Things got stickyÂ after the #22 Quigley Cripple disappeared in a swirl and I lifted the fly rod.
I got a pair of those ponderous head shakes that tell you the fish is big (or he’s foul hooked), and then the reel went from zero to ohmigod speeds in a fraction of a second.
That’s thrilling stuff, but hardly Jack London-esque — unless the fast-moving trout decides to run under the only laydown on the whole run.
Well played, Mr. Trout.
I waded over and sized up the situation. The trout was still on, apparently hanging around just downstream trying to figure out what was going on.
The fly line dove under the tree and made a right-angle exit downriver.
I remember thinking “I can fix this. This won’t be too bad at all.”
Which is when things started to go sideways.
Hey, This Clear Liquid Is Cold
Sometimes — for brief moments — I fancy myself a Man of Action, though at my age, you’d think I’d connect those moments with what inevitably follows.
Which is generally humiliation.
I waded up to the downed tree, put the rod in my left hand, reached down into the water with my right (a lot farther down than I originally thought, which should have been a clue), and lifted the tree.
So far, so good.
But sliding the rod under the tree took me a little deeper than I anticipated, and that extra couple inches meant the top of my waders (and the side of my head, and the neck opening of my jacket) got… submerged.
At the time it happened I realized it was trouble, but I’d started and you know how it is — you’re already there so you decide to brazen it out.
I distinctly remember straightening up — a huge wad of wet, decomposing leaves clutched in my hand along with my still-attached-to-the-trout fly rod — thinking I had the fish and I was still dry.
Which is when the 39 degree water hit my skin.
It kinda takes your breath away.
Shrinkage was body-wide and immediate.
I managed to land that trout — the second of the day. It went between 18 and 19 inches (Raine put measuring wraps on my rod at 16″ and 18″, suggesting a distinct lack of faith in my ability to catch 20″ trout).
The other trout fell just short of the 18″ mark.
I was wet enough that I squished when I walked, though — thank god for the Nano Puff jacket — I warmed up a bit after I got past the shock, though my feet never really enjoyed the trip.
Taken as a whole, that’s still not a bad day.
The Nitty Gritty Details
The air was around 40 degrees, the BWO hatch was light and only lasted an hour, but I still managed to get seven rising fish to eat the bug.
At just under one grab every eight minutes, that’s Happy Hour as far as I’m concerned.
The hook popped out of three with only slight resistance (it’s a #22 cripple after all), and I landed two of the four I hooked.
That’s not a stirring percentage — and I sometimes catch myself wondering WWGD (What Would Gierach Do) — but the fish are big and the hook gape is probably best measured with an electron microscope, so I’ve largely done away with fly fisherman’s remorse.
The 8’3″ 5wt Raine hollowbuilt has confirmed its status as a killer BWO rod — you need to make longer casts than you think on this stretch because wading any closer means the trout simply stop rising.
Thirty feet is a gift. Forty is common, and casting at an upstream or downstream angle can leave you with surprisingly little fly line on your reel.
It’s cold up here (we’ve got two inches of snow on the ground as I write this), but we’ve reached the Bonus Portion of the year; the “real” Upper Sac winter when the little fish go into hiding and the big fish start eating BWOs — provided the hatches come, the sun stays behind a cloud, you’re on the right piece of river, and the fly fishermen don’t wade too close.
See you on the river (literally), Tom Chandler