Redemption: Fish + Beer = Love.

Last Tuesday was a delightful foretaste of what is to come, both from fishing and weather point of view. After what has seemed like a long cold winter, Tuesday was one of those days that was filled with the promise of a spring and summer on the way. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Although I am sure there are still a couple of wintery surprises left, we are basically over winter’s hump, so to speak. So an afternoon with the temperature in the seventies, floating on the river and catching a few fish to boot was an afternoon to be savored. And as easy as it is to complain about winter’s grip, it is hard to not be grateful for all that snow on the ground. Ranchers will hopefully have plenty of water for irrigating, and those of us who recreate or make our living on the river should have more than enough to enjoy ourselves.

After last week’s ignominious spanking, I was keen to get back in the ring for another go round as soon as possible. Fortunately, time and circumstance combined to allow Kevin, Noel and myself a few hours for a shot at redemption. In the spirit of bipartisanship and outreach to those less fortunate, we allowed Noel, an accomplished spin fisherman, to ride along. Kevin, smart lad that he is, ensured there were a few PBR’s along for the trip this time around. The rules are clear in these circumstances. If you don’t know how to row, you fish in the back of the boat, and if you are a spin fisherman, you are not allowed to catch any fish either.

Noel, gentleman that he is, obliged on both counts. This is not to imply any deficiencies on Noels account, or to make any claims for the primacy of one style of fishing over another, but rather that Tuesday was a day for flies over spinners. Although anything can happen on a daily basis, it seems that the fish are still a little too lethargic to aggressively chase a lure, while they are slowly moving out to the edges of the river to feed on the stonefly and mayfly nymphs that are currently active, as well as the awakening caddis. While Noel was up the back of the boat engaged in his dark arts, Kevin and I were fishing a golden stonefly nymph with a small caddis larva or an RS 2 behind it. Each fly was effective, in itself reflective of the propensity and variety of insect activity taking place right now. It is not just we who are emerging, cold and cramped from our hovels into the light of a new season. The stoneflies are molting, there were blue wings floating in the back eddies, and we even spotted a few early caddis flying about. There are over forty species of caddis on the Arkansas, so while the main hatch of brachycentrus is still a few weeks way, there are others active right now.

Despite the bugs flying around, we didn’t see a fish rise the whole afternoon. It will probably take a couple of cloudy days and a prolonged mayfly hatch or two to get them looking up with consistency. I would expect a nymph rig to be the most consistent producer for the next couple of weeks, but still keep a dry fly rod with an adams and a sprout baetis handy if you spot any risers. The most productive water for us were the riffles and the associated pockets of water along the banks. There has been some cloudiness to the water on account of the low level snow melt going on at the moment. Castle Gardens just east of town has been particularly responsible for much of the discoloration, but that should be pretty much passed by now, unless more snow comes along. Besides, at these lower flows, I prefer a little cloudiness to the water over it being gin clear. That little bit of murk helps to hide the flaws of a hack like me.

One door closes, and another opens. So while Monarch is getting ready to wind down after what has turned out to be a pretty good season,  it is getting near time to put away the boards and skis for a few months. It is also time to break out the bikes, kayaks and fly rods and look forward to another great summer season in the mountains.