Yesterday I woke to a gray, fog embraced day, that looked more like a September morning than that of December. If not for the bare trees and shriveled ground cover, I would have thought we were in for extended daylight and the possibility of an evening hatch. Instead, the river called me to it with urgency, for the warmth of the day would be short, and with that the rare opportunity to fish dries on a December day in the Northeast.
When I got to the river's edge, the warm, gray air was calm and filled with a heavy mist falling from the slate sky above, larger drops of accumulated spray dripped from the tree branches. The river was low and clear, a quick check of the water temperature showed a reading of 50 degrees F, which is not typical for this time of the year. A few dark midges were in the air, nothing approaching a hatch, but apparently enough were on the water to bring a few hungry trout to the surface.
I first tied on a simple snowshoe emerger, size 22, and fished it off the end of a 14 foot leader tapered to 6X. I cast the offering to the expanding surface rings left by rising fish. And those fish came to the fly only to hang at a 45 degree angle, nose an inch away, drifting under the fly for a second or two before slowly fading back down out of sight. We played this game with two or three fish for a while; checking my fly, changing my casting position, and kneeing low, but to no avail. I just kept getting the fin. Then I tied a #18, soft hackle pheasant tail emerger to that same leader, and began fishing from an upstream and across position. The second cast drifted only a few inches before the fly vanished in a tiny blip and I set the hook. After a brief but spirited battle the trout came to net, a nice 14 inch rainbow, the fly set firmly in the angle of its jaw.
The accomplishment? Another year that we caught a trout on a dry fly in each of the twelve months. It's just one of those silly challenges we give ourselves to make things a little more interesting. Here's a close-up of the fly just before it was removed and the trout was set free.
I hooked one other fish on the same dry, but it won that battle in fairly short-order. With no other fish rising, I worked my way down stream along the bank fishing nymphs in all of the runs and likely holding water, taking 4 more fish. Two on a Pumpkinhead Midge, and the other two on a #16 scud, before heading back into the chaos of life away from the realities of nature.
Sharpen your hooks.