Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Trout Lake Report: Sleepy

Back to the lake. You launch at the channel again. This mid-lake stretch has been asleep recently, but you're scouting out this and other prime areas. You want to know when they wake up. The cooler weather persists. You hope it might make a difference.

You explore the channel.

You work John's Cove and out into the south lake.

Still asleep. So you kick over to where the channel opens up into the north lake.

This has been Damselator territory, but nobody's looking up today.

At dusk you see Callibaetis on the water.

Soon the air is full of midges and dancing mays.

You wait for the feeding to begin, but only a few fish are coming up every once in awhile. You wait and wait, and finally get only one rise to your mayfly pattern--and miss it. You were looking somewhere else--as usual.

The dragonflies are busy feeding, slashing through the swarming insects. They take breaks on the tube.

Just before full dark the rises quit. Have the fish all gone to sleep? You clip the mayfly off and tie on the bead head Woolly Bugger. You troll a loop out in open water. Just before you close the loop you find a fish still up.

OK. Now you feel sleepy. Time to head for home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hopper Madness

It's time....

"Directions" by Joseph Stroud

             "In the Valley of the Nidd, Yorkshire" by Edmund John Niemann, Photo by Museums Sheffield

                                              How weary, stale, flat, and unproiftable
                                                        Seem to me all the uses of this world 

                                                           — Hamlet

Take a plane to London.
From King's Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you'll be on the moors. There's a pub,
The Drovers, where it's warm inside, a tiny room,
you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculier.
For a moment everything will be all right. You're back
at a beginning. Soon you'll walk into Yorkshire country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You'll walk for hours. You'll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.

"Directions" by Joseph Stroud, from Of this World. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Trout Lake Report: Move Over, Shark Week

You go back to the inlet the very next day after your flurry of Browns. The weather has moderated. Thunderstorms during the night have cooled things down and cleared the air a bit. The fish seem to like the change: they're actively feeding around barely submerged weed beds halfway across the lake.

You stop and cast a small muddler to some risers and get a quick hit. It's a good Rainbow.

You take a couple more casts, but you're eager to get back to the inlet to see if any Browns are there, so you abandon the Rainbows and and start across again.

In the strip of open water on the other side of the weed mats you find fish working. That same little Brown is still jumping and splashing where he was the evening before.

You go straight to the Damselator and begin working on him. Twice you get him to follow. Then you blow it. You've stripped the fly back in slowly, you wait a moment to make sure he's not there, and then you pick up the fly--and he's there. You pull the fly right out of his mouth, pricking him in the process. That's the end of him. That Brown is a survivor.

More fish are active, but you can't tell if they're Browns or Rainbows. There's a heavy rise ring where you saw the big Brown the evening before, so you lay the Damselator out and let it sit. There's a quiet take, you get a hookup, and then the fish surges away and breaks off. Was that the Brown?

When the sun goes behind the mountain you notice something you haven't seen here in a long time. Good numbers of Callibaetis spinners are dancing over the water. You do something you rarely do, and match the hatch. You dig into your fly boxes to find some Callibaetis dries you tied up years ago for the Henry's Fork.

You cast one out where you've seen rises, and get a hit. You set, and pull a little tiny Rainbow three feet out of the water. You start to strip it in as quick as you can, suddenly feel a weight inconsistent with the diminutive size of the fish you just hooked, look up and see that you've got a very nice Brown on the end of the line. How did that happen?

You start to play the Brown carefully. He does not want to give an inch, and runs into reeds where he's hung up long enough for you to get a good look at him. He's a nice fish. You get him loose, and begin to feel that you just might pull this off, when he's suddenly gone. You strip in only the little tiny Rainbow you started with.

Of course, the Brown took that little fish as soon as it hit the water in distress. The Brown may have been actually snagged on the end of that hook, but it felt like he finally just let go. As for the little Rainbow, he survived. You figure you can at least feel good about that.

You switch to a fresh fly and watch for a few moments. Callibaetis are on the water, and fish are coming up along the edges of the weed mats to take them. The rises are beautiful: long, slow, sinuous, porpoising takes. You drop the fly an inch from the weeds and wait. Up comes a fish, a nice Rainbow.

You cast again, wait, and there's another slow motion take. This is a better fish, and it's another Brown. Or is it the same Brown? It doesn't matter; it's a Brown, and you get him into the net.

It's one of the better Browns in what you have already begun to think of as--Brown Week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Trout Lake Report: Brown Fest

Another hot, smoky afternoon. You launch on the north end. It's time to visit the cool waters of the inlet again.

There's a boat out there in the deeper water, away from the shallows and the great barrier of weed mats. That makes sense. But you head straight for the weeds, slog through, and find a crescent of open water at the inlet. It is shallow--you can touch the bottom with your fins. But it's calm inside the weeds, the water feels cool against your legs, and--just as you hoped--there are fish working the margins of the weeds. You watch one, two, three, four, rolling and jumping and porpoising--and they're all Browns.

You have a muddler on that you were dragging behind you on the crossing, so you show it to them first. You get a curious bump, and a refusal. You clip it off and tie on a little Damselator. That does the trick. You catch two right away.

There's a smaller Brown splashing around some weeds very near to you. It's the one who refused the muddler. You concentrate on him, and finally get a cautious take. You set, and miss. It seems he spit it out before you raised the rod. After that, he continues to splash around the weeds right under your nose while blithely ignoring the Damselator. He likes to jump clear out of the water, so that the sun flashes off his buttery sides, just to make sure you know he's still there. That fish will go far.

So you cast over to the mouth of the inlet. There's an instant take: Brown number three.

You move around and explore other pools in the weeds. There's a very good Brown coming up every five minutes or so with beautiful dorsal and tail rises. You try for him, without success. And the little Brown is still splashing away.

On a whim you go over to the inlet. The lake is way down, more than you've ever seen at this time of the season. The inlet is now a shallow stream. Just for the heck of it, you cast the Damselator in and watch it drift in the current.

There's a take. That's a little surprising, with the water as skinny as it is, but it's not unknown to get hits from tiny little Rainbows in places like this. So you raise the rod--and there's an explosion in that little creek. Now that's a big surprise. And it's a big fish. You snake it out into the open and work it. It can't go deep, so it makes long, slashing runs back and forth. As you get it closer and closer you can see that it's barely hooked right on the tip of the lower jaw. You hold your breath and finally get him to the tube and start to maneuver him toward the waiting net--and the fly pops out. He just sits there for a few moments, too tired to know what's happened. He's almost close enough to reach out and scoop into the net. And then he slowly fins away.

You fish some more, trying different flies as the day wanes. The little Brown has gone down, but the big Brown you saw before shows up again. You cast a little Stimulator to him. You wait. You strip it. You get a take. Your heart races for a split second. But once again you get the consolation prize.

Things slow down, and you start to kick your way back through the weeds. You cast a big mayfly into the pocketwater in the weeds as you go. No takes.

You get to the other side in deep twilight. The float tube bumps up against the shore, and you begin to reel in the line. Sometimes you'll get a take doing this, so you reel in slowly and expectantly. But not this time. So, with the fly the length of the rod away from you, you start to raise the rod to grab the fly--and a fish jumps out of the water and comes down on the fly. You realize he's hooked, but before you can do anything, he bolts and is gone, fly and all.

You sit there in amazement for a few moments. You can still see that fish in mid-air in front of you.

And you're pretty sure it was a Brown.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fish Lake Report: Super Moon

You give Trout Lake a break and stop up the road at Fish Lake. It's another hot afternoon.

You're curious about these Fish Lake trout. Will they take a muddler in this heat? You start down the long shoreline of summer.

You find one trout who will take the muddler, on a dead drift about ten feet off the bank. He gives a fine account of himself.

You keep the muddler on for awhile, but nothing else comes to it. You try a Damselator, with no luck.

You tie the muddler back on and kick up to the west end, fishing as you go.

This was an active place the evening you were here before. Now there are some rises here and there. You put on a lighter tippet and try a variety of small dries. You get a few swirls, and a couple of hookups that come undone: small fry. Then, you're stripping in your Cinnamon Ant for another cast, and a bigger fish hits it hard and is hooked. But before you can react he bolts and is gone, fly, tippet, and all.

You try to find a fish like that again, but finally give up and head back down the lake.

Then you notice the moon. Oh yeah. Super Moon on the way.

This moon, some 99% full, is a pretty nice preview. You decide to be right back here tomorrow night for the official full moon.


So, the very next evening, there you are.

You go back to the shorelines with a muddler, and hook and lose a small fish. It's a beginning.

The sun goes down in the hot, smoky sky.

Then, for awhile, the fish come alive. They're rising and jumping all down the middle of the lake.

Most are tiny, and you catch them one after another on several different flies. But there are bigger fish all around you. They sound like someone tossed a cantaloupe into the lake. But you just keep catching the little guys.

The activity slows way down just as the blood red tip of the moon pushes above the ridge. So you settle back and watch the smoky moon rise.

The smoke dims its brightness. But it's still super.