Why the heck WOULD a 22 inch trout take a #18 fly?
That's a question I always ask.
If I'm a 6' 2" person with 210 pounds of solid muscle, why would I order a 'Happy Meal' when I SHOULD be ordering a 'Big Mac combo'? 'LARGE SIZE' it even? Big guy, big meal. RIGHT?!
First off, I WISH I was 6' whatever and made of solid muscle. However, mom and dad saw to it that 23 chromosomes here and 23 there made sure that I stand 5' 5" and 150 pounds with most of the active Arnold Schwarzzeneger(SP?) muscles located in my mouth, which work fine when my foot isn't anywhere to be found.
Big fish needs big food, right? RIGHT?!
Yesterday, here in Kingston where I live, the flying ants were all over the place. And once again, I saw a sight which stunned me the first time I saw it: Seagulls.
(I don't know about a lot of you good friends from south of the border, but to me, the seagull should be Canada's national bird!)
During a similar hatch of flying ants in a field just behind my parent's home, I happened to notice that the seagulls were flying around within a HUGE perimeter; swooping, turning, hard braking.
Acrobatics, in other words. And all without ever leaving the vicinity of their 'dance circle'.
Then, I started getting closer and taking a close look at what they were doing, and wouldn't you know it, they were eating flying ants!
All their flying manoeuvers, and every now and then a snap of their beaks like chopsticks, snatching a little itty-bitty ant. This huge bird which spends most of its time eating french fries my kids throw and every other bit of food we discard, going after these insects.
Never would've believed it until I saw it.
And yesterday, I saw it all over again. Although this time, right outside my front door in our neighborhood.
Some of the ants were #16's, some as small as #20's, and the 'Terminators' making sure work of them all.
Which brings us back to the stream.
You read it in all the fishing mags but you never understand why. And then, 'matching the hatch' all of a sudden makes sense. When you have thousands of 'Happy Meals' all over the place, THOUSANDS, it only makes sense that you at least ENTERTAIN the idea that maybe....MAYYYYY-BEEE....putting on a 'Happy Meal' might increase your chance of catching a fish.
I don't know how, but fish KNOW what's going on above AND below the water. When there's something going on above the surface, the fish below it..KNOW IT! And contrary to what I think SHOULD happen....fish aren't going to wait for the half dozen 'Super-duper big guy meals' which MIGHT come their way, when they know full well that a hatch of hundreds are going on right at that moment.
Eat one large meal, or a lot of little meals?
Three years ago fishing the Ausable in NY., the last day before we left for home I caught a nice brown about 16 inches (heck make it 22...I'm a fisherman, right?) on a #18 grey emerger and I wondered why on earth a big fish like that would casually sip a small piece of fur and feather I strained to be able to see.
It all boggles my mind, but it just happens.
And it sure is nice when it DOES happen.
Mention it to any fisherman and most will either laugh or turn their nose to the heavens as soon as you say it. For me, the chub is a fish which means an awful lot, while to others, just AWFUL!
My friend has a book called 'The Fly Rod'; a collection of stories and essays on subjects about fishing, primarily from an English point of view. There's one chapter which I re-read every time I visit my friend's house out of that book, titled 'The Magnificence of the Chub' by John C. Scott. Everytime I read it, I wish I wrote it.
To me there is no other fish so akin to trout in so many ways. It occupies the same haunts and lies that trout would, and equally attacks the flies we tie with our hands with the same vitality. There really is no other fish more forgiving and eager to please, especially for the beginner entering this wonderful hobby of ours. Your dead-drift may not be as good; you've slapped the water a few too many times; and still, the chub when it sees that fly pass by will forget everything and send your spirits soaring as it soars out of the water for that juicy morsel of fur and feather passing its snout.
I remember a day on the Saranac, fishing midday/early afetrnoon when the sun was so hot, it seemed there were no trout to be found. The closest I got to catching a trout was a guy that climbed a rock to follow a wooly bugger I lifted over that same rock after it swung around the far side. Two hours and not a hit. And then on the other side of the bank in the shadows, a beaded GRHE caught something which felt like a trout. Lo and behold, it wasn't a trout; it was a chub to save a seemingly fruitless day.
"Is that all you can catch?!" my mentor hollered.
"We're here to catch trout! We can catch those things back at home!"
And there's the beauty of chub: in those moments when the sun is so hot, and the trout know better than to be out in the warmwater (and in the open to boot), one fish will defy those conditions and stand in its place to make you feel glad to be out there with that stick in your hand.
Unlike a lot of the folks here at FAOL, warmwater species are what I fish for here where I live. There aren't any mountains to feed cold water, and so the opportunity of catching a trout doesn't happen that often.
My 'home water' is a part of the Napanee river which flattens out of some fast riffles. It's a place hallowed to me because it is where I caught my first fish on a fly rod; the chub.
Today, I went for the first time this year to that 'church'. It was overcast; there was a light drizzle; and I was the only one attending 'mass', waiting for that same minister who schooled me nine years ago in this 'religion' of ours to begin the sermon of the day.
Water was 65, and there were some very light hatches of tan caddis and some BWO's about, but nothing topping at all. So, I started out with a beadhead GRHE, and on the first retrieve caught a little largemouth bass. Quickly released, I cast again and caught the one I was waiting for, a little chub of about 8 inches.
I put on my intermediate sinking tip to get the nymph a little lower in the column, and WHAM! ; this big chub 12 inches and fat all around hooked nicely in the corner of his mouth came forth to welcome me once again, home.
Making my way up the river to the faster water, I decided to go dry with a UFO my friend Steve specializes in tying. Swung the UFO to a rock, and LEAP; some kind of BIG fish swiped hard at it from its hiding place underneath. Decided to change the fly to a Rusty Haystack, and it did just the trick. Thinking at first it MIGHT have been a bass, was surprised but overjoyed that another large eager chub 'went for gold'.
Every fisherman his his/her preferences when fishing: Dry or nymph; big fish over little; number of fish is important; trout over any other type of fish.
Me? I guess I've been too humbled by life too many times to mention, that I find beauty in everything around me. And that beauty comes from somewhere deep within ourselves and others. I appreciate everything served to me, because I know that everything and everyone around me, has something to teach me.
So when the waters of your favorite trout stream turn a shade to the warmer side of things, attend a class of that 'Professor Chub' to give your techninque a little warm-up; whose eagerness and naiivete makes you feel like a kid again when it attacks that fly of yours like you expect a fish should. He'll save your fishing day just when you think there's no fish to be had. And he'll keep your spirits high, to enjoy this hobby of ours long enough for the waters to cool down for the beginning of the evening hatch, where his cousin will take over.
My dear friend Steve is a lucky guy: he has a beautiful creek not five minutes away from his house, so close he can walk to it.
It's a small creek which connects to Lake Ontario(not entirely sure) quite a ways downstream.
It doesn't usually get too deep. In fact, the deepest I've ever seen it is about 2-3 feet deep. He could probably say he's seen it otherwise.
It's such a neat little stream because it gets all sorts of species of fish occupying its waters. In the spring, steelhead come in; the fall, salmon; and in between, bass, chub, whitefish, and even some carp make their way, along with trout.
Because I live three hours to the east, I don't get to fish the creek a lot. So it's always interesting to see what it looks like because just like everything in life, nothing really stays the same. Spring thaws cut the stream differently and give a whole new set of circumstances to tease the skill of any fisherman.
It's nice to come to familiar waters because it's like seeing an old friend, but it's also interesting to see what changes have taken place. The challenges of a changed stream is something I like as a fisherman; it's nice to have to work at catching a fish.
Water temperature was a nice 52-56(in the afternoon)and so we were both optimistic that trout(the fish I RARELY get to fish for) would be there.
Water was also moving quite fast because there were a couple of days of rain, and so the arms of the creek stretched wide to gather more shore than it usually does. During the summer, we'd get full-geared realizing while we're sweltering that we could get by just fine in sneakers and a bathing suit.
We started fishing and my friend got into a trout: little guy about 8 inches, caught on a Pheasant Tail nymph. I switched to a Beadhead Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear nymph in that nice rusty colour dyed by 'Uncle' Fran (Betters) and caught a 'little guy' as well: a brown trout fry. Very pretty, very nice.
Not a lot of hatches going on which surprised both of us. Those insects which we did see were midges around #18's and/or #20's. It's funny because I thought towards the late afternoon we'd maybe see some Hendrickson's. Alas, not to be.
In between the sun and the sound of flowing waters, I'd sit and have a cigarette contemplating my navel (as dear old Stan would say) and admire God's creation (or whoever's responsible) all around me.
Sometimes I wonder if I fish just as an excuse to be in the beautifull outdoors, away from the noise and craziness of everyday life. I find myself wanting to be alone quite a bit. I wonder if it's because life seems to surround me with so much hustle; so much bustle; noise all around; have to go here or there; have to do this or that.
Sometimes I feel like taking a huge bottle of bubble bath, sit in the middle of the river and say " CALGON....TAKE ME AWAY!!"
Our fish were few and small...between 6-8 inches. But the time spent together,very pleasant.
As you may or may not know, size to me doesn't make a lick of difference when it comes to fish or numbers of fish caught. All that matters is the experience.
I hope you all feel the same way too.
All the best of the season to you and yours.
Bad Luck Larry
I love flyfishing, but that doesn't mean I don't like spin fishing (although the latter seems a bit more mechanical than the naturalness of the former). However, fishing IS fishing! And I love it all!
My cousin's in-laws have a homestead north of the city from where I live, about thirty minutes out in the country with umpteen acres of land. It just so happens that on their property is a nice lake filled with bass and sunfish. Being secluded (more or less) those bass get VERY little pressure. So, it means that they've never seen a lure.
Usually we spend the two to four hours travelling the perimeter of the lake where the drop off is, or close to shore...lots of structure and that's where they usually are found.
It really IS like shooting fish in a barrel!
However, that doesn't mean that they DON'T have preferences. Sometimes they'll hit one colour than another; water temperature will be a little cooler than warmer; I'll remember my rabbit's foot than the horseshoe! But most often than not, throw anything and they'll hit it.
The whole point of fishing is exactly that: To FISH...for fish. It implies a guessing game. If you're like me, your numbers of fish aren't record breaking. So if you're also like me when you do come into a situation where fish aren't afraid to bite, you've hit the lottery jackpot!
As my mentor once said: enjoy a situation like that because they don't come around very often.
The crazy thing about this whole thing of 'shooting fish in a barrel' , is that after a while it DOES get kinda boring.
It's like that joke about the flyfisherman who dies, sees a huge bright light, and ZAP!...he's on a stream, with tackle and everything. So, after the bewilderment subsides, he decides to cast into the waters...dry fly, of course. He casts, fly floats....WHAM!...fish bites! He fights it, and after a nice struggle pulls in a 22 incher...trout no less! He thinks this is great! He releases the fish and casts again. WHAM! Same thing happens; nice fight, nice fish. WELL...after 6 hours of huge trout with every single cast, things get kinda boring to the fisherman and the casts get wimpier and wimpier 'cause the novelty has worn off.
A voice booms over the guy and asks: ' Joe, is there a problem with the fishing?'
The guy replies that no it's great, but that getting a huge eager fish with every cast, well...it can get a little on the boring side after a while, having the same thing happen over and over. Joe even says: 'This is great and all, but it wasn't what I thought Heaven would be like.'
The voice then replies: 'What makes you think you're in Heaven?'
I DO like to be challenged. I'd rather spend my day onstream or near waters where I HAVE to work for the fish I catch. I'd like to think that's the way WE improve not only as fishermen but as people as well. Because if there's anything this hobby does is to teach us patience and humility, and those are two huge qualities so valuble to us as human beings.
People talk about NATURAL trout or WILD trout. That to me implies fish which have never seen a fly. And if they're like those bass on that secluded lake, WILD means that they'll attack the fly I dubbed my belly-button lint onto.
So folks, enjoy the good times when you find that winfall of fish which you can't keep off of your line, but never get accustomed to it because too much of anything can be a bad thing.
And if anybody says they prefer WILD trout, tell them what I do: I prefer HEAVILY PRESSURED trout....ANYDAY!
And always remember: That's why they call it FISHING, not CATCHING!
A river is like a person's face: Over the course of time, nature etches lines which were never there before. Those lines represent a history of the changing face of time; of experiences and climactic ups and downs. The face never changes or the character of the person, but the newfound course of those lines lead towards somewhere new and unexpected.
For the past seven years, my friend and I have travelled to fish Ausable river in New York. And just as the home waters here where I live, it never ceases to amaze me or my friends what each new year brings, and how the river has changed. Each spring thaw has changed the river so much; boulders which were never there before; The thalweg (principle course of the water) over and deeper than it was; trout and other fish which have differed in size and sensibility; Prime fishing spots no longer there.
This year was no exception.
We always have wanted to fish September instead of the usual June, and did so this year. Average air temperature was between 25-28 Celcius and the waters were between 60-68.
Two weeks before, the region had quite a bit of rain. This week -September 1st -5th- not a drop as was the week before and so river levels were low all around. Now that's wonderful to access all those spots you never could, but it meant that you had to really search where all those beautiful trout could be. And if there's one thing I have learned in seven years of flyfishing, is that even in 1-2 feet of water, trout ARE there; just like wisdom, you have to look hard for them, or, it.
Our week was far more comfortable for fishing than the hot June we're so used to. Join that with the trees starting to change their colours and you have a beautiful setting to search for bright fish.
Tricos, caenis (fisherman's curse), Blue quills,....the overiding fly you had to have had to be SMALL! Trout jumping somersaults and Cirque de Soleil acrobatics; immediately, you KNEW...they had to be taking emergers. Unfortunately, 24's were the smallest hooks we had. Still we managed to take trout. Quigley Cripples (16 scud hook); Micro-shipman emergers (24's in black and white); rusty spinners (in an amazing 16!); and wooly buggers in a 12 were our favorites which always seemed to work.
A lot of fishermen complained about the lack of numbers in catching. But the one thing we've noticed in the last few years, is that though the numbers in catching may not be as high as most fishermen would like, the quality in size and beauty of the ones one does catch, makes up for it. Why most fishermen concentrate on number of fish caught instead of the quality of experience, still baffles me. My friend and I would rather spend all day trying to catch that one elusive trout, than to catch hundreds. If there's anything that the river did do for us this time around, was make us savour each trout we caught.
One of the highlights of our trip was to do some brook fishing off the beaten trail. It certainly was nice because in the warmth of the midday sun, the woods were cooler and the spring waters equally so. It's the first time I've fished a brook mountain stream and the experience has dumbfounded me. To think that a brook trout, 9-10 inches could exist in a pool the size of my bathtub -the only universe it will ever know- and possible remain there for all it's life, amazes me.
Time may change the face of things, but the essential character of life remains the same. River systems and lies, even those who occupy it change in the same way. Though rivers may be low like the Ausable was (and fishermen's spirits along with it), the trout are still there.
And I am always reminded (as my mentor Jack Vanvolkenburgh used to say) : "That's why they call it fishing, not catching."