(Click on photo to enlarge)
I've seen days like this before, and somehow knew this one was going to be just like the others. A warm, bright mid April day with soft breezes shortly after the Hendricksons have peaked almost always means there will be Grannoms hatching and trout taking them. So while cleaning up the house this morning after last nights party, I was feeling what I thought the day would be like on the river and when I was done I made a bee line to the river.
The South Branch was fairly low today for early season clear and open to the sun with the trees only just beginning to sprout their leaf buds. The Grannoms seem to like days like this, and sure enough when I reached the water, caddis were in the air and some even on the water. After only a brief few minutes of watching the water, a fish rose confidently with the aggressiveness that told me they were on the caddis. I watched for a few minutes more and several more fish rose.
The pool I was watching is somewhat slow with shallow riffles at the head, which is not ideal Grannom water. So I decided to head downstream about 1/4 mile to a series of riffles and deep runs that are much more inviting to the caddis. When I got to the spot, many more caddis were hatching and flying around. I grabbed one in my hat and saw they were the smaller species, a size #16 Dark Grannom. And fish rose sporadically throughout the 50 yard run.
After catching a few nice rainbows on a dark olive bodied Iris Caddis like the one I wrote about a few days ago, I walked down stream a bit to a deep, dark pocket that runs along the rocks on the opposite bank. I had seen a fish rise softly here while I fished the water above. The rises were more like those of fish feeding on a spinner or spent caddis. The fish rose again and sipped something in, leaving only a few expanding rings that moved quickly away with the current. I then dropped my Iris Caddis above the rise and it moved right over the fish without a look. The next cast drifted over the spot just like the first, only this time a fish came up to the fly quickly before turning away. The water the fish pushed created a small wake under the fly, making it bob as it floated downstream.
After that refusal and having seen the fish take a spent caddis, I stepped back to the bank to change flies. Having seen a number of caddis floating by that had hatched but didn't or couldn't get off the water, I decided to tie on a size 16 pheasant tail soft hackle. This fly is a great mayfly or caddisfly cripple imitation in which I have the utmost confidence in. After making sure my leader and tippet were solid I made a couple of test casts along the calmer water and once satisfied my fly was going to float as I liked, I moved into position and crouched low. I knew where I was going to cast as the fish had rose several times while I was changing flies. I dropped my cast above the target and it drifted maybe a foot before it was gently sipped in, I lifted my rod, and quickly discovered I was hooked into the beast you see above. After a good fight that brought me another 25 yards downstream I tried to the net the fish, but it wouldn't fit, so I guided it to the shallow margin of the stream, took a quick photo, and then released it in deeper water.
I continued to fish after that, working my way back upstream, fishing the soft hackle on the surface. Over the course of about 3 hours I took a bunch more rainbows and this little wild brown that flipped itself into the water as I took the photo.
It was a wonderful day on the water fishing dries and taking in the sounds of a warm spring day. I was serenaded by songbirds that played in the brush along the banks, while across the river up high in a decaying oak tree a Pileated Woodpecker alternated between tapping away at the trunk looking for a meal, and releasing its distinct, rising and falling shrill of a call.
Sharpen your hooks.