As I am to him, this story is devoted to my brother who s a real Schvinger.....
Yesterday dawned in Montana so warm, so brite and so blue, collectively, we knew it would be the nicest day of the year and we were not disappointed. I spoke to my mom in Fla, comparing weather, and it was warmer here than there. I swear, I could hear elk bugling in the hills," O What a Beautiful Morning ", it was that nice a day....
Which meant there was no chance of fishing until near dark. Give me a cold cloudy day with a hint of snow in the air and I m a happy camper. I bided my time in the shop. A father and son came up from Helena to watch me make them a couple custom pipe kits. They were spin fisherman and after swapping some stories they told me of a BIG FISH spot near Anaconda, the heavy metal capital of MT. They mentioned it was all catch and release as those fish were definetly unsafe to eat; ten to fifteen pound trout! Certainly worth checking out, even if they glow in the dark....
Forlorn as I was about the gorgeous, 60+ degree day, I moped around, competely retied my leader, tied some flies, and even considered putting on new boot laces as mine have broken into 6 spliced pieces. Saving that chore for another sunny day, off I finally went.
If you ve been keeping up with the first two stories you are aware that this is becoming a stellar year! Low flows and good hatches have kept fish feeding on top in selected areas. Rather than repeat spots I figured this was a good time to explore and find new ones. The morning after the Bull Sale, I was eating in Frenchys and my neighbor Jed came in for breakfast, you may remember him, he had the Coveted Bull Exit Door Operator Position at the Sale. He comes along the river road on his way into Wolf Creek and mentioned he could see fish rising just opposite his driveway as he pulled onto the road. I was surprised to hear this as that particular spot on the river is generally frog water. Lots of weeds, no current, chock full of noisome things. He mentioned I could park at his place if I wanted and check it out. As that section of the river gets shaded from the sun early I decided that was my first destination of the nite. I never left.
After parking in said driveway, sure enough, in a clear pool thats usually full of weeds I could see fish working. In the 10 years I ve been coming to the Mo I have passed this spot thousands of times on my way to the Braids and have never seen any fishy activity. Tonite it was full of fish. I immediately set to work! Putting on a Size 18 griffiths gnat "dry" midge imitation and a very small soft hackle midge about 12" behind it; I stormed into the pool in exactly the wrong spot, threw a bunch of terrible casts and singularly managed to put down every fish in the pool and surrounding river within 5 minutes without touching a one of them. Not a great start, I thought to myself, as I stalked down the bank to regroup.
Returning about 10 minutes later, I stood for awhile on the high bank, and observed what was going on in the river and in a couple minutes figured it out. Flyfishing isn't a, just jump in and let fly kind of sport, which are of course my first instincts. I walked about 50 yards up river until I got around a small bend and could sneak up on the pool of fish. I quietly worked my way down the bank until I was standing above them in a small riffle that dropped into the very quiet pool. I worked my way out into the river and found myself on an underwater gravel bar from which I could fish out into the river or back towards the bank and into the pool where most of the fish now were. Before I had been standing in that same pool up to my elbows in deep water and over my ankles in soft mud, sometimes catching the willow weeds with my back cast and generally not having a good time. This was a much better way to fish.
I began by picking off a couple fish in the deep pool towards the bank. One, two, three fish taken and that s all it took for the rest to find better places to feed. Surprisingly, they all took the soft hackle emerger, even in a virtually currentless area. This reminded me of similar experience last year during high water when a normally dry backwater had filled in with water. As the river retreated it left virtually a stagnant pool with just a tiny bit of water trickling in and out, aprrox. 50 yards long and roughly waist high in the deepest in places. As the main river was still roaring, not surprisingly, this is where I found fish. Even tho there were some large caddis flies bobbing over the water, dropping to the surface now and again laying eggs, the fish were ignoring them and my caddis fly imitation as well. I cast my fly, it sat in the motionless pool. Once in awhile something would come up and wack it but I realized I certainly wasn't zoned into to what was happening.
I happened to look down into the the still clear water and saw hundreds of nymphs slowly gracefully swimming their way to the surface, getting close and then falling back again. I had a AHA moment! This is what the fish were eating and not the much larger fluttering caddis. I immediately tied a small nymph on to the back of the caddis hook and tossed it out to motionlssly drift around the pool with no more success than before. I lifted the line up to recast and got a vicious strike. The first time it happened, what had just occurred didn t register; the second time it did and as often as I cared to repeat it I caught fish. The trout would only strike the nymph real or immitation as it was moving to escape the water.
Presently, I turned my attention to the fish in the mid river, I saw splashy rise forms and no heads. By now shadows had enveloped the whole river, the sun was down and the fish were steadily rising. I dead drifted my rig over the closest of the rising fish, no more than 25 feet away without success. On the third drift, I noticed one surface about another 20 feet further downstream. I let my line continue drifting until the fly was dragging, the line fully extended. It swung back and forth in the current like a waterskier in back of a fast boat. I got a hit; not enough to hook the fish but I knew now what was going to work: " Schvenging!"
This is not a technique I discovered, in fact I learned it from my brother Jay. On his first trip out to MT I coerced my friend Rad Davis, who was a Mo river guide at the time, to take us out in his drift boat. We were having an ok time, tho the morning was a little slow. After stopping for lunch on a sandspit of an island, J continued to fish while Rad and I smoked our pipes. He started catching fish right and left just letting an emerger swing back and forth off the end of the island. He called it schvinging. I dont think my brother invented this either as Slyvester Nemes once showed me a similar technique for fishing his Mothers Day Caddis pattern which can be deadly at times....
I tied on a fairly large midge emerger, size 18, and schvinged away. While it s hardly match the hatch, classic dead drift dry fly fishing, nonetheless, it was fun and effective. I tagged fish after fish for the next 30 minutes until dark. Nothing real large, mostly in the 14-16" class but pretty frisky considering the water temperature was only 36 degrees. I d estimate you only hook one fish in three or four strikes. They re hitting a taut line and it becomes a little like a tug of war until the fish lets go. One thing I did learn was to keep a little slack line in my free hand and as soon as I saw or felt the strike to let it out. This literally gave the fish enough rope to hook himself.
Every day is different on the river. The nite before, I didn't touch a fish but got to match wits with with a big fish that was frequently eating midges, lifting his entire head out of the water. I was a little downstream of him and was trying to hook an upstream cast to present the fly first. It was getting dark, a plus for me, I knew exactly what he was eating, and had a good enough imitation of it, another plus for me. Yet I never came close to fooling him. I had a great time trying even tho I never did put it all together....... I imagine if you could figure it out all the time, after a while, it wouldn t be fun. Catching fish isn't an end in itself, its an indication that you ve correctly solved a difficult puzzle; that's what keeps me coming back as often as I can.