Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rocky Ford Creek Report: The Fish of a Thousand Casts

Wind. Relentless wind. The sky is scrubbed clean by it.

You get to Rocky Ford and park in the lot. The truck shudders in the wind. For the first time ever, you're the only one there.

You wonder as you hike down to the water whether the wind had something to do with cracking this boulder in half.

You take a lesson about coping with the wind from a little blacksnake encountered on the path: stay low.

The wind is blowing downstream. This is the best case scenario. It allows for a right-handed cast--and you're right-handed.  

The pelicans, like the blacksnake, are hunkered down.

You begin casting. You have to work hard to compensate for the wind, and you have to stay alert to duck the flies swirling around your head.

The conditions are less than ideal, but you're confident you can move some fish. You're eager to go back to the honey hole with a brand new blood midge. After ten drifts--or is it twenty?--with absolutely no sign of life, your confidence flags.

You try more nymphs and emergers. You try the standby scud. You go up top with everything from a tiny may to a big muddler. You try fly after fly. Nothing is working.

You cast all afternoon with nothing to show for it. Then, all at once, there's a subtle change. The gusts have backed off just a little. Not the wind. The gusts. The wind is still sweeping across the water, but out of nowhere you see three or four fish rising out in mid-channel.

You just happen to have the Lady on. You've fished her before on this day, several times, unsuccessfully. Now, though, you punch it out to where you saw a rise and get an immediate hit. You miss. You put it back out there and get another hit and a short lived hookup. You try again and this time bring in a fish. As you net it, more fish pop up, so you don't even take the time to pose the fish. You release it as quickly as you can and get the Lady out there again. 

But on one of your casts you snag the Lady out in that cattail island. You have to break it off. Do you blame the wind? Sure.

You have one more. You get it out of the fly box OK, but then you drop it as you're trying to thread the tippet through the eye--and the wind whisks it into the water. It floats away.

Now what? A search yields a somewhat-the-worse-for-wear yellow humpy. That will have to do. You tie it on and comb the riffles.

There we go.

And again.

But that's all she wrote for that humpy. You can't get it to float anymore.

You tie on a nice bushy Adams variant and lay it out.

It bobs on the waves and another fish comes to it.

It's getting dusky. You keep casting and one more fish takes the fly. You play it for several minutes--and it comes undone. It felt like it might have been the fish of the day.

Your casting shoulder is tired, your face is windburned, and your eyes feel gritty. On top of that, the wind is beginning to gust again. You call it a day.

You stuck it out for five hours of steady casting, and were finally able to catch some fish in the last hour of the day.

Just goes to show that sometimes trout are the fish of a thousand casts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rocky Ford Creek Report: Honey Hole

It's spring in the cattail marsh.

It's spring on the water. You strip in your newest soft hackle and hook a heavy fish. The idea is to get a photo or two of the first fish of Spring jumping and leaping. It's a bad idea. The fish takes the fly and the tippet and jumps and leaps away.

You have another soft hackle and tie it on, but it doesn't bring another hit. You switch to the ever-faithful Lady McConnell.

 After a time you bring in the first fish of Spring. The photo waits until the fish is safely in the net.

Things are slow. The fish are there, but they are hesitant to poke their noses out of the riffles. You try several different dry flies, but you get more hits from swallows than from fish. It's a compliment from the swallows, but you would prefer fish.

Time to go below. On a whim you choose a #12 blood midge to suspend under the indicator. You have caught good fish on this pattern in the dead of winter. Would it work on a pretty Spring day?

The fly is hanging a good 18 inches below the indicator. You fish it dead drift. It slowly drifts from 10 o'clock to 1 o'clock. You've been tempted to pick it up since 12 o'clock, but you stay the course. At 2 o'clock the indicator plunges. You work in a gorgeous deep-bodied slab of a Rainbow.

That's the exact spot you hooked the first fish you caught here on the blood midge. It was a big fish, too. You revive the theory of the honey hole lying just off that cattail island.

Back you go. The indicator drifts slowly to 2 o'clock and, right on cue, plunges again. Another heavy fish, better than the first one. It begins a ponderous run toward the main channel. You're with it all the way, giving line, keeping pressure on, until you get it on the reel. The drag is set light, but your handfeeding of the line was lighter. The slight increase in tension is enough for the next lunge to separate the 5X tippet from the leader.

You have one more blood midge. You tie it on 4X this time, and go back to the honey hole. Yep, at 2 o'clock the indicator dips and another heavy fish is hooked. You're kneeling with the net in your hand, just leading the fish into it, when the hook comes out. You almost jump in after that fish.

Again. Another good fish hooked. This one jumps off the hook.

And again. You've just knelt down and reached for the net when this one rolls off the hook.

Four fish in a row hooked and lost. What are the odds? You stay on your knees for awhile. Time for some soul-searching.

You go back to the honey hole one more time. Amazingly, there's one more fish to grab the big red nymph. This one is smaller, and you manage to get it all the way to the net. Redemption, but of a diminished sort.

Six fish out of the honey hole. Could there be more? You go back for a couple more drifts. Retrieving the line for another cast you get the fly hung up in the cattail island. There's no help for it--you have to break it off.

That was your last one. Time for a change. You try the big soft hackle under the indicator. Then the small soft hackle. Then you go back on top with another selection of dries.

Still slow on top. You dig deep and find a lone San Juan worm. You drift that through the honey hole and the indicator jumps again. But it's another little fish.

That's all for the worm. So you decide to go dry the rest of the way.

It's still slow, but you trick a little guy with a deer hair PMD.

You go back to the Lady.

And she comes through again. You net one fish.

Then you lose another one--decent, but not a slab--when you try to get a photo of it jumping. You miss, but you'll keep on trying. That's the only way you'll ever get the shot.

Evening falls. You tie on a pretty little stimulator.

You have to work for them, but you get a couple of bumps.

Just as you begin the usual inner dialogue ("This is the last cast...OK, this is the last cast...wait, just one more cast...") you get a splashy take. Another feisty youngster, but much appreciated.

You aren't positive, but you're pretty sure that fish hit the fly just as it was drifting right over the honey hole....