The snowpack up here is so bad, Older Bro and I took the direct route into our normally-unreachable-until-June alpine stream.
On the way in, the Official Beater Fishing Vehicle of the Trout Underground (a 200,000 mile 1990 Ford Bronco that has seen most of California’s dirt roads and looks like it) got stuck in a snow drift, but we managed to dig it out, back it out, and then dig our way through the drift.
Ultimately, we got within a mile of the stream before the drifts acquired that “You think you’ll make it, but you’ll end up walking back to cell phone coverage” look.
I’ve seen that look. I know that look.
We stopped there.
When we got out of the truck, one thing struck us.
It didn’t look like spring. The snowfall has been so dismal in California that even the alpine landscape looked dried and dusty, like it was already summer.
If you’re a fan of wildfires this would be a good thing, but if your tastes run to fly fishing small streams — which are dependent on snowpack for much of their summer flow — you might be less thrilled.
The Fishing Part
We were there to fish, so we suited up, hiked in, and arrived at a stream that was in absolutely perfect shape. We even spooked a couple trout at the first pool.
Unfortunately, we spooked them from the bottoms of the runs, which means (you guessed it) our dry flies remained largely untouched for the first 45 minutes.
Apparently, just because we blew into this stream in spring is no reason for the trout to eat dries like it was summer.
They’ve got a lot of nerve.
Eventually, we hooked a few on the [cough]nymphs[cough] hanging eight inches behind our dry flies, and about 2:30 it warmed enough to get a few bugs flying, which got the trout interested in our dry flies.
It wasn’t a wide-open bite (I ended the day with five, Older Bro one or two less), but I thought I was the first to fish this stream this year.
Until I saw the footprints on the sandbar.
We saw tire tracks on the road, but didn’t figure them for a fly fisherman. Still, the season opened on Saturday and we showed up on Sunday, so it’s possible someone got in ahead of us.
On the way out, we learned the sad truth.
Not only had we beaten to the punch (now I’m consoled by the idea I was the first to fish at least some of those runs), but we’d been beaten by someone who was eating brown trout — alongside the road we found a gutted, cleaned brown trout which had likely slipped off a stringer.
Dang. Beaten by a fish killer.
First, I wanted to take pictures of this trip so badly that I made absolutely sure the camera battery was fully charged.
Which is why I left both the camera and battery sitting on top of the charger. Not my finest moment, and it’s why the Undergrounders are viewing this trip through the lens of Older Bro’s smartphone.
I continued my test of an Orvis Helios 2 8’4″ 2wt, while the backcountry stream-loving Older Bro fished his Orvis Superfine 8’6″ 3wt. The Helios 2 is an impressive (and expensive) fly rod (it weighs nothing), but in a blow for thrifty people everywhere, we both found ourselves preferring the less-expensive Superfine.
The Superfine Touch bends a little deeper and tapers a little slower than the Helios 2, which admittedly offers a light tip and good close-in performance. It’s just a little faster than it needs to be for a small stream. Certainly, it’s not too fast for something bigger, which is where I hear some are fishing it.
This is why I dislike writing rod reviews; I could tell you I prefer the Superfine series but can’t break it down into anything approaching a pie chart, which means we’re straying awfully close to “because I said so” ground.
In the end, I can only speak to what I like, and anyone with $775 is free to disagree.
See you on a small stream, Tom Chandler.