Late October. Most rivers are closing down. The Brown trout are on Redds. So are the Bull trout. We had our first significant snowfall the other day.
Recently I fished a Cutthroat stream several times with a friend, Bruce. Below are some photos from this season and also last Fall when we visited some of the same rivers. When fishing with Bruce I cover several pools to get a few good trout. Bruce generally stays on one pool and catches many. An outstanding, versatile angler. My dog Abby also enjoys his company as he always brings her a bag of treats.
The photos below are of another outing this Fall where I was privileged to be guided by Vic Bergman owner of the famous Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop: (https://www.crowsnestangler.com/). I worked part-time at his iconic Fly Shop this season and last, and he generously treated me to a day on a British Columbia Cutthroat stream. He stayed in the background and took some action shots and a few fish photos which I fully appreciated as I generally fish alone, and therefore don’t get that type of photo perspective on my blog. Many thanks to him for the day and memorable shots.
Dark in the morning. Dark earlier in the evening. Days are shortening. Fading light…
The brief afternoon light provides opportunity to locate a good trout. It’s your chance to sight-fish; your chance for one on a dry fly.
I have been hiking a few very low, clear Cutthroat rivers the past couple of weeks; walking the long distances between pools where there is very little holding water and therefore trout. I always pause in these sections when I see see a small area of slightly darker water, or what seems to be a slight depression in the river bed. A spot that is just a little deeper than the rest. Often it’s just two or three feet of slow moving water. Sometimes less.
Recently I paused and watched one of these spots after noticing a slight surface disturbance. The afternoon sun felt good and I knelt down on the sand and pebble rock and took a moment to absorb the heat, as I had been wet wading the ice-cold river for awhile. As I watched and warmed-up, a rise occurred. The fish displaced very little water. A small one. It was eating the few afternoon Blue Winged Olives that were riding the slow, shallow flow. I watched for awhile then noticed, just slightly beyond, another fish rise. It displaced more water. A better fish.
I side-arm cast to it down and across from my kneeling position and the trout slowly surfaced in full light and ate my small Olive impression.
It is a given that in low water conditions that Cutthroat trout, and trout in general, are going to be in the deep pools on a river. Catching them there is always an achievement especially late in the season after they have been fished-over for three plus months. However, finding a good one in between pools in the shallowest of water is for me much more special. It’s the location. A few trout found in the scarcest of water the past few weeks…
Long leaders, fine tippet and relatively small flies.
“WELL THAT FLY DIDN’T WORK and he’s still rising. Change fly! Let’s go smaller. Nope, no response. Try again. Wow, same response. Change fly! Let’s try an ant. Nice cast. He’s looking. Closing in. Nope. He rejected it the last second. Wow, tough fish. Throw the ant again. Hmm. No go. Change fly! Let’s tie on a Klink/Emerger. No response to that. Change fly! I see some Drakes in the flow but the fish is ignoring most of them… but not all. Try this CDC version. Nope, he didn’t even move over to take a look. Toss it again. Change fly! I have a Drake Emerger pattern. Let’s try that. No luck. Maybe we need to rest the fish. Let’s go upstream. We’ll come back later. Hopefully he’ll still be rising then…wow, picky Cutthroat. Hard to walk away. Look at him still feeding. Some naturals passing overhead. He only rises to some; not others. Passing on the Duns, sometimes…maybe he’s mainly cueing in on Emergers. Well he just took a Dun but then let several others drift overhead. He ignores some, then eats the odd one. Yikes, challenging trout…we will come back.”
Cutthroats. Simply beautiful. Some say they are easy to catch. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as challenging as any other trout. It depends on the river. It depends on how much food is in the flow. It depends on angling pressure. It depends on water clarity. It depends…
Late season low water can make things extra challenging. You have to try and stay out of sight; and don’t move too fast; and don’t drag that dry fly; and don’t do this, or that, or they’ll disappear. They’ll go hide in a log-jam. Remember, Cutthroats have been around for several million years. They’ve survived. They’re always on alert…
I recently spent four days fishing with a good friend, Roman, on different sections of one stream. A clear, pristine cutthroat stream. We pulled-up fish in the faster water on dry flies and came across several fish rising occasionally in slow water. The slow, flat water fish often required multiple fly changes in order to be fooled and a few tough customers couldn’t be enticed. With our fly selection we went big, we went small, we went slim, we went chubby, we tried low-riding patterns, emergers, terrestrials of varying sizes, a nymph dropper, lighter tippet…We caught many but a few couldn’t be fooled.
Some say Cutthroats are easy. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as hard and challenging as any other trout. Here are some photos from our four days of walking clear water in pursuit of this beautiful trout. All Cutthroats were taken on dries. All released…
Early August. There is smoke in the air some days. Fires are burning west and southwest of us. Seems that’s a given every Summer. The ground is dry. Rivers are low. The wind is warm. Cloths dry quickly outdoors on the line. My dog is panting a lot. I add a bit of powdered Gatorade to my water bottles when I head out for a day of angling due to the heat.
The Cutthroat streams are fishing well. I need to visit them more often. They are cool and clear, and the trout willing. The tailwater rivers that I frequent have been challenging. Generally poor hatches in comparison to past seasons and therefore often not a lot of opportunity at least until the end of the day, sometimes not even then. If you spot a good trout you want to make it count as there might not be another chance.
I’ve had several fine fish eat my small impressions lately but no hook up. A tiny hook can catch or sometimes simply slip out of a big mouth. That’s all part of the small fly game. Hopefully things will balance out by the end of the angling season.
The past few weeks I’ve walked a number of rivers. Here are some photos. I’m still getting accustomed to a new camera and at times experiencing some framing problems…
RAIN. A LOT OF IT in the past two days. The rivers were starting to drop but now they are pumped-up again. High fast water. Most rivers can’t be crossed.
When the forecast calls for heavy skies and rain I always try to head to one of my favorite rivers, especially if it’s not going to be too windy. My best brown trout of the year usually come in these conditions. They show-up in low light as long as there are insects around. You just have to be there and watch the water, even high water.
On both days I got drenched and my soaked camera started malfunctioning. It’s waterproof but old and has many cracks in it and the battery/SD card door doesn’t always close properly. Water got inside. On the way home I was able to dry the SD card on the car dashboard with the heat on high. I managed to save it. The camera, however, I could not. Time for a new one.
There were mayflies around: olives and a few pmd’s. I prospected the slow shallows with a beetle pattern early in the day. Then I fished a size 18 Mole fly when I started seeing some surface disturbances. It’s a simple shuttlecock style pattern by Charlie Craven, a professional fly tyer. He ties his with a CDC wing. Due to the heavy rain I tied mine with polypropylene and some with deer hair, or a combination of both.
A blogger/angler I follow (Jim) often fishes the Mole pattern and that’s were I first took notice of it. I pay attention to his fly selections as he visits some of the most challenging tailwater rivers and spring creeks anywhere and consistently catches impressive trout on dry flies. Check him out at: http://jims-wanderings.blogspot.com
When my casts were on target trout ate the Mole fly without hesitation.
Here are some photos. Some are blurry due to the conditions.
” ALL OTHER COLORS are reflections of light, except black. Black is the absence of light”.
I recently spent a few days fishing a large wide tailwater river. Most of the time the water’s surface was a silvery-grey due to glare. It looked like the element: Mercury. Many trout were feeding on tiny BWO emergers and bulging in the riffles. The wind was also constantly blowing which further ruffled the river’s surface. All of these conditions (glare, riffles, wind blown water) made seeing a small size 18 fly impossible, even when relatively short casts were made. Deer hair winged emerger patterns and comparaduns didn’t show-up. Same with a parachute pattern tied with a white post. Hackled flies also pulled a Houdini on me (vanished). Hi Vis orange post flies also couldn’t be seen. Hi Vis ended up being No Vis!
The secret to success on the insect rich river that I was on is to consistently place your fly right in front of a selected feeding trout as there are thousands of naturals (insects) drifting towards it and the fish isn’t going to move any distance to eat your fly. Your impression has to be right on target. It is all about accuracy. And in order to be on target you need to see your fly.
The only fly that showed up in the aforementioned challenging conditions was one with a black post or a black wing. And I found that the flies that I had tied with a very exaggerated, robust tuft of black obviously showed best in the silvery-grey, ruffled water.
Many of my favorite trout rivers are wide and flow in open terrain under a big western sky. These conditions give birth to glare which is a serious hinderance to seeing a small fly. One third of the flies in my boxes have black material incorporated onto them in the form of a post, a wing, etc. In the flies below (photo) I used black polypropylene. In some other flies I’ll use black cdc or comparadun deer hair which has been dyed black. The key is something dark; a dark beacon.
Sometimes you can see your fly better by changing your positioning to a fish on a river. However, this is not always possible. Some people fish a two fly rig with one fly being much larger than what is hatching. The large fly is used as a sight and strike indicator to help an angler spot or at least hone in on the approximate location of the small fly. Even large flies, however, tossed some distance on silvery-grey wide open water tend to disappear. Also two fly rigs in windy conditions often get tangled, at least mine do. I always prefer casting a single fly. I simply cast and fish better with one fly.
Trout that are feeding aggressively on a dense hatch don’t seem to notice the color of a post or wing. The size of the fly, its attitude/positioning in the water (on top, in the film, or dangling below) and a natural drift (presentation) are much more important, as is casting accuracy and being a stealthy angler. You want the body color of the fly to be somewhat similar to the naturals but the wing color is less important.
Black polypropylene is inexpensive and with one package you will be able to tie hundreds of flies.
Here are some small size 18 parachutes tied with a black post…
Cold at home. In fact snow hit the ground. So I headed south across the border to a Trout Town on a wide tailwater river. The weather was slightly better but still behind schedule for May. Most days it was fairly cool. My dog’s water bowl was frozen most mornings.
I camped in a section called Mid-Canyon to try an avoid the ever present wind. The dry fly fishing was for the most part poor. I rarely saw a head/nose break the surface in spite of some good hatches. Most surface disturbances were trout displacing water when feeding on emergers an inch or two below: BWO’s. I still managed to catch several on dries: Klinkhammers and Parachutes while sight fishing.
There were no sipping trout on the banks or even in collector areas, or on the flats. And there were few fish feeding in some of my favorite side channels. The water was as low as I have ever seen it. That’s a ongoing condition out West. There was high wind and a lot of sun. Not the best conditions to find large rising trout.
Trout would bulge (emerger feeding) in the riffles when clouds rolled in, then disappeared when direct sun light returned. It was a yo yo (fish up, fish down) event on days with a mix of sun and cloud. Fun to watch as it became so predictable.
Crisp in the mornings. Sun is arcing low. Noticeable long shadows mid-afternoon. Still windy. Still mainly hanging out in the mountains trying to escape the wind. Still fishing dry flies. Did spend one half day on a tailwater river out on the Plains sight-fishing a slightly sheltered back bay.
WIND. It has been making rivers out on the Plains challenging. Top water angling out in the great wide open has been poor. So I’ve been looking for calmer conditions, some shelter and hopefully some sight-fishing opportunities up in the forested mountain valleys. Here are some nice cutthroats and hybrids (cuttbows) found in some sheltered streams caught on olives, small and mid-sized drakes, and beetles…
When you head out to a river for a day or evening of angling you often have a set of parameters that you operate by. For some people these criterion are broad. For some they are very narrow. The longer you’ve been at something like fly fishing, or any other pursuit, the more you have probably refined the way you practice it; the way you go about it; the path you chose to take. Over time you focus more intensely on some things and discard much of the rest.
Here are some fine trout fooled with small dry flies: mostly ants, beetles and pmd’s in contrasting landscapes and rivers. Some wide flat flows in open austere terrain and smaller clear ones in a treed mountainous landscape. Trout, from the Plains to the Rockies…