Thursday, May 28, 2009

Salmon Flies

Snuck out last week for a couple of hours on the Henry's Fork to hopefully find some salmon fly goodness. Didn't happen, not only did I not see a single adult, flipping over rocks near the banks also proved a decided lack of nymphs. Needless to say Jon (now I am spelling his name correctly) and I hit a big goose egg. The first skunking for me in a long time.

Jon asking.... "where are the salmon flies"?

Now yesterday was a different story. The adults were everywhere! I have got to slow down on my strike reaction. Of the 30 some odd fish that decided to take a whack at my salmon fly, I only hooked 4. Of which I landed two, lost one quickly, and had another break off after a couple of minutes of fighting in a heavy current. I must have almost been at a 10:1 ratio for misses to hook ups.

Last week I remembered to take the camera but as the fish weren't on the bite I took very few pictures. Yesterday I took the camera only to discover when I went to take my first pic that the battery was completely dead................................... doh! So much for my goal of more and better pictures. A digital SLR is on the wish list. Those of you who fish with a digital SLR... what does insuring it against a swim cost? (Jay, Bryan, any one?)

The fly of the day was Robert Williamson's O2 air filled salmon fly. This thing is great! It will not sink no matter how hard you try to sink it. Unlike foam flies, spun hair flies, etc that eventually take on water and start to sink, the O2 is unsinkable. If it does go under for a minute it pops right back up to the surface. The profile on the water is great, and the fish loved it. Big smack attacks that I mostly, promptly missed. It is also indestructible. I fished 2 the whole day, only changing flies when the first was a victim of a tree. Did I mention the fish loved it? ;)

Props to Bryan G for the photo and Bushrat for the edit. This pic was "borrowed" from RAW's blog

Will be up on bear Creek in a couple of weeks,and perhaps the Teton before that but am anticipating and getting flies together for the SF mega event!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring Outing

The rain is drumming a staccato beat on the roof as I type this (update: it has actually turned into hail and is coming down sideways. If it was any colder it would be a blizzard). It has rained almost every day for the last week and the forecast calls for another rainy week. So the good news is that the local reservoirs are almost full already and peak run off is still weeks off, the snowpacks in the region are all over 100%, and as I stated earlier there is plenty of rain in the forecast.

The bad news..... well this leaves the local rivers and streams raging torrents of chocolate milk. The South Fork has been around 17K cfs for the last 2 weeks and can only go up as the snowpack starts to melt. This makes thoughtful consideration of the local open waters paramount for a successful late April outing, you have to find a water that isn't blown out.

Some of the smaller side channels of the SF and the Henry's above where the Fall River enter it can be good this time of year, as well as some of the local stillwaters, but I rarely fish stillwater and have vowed to fish more creeks this year.

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon and I decided as I haven't been on the water for over a month I had to get out. I called fishing buddy John and asked him if he wanted to tag along, and the close stream that seemed the best possibility for not being blown out........ Well if you are adventurous enough to withstand the 300 foot scramble down the cliffs, which is much easier and less tiring than the trip out, then you deserve to know the location, Willow Creek right below Ririe Reservoir.

Ririe Reservoir viewed from the canyon rim.

The creek is barely flowing, doesn't even reach the USGS gauge so probably around 50 cfs are coming out of the dam currently. It is low and clear. The hole right below the spillway where I had caught a couple of fish at various times last year, Willow creek being a ten minute drive from the house and convenient for quick outings, was pretty much dry. We scouted around the immediate area of the spillway and didn't see any fish, so we started hiking downstream.

The hike down looks easy. what you don't see is the 100 feet of cliffs.

After a couple of hundred yards, John spying through a break in the willows and brush saw some fish cruising in a deep slow pool. We bushwhacked through breaks in the brush and after a couple of false starts we made our way down to the pool. I at the foot of the pool where a small stream of water worked its way down towards the next hole and John at the head of the pool.

Looking at the water as it spilled from the pool, I noticed that it was liberally coated with midge shucks and there were a few midges in the air and on the water. As we hadn't seen any risers (though we did see a few as the day progressed) we both rigged up midges. I a small copper john with a midge emerger below and John tied on tandem zebras in red and black or as Ed Kent likes to call them; a chocolate and a cherry drop.

We were into fish in the first few minutes, and the fishing while not fast and furious was quite good. Slowly drifting the midges through the slow water saw a nibble every couple of drifts and a fish on every few minutes. The fish were very timid, the takes incredibly soft. I must of lost 3 times as many fish I landed, missing the majority of hooksets.

Surprisingly, the fish were all beautiful cutthroats, chunky and starting to show spawn colors. They ranged from about 10 to 15-16 inches, and were tenacious fighters.

Willow Creek native cutthroat

We worked the pool for a couple of hours then hiked further down looking for other likely water. There were a few other deep holes, but we didn't see any fish in them. Not to say that they are not there...... John and I had split up each scouting at different rates and with the thick brush you couldn't see past the next bend in the river.

Discouraged with the lower waters I returned to the pool where we had success and hooked up with a couple of more nice cutts, when I heard John calling my name. He was already up on the top of the cliffs and was ready to go. The hike out is no picnic and involves at least 300 feet of nearly vertical. Not quite as bad as hiking into the Gunnison, but still tiring.

Looking downstream from the canyon rim.

As we were driving out John was talking about bringing his kids dow to the pool as the fishing was so good. I was thinking that I would be hard pressed to take anyone down the canyon who couldn't get out on their own power, so dragging Lucas down to the creek is most likely not going to happen as I don't really want to pack him out.