Thursday, January 26, 2012

Snow Fish.

Winter steelhead and I still have a beef to settle. But with rivers in the area overflowing to the point of sweeping away cars, children (bloody tragic), and even full grown people, I figured my best bet would be to head East.  And I may have been wrong, but experience told me that 80% of the fly fishers looking to scratch the itch would be just downstream of the dam on the crooked river.

So I set off for a spring fed river - with clarity and stable flows - but would it be accessible?  I passed signs for free sand-bags along insanely high rivers and then starting climbing into the mountains.  With the increase in elevation, rain turned to snow and I started doubting the rationality of my decision (as if that was ever part of the equation):


However as I neared the river, my hopes soared.  The road showed only a light dusting of snow and I was making the first set of tracks for the day-- save for the footsteps of a hardcore jogger I had passed (a bit surreal and out of place) - that dude is going to kick ass at whatever he's training for.  Then I caught a glimpse of the water-- slightly green and little high, but by jove...

- it looked fishy -

I proceeded to have a magnificent day.  And I mean that in terms of the simple state of being out there.  In terms of getting to hike and wonder and think-- and also to not think.  Ignoring the stress and worries about life and the decisions you've made and what anyone else thinks.  Not thinking about anything except how the pines look when the sun shines through the melted water droplets stuck in their needles and what kind of bugs are under the rocks in the fast water or the slow water or what's hatching and boy oh boy I hope I catch the big one and no I'm not going to put any commas in these sentences.

- back to earth -

The water was frigid and the fishing was slow but by the end of the day I had landed half a dozen whitefish and a single beautiful redband trout.  I also botched the hookset on some nice fish-- I blame it on cold hands as well as the amount of line required to get a good drift (there's more than one way to see your backing).  But most likely it's my slow instincts that have been quickly oxidizing in the cubicle environment.  I didn't see a single rise all day and I only observed a few hatching mayflies so nymphs and streamers are what I fished (aren't they always?).  My stonefly nymph was eaten more than anything, but small #16 eggs, and #18 pheasant tail nymphs also took a fish or two.

The weather was erratic and the nearly snow-free ground turned white during one of the thickest snowfalls I've yet experienced.  I can remember wondering if I'd ever had my fly rod collect snow during a single fly change but then as quickly as it showed up, it stopped.  I even caught a few moments of sunshine and took a moment to enjoy it while allowing blood to recirculate feeling into my extremities.



The Bugs
The variety of insects along this river has consistently amazed me.  Each rock I picked up had something new, something unexpected, or occasionally, nothing at all.  Lot's of cased caddis, small mayflies, and snails were observed along with some big golden stones, a small dark brown stonefly nymph (skwala?), and a monster green drake nymph that was bigger than a lot of stonefly nymphs I've seen.


The Fish
The first fish of the day was an extremely long whitefish whose head shakes had me convinced I had a bull trout.  A cool fish either way - check out the size of his adipose fin! After that I missed a bunch of takes in seam water as well as slow, deep water.  I observed a few whitefish actively spawning and I'm convinced I had a couple of rainbows on the egg fly I was fishing; alas I never got a good look and am only judging by their fight.  The key of the days seemed to be looong drifts-- I caught most of my fish by water loading huge lob casts that had me feeding line to the backing.  5x was sufficient and although I did some streamer testing I never did connect with a big bull.

And redbands will never cease to amaze me, both in brilliance and in the spirit of their fight.  The only one of the day had a brilliant red band and spots that wrapped completely around, even on  it's belly.


The End
While I constantly pine for the more fertile streams of the alkaline desert I left thinking I could get used to this... as long I can keep remembering my rain jacket .  I also can't wait to get back to this stream with the next batch of streamers (more on that coming).  Until next time.

11 comments:

John Montana said...

Winter steelhead. I am on the hunt as well. I need proof.

Carlos Del Rey. said...

Nice pics Brian, it seems that it's cold!

Brian J. said...

John: Haha me to-- I have this theory that people are only catching them in Canada or Alaska and calling it Oregon to keep the noobs away...

Carlos: Thanks! It actually wasn't too bad but it definitely helped to keep moving.

Jason Barnes said...

That is a mutant adipose fin. I've seen a lot of whitefish, but I've never seen anything like that. Nice catch. The redband is amazing. Great bug pics too.

Brian J. said...

Thanks Jason-- There's just a vibrancy to all the fish on this stream which I chalk up to them all being native fish. Gotta love those purple tinged gill plates which I've notice a lot of whitefish have too!

SPlatte Guides said...

Money.......

Charlie L. said...

Love the Drake, they look like little dinosaurs

Brian J. said...

Yeah they do-- this one was seriously huge-- they also stick their tails up and act as if they can hurt you somehow... fortunately it's all show

Kirk said...

Looks like a great day out, and great pictures! There is nothing like the silence during a snowstorm. It is amazing how even our most familiar waters take on a new life in the falling snow. That redband is beautiful, but that first whitie has a beauty all its own. Cool fish.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Been enjoying your talents in bug building and photography for a couple of seasons, now, starting with the RenoTroutEnvy. Some of your patterns now grace my flybox Love your work.

keith

Brian J. said...

Kirk: Thanks, it's cool how the snow can muffle even the sounds of the river

Keith: Thanks for stopping in and posting kind words- I appreciate it and I hope you're getting out there and hooking some fish!

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