Sometimes, missing a fish is as much fun as catching one, at least that is if you still manage to hook a few in the process. And so it turned out to be as Caveman and I set out down the river to try a few different things out. For me, I wanted to catch fish, so I stuck to the tried and true flies this time of the year – small [ size 16 ] stimulators, pmx’s and caddis. Caveman adopted the opposite approach. He has spent enough days guiding on the river being tormented by fish that he decided to torment them back – by throwing a huge rubber legged dry fly pattern. The results were hilarious, at least if you are, like me, a socially challenged fishing geek – plenty of lookers, wtf’ers, a few fish that took one look and ran away to hide, and several that plucked up the courage and had a go at it.
We floated from Salida East to Rincon on a river that couldn’t look more perfect if it tried. Finally, after the protracted water releases and runoff, the level has dropped and stabilized, the clarity is great, and the fish are hungry. More than at any other time of the year, the fish have a plethora of bug life to choose from. Yellow Sallies are probably the most prolific hatchers right now, closely followed by PMDs, caddis and golden stones.
The net result is that pretty much any dry fly will work, provided it is cast tight to the bank. At one point we pulled over to the side of the river for a refreshment break, and watched a caddis float down the opposite side of the river, about two and a half feet off the bank. “It’s OK little fella, you’re safe, there’s no fish live that far out” said Cave sarcastically. As if on cue, the caddis started swimming for the shore. “No, don’t go there, its not safe” we both yelled, and sure enough, just as it reached for a rock along the bank – slurp – it was nailed by a fish. So the lesson is: cast to the bank – two feet off it is about eighteen inches too far out.
Bead head nymphs have been working very well also, but this time of the year I find it really hard to tie one on unless I really need to. There is something extra fun, to me anyway, about throwing a single dry. You are putting all your eggs into one basket so to speak, hunting for that fish tucked in hard along the edge. The advantage of one fly is that you can really tuck it into the nooks and crannies in a way you can’t with two flies, especially if one of them is a bead head.
So cast along the edges and the slow water. Fish will be holding in any little pocket along the bank, in some places stacked up like cord wood. Take a break during the heat of the day, especially when there is no cloud cover, as the fish will often lay low during this time. But above all, take a sense of humor, a couple of buddies, and a cold brew or two.