Seriously, sometimes when we have a successful time on the water we come away with more questions than answers. Last Thursday evening was one of those times.........
Stepped into the river around 7PM, and the water level was slightly higher than normal and clear. The air was cool and calm and the sun was fading in the western sky. I chose a nice long, curving run with a rocky outside bank that took the main flow of the current. Above and along the entire bank, there is a heavy canopy of newly sprung hardwood leaves. The perfect place for bugs and trout.....and a solitary fly fisherman.
I started at the top of the run with an Iris caddis dry/emerger, as there were speckled caddis flying clumsily in the air above the water. A fish rose, I threw my first cast above the ring on the water, and after a short drift the fly was grabbed in an aggressive take. Shortly thereafter, I brought to hand a 7 inch wild brown trout. Good start.
After that, I made a couple of dozen more casts with the Iris caddis to likely holding spots, but nothing was happening on top. In fact, I didn't see another rise the rest of the night. After giving it a decent shot with the top water imitation, I decided it was time to put on a subsurface emerger, as trout were flashing in the water column as they fed on what were likely to be ascending caddis pupa.
I tied on a brown and yellow, #14, LaFontaine sparkle emerger to my 5X tippet and added a small shot about 6 inches ahead of the fly. Now the trick was to sight a fish working in the run, get a bead on roughly where it was taking naturals, and then cast the fly a few feet above that and sort of guide the fly through the zone without pulling it unnaturally. This takes some concentration and focus, but once you get the hang of it, it works very well in these conditions. Although you can't see your fly, you can gauge where it is by watching your line and the speed of the current. .
When in your mind's eye, you see the fly in the trout's feeding zone and the trout flashes or moves up, down or sideways, lift your rod tip as that's a sign it's taken something.....your fly! I love fishing this way. Once you take one fish, you stop and watch until you see another feeding trout. Then you position yourself accordingly so as to maximize your drift, and go to it again.The fish were working all through the run this night, and by slowly moving down stream over the next hour or so, a couple of dozen trout came to hand.
And then it got interesting.
Having caught a bunch of fish, it was time to experiment. The fish were still actively feeding, so there were still plenty of targets. This past winter, my good friend Eric Stroup of Spruce Creek Fly Co., convinced me to tie some Walt's Worms at one of the fly fishing shows. He swears by them and uses them while guiding clients when nothing else seems to work. The fly is about as simple to tie as any fly ever created. A little lead wire on the hook shank, followed by wrapping a nice tapered body of dubbed natural hare's ear mixed with a little antron, and tie off to finish.
I tied this minimal fur ball to my leader where the sparkle emerger had been, and left the shot on right where it was, intending to fish the fly in the same manner I had been fishing the emerger. I sighted a working trout, moved into position, and then started fishing the fly, albeit with little confidence. And then it happened... a couple of casts later I was into a nice rainbow. Huh? Had to be a dumb fish, after all, the fly looks nothing like a caddis emerger or any other aquatic insect emerger for that matter.
After landing the fish, I went back to it, and sure enough I hooked and landed another trout in short order. This "strange" thing happened again and again over the next hour or so before it got too dark to spot fish. Strange because I couldn't, and still can't figure out why, the fly worked so well. It worked as good as, or better, than the sparkle emerger! The messier it got from fish teeth, the quicker they seemed to take it. The only thing I can think is that it looks to the pea-brained trout like a scud (fresh water shrimp). Scuds are a favorite food of trout in these parts, and they are very abundant. But why did it work so well before it got torn up and scraggly? This puzzles me to this day....only a week I know, but when you're rabid about this stuff, it can wear you out...............
Here's the torn up, post-fishing, Walt's Worm that worked so well.
Here is what it looked like before I started to fish it. Note the fished fly above has a shorter hook point - yes, we sharpen our hooks as we fish!
So that's the story and we're sticking to it. The damn fly works, it really works! The only thing left to do is to keep fishing it to see if it continues to produce, and keep wondering what the hell goes through the tiny neural center of a trout's world.........who was it that said trout are selective??? Maybe he should have his head examined, too!
What's your take on this? Inquiring minds want to know.........we look forward to reading your well-thought out comments.
And sharpen those hooks, it definitely makes a difference.