Our winter blended seamlessly into spring, which is to say they both kinda sucked for a particular fly fisherman jonesing for a small stream fix.
That ended last weekend, when Wayne Eng and I hit a piece of little-fished small stream. The brown trout weren’t anywhere near as abundant as the mosquitoes (nor as aggressive), but they would eat a dry fly in a way that was recognizably my kind of fly fishing, and suddenly, winter and our long, cold, high-water spring simply fell away.
And did so in what amounts to a rampantly beautiful… spot.
Regulars know I refer to my local small streams with highly unoriginal aliases like “Stream X” and “Stream Y.”
In a fit of creativity, I’m naming this stretch Stream XXX, because while the brown trout aren’t fish-porn worthy, I’d suggest the location itself qualifies as Small Stream Porn.
Of the Triple-X variety. I mean, look at it:
If you’re a fly fisherman, that’s major wood action (I’m referring of course to all the downed timber, which provides exceptional trout habitat).
Stream XXX was running high — higher than I’d ever seen — but it was still wholly fishable. High water tends to discourage trout from taking dries (they’ve got a lot more water to move through), but thankfully, enough trout made the trip to keep it interesting.
I started the day throwing the vaunted new Mini-Hopper, which accounted for four trout (and several other grabs).
Then I found this #10-sized penny from heaven on bankside brush:
That prompted a switch to a #10 March Brown (Catskill style), which went to a watery grave a few fish later, precipitating a move to an Old Joe Kimsey Favorite — the orange Skinny Humpy.
The beauty of a Humpy is that each fish frays it towards a state of grace; the more chewed it gets, the better it seems to catch trout (short of total dissolution).
That, my friends, worked like stink, proving that Joe Kimsey probably still knows more than we do, and we buried him a while ago.
It’s gratifying to stumble on the fly of the day, but more importantly, I was fishing and casting and hooking trout instead of lobbing who knows what who knows where, and the sensation was, well… triple-X pleasurable.
The Clothing Angle
Firmly in the “unpleasant” column we find the mosquitoes, who attacked in force and got worse as the day progressed. They’re irritating to the point of distraction, and at one point, I found myself trying to re-tie my leader while stumbling around in circles; stopping and sitting on a log was an invitation to insanity.
Some deal with mosquitoes via chemical weapons, though I’ve largely given up on Deet. The stuff melts fly lines and bamboo rod varnish, and works (I believe) by altering your DNA to the point that mosquitoes no longer recognize you as a mammal.
Is that really something I want covering my body?
Better, I think, is to simply cover up:
This looks odd, but it’s a damn bit better than constantly swatting your eyeglasses off your face.
Note the CalTrout-styled buff, which — when combined with a hat — leaves very little skin exposed, yet doesn’t run nearly as hot as you’d think.
And yes, that’s a long-sleeve, one-piece Patagonia Sun Hoody — a lightweight, cover-everything piece of clothing — the kind of which is currently found on a lot of flats fishermen, who are more concerned with sun exposure than bugs.
I’m trying it here in the decidedly flats-free Northern California mountains, and so far (that’s two trips), I like the hoody better than your typical long-sleeve fly fishing shirt, which isn’t nearly as snag-free.
Also in the ensemble (but not the pictures) were a pair of Glacier Glove sun gloves, which protected the back of my hands from mosquitoes and the sun, and if you’d ever seen them, you’d know that’s a good thing.
There is plenty more testing to come, but as someone who hates both bug repellent and sunscreen (and who has some serious skin issues), I may just be looking at my mosquito-driven future — a lightweight fishing rig that leaves only my eyes and fingers exposed.
The problem is that you look a little like you’re from outer space (or France), and I’m going to immediately write a letter to Patagonia asking for a camo version of the shirt, figuring that buys you more acceptance in rural areas than silver.
The Footwear Angle
After deciding they were failures on freestone streams, I wore the Patagonia Rock Grip wading boots, and they worked beautifully, but then, of course they would.
This stream was all mud, gravel, grass and trees — barely a slippery freestone-style rock in sight.
They’re wonderful wading boots when they’re not filling the same niche as ice skates, but most rivers come equipped with rocks, and Tommy needs a pair of studded rubber soles for the tough stuff.
The search continues, though I might just opt for the studded Orvis boots in the right size. Sometimes searching’s overrated.
The Fly Rod Angle
This visit concluded my test of the Orvis Superfine Touch 8′ 4wt, a rod that has performed admirably, and I stand by my earlier thinking that it’s a modern interpretation of the classic 8′ 4wt small stream rod.
I’ll write a longer review soon, but will say it’s a nice, modern rod — one that is (somewhat atypically) designed to fish at reasonable small-stream ranges, and has all the heft of a toothpick in your hand.
Rods so light you almost don’t notice them are a manifestly marketable these days, though personally I’d probably still opt for my 8′ 5wt Phillipson — which has enough mass that you can feel it loading even when you’re only casting a leader.
I also recognize the personal nature of that reality, and we’ll explore that more in my review of the rod.
See you on a small stream, Tom Chandler.