Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee
Showing posts with label Cutthroat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cutthroat. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2013

One, Two, Three, Set!!!

My favorite fishing trips are those I take with minimal expectations.  A box of dry flies, a 4 weight fly rod, and wet wading gear is the recipe for a perfect afternoon on the water.  If I catch a few small stream fish I'm happy.  Big fish are not the goal here although deep down I always hope to catch a bunch of fish.

A week or so ago I experienced one of those rare days where everything goes right.  My destination?  A small stream in Rocky Mountain National Park.  To be fair, around here it might be considered a medium sized stream.  Anyway, back to my fishing trip, I hit the road at the lazy hour of noon.  A stop at Taco Bell and Dairy Queen for burritos and blizzards provided the fuel I would need to navigate the steep pocket water reach I hoped to fish.

At the trailhead I was happy to find a parking spot on the first try.  Soon I was hauling my favorite 4 weight out of the trunk, an old Orvis Tight Loop Superfine.  I attached the Battenkill Original Reel I've had for the past 15 years and switched out to a fresh 7 1/2 foot 4x leader that I extended with some 5x tippet.  This rig has fished with me across the country from small streams in the Smokies to spring fed streams in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

A complex mixed hatch was going on.  Little Yellow Stoneflies, Caddis, PMDs (duns and spinners), midges, and other assorted flying critters were floating the breeze above the plunge pools and pocket water.  I'm all about keeping things simple and selected a Parachute Adams.  It didn't particularly look like anything I saw on the water, but with opportunistic fish I figured that wouldn't matter.

Walking up the trail, I wondered if the tiny tributary stream flowing under the bridge just ahead held any fish.  Glancing upstream into the 5 inch deep "run" above, I saw a shadow finning in the current.  My casts were sloppy as I tried to sling the fly under the overhanging brush.

My backcast snagged, and I spent the next few minutes untangling things.  Finally, 5 or 6 casts into the experience, I got the fly somewhat close to the fish.  It turned and ate the fly without hesitation.  A brook trout to get things going!

Moving on to the main destination stream, I started casting.  The first cast was blind, but then I spotted a trout holding.  My second cast was too far right, but the third was right on.  One fish every 5 or so casts?  I'll take it.  Moving on up the stream and away from the obvious access point, I started catching nice brook trout.  Even though the spawn is still a month or two away at least, the fish are already starting to show their fall colors.

Best of all, each fish was eating the dry fly with abandon.  Brook trout are sneaky and their rises can be much more subtle than a rainbow would be in similar water.  Usually, when I saw the fly disappear, I would set the hook.  More often than not a trout would be on the other end of my line.  In fact, the trip reached "epic" status when I cast upstream to a boulder just above.  The fly drifted out of sight and I counted one, two, three to myself and then set the hook.  Sure enough, there was a brook trout dancing on the short line.

The stream alternated between steep pocket water and wider sections with nice runs and pools.  Fish were everywhere.  

I knew something was up when I started catching dinks.  It took probably 30 feet of stream to be sure, but I figured I was fishing behind someone.  Small fish were still coming to hand but the big chunky 8-10 inch brookies seemed to have evaporated.  The hour was getting late so I headed back down the trail.

When I passed a couple of pools that were huge for this stream, I had to stop.  Maybe, just maybe....

It wasn't until I threw all the way across alongside the undercut rock ledge before my fly vanished.  When I set the hook I was excited.  The potential large wild brook trout morphed into a brown and my smile grew even wider.  Variety keeps things interesting.  

Wouldn't it be crazy if I caught a cutthroat?  The slam was now within reach, but I was well below where cutts start to show up regularly.  The thought kept nagging though so when I spotted the nice "brookie" while standing on a rock I should have known better.  When I set the hook it didn't take long to figure out that this fish was not a brookie.  Cutthroat just don't normally seem to fight as hard, at least in my experience.  Thrilled to catch such a beauty, I snapped two quick pictures.  

A parting stream shot was in order.  The tourists had mostly left for the day so the rocks were barren and wild, just the way they should be.