A Beaded Zebra Saved the Day
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.