There’s a great river out there
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 casted small grasshoppers, large and small black beetles.
sunset and smoke
Hot. Let me repeat, Hot. Full sun. Blue skies. Everything is dry. Fire ban on. Forest fires one province over in BC. Smoke could be on the way.
On my favorite rivers few bugs. Hatches have been weak all summer long. Not many rising trout. You have to hunt to find the odd one. Challenging out there.
With the pandemic everyone seems to be outdoors camping. It’s real busy in my region. It’s busy on the rivers: rafters, kayakers, swimmers, and many, many anglers. More than usual. Can’t find parking in some of my favorite spots. Challenging out there.
Some photos from the past few weeks. All trout caught on small dry flies: mainly Pmds, Ants and Beetles.
I just spent a week fishing in my region. Most of the summer I have been a weekend angler. It was nice to be off work and stretch several river days together. I fish better when I have more time. I also tend to stop and take more photos while roaming around searching for trout.
I had one cloud covered rainy day and a strong hatch of tiny olives, and a few larger ones, occurred. The trout were mainly on emergers. I fished a few different dangling fly patterns with some success. The key word is, “some”. That was the easiest day.
emerger pattern, foam post for flotation, hook bent out by trout
caught on olive emerger pattern
blue winged olive flat
The other days were full sun and therefore much more challenging. A few were calm, most were quite breezy. There were still some bugs around but not a lot. The rises were infrequent with the bright sky. And when they did occur they were real subtle. Just spotting the faint sips was an accomplishment. I often had to listen for signs of surface feeding on the blinding sun glazed flats. Most of the good trout located were hovering in just inches of water. It’s my favorite type of angling. In skinny water you have to be “sneakier than sneaky” in order to fool them. Mistakes are rarely tolerated… few second chances. To make things even more challenging the trout were generally only feeding on tiny stuff. Time flew by. Hours seemed like minutes. Relaxing? No. Engrossing? Yes. Fun? Yes.
On another river I used the sun and elevation when possible to my advantage in order to spot fish in the shallows. Then I’d drop down, choose my approach and try to fool them.
snow in the mountains
All week I casted olives when they were around, and fed beetles and ants to located trout when there was no hatch. While roaming around I found some old sheds; hiked some smooth wind sculpted hills; took pictures of small trees ( prairie bonsai) which always attract attention in the stark terrain; and caught a few wonderful trout. I also met a sheep herder taking a nap in the shade of my Jetta. He’s an old friend. Every year without fail we run into each other riverside.
One week, one fly, two feet…
great Pyrenees herder
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be”.
The last couple of weekends I’ve fished a local tailwater river 2 or 3 times. Hatches have been sparse with the bright sun. Due to the same weather conditions and clear water, however, spotting trout has been possible. And fortunately some have been willing to rise.
On my last outing I was with a friend, Roman, who was visiting the region. Early on he landed a great rainbow on a black cricket like pattern. Later on we located several large bank fish that were feeding inconsistently. They were picky and rejected most of what we tossed their way. Bug life seemed minimal and their feeding behavior was somewhat of a mystery.
Roman changed flies several times and then pulled out an old attractor fly pattern, a Royal Coachman, from his Magician’s top hat and started casting it with authority as if commanding the trout to rise. And they did. Mesmerized, they kept coming to the fly.
Then he reached out, his hand palm up and said, “try this”. It was another Royal Coachman. I tied it on and then magically, Presto, just like that, landed a large rainbow with the fly.
We missed several others that day but the fish we landed were very spectacular. All were caught sight-fishing with dry flies.
Here are some photos from the Royal Coachman day and from the weekend before when there was more cloud cover.
With the cloudy, drizzly and calm weather predicted for the weekend I drove to the Missouri (M0) river anticipating a hatch of BWO’s. And presto, just like that, the little May Fly appeared. In spite of their teeming numbers a lot of the flat water sections I frequent year after year were void of rising trout. It was hard to believe the fish weren’t sipping on the tiny flies collecting in the more gentle/quiet areas of the river. They should have been on them like kids on candy!
blue winged olives and perfect raindrop circles
I watched and waited but little happened. So eventually I went for a walk and hunted, and found some good fish in the Mo’s broad riffles, or more specifically, at the tail end of these sections where the riffles started to flatten out/expire.
brown trout caught on dry fly
Most trout in these spots were focusing on emergers. This is usually the case. I saw many anglers wading right through these sections, never noticing the sometimes quite intense feeding and multiple fish. I’ve done the same in the past. It’s very easy to miss these fish with the grey glare that exists on such a wide river. Riffles also camouflage/mask any sort of surface disturbance made by trout. It can make spotting more challenging. Experience has taught me that if I just stand still and watch (when bugs are around) often I’ll see signs of feeding trout: bulging water or boils, or other subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, surface disturbances. Listening carefully can also save the day as some trout will break the surface and the odd one will occasionally eat on top. I often hear them before I see them. Once you catch that sound, you can then intensify your visual search.
Although most fish were caught in the riffles and some tail-out spots on large pools, early in the day and then late I picked up a few good fish eating duns on the more enjoyable classic flat water sections. Most trout were caught on a Klinkhammer (body dangling below surface) style fly: dry/emerger. The best brown refused all my surface offerings and was hooked sight nymphing. The nice thing about this time of year is that if you see a fish moving water there is a chance it might be a brown trout as many of the river’s rainbows are still spawning in feeder creeks, and thus are absent. I catch some of my nicest browns in the Spring. Some rainbows were around as the photos show.
The Mo is an incredible sight fishing river. I hope to return in May or June… and Catch that Sound!
I stayed overnight at Wolf Creek Angler, in Wolf Creek (great name for a town). Basic lodging and manageable price. They also have an excellent little fly shop.
brown trout caught sight fishing with nymph
rainbow on dry fly
“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.
LOW WATER. FINALLY CLEAR WATER. No bugs. Still windy but not gale force like on the weekend. Sunny and some high clouds. In fact, beautiful clouds. I started seeing a few trout mid afternoon. The lighting was good but past prime time; the dimmer switch was being dialed down. Days are short in mid October. The first trout I missed. He ate but the hook didn’t set. I thought, “my one chance”. I soon spotted another but he bolted before I could exhale. Two strikes, one left! I then decided to walk a river section I call the Beach. It’s a perfect late day spot: the sun over your shoulder; shallow water; consistent light colored bottom. I see well there and it’s all about seeing. Trout sometimes prowl the shin deep water along the Beach. They inch up the river with the sun in their eyes, blind to an angler just upstream. I walked softly on the pebble edge, controlled my shadow and spotted one. A downstream cast…feed line. Slow current, slow drift, slow motion rise to the caddis imitation. Then four high speed runs. Two right across the river. The trout didn’t want to give up.
“Among famous traitors of history one might mention the weather”
snow on the great divide
Some pictures taken over the long weekend. The conditions were tough: some snow, heavy rain, and worst of all high winds when the sky started to clear up which dampened the Baetis hatch. Some rivers were off color; some ok. Sight fishing was real challenging. Oh well. Here are a few trout picked up on dries.
a calm clearing moment
“Excuse me while I kiss the sky”
The room I get to play in on weekends is very, very large and it has a limitless ceiling; and it has rivers flowing through it; and if you search in the four corners you’ll find trout.
cutthroat caught on size18 PMD
swirling trout caught on dry fly
rainbow trout caught on PMD spinner
rainbow on dry fly
By perseverance the snail reached the Ark.
I spent the last two weekends fly fishing the Missouri river. The place was buzzing with anglers. The first weekend was cloudy and cool. The second one sunny. Not surprising the dry-fly angling was better when it was overcast. Trout are more likely to rise in low light. The main hatch: Blue Winged Olives; secondary hatch March Browns.
A lot of people nymph the river. Many also throw streamers to the banks while drift boating it. The river has such phenomenal insect life that I can’t imagine fishing it any other way than with a dry-fly when the conditions are favorable and the bugs are out. I find that walking the river in search of a few good rising fish is just about as exciting as trying to trick them with a fly. It’s the hunt! Any garage sale or flea market aficionado would understand.
dry fly side channel
On this trip(s) I was trying to spot Brown trout. I eventually located a few good ones feeding in the shallows. I spent most of my time focused on one particular trout as it proved to be a challenging fish, at least for me. I spent more time than I care to say trying to fool it. I spooked it several times and then had to sit for long periods waiting for it to settle down and then reappear. Waiting was easier when my retriever, Brooke, was with me. She’d sit by my side often leaning against me while we watched the water and I’d occupy myself and let time pass by picking hundreds of burrs out of her thick golden coat. Her presence made me a better angler.
I had hooked that particular trout a week ago but it tugged me around and eventually broke off. This weekend I pulled a fly out of its mouth, and then later “nicked it”. I did eventually land it on a size 18 olive…more perseverance than skill. Late afternoon shadow on the water pulled it out of its lair and it started feeding with more of a rhythm. A fish eating this way is easier to trick.
riverside bush bunny
When I tried taking a picture of the trout my camera batteries failed. I did, however, manage to fiddle around and get a few shots. I would have liked to get more. I had spare double AA’s in my pack but decided to release the fish as it took a fairly long time to land it.
late april light snow
Here are some trout (brown and a few rainbows) and western landscape pictures. It was nice to spend some long Spring days outside by the river and witness all of the life along it, and be part of it. All trout were caught sight fishing with small dry flies, size 18 olives, in shallow water.
trying to match the hatch
cold afternoon on favorite trail