Winter is here. Time spent walking trails keeps me spry for the next fly fishing season. The other day I was on the Path to the Sun…walking towards a New Year… a brighter one…we’ve all had some good news lately, and a positive change…hopefully we can keep rolling along and build momentum on the Path to the Sun.
Beach fishing for Roosterfish. Sea of Cortez. Baitfish flies. Simple impressionistic patterns. Six inches or longer; a 4/0 hook. These are light grey over dirty white. I tie some tan over off-white and light olive over dirty white. Some with flash. Most dull/flat. Deer hair is tied inside the head to create a puff/bulk. The puff pushes/moves water. I tie more streamlined heads for high wind days. And in the Springtime along the Cortez many days are windy, especially in the afternoon. My first few Roosterfish trips I cursed the wind. Then I learned that the wind and waves push plankton and baitfish up against the beach and that’s helpful when you are on foot. Baitfish like Mullet eat plankton and big Roosters like concentrations of Mullet. A roiled surf also seems to make Roosters, a very challenging discerning gamefish, less wary of fly patterns.
It’s winding down. Most rivers close at the end of the month. A nice weekend. Sunny on Saturday. Warm. Fished in shorts. Minimal wind. No surface feeding. The water looked dead. Lifeless. Late afternoon, when shadows were lengthening, I decided to sit and watch a pool. Noticed the occasional bright green grasshopper drifting by. Waited. Waited. Then a sizeable surface disturbance. Casted a small greenish hopper pattern…the only good fish of the day.
SEPTEMBER. IT HAS BEEN CHALLENGING. FEW BUGS ON the tailwater rivers I frequent and therefore few rising trout. I’ve had some luck searching the shallows for moving shadows and prospecting the deeper water with terrestrial patterns. I recently had ten days off of work so I was able to spend some full days on the water. So far September has been beautiful. Smokey at times from the fires west of here, also a few brief cold snaps but generally warm mid-day into early evening. I was able to wet-wade the past several days. Rivers are low and most clear. Tourists are gone. Few anglers around. It’s silent out there. My favorite time of year to spend a day, or ten, on my favorite rivers. Some fine trout on dry flies…
I was able to locate a few nice surface feeding trout last weekend in spite of the full sun and few insects. Their rises were inconsistent and subtle. If I didn’t know the river section I was on real well, I would have never seen them or I should say “hear them”. On the broad shallow flats that I like to fish, below or to the side of a good run, it is often the sound of a rising fish that first catches my attention. When I hear something I focus on the water in the region where I think the sound emanated from. I often take several soft steps up or downstream to change my visual angle depending on the light and glare. Most importantly I try to be patient, refrain from casting and wading, and wait for another sound or even better a surface disruption. Sometimes I hear the fish multiple times before I can actually visually pinpoint its location especially when the lighting situation is challenging. Usually these trout are closer to shore than I originally thought. If I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to locate them, I probably would wade right through their feeding position, or cast over them and they would be off to the safety of deeper water.
Many drift boats/rafts beach on the flats that I frequent. Anglers generally get out of their boat, immediately wade through the shallow relatively calm flat to reach the main current flow or edge where they repeatedly work their nymph rigs. Usually they catch fish. However with this tactic they miss some of the best visual angling that the river has to offer. Some large trout like to feed lazily on the slow water flats. They slide in from deeper water and position themselves wherever there is some sort of gentle current channeling drifting food. If you can find (see or hear) one of these subtle feeders and make a connection, you are in for a real treat. A large trout hooked on a shallow flat heads for deeper water at breakneck speed. Often they take me into my backing.
When sight-fishing I always try to pick a shallow flat where the sun is going to be on my back. If it is cloudy it does not matter as trout rise more frequently and confidently when the light is low and a hatch, if there is going to be one, will be stronger.