Of windy days and blue wings….

One of the dangers of living in Salida, with a river running through it, and a ski area close by, is that you can get a little too selective on the days you choose to recreate, thereby missing out on some great opportunities that others living in a big city somewhere would crawl across hot coals for. Easter Sunday was nearly such a time. Sitting in the comfort of home over breakfast, it was almost all too easy to listen to the gusting wind, watch the trees swaying and almost feel the bite of the wind and decide to stay indoors. Fortunately, the prospect of fishing with a good mate, Jim, who was in town for the weekend, tipped the scales in favor of heading out to the river to see what was really going on.

After all, how bad could it be? If things were too cold and inhospitable, the truck was only a few minutes away, and I’d be back home cracking a beer at noon instead of three. Either way, win – win. And so Jim and I headed out to check things out in person. Certainly wind complicates fishing, but if you aren’t prepared to deal with it from time to time then you automatically disqualify yourself from a significant number of days on the river. And wind also is a great leveler when it comes to casting. Anyone can cast like a rock star when the air is calm, but wind exposes deficiencies in technique like nothing else. For me, the solution is to take a heavier rod, in this case a 5wt, shorten the leader, and lengthen the cast.

A shortened leader makes it more difficult to present a fly delicately, but it does help the leader to roll out fully, and the disturbance caused by the wind on the surface of the water helps hide most blemishes in technique. Making longer casts may sound counter intuitive, but the more line you have out there, the more mass there is to power up the rod on the backcast. Lastly you need to throw a real tight loop. The further behind vertical your rod wanders on the backcast, the wider the loop, and consequently the greater the wind resistance.

This time of year, the blue wings are particularly active, so arriving at the river I went for a dry / dropper rig with Klinkhammer on top and a micro olive mayfly as the dropper. For the first part of the day, the dropper worked extremely well. The fish I caught seemed to be holding in water around knee to thigh deep in places where there was a steady current, particularly at the tail outs of rapids and riffles. Jim stuck to a dry fly rig, and got several fish also. After an hour or so, we moved to another  spot downstream, and a drop in the wind also coincided with a pretty nice blue wing hatch. It was here that the fun really started.

Give me a choice, and I’ll fish with a dry fly over any other kind of fly any day. Fishing with dries is to me both the most fun, but also potentially the most frustrating way to fish. Fishing with nymphs involves a lot of guess work as to where the fish are, and what if anything they are feeding on. When fishing dries to rising fish, you can see the fish, you can see what they are eating, and yet they can still manage to make you look foolish. Patience is the key. A fish that is close to the surface actually has a very narrow range of vision, so unless you get your fly in exactly the right place, it can easily float by them unseen. Then there is the competition from the naturals. When there are dozens of real ones floating by, you need to be spot on with your choice of fly, and presentation, especially when the water is low, slow and clear. After messing around with a few different patterns, the good old parachute adams came through and delivered a few fish.

The result was some of the funnest action I have had in a long time. Certainly I got spanked more often than I succeeded in hooking up, but it is often the spankings that you remember long after the catches have faded from memory. And so a day that was very nearly called off at the outset turned out to be most memorable. So, thanks to the fish, thanks to the blue wings, and thanks to Jim for not laughing too hard.