Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday Fishing Report: Happy, Sad, Happy, Sad, Happy

I was able to get away for the evening again. I went to the south end, a place I tend to frequent this time of year, and found it pleasantly deserted. There had been thunderstorms roaming around all day but things gradually cleared off while I was there. It was a beautiful evening.
As I took the float tube down to the water something started flapping and crying in a tree near the water. I discovered a catbird who had apparently tried to eat a fishing fly that was tangled in a dead branch of the tree. He had hooked himself in the beak and was tethered by a short piece of line. He would flap and hang and then sit forlornly on the branch, and then begin again.
I tried to rescue him, but the branch was beyond reach of the longest sticks I could find, and too thick to break with a fly line even if I could have cast it over the branch.
So I sadly left him there to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.
The Loons were with me all evening. This one, the male, was preening himself. He dipped his beak into the water repeatedly, like a teenage boy wetting his comb. And he rolled way over on his side to preen his belly.
I knew he would stretch his wings afterward, so I waited for it. Wish I had a telephoto.
I started trolling for some reason. There was little activity, and maybe I was saving the hopper for later.
Earlier in the week I found two of these damselfly nymphs crawling on me, on their way to my head to hatch.
I had some damsel nymphs that I had tied last year, but they seemed way too yellow next to the real thing. So I dug out a little-used green chironimid pattern.
Here are a couple pictures of it.

I ended up down along the bank I like to fish with hoppers. So I geared up for that.
What happened next was one of those "perfect moments" that I note in the blog heading.
I cast in to a thin corridor between the bank and some weedtops sticking out of the water. I began to strip the fly in, slowly, and had moved it maybe six inches to the edge of the weeds when I saw a fish come up in a subtle porpoising rise just two feet from the fly and heading right toward it.
I stopped stripping and held my breath and watched the fly bobbing there...and just when I thought he should be there, he was there. He calmly took the fly.
Synchronicity is a beautiful thing.
The wind picked up, and I worked some more bank but had used up my mojo. So I went to the far south end to wait for calm and the hatch.
It came, and I amused myself by trying to catch roaming pods of trout with a little tiny dry fly.
As it got dusky, around 9:00, I happened to look up and saw the truck lights on.
Aiee! Stupido! I had turned them on while driving up through rain. But it was sunny when I got to the lake....
That was the end of the fishing. I kicked the float tube into overdrive, skidded to a stop, leaped out, stumbled up the bank to the truck, fumbled for my keys in the wader pockets, unlocked the truck and turned off the lights.
I didn't have the courage to try to start the engine right away; I went ahead and loaded up.
I turned the key and it went Clunk!--Ro-o-o--a-a-a-r! I'm real glad for that new battery.
Oh, and when I went back down to the water for the float tube I looked up expecting to find the catbird hanging dead. It was gone, even though the fly was still hanging there. Good to know birds can come unhooked, too.
Now that's a happy ending.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday Fishing Report: Only God can make a Hailstorm

Maybe I shouldn't have said "hailstorm" when I was talking about the grasshoppers.
I tied up a couple of revised hopper patterns this afternoon. I went all fancy with them. I was eager to try them out so I got away for the evening.
We had a good rain with some thunder and lightning all day yesterday. The weather report today called for isolated thunderstorms. I guess the lake qualifies as "isolated." Clouds were rolling in as I started fishing.
I had a near miss from a trout and was just getting serious with him when the wind picked up, thunder rumbled, and big drops of rain began to fall. I backed into the willows and put on my rainjacket and settled in to watch the show. There was some lightning and thunder, but not as much as I expected. This storm had another surprise in store.
It began with a heavy rain.
It then moved quickly to the main event: hail.

I have to say, getting the shot sometimes involves pain. Those hailstones hurt when they whack you on the knuckles. When I didn't have the camera out I had my arms folded with my hands tucked in my armpits.
But it was well worth it.
The storm rumbled away to the south and I paddled back out into a lake littered with leaves stripped off by the hail.
I picked up right where I had left off. I don't know if this was the same fish I missed earler, but he was in the same area and he came right to the fly.
But then things got slow. Maybe it was the rain and hail, but all activity on the part of the trout seemed to have stopped. I worked a lot of bank without any sign that anyone was paying attention.
Except these geese. These are the goslings of a few weeks ago, now old enough to get their learner's permit.
There was a hatch again down at the far south end, and this mayfly was coming off in increasing numbers. I think it's the Speckled Quill.
It took awhile for the trout to begin to rise in any numbers, but they finally did. I caught a Rainbow on a small Adams, but again it jumped out of my hand when I was taking it out of the net and got away without a picture.
There was an interesting footnote to the evening. There had been a couple of good cracking thunderclaps to the north, and it wasn't long after the storm passed that I heard a helicopter off in that direction.
Yesterday I had watched a storm with spectacular lightning roll through. Afterward, as I drove through the area it had passed, I saw smoke rising from a spot up on the ridge, an apparent lightning strike. I was getting ready to call someone to report it when a Forest Service helicopter roared by. They seem to keep close tabs on these storms.
So this evening I heard the helicopter coming in my direction. The ridges and mountains began to pick up and amplify and echo the sound of its rotors. Then it came around a bend, flying low right over the lake as it threaded the valley south.
I have to say it was impressive as hell. The pictures don't do it justice. It seemed to fill the valley when it passed over. The sound of it certainly did.
Maybe it's a good sign: the most impressive things we humans are capable of are still dwarfed by the natural world. We can make helicopters, and make them real loud.
But only God can make a trout--or a hailstorm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday Fishing Report: Hopper Time?

One swallow may not a Spring make, but do two Hopper Days make Hopper Time?
The wind was from the north this morning and the valley was full of Canadian smoke.
Speaking of Canada, as I write this the northern sky is putting on a display of Northern Lights. A wide band of ghostly white light stretches from horizon to horizon, and beneath it clouds of light shift and configure into curtains, fans and shafts.
Could it have anything to do with the smoke? Or is it just the end of the world?
Perhaps it's a celestial omen: Let there be Hopper Time.
By the time I got to the lake this evening and put in at the south end the wind had shifted to the south and much of the smoke had cleared, but a haze persisted.
I went right to work with my remaining hopper pattern. Up from the weeds came a ghostly shape and this very nice Rainbow was on.
By now this pattern has definitely been "blooded."
I moved on down the bank and came up fast to this hefty Brown. He went a good 19 inches.
As the waning sunlight slid up over the mountain and dusk settled in I continued to work the bank, but without success. The wind had died by then, and the water was glassy.
A good hatch began at the far southern end, so I paddled over and tried a succession of flies until finally getting a hit on a little gray caddis pattern. I netted the fish, but he slipped out of my hand as I took him out of the net and was gone.
When I couldn't see the fly anymore I drowned it and trolled for shore. All the way in I was thinking, "If it looks like Hopper Time, and sounds like Hopper Time, and feels like Hopper Time...maybe it's Hopper Time."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday Fishing Report: Hopper Day

It may still be a little early to declare this as "Hopper Time." But hopper patterns are starting to work more consistently.
Lidia took this picture of a grasshopper in the bed of the truck after our drive up to the lake last week. I said at the time we drove through a "blizzard" of hoppers; it would be more accurate to say a "hailstorm."
They're still there, flying over the road in windborne swarms, and dotting the pavement. So are flocks of cowbirds feasting on them.
This is the pattern I tied up in approximation of their size and color. Next batch I'll lengthen the legs and maybe even knot them. You may recall I already hooked and lost a big trout on this fly.
So I was ready to try it out again. But first I took pictures of the butterflies I found flitting from milkweed bloom to milkweed bloom at the place I parked the truck.
The day was hazy with smoke from fires in British Columbia. Trout were jumping all along the weedbeds up by those trees. The only thing I can figure out is that they're taking Damsels, sometimes right out of the air, apparently. Most of the time they come completely out of the water.
I tried throwing a few flies at them, including my "Damsel in Distress" soft hackle, but they wanted the real thing.
So I tied on my hopper pattern and went over to John's Cove to work the bank by casting the fly right to the water's edge and stripping it back. Halfway down the bank I had a strong take. I employed the stripping technique again and got him out of the weeds and into open water. I thought the worst was over.
Then he decided to go back to the weedbed. I'm still amazed at how strong and fast these fish can be. One moment the fly line was on my left in deep water, the next it was way over to my right in the weedbed.
I thought I could hold him, but he put on a burst of greater speed and snapped my tippet. One hopper pattern down; one to go.
I was encouraged, in a depressed kind of way. He took the fly, but...he took the fly.
An inauspicious beginning. I paddled around aimlessly for awhile trying to figure out my next strategy
Then I tied on a Lidia's Caddis--a good bet, I thought--and went down to where I'd caught those nice fish the day before. I found a leaper in the weedbeds and laid the fly right in front of him. He came up next to it once, twice, three times, and I was ready to go back to the drawing board. Then he came over and, almost as an afterthought, sipped it up.
I found more leapers, but couldn't get another take. So I decided to go back over to John's Cove for Round 2. I dragged the caddis behind me and halfway there picked up another fish.
About then somebody flipped the switch and the fish stopped feeding. Not a rise anywhere.
But I didn't need risers for what I was going to do. I tied on the remaining hopper and began prospecting again along a different section of bank.
Up came a fish, out of nowhere. I stripped him in again, but this time very carefully. I got him and the fly into the net.
It was a nice Brown, built like a fullback. I looked in his jaw for my other fly, but it wasn't there.
That felt better. I caught him right in the middle of this bank.
I took a brief break, and while I was doing that the wind shifted and began to blow. There was still a sheltered patch under the willows near where I had parked the float tube, so when I paddled out again I threw the bedraggled hopper in there. Turns out it had some more work to do.
Now I was encouraged in a happy sort of way. But the hopper wouldn't float anymore, so I retired it until next time. There were a few rises, but the wind kept the water ruffled. So I trolled a soft hackle until time to head for the truck and home.
It may not be "Hopper Time," but it was a Hopper Day.