a full length falls.  I cast the hopper upstream upon the wavy water. The hopper floated upon the waves finally settling at the tail out. I watched as it continued to drift towards the falls when a I saw the glimmer of a fish turn and rise to the hopper. It took it with a splash making sure it didn't get away. I set the hook and was happy to see a nice brown trout which completed the trifecta.

 Down below the falls I cast upriver into the gradual flow, towards me, picking off one small rainbow. I was pretty hungry by now and out of cigars, it was time to walk back.
 I made my way to the dirt roadway and back to the van. Jim’s truck was parked right next to my van. I wasn’t sure what time he got here but I didn’t see him on the water. After a quick bite and beer I grabbed the rod and began at a quicker pace down the trail to look for him. When I got to where I came out earlier I never come across him. He evidently fished beyond this spot.

Back up river I stopped to get a drink before spending hour fishing upriver from where I started in the morn. I was able to hook up to two more brookies on the hopper before calling it quits for good.

 When I got to the bank-side trail leading up to the vehicles I heard splashing coming from downriver. I waited to see and there was Jim easing his way back. He told me he got there a little later than planned. He caught trout throughout the river also, on nymphs and on Triple threats. I told him about the trout I caught all on top with the hoppers, beetles and caddis. He was kinda surprised I caught trout on top being he said he only seen a couple of rises the whole day. (I say kinda surprised because he knows I try dry flies more often than most. He also knows that if I catch or even feel that I can make a trout rise, I’ll stick with the top water stuff than to keep switching to fish beneath)
 By then it was near 6:00pm. We quenched our thirst at the vehicles and decided to call it quits and head home. It turned out to be a more successful day, in the heat, than I ever expected. No doubt one of the best days on this section of river.

Somewhere, outside of Brockway, I saved one more cigar to take me the way home. I charred the outside rim of the Punch Rothchild for a more even burn. I lit the rare Corojo tobacco and smoke engulfed the front windshield. I hurriedly cracked opened the window to clear the smoke for better visibility. The dark oily tobacco was a robust flavor but smooth drawing cigar.



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