Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Evening Hoppers

Evening Hoppers
 The river flowed true, now abandoned by boaters and swimmers. There was a chill in the air as the dark gray clouds blanketed any brighter clouds above. The clouds moved in bundles intertwining with each other as they appeared to wonder about. Occasionally a sun beam would lighten the river momentarily until the next bundle moved within its path. Water waved more erratic over the shallower section before calming some in the deeper water down stream. Aside from a few chirping birds and gurgles of conversion currents the river was quiet and looked peaceful. Mist still lingered down the river valley from the recent stray down pour.

 From under my raincoat I take out a Cuban Counterfeit from my shirt pocket. The 1958 figurado is firm to hold and as I take a long whiff of the outer Ecuador wrapper it has a woodsy aroma with a touch of sweetness. I cup my hand and light the end of the short stogie. A cloud of smoke appears at the end of the barrel much lighter than the gray clouds above. One puff told me this was going to be a good medium full smoke to enjoy the outing.
  I look down the bank-side and ponder how to approach the shallow water where the trout lay. The mountain creek water that empties into the warm river is much colder. As it flows along the banks, trout will inhabit this cooler water away from the warmer river temperature. These trout are wary and with the water being clear are suspicious of any uncommon water wave or shadow that is cast their way.
  I step into the water and immediately feel the cooler creek water absorb into my socks through my wading boots. My ankles and than calves feel the flow as I wet wade, keeping my distance from the bank-side flow. I stop and I move with caution as to not attract attention to my presence. I already have a length of 4x tippet knotted to my 9’ 4x tapered leader I was using for casting streamers the other day. Knowing I will be using big grass hopper patterns later on I take the chance and knot on a foam beetle, hoping that the trout are not line shy. With the darkened sky it may not be as noticeable upon the surface.
  With ease I take my first cast and the beetle drops short of a bank-side boulder that lay against the shoreline. The beetle slowly flows near an overhanging leafy bush. I watch as it drifts aimlessly beyond the bush without a taker. My next cast is just this side of the same leafy bush. It plops for recognition. There are bubbles and small debris that is also flowing with the current so I hope that the audible plop will attract some attention. Within seconds a rising swirl appears to my beetle. With a quick yank I miss the take. Three more casts, in the same area, produces another take and I feel the resistance. The water stirs with activity but within seconds the hook frees and another trout finds freedom. I tie on a small caddis pattern after a few more casts. Drifting the caddis produces a swirl but the fish doesn’t take the imitation. I leave this small area after a few more casts and wade down river to a deeper looking pool. I tie on hefty hopper pattern and proceed.
  The hopper drops onto a flowing seam, bobs with the subtle waves and slows upon the deeper pool. I see the flash just before the take and yank the rod upward. The surface water erupts with the hook set and the trout takes deep with my tight line. He pulls line as he heads for the far bank. Not worrying about my 4x snapping I keep a good grip on the cork handle and let the trout bend the top section of the rod. He turns down river and scurries with sharp tugs. He makes an arc down stream and than angles to the wavier water behind me. I take in line and soon he is within 16 feet or so from me. I coax him back into the slack water and bring in more line until my fly line reaches the tip top. I pull my net out, from under my belt, and get ready to net the trout. Raising the rod he draws nearer, pushes outward and than comes closer to my leg. I scoop him up and my first brown trout is captured in my ghost net.

I release the hopper attached to the side of its mouth and the trout hastily escapes from
my net.

  This first take gives me a good feeling that the hopper is a good imitation and being easy for me to see I continue with confidence.
  I catch another closer to the bank. The swirl was obvious as the hopper disappeared. It is as if the trout knows, once a grass hopper falls into the water, it has no way of escaping. They rise and take the hopper like a helpless insect on the water surface.

 My cast drops the hopper directly, forward, of the deep pool down stream. With a twitch backward, of my rod, puts slack in my fly line before my hopper touches water. I watch as the hopper slowly drifts upon the surface. A trout rises to take a closer look but disappears beneath. Within seconds he rises again and slurps the hopper. With the hook set he too angles towards the far bank, turns down creek when he cannot pull any further, and arcs below. He swims towards the open water. I turn and angle the rod up river. He swims within the current as my tight line follows his movement. I take in line, swing my rod towards the slower current and bring him to the net.

 Time passes and fish take my hopper at any given moment. I enjoy the smooth medium bodied cigar as I fight fish on the Winston 6 weight.

  With a tight loop cast out and across from me I watch the hopper flow slowly with the current. The fly line begins to pull the hopper down creek and I watch as a trout rises and follows the hopper. The waves he creates, as he draws near just subsurface, pushes my hopper down and away. He swats his tale and lunges for the hopper before it gets any further down stream. With the rod already angled down stream I yank downstream as the trout grabs the hopper. The hook sets into its jaw and another battle begins. He splashes subsurface trying to release the hook before diving deep. I can feel he is a weighty fish and I let him take line as he aims for the far bank. He tugs line with head shakes just before darting down river. I give him more line as I swing my rod down and behind me. He rises down river and dives deep again. I cautiously bring in line as he fights for freedom. Closer I can see I hooked him by the beak. He shakes his head to free himself to no avail. The beautiful brown comes to net.

 The hopper over wing gets torn so I decide to snip it off. I also nip off the short piece of 4x tippet and knot on another longer piece. To this I pick out another hopper and knot it on. I cast about but without another take in the deeper pool I wade down river further.

  There are two boulders that sit up against the far bank. Water flows against it and wavy current appears as the water continues to flow at a faster pace. I lay the hopper just short of the boulders and watch as it enters the stream and drifts up against the boulders. The hopper drifts out from the seam and a trout swoops on it for an easy meal. I pull back the long length of line and feel the resistance. Another good battle ensues. It’s a battle of wits as he fights in the faster current. His energy weakens and I get him closer. Another fine brown trout comes to the net.

 As darkness hovers above me rain drops start to fall upon the water. I close my raincoat and cover my hat with the hood. I take out another stogie and light it. The stogie is much lighter than the last. I cast a few more times and wade back up river hoping to fool a few more trout before a big rainfall.

  I catch a couple smaller trout and decide to call it an evening. Once I get to the gravel bank I notice risers up river in the more open water out from the creek water that enters. I decide to give it a try. The rain stops and the evening brightens. I nip off the 4x and tie on a section of 5x. I knot on a caddis and cast it towards the latest rise. Without a take I short cast into the stream of water entering the river. A big swirl appears as soon as the caddis hit’s the water but I’m surprised and late on the hook set. I give the caddis a few more minutes and without a take I knot on a small parachute Adams. I cast this about and a trout takes notice. A quick rise and this time I’m ready. The frisky trout darts about causing swirls in the shallow water. I net the frisky brook trout.

 A few more casts and I hook another brook trout. One more brown takes my Adams imitation before I decide to call it a night.

 At the van I dry off and change into street clothes. Darkness closes in as I head for home. My 4 day vacation comes to a close with a big smile on my face and a smooth cigar between my lips.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Unprepared on the Clarion River

Unprepared on the Clarion River

  I hadn’t been out fishing for awhile being I had a couple of Cycle rides planned for overnight stays. The dry fly trout fishing hasn’t been the best this year being the heavy rain during the weeks made for high water and unfavorable conditions. I’ve had been tying smallmouth patterns for a friend the past couple of weeks after work and this has been getting me anxious to fish the river for smallmouth. For myself I tied up some popular poppers and sliders I’ve used with great success in the past. The green frog poppers are a killer.
Along with these I tied up some Clouser patterns also. I don’t use Clousers as often than I probably should in the river but I splurged for some painted barbell eyes and decided to give the tying a try on my own. I didn’t think they came out too bad. With a few crawfish patterns and Hellgrammite pattern I was ready for some smallies.

With that I was anxious to get out on the river over the 4th of July.

Friday morning I got my smallmouth patterns together with my last year stuff and combined them in a few fly boxes. I put some extra dry clothes in the sack and threw them in the van. I was planning on wet wading so I didn’t need any waders and left them at home. Usually the river is wadable for the most part and where it is not a weight forward line on a fast action fly rod will get to 98% of the river. I packed a cooler for the day and just in case the river would be higher than expected I threw in my float tube.
  Well, when I got down to the river it was high and brown stained. The further I drove upriver the cloudy it appeared to be. My first thought was to keep on driving and spend the next 45 minutes or so driving due north and trout fish the tail water of a dam. The problem was I didn’t bring any waders and I knew the tail water was going to be quite cold. At least I brought my float tube and not wanting to give up decided to give it a go anyway.
  I stopped at my favorite smallmouth fishing section and pumped up my float tube. I had discovered that I forgot my short flippers that help in the deeper sections. Not only that, with the stronger current it’s going to be difficult to ’steer’ the tube in the direction I may want to go! I loaded up the tube, put a fresh 3X tapered leader on my 6 weight Winston and headed down the bank.
  The water was colder than I expected as I stepped into the knee deep water. The late morning was overcast and the cool breeze didn’t help warm my upper body very much. I didn’t bring a warm long sleeve shirt so I was hoping the sun would stay out and keep me a little warmer than without it.
I started fish before the first set of fast riffles that was usually calm rolling waves. After that I sat in the float tube and away I went. I constantly searched to the river bed with an extended foot so I could stop and fish now and then. Occasionally this happened but I was never able to get to fish the opposite rocky slope. The cross wind didn’t help any when I cast across creek either. The only thing that was pleasant so far about the day was the stogie I was puffing on the whole time and even that was burning quickly in the windy conditions. It got to the point, even though my lower half got used to the water temperature, I was actually shivering at times.
  I got stopped, mid-river, just to the side of tumbling water over an uprising boulder. I planted my feet firmly on the river bed and let the float tube, roped and clasped to my belt, float down a few feet from where I stood. I attached a Clouser to my fast-snap and started to cast into the pocket water behind the boulder and slower current that followed. This looked like a nice spot to fish a weighted Hellgrammite pattern so I attached the heaviest barbell eye pattern I had. The second cast, upriver, behind the boulder the pattern didn’t tumble very far before I got a hard bump. I though maybe I had a snag but to my surprise I felt a fish fighting the line in the heavy tumbling brown stained water. I got it circled around and was surprised of the brown trout I had hooked.
This got my confidence up for sure. I continued fishing this section for some time with the current beating against my thighs and shivering half the time before I decided to continue down river. I did manage one more brown trout before I vacated the area.

 Later in the afternoon I drove down river for a place I could actually wade and fish without the float tube. Being the forth of July there were many fishermen out so the pickings were slim for a fly guy that wanted some room to cast. I came upon a milder section and parked before someone else showed up to swim or fish.
 Down in the river I started fishing Clousers, bugger and the Hellgrammite patterns. There were occasional canoes and kayaks that passed by but they kept their distance in the wide area so they weren’t a problem or a hazard. I spent a couple of hours and only caught 1 small smallmouth for my time spent with one of my Clouser patterns.
The day wasn’t the most pleasurable adventure but I did manage a few fish. Next time I’m sure I’ll be prepared for conditions or at least bring extra fishing gear for a plan C!