Friday, June 1, 2012

The Stillwater Itch

So it’s first light and the fry hatch is in full swing and been going on for about 2 and a half months. My pal and I hit the water for cutthroat, the same water we hit last time, and not too many trips before that, a few times before…. and began to work line out in false casts that don’t dare touch the water.
To the left a boisterous boil erupts, throwing water mixed with 3 or 4 fry leaping for their lives, still swimming ‘away’ in terror. Before my back cast becomes a forward, my partner’s line covers it landing like spider web on a virgin’s soul. Had the chaser of them fry gone to the left, right, doubled back? It’s gin clear out there….. My cast lands to the opposite side, we have it surrounded.

Another boil erupts right between the fading rings, of our landed flies, and we begin to strip our personal best. I’m stripping sexy, soft and smooth, utilizing long slow continuous pulls punctuated by a sultry pause that just begged to be sucked on. My pattern is an immaculate deception of epoxy, natural, and synthetic confabulation that one can only declare, “It’s alive I tell you, ALIVE….” (a spray of spittle may or may not be included, depends on the company)
It’s a pretty wicked fly anyways and it’s worked well for the last while.
More than well actually

To cut the shit, we keep stripping, and nothing. 4 more fish roll and we cast to those we can reach and, nothing. A flurry of fry chasing action hits and we are getting our asses handed to us, I mean the fish are everywhere and they are just rolling and moving and we cannot buy a fish.  In fact at one point in 3 casts I had 2 fish jump over my fly, almost like it was in the way of what he was after, like if it had hands it would have thrust it aside.
“Too much food”, Randy said with a slow audible exhale putting his fly in the hook keeper. “This sucks, we need some Stillwater”.
Duck interlude, carry on

Randy’s always such a sensible soul, I think that’s probably why I like fishing with him best. Besides, those fry are going to run out pretty soon and in a few short weeks those fish will be begging me for a lopsided hare’s ear tied with my left hand.
Yeah, even that
I began fly fishing on lakes contrary to many who begin on the streams and rivers. This I think is why I can always get excited about trips to the interior despite the very fine fishing we manage to be blessed with here around home.
This year the first was a weekend jaunt early in April to one of the sure bets of open water and one Randy and I have had good success at in the past early season. It’s a typical seepage lake with 5 or 6 shallow areas along with some 60 to 70’ deep holes to allow fish to winter well for the most part. What this means to us as fishers is that we had a good chance of having bigger trout or at least a shot at one, and with still waters that’s all I require – good strong fighting fish with the chance at a big one. This will of course come right after I’ve consciously ignored a frayed or knotted tippet which will relieve me of the last fly that finally worked.
Our strategy was to find some moving fish (duh!) and see what was up. I have learned long ago that placing all your bets on a single horse just leads to either an every fly in the box tried tragedy, or a dry landing net or both. I seriously try to set out unwed to any particular method when I approach a fishery. Though spring time says; screams actually, chironomid the mood of the lake, fish and activity of insects dictate what will be the path to success. That and my trusty throat pump. All we need is a fish to get us started. Not too small either 14” or better for the pump, no squirts need apply. That’s feeding on something. Something we can match. Something that I have lots of and he don’t so he has to beg me for one or two patterns like last year with the olive micro leech with the gold bead. That was fun. In fact I was smiling when I typed that.
It was the typical spring thing where the water is flat like piss on a plate with no wind at all, the sky blue with a few clouds. Looked like an absolute perfect day ahead. We packed the rain gear. Like dogs that had their noses rubbed in pee we have learned well not to trust first impressions.
I still don't trust it
A tour of the lake showed us it was lower than last spring, low and clear. We wondered if the up shallow thing was going to be on considering the up shallow was now 2’ shallower than the year before judging by the water marks visible on the shore line. Moving around and not assuming anything is the first ‘rule’ we have developed taking care to poke around a bit before commitment, some probes around the pond.
We sounded fish out deep down in 40’ of water knowing if all else failed we could chuck type 7 lines and dredge some action up if we had to. After continuing up shallow as shallow as shallow was now, the wooded area showed the occasional fish in close to the fall down created by busy beavers along a shore line.
Since this was all the action we had seen the anchors simultaneously punched through the weeded bottom a scant 4’ below. A floating line a and ghost tip were chosen and our casts began to fan the water in pretty much a 360 degree area coverage of what we could reach with a keen eye towards the sticks and wood. The fish obviously were using it as cover from the flying hazards of above to get into the shallow water where all the bug action (hopefully) would go on.
After a time it was evident those fish were right in there and were pretty loathe to come out for very much, and a static approach was going to be the way to stay in the junk close for long enough to suck them in, so out came the indicators. It didn’t hurt that finally a few bugs were coming off, what looked to be 18s. We were right in the middle of switching up when this dude cruises in and anchors right behind us and chucks out an indicator. Before I can finish tying up he’s had a 4 lber and released another fish. On goes 18 green ribbed chromie and I lob it out there right next to a twig. I watch Randy cast and when I turn back the indicator is gone, raise the rod and a fish slips the hook.
One that didn't get away
That was the beginning of a really good rest of day with fish after fish taken one after another cast after cast. If you looked away, the float would be gone and often stripping in to recast for a better position resulted in fish. No really big fish excepting Randy had a really nice 3 pound chrome fish to hand the rest were from 12 to 17” and the area was dubbed the kiddie pool as we knew there were pods of much larger fish in this lake, we just had to find them.
The next day we hit it again and the weather was pretty much the same though forecast was to be even warmer. We fished in another area that we had caught larger fish in before but had observed no action at all the day previously such as detecting moving fish coupled with lack of production from a few casts taken by Randy as I hold and move the boat around. Looked and felt dead, seemed too shallow.
Saw a couple of bigger fish roll however, so we tossed out a couple of floats and Randy’s sort of swims away and down rather than tugs under the surface then a 3 lb bullet jumps 6’ in the air. Not bad for a first fish of the day! After a decent tug of war a nice fish comes to the boat and spits the hook. Cool!
Then it goes dead on us once more, clams up solid. The lure of a sure thing right across the lake tugs at us as minutes tick by on our last day fishing. Yep we ripped up them anchors and went back to the kiddie pool.
You know we caught some fish and had some action for the next 3 or 4 hours but the hatch never really did come off this time and the feeders were much fewer and further in between. After maybe a dozen fish each we’d had enough, and decided to pack it in as the Canucks were playing and we were going to catch it via AM on the way home. I said let’s give that other area a go on the way back. Agreed, we yanked up the leads and shot across the lake. My boat might not be much, but when you hammer it and get her up on plane she no longer touches the surface, she caresses it.
Pretty damn skinny
There’s a dude in there so we creep back past him deeper into the bay proper on idle. 50 yards away from him we drop our pyramids and cast towards the brush dotting the shore line. The wind was coming from every which way here swirling like a drunk, reeling first this way and then that. I have like this big belly of line between the rod tip and indicator so I flip this semi mend against the wind slowing the drift of the bobber for a few instants; it then swims into the wind and then goes down like a mini imitation of one of the barrels Quint spiked that big shark with in Jaws – it was just swimming down and away. Experience made me raise the rod in a slip strike allowing line to slide out between finger and cork even as I was driving the hook home and 6 lbs of solid trout began to try and see how much backing I might have on the spool. That’s what it’s about man, never knowing when or where it’s going to happen but latching onto a lunker is always a special moment.
We have a grand tussle the kyped male and I, with several runs involved including 2 right between the anchor ropes leaving me wondering here and there if a 5wt was a good choice from the weapon locker more than once.
This fish boated and released another cast handed me another fish over 4 lbs and a few more between 5 and 6. Randy wasn’t having much luck though he did get a nice chrome 2 lber and a couple of smaller fish besides, I just seemed to have the luck going on. At one point I said the Canucks can lose it without me the fishing was too good, but then it sort of shut off and it was indeed time to pack ‘er in.
Double header
You know we did this very same lake last year pretty much the very same day of the same month and it turned out to be a totally different fishing experience. Rather than chironomids being the order of things it was all about dragon flies and immature damsels. Not a single fish came to the wee bugs and they were tried numerous times. Rather than floating lines we used type 1s and 2s to ‘pop’ various imitations along the substrate very jig like using long casts. The fish would most often take as the beaded patterns settled back towards the bottom. This is how we started out the first day but seeing the fish activity – in this case right IN the cover dictated a different angle of approach to be in the game effectively so to speak. We could have caught a few fish keeping with what worked last year I’m sure, in fact Randy’s biggest fish of the outing came popping a leech but not to the degree we experienced I don’t think.
It was rather odd I thought suspending a pattern 2 and a half feet under and indicator fishing 3’ of water but when you get right down to it, it makes perfect sense for the criteria the fish laid out. Pulling anchor wasn’t much of a chore all weekend anyways.
Success is never guaranteed in anything worthwhile undertaking and the phrase nothing ventured nothing gained seems to have more and more personal appeal as time goes on in this pass time we call fishing along with life in general. Spring time in the interior is most certainly one of my favorite uncertainties in life. Only one thing I can be certain of; I’ll know on the way home how it was while I was there and wonder how it is doing without me while I’m not.
Some itches take more scratching than others I guess.

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