This little guy showed up at my desk lamp tonight. My call is the Tiny Blue Wing Olive. And they do mean tiny: #22. Must have hatched at the river.
It leads me to reflect on tiny flies and my experiences at the lake recently.
I have admitted my failure to catch fish on the last few trips, and described trimming a tiny trico fly to imitate a little black, white-winged fly that was on the water the other evening--to no avail.
First, the reason I've gone to tiny flies is that the hoppers aren't working. That's another part of the mystery. I have faithfully tried them on almost every trip, inside the weedbeds, outside the weedbeds, in the middle of the weedbeds. Fast retrieves, slow retrieves, intermittent retrieves, no retrieves. Nothing.
I've also tried casting them to feeding fish out in deep, open water: "grasshoppering the hatch," if you will. Believe it or not, this has worked in the past, but it hasn't worked recently. So, rather than countering the hatch, I've been trying to imitate it as closely as possible.
Now, what I haven't talked about are my recent tippet decisions.
Those who fish know those are crucial to success or lack of success, and might even have wondered what tippet I was using in a given situation. If you told me a trout came up and refused a #16 caddis dry, I'd wonder what tippet you had on. So...
In general, the calmer the water the lighter the tippet required to fool the fish. Conditions recently have been generally much calmer than earlier in the summer.
I have been using Maxima 4X when fishing hoppers and bigger caddis, and also when trolling bigger flies like Wooly Buggers and the bead head leeches. It has worked, and with the dry flies has been essential in dredging the fish out of the weeds. It occurs to me, though, that with the recent lack of success with hoppers I might need to try them with a lighter tippet. Better tie up a handful of them for that experiment.
When I have gone to smaller flies--Griffith's Gnats, for example, or trolled soft hackles--I have used 5X. I've lost some flies doing that, and thought it would be good to get some new 5X. So I got some Scientific Anglers tippet material but was unhappy with it. It twisted and kinked badly. So I bought some Maxima 5X.
The Scientific Anglers tippet material was clear, the Maxima is brown. It seems when I began using that I stopped catching fish. Coincidence? Maybe, and the color may make no difference; but I have to say the Maxima 5X seems much thicker than the SA 5X.
So when I tied on that trimmed trico--a #20--I used some old Maxima 5X, seemingly less stiff than the brown, and clear to boot.
I still didn't catch anything, and in fact have had clear refusals with it.
So what I'm thinking now is that I need to go to a 6X tippet. I have some, and even 7X.
The interesting thing is that the fish I have been casting to are coming up in the midst of thick weeds. There are weedmats on the surface all around the open water they're in, and weeds probably no more than two or three feet under that water.
So if I should get a take by going to lighter and lighter tippets, there's no way I could net the fish, especially some of the big boys I've seen flaunting their dorsals. At least I don't think so. At least my rational side doesn't think so. But there's another voice in my head saying, "Maybe you can...and wouldn't that be something!"
But even if I can't, at this point just a take would be a victory, so I'll take my chances.
Next time I'll start with the 6X and a tiny dry--maybe a Tiny Blue Wing Olive--and if that doesn't work I'll go with a tiny nymph and a strike indicator.
First I'll figure out how to get a take; then I'll figure out how to play a big fish with 6X in heavy weeds.
Meanwhile, I'll eagerly anticipate that magical moment when the hoppers--tied on thick, ropelike tippets--begin to work again.
Isn't this a fun obsession?