“If this isn’t a good day for blue wings, I don’t know what is,” said one local fishing geek to another downtown the other day. And it was – sullen sky, the air between earth and clouds heavy with the scent of moisture, the odd stray flake of snow falling straight down from a breathless overcast. There’s all sorts of theories as to why blue winged olive mayflies tend to hatch on cloudy days, but that’s all the really are – theories. The main thing to understand, from an angler’s point of view, is that they often do.
By early afternoon I’d ticked off a sufficient number of things on the to-do list to justify a quick trip to the river. Its always a good sign when you pull up, and birds are working the surface. This day, what looked like barn swallows were skimming and swooping low to the river, darting with incredible speed and dexterity, plucking something off of or near to the surface. While birds working the water is cause for optimism, it is by no means a guarantee of good fishing – just because they are feeding, doesn’t necessarily mean the fish are doing the same. I stood and watched the swallows for a while, then switched my attention to the water, searching for signs of fish rising in the bubble lines and back eddies, but the river’s surface remained dimple free, only the occasional blue wing floating by.
There has definitely been a change in the springtime hatch dynamic. In years past, it was nearly impossible to wade the river at this time and not feel the crunch of caddis cases under your boot, nor drive the canyon and not have your windshield smeared in caddis. Nature abhors a vacuum, and where there are now not as many caddis – once again, there are theories – the blue wings are stepping into the void, becoming more prolific by the year, the harbingers of spring on the river. Mayflies are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to water quality, so to see them thrive is reassuring.
When in doubt, tie on a pheasant tail I thought. While not feeding on the surface, I discovered the fish were definitely active below it, and I managed to miss five takes in a row, all of them on the nymph, all slow and subtle, my timing either over eager or so late as to be laughable. I reeled in my line and checked to see if my hook was straightened – no excuse there. I reeled in to check if I didn’t have something stuck to the hook – no excuse there. I thought of some way to blame the fish – no excuse there.
Finally I got my mojo working, and proceeded to land three fish, and miss a couple more. As I reeled in for the last time, I did a quick count: three landed, seven missed, probably more than a guy like me deserves.