Friday, April 5, 2013

A Beaded Zebra Saved the Day
  I woke up to daylight as I peeked out from under my sleeping bag. Normally I might have felt I was burning daylight but from the chill in the van I was quite sure it wasn’t above freezing yet outside. There’s been too many chilling mornings I felt I was better off sleeping in than trying to pursue inactive trout. Over the years I’ve found once the air temperature warms from sunshine the trout get a bit more active as do the bugs about the water.
As the van warmed up I lit the one burner Coleman stove, resting on an ammo crate I converted into a camping storage bin, and placed the tea kettle over the flame. Peering outside the sky was layered in grays and blues with a little brightness that filtered between. The weatherman predicted morning showers tapering off by noon with a possible high of 47 degrees. By the looks of the weather outside I believed him as I did that groundhog. I contemplated what to tie as I waited for the morning to warm. I had enough BWO’s and bi-color worms that seemed to be my fish catchers thus far. There always seems to be fish rising somewhere on spring and a lot of times they are rising to some tiny midge. I get frustrated when I can’t see my dry fly on the water so I don’t tie down below a #22. Even those and #20’s are hard to see on a cloudy day. I ended up tying a few Adams Para-duns in size #20 and #18’s as I drank a cup of hot tea and ate some instant oatmeal.
  It was slow going as I concentrated on my nymph fishing and not wanting to get too far from the van in case it started to rain. Saturday evening, under the sunshine, as I walked the road I noticed trout hugging the stony sloped bank below the guard rail, some in the 18” range. There was a good stonefly hatch during the day and maybe they were feasting on the stones making their way towards dry land. This morning I wasn’t about to fish from the guard rail. Besides looking silly I didn’t want to catch a jogger on a back-cast or a car antennae passing by. I made long casts, whenever possible, towards the roadside bank hoping a trout would take my San Juan or stonefly pattern before the crosscurrent swept it away. Letting my stonefly drift downstream, to my side of the bank, for my next cast a trout grabbed for the stonefly as it lifted towards the surface but I missed the hook set. I glanced down along the bank now and then and noticed there were a few trout mixed in with the suckers. I started to let the stonefly and worm pattern drift along the bank and low and behold I got a hard strike. The trout took me midstream into deeper water and faster undercurrent. The 4wt 9’ rod bent well and I let him take line as he headed towards the opposite bank. After a few jerks and underwater antics I got him coming my way. The colorful wild fighting brown was near my knees when the hook let loose and the surface flopping brown, once free, turned deep and scampered away like it seen a cigar smoke’n ghost!
  Within the next hour it started to sprinkle and I seen a few trout stirring the surface along the far bank. I knew it would be hard to see a #20 dry anything across creek on the wavy water. I tied on a #18 BWO Para-dun and started to cast up creek to the occasional risers. Even the BWO was hard to see at times with the dimpling raindrops on the surface but I kept at it. I’m sure I missed a couple of strikes from where I thought my fly was but I finally managed to time the hook set right and the #18 found a lip. He zigzagged in the crosscurrent like a wild bunny trying to avoid a clear shotgun shell pattern. The first trout came to hand and I felt triumphant like finding my Easter basket in a hard to find hidden location. After another hour of relentless casting and a little more nymph fishing the sprinkles turned to rain and the beads of raindrops on my Eddie Bauer fishing jacket started to penetrate.
  After a brief lunch it didn’t appear that the weatherman was going to be correct in his prediction. It didn’t appear that the drizzle was going to stop or the temperature was going to get any warmer. I had nothing better to do so I took the gadgets and fishing stuff out of my Eddie Bauer jacket and put them in my fishing rain coat and fanny pack. I put on a fleece pullover for warmth and donned my Gore-Tex thermal cap. I lit up a VS Double Maduro and went up creek to a section of water I don’t normally see anyone fishing. It could be because of the lack of back-casting room or the many tree branches that crossed the creek. I’ve had success there before and that’s where I was planning on fishing the rest of the afternoon.
  As I walked up the road, glancing over the guard rail, I saw a sipper, than another. From the road above I studied the water conditions, deepness and clarity. The middle section was quite clear and looked to be only a few feet deep. I couldn’t distinguish any trout lying on the bottom but I was sure they were there. Cross creek the water was calmer that widened and pooled under an overhanging tree in which a multi-limbed branch extended into the water beyond the clear section mid stream. The water up creek was channeled about 3 conversion van lengths which consisted of choppy water from flowing over and around rocks that created pockets and seams along its way. The faster choppy water entered the clear water section that calmly waved the mid section beyond and rippled the slower pool of water nearer the far creek bank.
  I went up the road a bit more and made my way down the bank to the creek. I carefully made my way along the bank before stepping into the creek trying not to disturb the water or kick up any stream bottom silt. There were sporadic sippers and a few quick risers about as if someone sprinkled chicken feed on the water from up creek. I couldn’t see any mayflies on or flying about the water in the drizzle. It was evident to me they were taking midges and since I can’t stand to dry fly fish without seeing my dry I decided to try to coax a few nymph fishing for a short time. Without any success beneath I looked on and studied the rises. The way some of the trout were coming to the surface I thought maybe they were taking emergers. Some of those swirls didn’t look like they were made by a mouth but maybe by a dorsal fin. Some of the trout rose above the surface quickly as if trying to grab an emerger before it lifted off the water.
Some of the guys I know that fish Spring Creek often fish with small #20’s and #24 nymphs and midges and I’ve seen their success. Without a lot of success beneath, the last couple of days, I decided to give it a try since I was by my self and no one was watching. I tied on a #18 Glass Bead Zebra Midge with a #20 down wing emerger as a dropper.
My first cast I rolled out a nice loop and mended up creek directing my ties towards the last riser. As my line swept downstream and straightened I felt a strike but wasn’t successful in the hook set. Continuing with the same technique I finally connected with a brown trout the grabbed one of my imitations hard and quick. The small brown trout fought erratically in the cold creek water like a chicken with its head cut off. I got it close enough to see it took the Zebra Midge just before it was able to spring free. It wasn’t but a few casts later that I connected with another brown on the midge pattern. It might not have been a good hook up but the small moving midge, in the wavy water, connected with the hungry misjudging trout.
With that strike I decided there was no need to have a dropper and clipped it off.

  As the drizzle of rain continued, fish kept swirling and slapping near the water surface revealing their whereabouts. I found that, as the midge drifted, if I twitched the rod tip I would entice more strikes and fish continued to come to hand. When fish quit rising midstream, a few fish were feeding in the slower pool down and across creek under the overhanging limbs.

 I reached my forearm forward at the end of my roll cast motion. A big looped formed and rolled out above the water. The line, leader and tippet fell gently on the water surface and the midge dimpled in the slow current across creek. The slate blue sky wasn’t letting up on the small drops of rain that fell upon my hat, rain coat and dimpled the water surface. Smoke formed and rose from the end of my half burning stogie and from my lips. I watched the fly line as it waved with the surface current. My wet hand gripped the wet cork grip on my 4wt custom rod. My left hand held the fly line, pinched, waiting for the slightest bump from the other end. I twitched the rod tip to draw attention to the #18 midge and than let it drift. A vicious strike resulted as I watched the water disturbance where this took place just under the surface. My left hand pulled back sharply as I raised the rod. The 9’ fly rod came to life as a trout darted and tugged on the other end. I stripped him in as he recklessly scurried about.
 The next hour or so was similar to this. As soon as I seen a rise I would drift the small midge in their direction. With a twitch or two brought a strike occasionally. Eventually I got too careless on a long roll cast and the Zebra Midge caught in a branch cross creek and while trying to get it loose we became detached from one another. Back in the slower section I used a #20 Zebra Midge. I only caught 1 more brown and missed 1 in a matter of about 15 minutes. I than switched to a #18 self designed BWO bead-head emerger that I felt might have been easier to see. I caught a couple more nice browns before all rises stopped for some time.
  I wasn’t sure what time it was by then but I was well satisfied and without the #18 Zebra Midge I wasn’t fishing with as much confidence. I climbed back up to the road and walked back to the van. It was about 5:30pm when I was dressed and ready for the long drive home.

When I got to Snow Shoe I reached into the traveling humidor and slipped out a Brick House Short Torp. The aroma of the outer leaf smelled sweet and well seasoned as I lip wet the outer wrap. I nipped off the torpedo capped head and charred the foot. The cigar aroma scented the confines of the van. The Havana Subido wrapper had a slight sweetness upon my lips. With each draw the Nicaragua filler tobacco was smooth with a delightful medium strength flavor.

  The windshield wipers swept the rain away as I headed west. Rock and roll played on the radio as my conversion van cruised down the interstate. Cigar smoke found its way towards the slightly opened window. After 3 days camping out of my van, a hot shower sounded good once I got home.