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.
slow flat off of main flow
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.
The featured trout were caught on the shallow flats of a local tailwater river.
Some early season simple dry flies, size 20. Can pass for little stone flies or midges. These have dun colored cdc wings but I also tie with black CDC wing or white for better visibility depending on light conditions.
Ants for summertime picky trout…some tied with fine deer hair “outrigger” like legs.
“It was so hot I saw a roasted turkey fly by”
Summer finally returned after a cool spell and it was nice to wade in shorts and river sandals after spending three weeks in waders. Local rivers are low and heating up (temperature).
I was able to take advantage of the blue sky and full sun to spot some great fish and fool a few. It is amazing how tight you can get to a feeding fish in shallow water if you have the sun at your back and wade carefully, even on down and across presentations where you are in front or above the fish, not behind.
I learned how the sun can “blind” fish on the Missouri river many years ago while casting to a roaming pod of sipping trout. By standing still with the sun over my shoulder I watched a dozen large fish feed just a rod length away. They were oblivious to my presence.
For me, so much about fly fishing has to do with light; they are intertwined.
My favorite sight fishing river had few PMD’s on it this weekend and no other hatch. In response I fished beetles and crickets… my favorite way to go. I had the place to myself in spite of it being peak holiday season; lots of people on the road; local fly shops busy. The river was mine for a day. Amazing!
Here are some landscape and trout photos while sight fishing the past week. All fish caught on dries.
Overheard at a Baja taco stand:
” You know why I love this place Frank? We’ve been here for a solid week and I haven’t seen one person wearing Lululemon! Absolutely nobody! And we’ve been here for a week”!
Some riverside photos from past two weekends in SW Alberta. The trout were caught sight casting, Pale Morning Duns, size 18 and 20…small stuff…and one fish on a beetle. The trick was landing them while an eight month old retriever new to the game was in hot pursuit.
riverside trout bum, trout chaser
drive back to mountains
Some simple, durable, quick ties (size 18 flies) that often get the attention of trout on rivers nearby and afar. Tied on a hook that dangles: trailing shuck; some weight (wire) on body to hopefully tug it below the surface (saliva on shuck and body helps); exaggerated thorax dubbed; wing of polypro or deer hair, sometimes hackle used to keep top half (head) floating and most importantly visible. A white or black wing allows you to see the small fly in most light conditions. If I can see a small fly then I feel I can get it on the nose of a feeding fish, and then I at least have a chance. If I can’t see and follow the drift then I might as well be blindfolded! Deer hair and hackle is often less visible but can be seen if you can get close to a trout. The pattern can be fished as a dry/ emerger (mayfly hatch). I simply change body and thorax color and size depending on the season/hatch. The wing can be tied or clipped real sparse (less wing) for flat water, or CDC used. No fly works in all situations but some flies work in a lot of them.
master fly tyer (abby) taking a break
“I’m gonna win. There’s no way I’m goin’ down. I don’t go down for nobody”.
-1940’s Boxer, Jake LaMotta
A local tailwater river that I frequently dry-fly on has a healthy population of sizeable rainbow trout. This is not surprising as they are the predominant trout species in my region. It also has a good population of brown trout. Also not surprising.
What is surprising is that in spite of this river section being a fair distance from the mountains and the water quality being far from pristine, it has some very healthy Cutthroat and the hybridized Cuttbow trout. These fish can be quite large but what is extraordinary is that they are especially robust. Hook into one on a broad section of the river and they race for the horizon, and can take you into your backing.
I go there when I expect a hatch and look for surface disturbances. It is “technical” water: whether it is rainbows, browns or cutthroat, or a hybridized version, you have to pay attention to what the fish are focused on (eating) and also their rise forms to figure out whether you fish on top, in the film, or have to go slightly subsurface. I sometimes get the subsurface feeders to tip up and take a dangling, klinkhammer style fly, or a helpless easy floating target such as a cripple pattern. Some people have success using soft hackles in this situation.
The river has very impressive rainbows and brown trout but I consider the cutthroat and their hybridized brethren to be the “Raging Bulls” of this neighbourhood. Think Jake LaMotta… they just don’t give up.
Here are some pictures of these fish caught (this and last summer) on small dries: size 16 and 18 pmd’s and one fish on a tiny beetle. All fish photographed on this blog have been released.
Overheard at a pumpkin bin:
“Look at all the pumpkins. You know they’re not just carving them anymore…they’re painting em too! They’re painting em! Isn’t that something?”
Here are some pictures taken while driving around and trout hunting the past couple of weekends. A tough Autumn for taking trout on dries. Few bugs. A real absence of BWO’s and a lot of wind. There has been a different hatch: jack o lanterns.
carving by r dewey
rainbow on dry fly