Fly fishing writer Ed Engle remains an Underground favorite, largely because he’s a real predator on the water , and his writing is largely free of the ego and artifice that clogs the efforts of so many fly fishing writers.
His latest column in the Boulder Daily Camera is typically clean and clear, focused as it is on winter midge fishing, a pursuit that – in the style of predators everywhere – Engle’s stripped down to the bare bones:
It may sound strange, but my strategy on these difficult-to-catch fish is dogged simplification. I use a â€œsoftâ€ 9-foot, 5-weight fly rod, a hand-tied 12-foot leader of my own design and a single size 22 or smaller fly pattern that imitates a midge pupa or, less often, some sort of low-riding dry fly or cripple pattern.
I would probably be more successful if I fished a tiny dry fly and trailed the midge pupa imitation behind it because I could use the dry fly as a strike indicator. But I’ve caught enough midging trout using two-fly techniques and it was a good day for me when I finally figured out that what I like most is catching a trout in the most direct way possible.
My most memorable fish have been the ones where there was as little between me and the trout as possible. That means no junk or gizmos attached to the leader other than a single small, unweighted fly that I’ve tied myself and the application of a no-nonsense aesthetically pleasing, but practical, cast.
The icing on the cake is when the trout takes my artificial fly in precisely the same way that it has taken the naturals.
I wish I’d written that.
In truth, this is precisely the kind of fly fishing I thought we’d get when the Upper Sacramento was opened to winter fly fishing.
Oddly – unless I’m completely missing the right time slots – we almost never get fish working midges in the winter, though it’s something we often get in the summer. Go figure.
I’m not complaining about the Upper Sac’s winter BWO hatches: challenging fish, clear water, small “technical” flies, long casts – these are a few of my favorite things (unless I’m doing poorly, when it kinda sucks)
As further proof that Einstein’s theory of relativity applies to fly fishermen, it’s clear that in the Underground Universe, one trout caught on a nearly invisible #22 emerger is more satisfying than one caught blind nymphing.
My infrequent trips to Idaho’s Big Wood River in winter have produced the kind of minimalist, tiny-fly fishing Engle’s talking about, and yes, every time I approach the Upper Sacramento in winter, I wonder if this is the time I’ll find them eating midges.
See you on the river (chasing midges), Tom Chandler.