Friday, October 16, 2015

Seldom Seen

Seldom Seen

 It’s very seldom I can go to the project area on Oil Creek and be the only one there. Not sure why but when I arrived in the parking area, about 9:00am, the only other vehicle in the lot was a state maintenance truck and he was working on the kids playground area.
 The sky was bright but cloudy and there was a gust of wind now and then. Because of the wind I decided to use my 9’ 4 weight fast action fly rod with weight forward line. While I was putting my waders on the sun was peering out and it looked like it was going to be a fairly nice day so I didn’t wear anything too warm.
 When I got down to the creek I found the water level was lower than I ever seen it. I like fishing the faster riffles but the conditions looked so rocky and shallow I figured I’d be snagging bottom more than fishing.
 I walked the path to where the riffles emptied into the deeper stretch and strung up my rod before entering the water. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and fished my way as I waded out further in the shin deep to knee deep water. I was about one third across the wide section of the stream when I felt comfortable that the last two thirds looked deep enough to hold a lot of fish. I also felt that, if need be, I could single haul the weight forward line pretty close to the far bank.
 I received a tip a couple of days before that there was a small hatch of Blue Wing Olives and some caddis in the early morning that fish were rising to. I didn’t see any BWO’s anywhere but I did notice a few, very few, caddis about. The current flow was slow and the water was clear enough that a trout wanting a top water meal shouldn’t have any problem seeing it if it could distinguish it from the drifting leaves and such.
 It wasn’t long before I noticed a rise across creek and then another. I didn’t waste any time or have any second thoughts about tying on a dry. The sun was shining at the time so I figured a dark body Elk Hair Caddis would be good to start out with. Though the few caddis I did see were small and a shade darker in the wings I decided to go with a size #14 instead mostly because it would be easier for me to see and I already was fishing with 5x tippet. Also without anyone else being around I figured the trout would be pretty calm and not wary of any fishermen.
 I missed my first trout while I was rolling up my sleeves. I had cast out a short distance and felt warm so I decided to roll up my sleeves. I left the caddis out there drifting and sure enough a trout rose for it. I missed my second trout also. It was my 4th cast near a previous riser. I looked away when I heard another splashing rise down creek a short ways. When I turned back to my dry there was an opening spiral where my fly should have been. I pulled back the line but I knew there was little chance of hooking him. My third miss I had him dead to rights but ended up empty handed. I began to think I would be counting missed trout instead of estimating the caught ones.
 For the first hour the wind was tolerable with only a few gusts. The surface current I was fishing was slow going and further towards the far bank it was slower yet but there appeared to be more risers over there. The sun was out briefly until the gray clouds moved in and the air began to turn colder. I dropped my sleeves and wished I would have put more layers on but I stuck it out. With the breeze and the sun gone I didn’t see any caddis about but a few trout would rise sporadically here and there. With the wind came more leaves on the water. With the clarity of the water and leaves my strategy was to drop my dry within seeing distance, maybe a foot or so, of any risers I spotted. I figured trout should be able to see it fall and be better able to distinguish it from the floating leaves and small debris. Long leader/tippet is a must in low and clear conditions to feeding trout. The trout will look at the first thing that hit’s the water within sight. A fly line smacking the water too close is more apt to scare the fish or distract it from seeing the small offering.
 Taking the wind in consideration I got a good straight line cast out and my caddis fell within a trout’s feeding zone. He took no time at all to swim right up to it and suck it in. I wrist back the rod and the trout jarred on the surface before scurrying about below. There wasn’t any current to speak of for him to take advantage of so I brought him in pretty easily without much of a risky skirmish. My first trout was netted at 9:45am. I lit up a cigar as a just reward.

That’s the way it went for a couple of hours. If I seen a rise I was on it. More than not I got him to rise to my dry and more than not he was fighting a tight line.

 If I did miss him I’d cast elsewhere and return to pick him off later.

The fights were pretty much the same. They would scurry about for a good running battle. Some more energetic trout would break the water surface in an acrobatic twit and tumble back down with an audible splash.
 Throughout the rest of the day other fishermen would come and go. They left me alone with plenty of room to cast without interfering. I only seen a couple trout the other fishermen caught but even with that no one stuck around long and most of the time I was by myself.

 Nearing noon the sky actually lightened up but brought with it a fine mist of rain. Any splashing rises ceased but I noticed a few trout sipping in the softer water just out from the far bank.
 I had switched to smaller darker winged caddis and was using 6x tippet when the trout were refusing my bigger caddis on 5x. It was a bit harder to see but I was getting less refusals.
 I was keying on the sippers in the slow pool across creek. I figured, by the different spots they were sipping, that there was maybe three different trout.
 I single hauled a long line out towards the sippers. The caddis fell to the water and dimpled the surface. It took patients watching the dry moving slowly atop the water; it was if it wasn’t moving at all. It was in a very visible spot without a leaf around it that a trout surely could see it. My fly line, out in front of me, was beginning to arc with the slightly quicker current. I held onto the cork grip with anticipation and watched the dry intensely not wanting to miss a take. The subtle swirl came without any notice and I pulled back the length of line and felt the line tighten and a wild tug on the other end. The calmer water beyond was now an agitated pool as the trout struggled with the line. With the rod tip flexed outward I brought him towards me alternating the line through my fingers. Nearer to me I took out my net and raised it beneath the struggling trout

 My cast was across and down creek a little further but still within the same area as the last. The Caddis fell with a little stronger landing as I had to use a little more force behind my cast to have my line cut through the cross wind. It fell near some fallen leaves but away far enough to be noticed. This time the swirl was unmistakable with a center slurp that I’m sure if I was close enough I would have heard it. I yanked back on this one and the long length of fly line rose out of the water, tightened and I felt a strong tug on the other end. This trout took no time in driving down creek in a hurry. He leaped out of the water in acrobatic fashion and returned with a hearty splash. From there he somehow turned quickly upstream and bolted through the water with the line cutting the surface just behind him. I took in line quickly keeping tension. We battled back and forth and when I had him near he would turn away with enough energy I had to let out some line. He was stubborn and determined to get loose but I wasn’t doing anything forceful that I felt was going to pull the hook from his grip. I finally got him turned towards me and he reluctantly came close enough to the net.

After that fight I didn’t notice any more risers for some time. I tried to nymph fish but the wind played havoc on trying to cast tandem nymphs and I kept getting snagged up in the shallow slow current. I decided to try streamer fishing for the time being.

 With a long cast towards the opposite bank the Woolly Bugger plopped through the surface. I was bringing in the slack in the arced line, caused by the wind, when I felt the line tighten after I got the line straightened. I jerked back the rod slightly hoping to dislodge the bugger. When the bugger jerked back it surprised me, for it wasn’t a snag after all. The weighty fish pulled line down creek with force but not with as much speed as the other trout I had caught. It never rose up to the surface but continued to battle beneath. I thought maybe it was a brown trout but I’d been catching enough trout that I felt this wasn’t one. With his strength it was becoming a contest as who was going to win out. I couldn’t remember if I still had 6x for a tippet or 5x at the time so I didn’t force him to me too strenuously. Within eyesight I seen his girthy body and knew I was fighting with a smallmouth. He finally got close enough after a couple of small back and forth skirmishes and I was able to net him.

 I stripped buggers and streamers for a while until I seen some risers down creek. I slowly moved from my spot and now I started to chase rising trout as there was no one around to get in my way.

 The wind had died down and the water surface got calm. The trout weren’t coming to the surface as often and when they did they didn’t appear to be interested in my caddis offering any more. I switched to a King River Caddis. It was harder to see with its down wing so I had to play vicinity if I didn’t actually see it touch down. I missed a couple of takes but did manage one before I gave up not being able to see it clearly all the time.

 The air began to chill a little more as the brightness of the sun, behind the gray clouds, was moving closer towards the hillside. There were still some risers but they wanted nothing to do with my surface caddis any more. The way they were rising was if they were taking emergers but I didn’t see anything coming up out of the water.
 I had a dark bodied elk hair caddis on when I figured I’d try to fish it like a wet fly. I added a small piece of lead strip up from the caddis and went back to fishing.
 I shot the line out across creek and found the caddis still wanted to float. I tip jerked the line towards me and the caddis went under. As the fly line started to arc I took in line trying not to let it get too much slack, the whole time I watched my fly line for any pulls. On the first drift through I thought I had a strike but it could have been the bottom. My next cast was more down and across so there wasn’t as much free line out. This time I felt a hard take and set the hook. The trout aggressively fought trying to free itself. I always felt a trout that took a streamer fought harder than those that took a nymph or dry fly, well this fish was carrying on like that. He came out of the water twice before I got him to the net. The caddis was entirely in its mouth so I took my time and surgically removed it without harming the fish. It swam off in pain I imagine but it did swim off in a hurry.
 I caught one more using the caddis as a wet fly before I decided to call it quits, almost.

 I hadn’t caught a trout all day on a bugger. Now, I consider myself a pretty good streamer fisherman as well as good nymph fishermen feel about themselves. So before I actually called it quits I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and gave it a shot.
 Last trout caught a 4:24pm
 When I got to the van a truck had just pulled up and a guy was getting ready to go fishing. I changed clothes while the van warmed up. I was pretty chilled by now and couldn’t wait to get in a warm vehicle. I took a big gulp of water and lit a stogie for the way home before I left the parking lot.
 It was quite an experience having the creek to myself most of the time and catching trout on dry flies on an overcast chilly day in October. I have to say that’s pretty seldom seen around these parts!


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