Last Days Fishing December 11-12, 2008
I took my daily look at the weather on Thurs, Dec 11, 2008 . A big storm was looming. The Weather channel site on the web was flashing lurid red & orange storm warnings. Frigid, -20, six to nine inches of snow, high winds, wind chill off the charts.... In other words we were going to get clobbered. This was the death knell of fishing 2008. However, that Thursday was still pretty mild. Densely cloudy, yet in the low thirties with mild and variable winds. I packed up my stuff and headed to the river after lunch.
I was hoping to catch the last hatch of Blue Wing Olives that afternoon. I had seen some a few days ago and tho they were sparse, there were fish still rising occaisionally to them. I parked on the side of I-15 crawled under a barbed wire fence , under a wooden railway bridge, thru some brush and was in the river; a place called Hemmingway flats as the Hemmingway family has a house just above it.
I could see a few fish working to the left of me and some to the right and headed across a small channel to an island to get my bearings put on my new " secret" midge I had just developed and was eager to try . ( there were no BWO s) I elected to fish to the right as I ve caught some nice ones on that side of the island before. There s a small riffle coming down the center of that channel with some deeper slower water off to the left and a dead end slew off to the side of that. Fish can be right in the riffle, or on the edge of the current and the slew . Unfortunately, they were on the edge of this slow moving seam and not in the faster water where they re much easier to catch. A fine test of my new midge I thought .....
While the water and air were cold, I was pretty comfortable in neopreme waders and a couple jackets. The main problem caused by the temperature were the guides icing up and restriciting the passage of the line thru them. However, after a few clumsy casts I was able to get a decent drift over one of the occaisionally rising fish. I could see plenty of midges on the water tho there was no steady feeding activity going on. I waited as my tandem rig, the secret adult midge with folded back wings and a midge pupa about 12 inches behind it drifted down the current. There was a very lazy rise to my first fly.
In the past, while fishing a midge, I ve immediately tried to set the hook and never once have caught one. The tiny hook just doesn t have a chance to embedd itself. Coupled with this slow take, I must have waited three whole seconds before lifting my rod tip. I was rewarded with a solid take ! While water this cold doesn t encourage trout acrobatics this fish ran pretty hard towards the back of the island and the channel I had just crossed. I knew there was all sorts of things he could wrap himself around so I put as much pressure as I thought the tippet would bear to bring him back towards the slew and slower deeper water. Luckily, this tactic worked and soon I was able to land a nice 16 " rainbow. I discovered I had waited too long this time to set the hook as the only thing holding him was the tailing midge pupa stuck behind his dorsal fin, foul hooked .... Sheepishly, I took it out and set him free.
After the ruckus the other risers went somewhere else and I left the channel and walked the approx. half mile of Hemmingway flats, up and down and back again; seeing a fish come up here or there but off in the distance; nothing I could cast to. I was kind of bummed, thinking the last fish of the year would be one I foul hooked ! I would have liked one more, gamely I tried to find one but to no avail. It was getting colder and with a heavy heart I retraced my steps thru the channel, under the bridge and barbed wire fence and headed home to await the storm.
The next day I checked the weather at lunch again. This time the Weather Channel site was flashing lurid red s & purple s; instead of a storm warning it just said, " GET OUT OF DODGE".
The wind had been picking up all day, a front was imminent, yet it still wasn t all that cold yet. As I didn t hear any lady singing; I figured a ride to the river wouldn t hurt. I repacked the car and went to a spot I rarely fish and save for emergency s like today. It s a little back channel set in against a pretty high bank with lots of trees protecting it. Too small for boats to bother with ; it isn t heavily fished tho in the summer holds some big fish. This isn t summer, and the big fish are wherever they hide in the cold weather. There were lots of little eager fish tho; a fairly large group of them in a seam that ran along a weed bed. Was I ever greatful! It was here I had a bit of a fly fishing epiphany....
I floated my adult midge trailed by an emerger thru the pod with nary a look but stripping it back thru them I started getting strikes and once in awhile a fish, albeit very small ones , but fish nonetheless. I started jiggling the emerger as it went thru addiing a strip now and then and every cast I had a strike. Most of the fish were too small to even take the tiny fly but every now and then I d hook a six incher. At certain times, it will make me fish a little differently next season.
After all the fish in the pod took a whack at my fly and were either caught or spooked things quieted down for good and I realized the day was over. The wind was picking up but still out of the SW . Wanting to stretch the season even another 30 minutes, I thought of one more spot I could try that was sheltered in that type of wind .
I parked above an island off Beartooth Road and was surprised to see another car in the small pulloff. I looked out by the island and didn t see another fisherman so I hopped the fence went down to the water and as the sun was setting behind the mountains saw some fish rising just off the island. Slowly, I waded into position. I also noticed some ducks floating in the water as well and was surprised when they didn t fly away. Concentrating on the fish, I inched my way closer, still no movement from the ducks, really odd I thought as they are the spookiest things on the river. Just then, I heard some voices, damn I thought, those other fisherman must becoming back also I heard a dog along with them, his collar jingling. Frantically, I made a couple of casts before they could return and spook my fish. I had one strike but missed him. The voices got louder. Finally, I had moved across the channel and was on the tip of the island; now I could see that the unmoving ducks were actually decoys ! The voices were coming from an impromptu blind across the channel that I had crossed . I could here them talking, " He s going to ruin everything now.... Look he s even smoking a pipe! "
All sportsmanly-like-ethics aside, I knew I had a lot better chance of catching a fish than they did of shooting a duck. Also, I didn t like the crack about my pipe smoking ! I looked to the sky, up and down the river for almost a mile and saw no ducks flying overhead . I figured a few more casts wouldn t hurt..... as I had ruined everything already.<G> I did leave soon thereafter and thought it a fitting end to my year s fishing. For in a round-a-bout way, I was hep' ing them out. After all, what could be more natural then a lone fisherman, standing in the water casting into the dusk; certainly nothing any duck should ever be afraid of .