Yep, still some unfinished business from a wonderful 2012 season at Trout Lake. I had such a crazy busy fall and winter that I never got around to announcing the Fly of the Year.
I fish the lake on a regular basis, and will use a lot of different flies and techniques over the course of a season. I have been fortunate to catch fish with all of them. But I have a clear and overwhelming preference for dry flies and surface takes, so I tend to go dry most of the time. And in 2012 two flies rose to the top as consistent producers of what the fishing magazines call "heart-stopping top-water action." Those two flies are co-winners of the 2012 Fly of the Year.
2012 FLIES OF THE YEAR
Muddler MinnowWhat a tremendous fly. I tied them in a variety of sizes and colors, and used them from early spring until late fall. I greased them and waked them on top, and I let them drown and stripped them just under the surface. I took fish on a dead drift on a dead calm, and I took fish stripping them through wind-blown whitecaps. I most consistently caught fish along the bank--throughout the season--but I also found fish out in open water. I caught little fish not much bigger than the fly, and prodigious great fish. I caught Rainbows and I caught Browns. When I needed a fish, I worked a big fat muddler--and I got one.
Enduring memory: Working the weedbeds along a wind-sheltered bank. Catching fish on the strip. On a whim you cast out into open water where the wind is pushing rollers out of the channel. The muddler sits up pretty as you please riding the swells. You let it sit. You aren't sure you're seeing what you're seeing when a big head and back come up and the muddler is gone. You fumble and raise the rod, the fish--a big fish, a Rainbow--dives, runs and comes up like a rocket. He hangs in the air and you can count every one of his twenty-plus inches. He hits like a sluice log, you raise the rod...on nothing. Just the swells, rolling, rolling....
Every summer, out come the damselflies, by the thousands. Finally, in 2012, after years of trial and error, out came the Damselator. I finally got it right, and, from July through October, wherever fish were on damsels they were all over the Damselator. A dead drift was effective, a twitch was killer. Rainbows, Browns, they all wanted that taste of blue.
Enduring memory: A quiet afternoon. Sun lights up a lone Rainbow finning lazily in four feet of water along the reedline. You drop a little muddler down in front of him. He ignores it, keeps going out of sight. In a minute you see him coming back. You tie on the Damselator as quick as you can, but the fish is past you before you're ready for a cast. You cast it out behind him. You aren't sure he even saw it. Then you watch as he makes a big circle, comes up behind the Damselator and calmly sucks it in. Yum.
FLY OF THE YEAR RUNNER UP
I've got to say something about the Brown Drake, commonly known as the Hex. 2012 was a good year for the hatch, and for over two weeks the evening air along the Hex Banks was thick with gyres of giant mayflies. The fish got crazy on them, hyper and skittish, running here, there, and everywhere. They'd slash at the fly so hard half the time they'd miss. And if you pricked them at all they were gone. But if they hit, and you hooked them, you'd better hang on tight. More than one "small" fish broke me off.
Enduring memory: You cast to a rise. Nothing happens. You wait. You wait some more. You twitch the fly. Nothing. Just when you've decided to recast, WHAM! a hyper fish comes out of nowhere and slams the fly. Making you jump. Again.