Stepping out of the Underground’s ageing Toyota pickup (1987 vintage, broken tailgate, rusting muffler) I got an eyeful; the flows on my “small stream” were high.
Still, the water was clear, and you can choose to get cranky about the high flows, or you can revel in the knowledge you’ve found one of the few potentially fishable streams in the county.
I opted for Choice #2.
Revelry got a lot easier just two casts into the trip; I hooked and landed a 12″ brown trout – a far better-than-respectable trout in this water.
A few minutes later, a 10″ brown trout got frisky with my #12 Stimulator.
“Ok,” I told myself.
This high water thing is usually bad, but this time it’s OK.
Helping that impression along is the largely water-starved nature of this stream.
Simply put, it was nice to see some water in it.
Traditionally, it’s fishable only in spring; later in the year, diversions tend to be hard on the flows and the trout population.
In fact, I wondered if three years of drought hadn’t hammered the juvenile brown trout recruitment rates (brownies spawn in the fall).
Out of the ten I hooked, only one fish was under 8″ – a fairly dramatic reversal of “normal” for this stream.
Given my deep and abiding interest in pure science, I plan to continue this research at the first opportunity (no need to thank me for my selflessness).
My time was limited (about three hours fishing for two hours of driving – a slightly better than break-even proposition), though after the first couple fish, I fell into that familiar pattern where you’re far more concerned with how you’re going to fish the next pool than you are the state of the economy (even your personal economy).
It’s one of the reasons we fly fish, though we never seem to realize it at the time, which I suppose is kinda the point.
The Fish Stuff
I fished an 8′ 5wt Diamondglass fiberglass fly rod – a truly supple, wonderful, seductive fly rod you’ll end up cursing if the wind gets too strong.
The wind only blew up towards the end of my trip, so I maintained a mostly family friendly atmosphere, which wasn’t the triumph I’m suggesting (I never saw another person).
I tied on a #12 Stimulator at the start and fished it most of the time, and given the fly-eating-tree-rich environment, I didn’t miss the spool of 4x tippet I forgot to buy after my last trip (I fished 3x instead, and at times, I was pretty happy about it).
This is hardly the toughest stream I’ve fished, but it is one of the sneakiest; every once in a while it throws an easy stretch at you, dulling your predatory edge and causing you to toss your next five backcasts into a tree.
At least that’s my current working theory (it’s not possible I’d ever screw up on my own).
The high, clear water also presented something of a trap for unwitting fly fishermen (well, one of them anyway).
Several times I found myself wasting time on a gorgeous-looking stretch of water, only to realize it didn’t hold fish at “normal” flows, so it wasn’t all that likely to hold trout during high flows.
Sure enough, all my trout came from the runs and pools that routinely held fish, while the normally barren-but-fishy-looking edge sproduced nothing (apparently I’m a real sucker for submerged grass lines).
At some point, I may get this predatory fly fishing stuff figured out, but then again, I may not, which may also be kinda the point.
The Snake Stuff
I ended my trip on a meadow stretch, which is pretty as hell, but tough to fish. For those keeping track, meadows offer unobstructed backcasts, but compensate the trout with unobstructed views of approaching fly fishermen.
Wildflowers were blooming, and the stream was running high enough to flood the meadow, which made knee-walkiing like a sneaky bastard largely impossible. (With the water already more than knee deep, knee-walking would have felt suspiciously like swimming.)
I did manage to practically step on a snake that I immediately identified as a Deadly South Pacific Coral Snake, though later – while I was looking for a place to have my heart attack – it occurred to me it may have been a simple Garter Snake pretending to be a Coral Snake.
It seems the reptiles get trickier every year.
In simple terms, it was a beautiful couple of hours on a beautiful stream, and if you subscribe to the thinking that record snowpacks and fast-warming temperatures probably will dampen the fly fishing, it was also something of a gift.
The stream was high but the bonus-sized brown trout were willing, and coming on the heels of one of those probing family discussions about money, time, work, the future and Little M’s college fund, it was probably more winning lottery ticket than simple gift.
See you on a small stream (but not this small stream), Tom Chandler.