Fisher takes a break from the D and seeks out waters closer to home...
I love to vary my fishing. It’s not that I don’t have fun fishing the same spots, in the same way, multiple times. I do. I don’t need to hit the Deschutes every weekend. I want to experience as many different kinds of fly fishing as I can. I intend to be a true student of the sport, and that means doing it all. Plus, doing it all benefits me in my newly launched fly fishing career. I changed it up for my weekend and found my way to some semi-local small creeks that shall remain nameless. I assure you that these creeks were open, and I’m sure if you did some sleuthing, you could probably figure it out.
When I’m hiking into a small creek, I feel impatience billowing up from my stomach into my chest as I get close. I just keep accelerating, in this case outpacing my girlfriend, Abbey, on Sunday and my housemate, Tess, on Monday. A big part of the fun for me is hiking. I’ve been hiking my whole life, and small creeks often demand that you walk tough miles working your way from pool to pool and thrashing through the brush. Whenever I find myself back home after a day of fishing, with legs and arms all cut up from sticks and thorns, I savor the physical reminder of a good day. The other part of small creeks that’s so enticing is the look of the water. That aquamarine of a forested creek, full of interesting texture as it zips downhill. It offers endless pockets, riffles, pools, and runs. Reading this water is like reading a good book, continually engaging; you can’t put it down.
Both days were full sun, smack in the middle of our unseasonably warm weather. But the water was at a premium trout temperature of 54 degrees. My wet wading season has begun in April! However, I was not there solely to fish, but to spend time with my friends and see the waterfalls and other sites we had hiked to see. As such, I only fished maybe three hours each day. On Sunday, Abbey and I eventually accessed the creek at a spot that dumped us out straight into the middle of three very trouty pools. I rigged up a dry dropper, having seen multiple medium to small stoneflies and caddis around, and worked unsuccessfully through all three. At this point, I switched to a double nymph rig and continued upstream. I was skunked in several more perfect runs but eventually hooked up in a small pocket within a fairly aggressive rapid, broken by a larger boulder and a fallen log. I lost both fish but was content with my ability to find them in such a technical and challenging pocket that was perhaps only a yard long. On my way back down, I saw two separate mayfly hatches come off, one a mid-sized brown-looking bug and another smaller one of exorbitantly large pale or white ones. Yet, I did not see a single fish rise. Thus ended my fishing on Sunday.
On Monday, we started out down a busy path but soon left that behind, bushwacking our way to the location, not to see another soul for the rest of the day. Exploring up and down the river was a ball but very slick, bringing Tess into a little closer contact with the water than she would have liked. The first several fabulous-looking runs proved to be empty. Or at least it would have taken a more skilled angler than myself to find one. Eventually, a deeper pool finally produced. I landed three ten-inch wild cutthroat and LDR’ed several more. All on the rib roast which is rapidly becoming a favorite pattern. Thanks Josh. A beautiful wild small creek fish is a treasure to me. I had honestly expected the ones in this creek to be smaller, like silver shavings the water had carved off the rocks it ran over. A ten-inch fish is objectively not large, but these fish were more like ingots for the standards of water this size.
On both creeks, I fished quite a bit of water that looked premium but fell short of its promise. While I did see plenty of bug life, and there were nymphs on every rock I turned over, this leads me to suspect that the fish density is not high in these creeks. Perhaps the food supply is not as large as it appeared, only looking abundant because it’s spring, or maybe water conditions get too low in the summer. Thus lots of empty water; the fish all clustered in a relatively small percentage of the water that looks good. Of course, this might not be true, but creek cutthroat are so aggressive it is difficult for me to imagine that I was putting my flies on many fish that were refusing them, especially if fish in other spots were willing to strike. Whatever underwater circumstances make a run that smidgen better, it seems that they vacuum up all the trout. I’ve fished where you find aggressive trout in many small streams in literally every pocket and measure success by the dozens. In these creeks, you need to cover large areas of water to find those spots that the fish love. I am sure that with persistence, you could have days measured in the dozens, and I would expect to catch fish every time I go. But I think that for these spots, success cannot only be based on numbers. Instead, the air you breathe straight from the forest giants producing it all around you and the lively burn in your legs must be a part of the draw. I know that I will be back later this week, a freshly minted three-weight in hand.