Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Sultans of Swing

The autumnal equinox has come and gone and the days continue to grow shorter.  Fall has arrived, bringing some decent cloud cover for the first time in over two months.  Under these conditions, cracking the code is never rocket science.  In fact, the formula is quite simple:  Get on the river and start swinging streamers.

I identified a spot earlier this year that looked like great holding water for big browns.  It has been blown out most of the year but now the flows are perfect.  

Today the water looked extremely fishy and the anticipation weighed heavily as I hurled my fly into the boiling cauldron.  

Swing, strip, strip, WHAM!  First freaking cast.  

After a long and arduous battle, the below-referenced gentleman entered my net.

photo (c) Brent Wilson - Uprising
Another Shot of the Kyped-Out Male
After thanking my new friend and saying goodbye, I proceeded downriver while hitting every hole and tailout possible. 

Our local rivers - big, burly behemoths all summer - become intimate stretches of pocket water in the fall. 

A few more swings turned up a fat female that jumped five or six times - like a rainbow at the ranch.  She was extremely feisty, pausing only briefly after being netted for a quick photo. Moving downriver once again, I encountered over a dozen eager brown trout, most ranging in size from 12-16".  
Before the day wound down, however, a couple more nice fish were released from the net.

Football?  No thanks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scale, Tempo and Cadence on the South Fork

This is a special time of year around here. 

The mornings are chilly, the tourists have gone home, most folks are off the rivers and the trout develop a new sense of urgency with the first cold front.  A lot of people put their fly rods away after Labor Day, as September marks the beginning of hunting and football seasons.   More power to them - they don't know what they are missing.  

Shuttle Vehicle
I did a solo ten-mile float today on our local tailwater.  I haven't fished here since July, as I usually like to wait for the guide & client flotilla to abate and the scale of this massive river to trim down.  Despite the fact this has been one of the hottest and driest summers in recent history, the flows today were about 40% higher than normal for this time of year.  This is due to increased irrigation demand.

Normally, the river levels would have dropped weeks ago to a point where numerous gravel bars are exposed and our local "mutant" wingless stoneflies begin their emergence.  Alas, we are behind schedule with this high water.

However, there are still bugs on the water and plenty of fish willing to rise to a Parachute Adams...

 And some others who were willing to attack a swung streamer...

With flows this high, the logical strategy would be to pound the banks with hoppers.  Since it was Tuesday and I fished alone in my kickboat, I had to adopt the "row, park and riffle hop" strategy instead.  This involved throwing small dry flies in the riffles to mimic the mahogany duns and blue-winged olives that begin emerging this month - or swinging a streamer into the pools and seams below the riffles and islands.

The fishing was not "lights out" like it should be this time of year, but it was still pretty darn fun.

Any day spent floating a river is a great day.

As I finished the bike ride back to the put-in and the truck, I received word the Bureau of Reclamation is dropping the flows another 1,800 cfs this evening.

This will signal the bugs to do their thing and drop the scale and cadence of the river to a more intimate level - marking the true beginning of the fall fishing season. 

Let the party begin.