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My life as a fly fishing cooler

By Tom Chandler 7/5/2006

I'm on a backcountry jag lately, but the reward has been largely scenery-based. My two alpine lakes have produced exactly one fish (which should lead you to an obvious conclusion about yesterday's trip to Toad Lake). Didn't get on the water until late afternoon, but it looked interesting. A handful of Callibaetis littered the surface, and midges were teeming. What was missing were rising fish; one would show on the surface very couple of minutes, but sporadically.

Fly fishing the high country means callibaetis
The lake standby; the Callibaetis mayfly.

This time I had my float tube, and did what I always do on a new lake; rig up a #14 Hares Ear Soft hackle and take a quick tour of the lake, looking for rocks, shelves, drop-offs and (especially) weed beds. Normally, by the time the tour's over I've had a grab or two, and - given the mayflies on the surface and the expansive number of mayfly shucks still in the surface film - I figured the fish would be looking for the Hare's Ear.

I figured wrong.

I switched to a small leech, then a dark wet fly, and as my all-too-short 2.5 hours on the lake drew to an end, a Griffith's Gnat (found two quietly rising fish in a corner), and finally a midge pupa. The number of mayfly shucks in the windlblown parts of the lake was truly impressive, and I wish I'd been on the scene when the meat of the hatch was coming off.

Still, I wasn't, and the scenery was wonderful, and the company was excellent (the LT Nancy and the Wonderdog were also there), and we even got to see Mt. Shasta's fireworks display from a high ridge overlooking the entire town. I fished that Steffen 8.5' fiberglass rod, and a few fish would have been a nice test for the rod, but it still was a far, far better way to spend the Fourth than hanging around a tourist-clogged town.
Toad Lake - backcountry fly fishing
Welcome to Toad Lake. Trees, water, and fish smarter than I am.

Meet the new Cooler...
While I've been reconnoitering the alpine lakes and fishing a small stream (and catching very few fish), the rest of the Underground Irregulars have been having a party on the McCloud and Upper Sac. Chris Raine's back from his road trip to some of the West's premier rivers and having more fun on this river (catching fish like the colorful speciment below). Tonight, damnit, I'm joining him.

Seems like it my year to fill the role of "cooler" - that gambling legend where someone's bad luck is pervasive enough that he could "cool" the hot hand of any one at the table. I've been cooling the "hot" bite almost everywhere I've gone this year, and I've decided that ends tonight. And maybe Thursday night too.

Fly fish Raine fish
A pretty 16" speciment whose colors really light up with Chris' flash. (Chris Raine fish and photo)

Other News...
Ian Rutter has posted a new fishing report, including his account about running into a rattlesnake. Carp on the fly posts a picture of a 20 lb carp, a beast of a fish that would kick your butt no matter you caught him on.

I'm off to get some work done before tonight's rager on the river. As always, post whatever's on your mind, and I'll let you konw what happened... See you on the river, Tom Chandler.


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

Great reports, TC. I had a great holiday, fishing dries against the bank except for one nymphing session in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. The fish are mostly pretty dumb, as they don't see many flies. No steelhead, but I caught about ~30 fish a day, and managed 6 really good rainbows on dries. The best came as I saw a good rise just on the downstream side of a fallen tree. I put the fly right ... more on the mark, and missed the hookset. Two more casts brought no rise. I rowed back up into position, and put the fly just off the tree trunk, and up he came. This time the take was hard, and I landed the fish. It was a tough spot, and it was a fat fish. I found that a size 18 mayfly tied with a oversized hackle would bring up the bigger fish (2X the hook gap rather than 1.5X). Size 16, 18 and 20 Sparkle duns worked great, but would bring up the dinks. The high floating oversized mayfly brought less takes, but it was always a good fish when one would came up. - rriver

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