July 14th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

One 7-inch Trout and a Great Day
By Brad Morgan, (oldfrat)

My #2 son is home on a week's leave from the Air Force. I had introduced him to fly fishing last summer and he caught a couple of trout his first day. He'd had little success n our next few outings before he reported for duty, but fly fishing was still tops on his mind when he returned home.

On the 4th of July I took him up to a mountain valley at about 9,000 feet. The valley walls are covered with lodgepole pines and aspens, with snow still showing on the high mountains while wildflowers carpeted the clearings. It's a beautiful place. The road into the valley is challenging for even my high-clearance 4X4 truck, but it still gets quite a bit of traffic from people who enjoy this sort of drive or are willing to do it for the scenery.

Happily, the small feeder stream running through the valley gets surprisingly little fishing traffic. The stream is 10-15 feet wide and its crystal clear water ranges from ankle to knee deep. It is filled with brook trout. Nine inches is a monster there - but they take flies like the "Jaws" shark took people. The take is really exciting, even if the fight is wimpy.

I'd been there two weeks before and had a great day with ant patterns, including pulling eight out of one little hole. As we drove in, I told my son about this "magic hole" and guaranteed he would catch a fish.

We parked near the "magic hole" at about 11:00, strung up our rods and tied on our ants. As we walked towards the stream two hikers and their dog suddenly appeared on the opposite bank. The woman hiker picked up a stick and threw it in my "magic hole." The dog leaped in to get the stick. Looking up and seeing us standing there with our gear and shocked expressions, the woman said, "Oh, I'm sorry. Were you planning on fishing here?" Ironically, these were the only two people we saw on the stream all day. Needless to say, the hole had lost all of its "magic."

We fished our way upstream. With clear, shallow, water and not a cloud in the sky the fish were unusually spooky - often running for cover as soon as we could see them. We moved slow and low, pausing until they resumed feeding.

They were feeding at the bottom, getting ready for the midge hatch that starts about 3:00. These fish have always been willing to rise to a dry fly, though, probably because the season when they can get "big food" is so short at this altitude. So, since neither of us enjoys nymphing in such a small and shallow stream, we stayed with dry flies.

Between the time spent resting the fish and the time spent getting my son's flies unfastened from the streamside brush, it took us awhile to discover that ant patterns held no attraction this day. We switched over to various small dry flies. Well, actually my son tried a variety of patterns. I had decided not to fish until he got his first one of the day. I just watched and coached him.

We planned to leave at 5:00 and, as of 4:15, had caught no fish. I was worrying that my son might lose his appetite for fly fishing if he got skunked. Especially since I had guaranteed him a fish on this trip.

We came to a fork in the stream. I sent my son up the main channel and took the less promising side channel. I thought the problem might be that we weren't giving them a big enough fly to attract their attention. But I also didn't want to try something too big for these little fish. I tied on a larger fly with the colors, if not the full size, of the moths I had seen that day.

Just as my son rejoined me where the channels meet, a trout came up out of nowhere to chomp down on my fly and I landed and released him. Now I was really feeling guilty. Not only was he still fishless, I had just caught one in front of him!

We walked a few yards to where a very shallow riffle comes into a pool at a bend in the stream. I spotted a trout, good sized by local standards, feeding at the head of the pool.

I gave my rod to my son and told him to go upstream, cast into the riffle and drift the fly down over this fish. He'd never fished a dry fly downstream before and, as it turned out, he didn't understand my directions on where the fish was feeding. He got a good drift in terms of speed, but it was about four feet to the left of this fish and his retrieve was pulling the leader directly over the trout's head.

When I called out to tell him what was happening he got excited and jerked the fly over the trout. The trout moved forward to look at the fly as it whizzed by upstream, then decided it didn't want anything to do with this strangely behaving bug and scooted for deeper water. I figured that its momentary interest, and my prior catch, was a good sign that we had the right fly.

There was a small area of quiet water in the pool on the outside of this bend. I told my son to cast into the riffle and to pull his fly back to line it up so that it would drift into the seam where the current met this quiet water.

He got his drift into the seam on his third try. A trout lunged up and grabbed his fly. "Got one," my son yelled. He was grinning from ear to ear as he released the fish, his first catch in nine months. He came over to sit by me and chat as he recovered from his adrenaline rush. Then I told him to go back and try the same thing again.

He ended up hooking seven trout and landing five from this one small spot in the last half hour before we had to leave to get home for dinner-doubling his lifetime fly fishing total.

You've never seen a happier fly fisher than my son as we walked back to the truck. As for me, I only caught one 7-inch trout in six hours on the water-but I had a great day as a father! I'm sure we'll both remember this 4th of July for many years to come. ~ Brad Morgan (oldfrat)

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