October 8th, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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The Maddening Mad River

By Daniel Salvi, Erlanger, Kentucky

Just yesterday I tried the Mad River in central Ohio. I did the research, purchased the flies (to the tune of $17), downloaded some topographic maps, filled the tank and headed out. I was happy to find that the trip didn't take as long as I thought and the rumors of public access points, true. The Mad is about as 'famous' as they come in Ohio, stocked in the spring and fall with browns that grow quickly on the abundance of aquatic insects. I stepped into the river to find it cold and very wadeable. This was going to be a good day. The fact that I didn't have a net troubled me.

I slowly stalked and observed. No flies on the water, nothing hitting the top, maybe I can lure with a terrestrial. So I tied on an ant. Looked around and behind me and realized that when I left today I would have mastered the 'roll cast.' My ant produced nothing in the calm holes behind logs and under trees. The leaves had started to fall and there were a lot of them flowing in the water. A couple hang ups and tangles and I decide to re-evaluate my position. No activity visible and two or three teens just arrived with an inner tube. Time to find another location.

Only needed to go two miles or so to another access point. During the drive I decide to switch to nymphs. As I approached a 'textbook' lie, I pondered how am I going to sneak up on these guys. No room for long casts, the water is a foot deep approaching the hole which leaves 4'10" of me sticking up. Running quickly into the pool, every step I take produces silt downstream, so I'm stepping as easy as possible. Being a novice, I decided to forgo the strike indicator in an effort not to spook the fish and reduce the tangles I would surely produce. So I begin nymphing. I concentrate on the dead drift, roll casting the fly into position and then an immediate roll or mend to get some slack upstream in the faster current. It looks like I'm doing a pretty good job of it. I must have had five "takes" but because I didn't have an indicator by the time I realized it . . . too late. Only a wiggle of tension and then gone. In hindsight . . .debris in the river would have worked to my advantage with a strike indicator.

So I reach for one . . ."ploop" a fish took from the surface. I look for evidence of a hatch . . . nothing. "Plop!", another one, and then suddenly about 15 yards down stream . . ."flip . . . KA SPLASH!!!!" . . . by my estimation, almost a pound and a half of brown trout breeching the surface. Quickly reaching for a recommended CDC BWO Emerger size #20, tie the dang thing on as fast as I can. In earnest I cast . . . in a tree . . .(you idiot!) . . ."ploop" . . .another rising fish. Break the tippet and tie another one. I'm roll casting and can't see the fly. I can't tell if I'm dead drifting correctly or not. No takes. No more rises. Did I miss it? Am I spooking the fish? Is it over?

Well for me it is. As I take a step to reposition I realize because of the looming darkness, I can't see the stones in the clear water. Time to go so I carefully make my way back to the car and reflect on my experience. As I return my fly to the box, I see my streamers. Why didn't I try them earlier? Hopefully I will remember that next time!

But, of course, that's what it's all about, right? The experience, the environment, the observation . . . and finding a way to use these to my advantage next time. I'm certain that I will learn all these things in time. It just a bit of irony, you know? I remember to keep my back cast up . . . and then this. I have a lot to learn. I have discovered that on every outing, every article I read including "Old Flies" on FAOL, and every fly I tie . . . I learn something new.

I'm thinking about starting a journal. ~ Dan


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