Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Early Summer Midweek Update

Well, I just got back from the Mo and unfortunately we still seem to be waiting for the real dry fly action to get going here locally.  I've got some unconfirmed reports of decent dry fly action higher in the drainages, but a few people I know have sworn off certain rivers until they drop below certain levels or gain some clarity.  I know that the insects are not waiting and there are lots of bugs out, the trout just are eating most of them underneath the surface near town.  This isn't to say nymphing and chucking junk aren't options.  I've also heard a few reports of some good streamer fishing to be had.

Anyway, here are a few shots from my recent run on the the Mo with Dixon Adventures.  Enjoy!

My first effort at HDR with a Pelican sunset.

Tom with a sweet Missouri brown on a dry.

My new girl, right at home.

Boots scores!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Father's Day Weekend!

Reposting this from a while back, because it still rings true for all those fathers out there who take at least a little time to get to know their sons better and give them a lifetime activity.  Thanks again, Dad.  You've created a monster!

June 20, 2009

This is Father's Day Weekend and I really wanted to just thank my Dad for introducing me to fishing. The other night, I was floating the river with some law school buddies and I told them, "You know, the only thing that makes me feel like a normal person is fishing." It's true. And without Big Bill (as I affectionately refer to him), I would be miserable.

While my Dad isn't really into fly fishing, he loves to fish as much as anyone, and smallmouth bass are his favorite quarry. We've done some troutin' too. I'll never forget my first day of trout fishing in PA. I was 6 years old and Dad said he was taking me up to fishing camp for the first day. My mom made me wear a snowsuit and a PFD, even though we were fishing from the bank with worms. I guess a big brown could have pulled me in, in which case the life preserver would have kept me from drowning in the snowsuit. I caught a 13-inch stocker rainbow and a small brown, which made their way into our freezer, never to be eaten. I think Mom threw them out when I was 10.

Fishing camp was where I was introduced to fly fishing by my Dad's buddies. I learned how to play setback, tie a blood knot, and drink before 8am. Dad also started taking me to our lake in Canada when I was a little older. I fell in love with bass fishing and wanted to be on the Bassmasters. (Mark Betourney???) I always loved the scientific aspect of the sport and I think it naturally led me to fly fishing.

I know that without my Dad taking me to Canada or to trout camp, I wouldn't be catching the trout I do now. There's nothing like sitting on the "Gin & Tonic" deck with Big Bill, watching the sunset, after a day on the lake whacking smallies. Without my Dad and his friends I don't know where I'd be. I certainly wouldn't be much of a fisherman and probably not much of a man either. I love you Dad and miss you. Thanks for everything and get your ass out here so we can get you into some trout. Happy Father's Day!


P.S. If you any of you guys or girls out there have a great fishing story about your Dad, please post them in the comments. I know they'd appreciate it!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nothing Rhymes With Orange

Pteronarcys californica, the Salmonfly

Salmonflies are a mythical insect for many western fishermen.  I've spent more than a few seasons doing something I call chasing the hatch; dropping everything important and driving to the river and turning over rocks daily, obsessing over flows and water temps.  Sometimes I feel like no matter what I do, I always seem to miss them.  If there's one thing you could say about the Big Orange, it's that they lack consistency, from year to year, from river to river, and from reach to reach.  Here are some of the things I've learned about salmonflies over the years, from reading, studying, and fishing.

There is only one species of salmonfly in the western US, Pteronarcys californica.  There aren't any small salmonflies.  They are all big, and the nymphs usually take at least three years to mature.  If you sample aquatic insects in the spring, you often find three different sizes of nymphs, one for each age class.  For this reason there are always salmonfly nymphs present in the river and available for trout, regardless of time of year.  A #6 to #12 girdle bug is always good to have on hand.

Salmonfly nymphs require high oxygen content and are an excellent indicator species for high water quality.  The nymphs are usually found in rapid, boulder strewn areas and these types of rivers and stretches have the best hatches.  It's worth mentioning that giant golden stones tend to hatch along with or just after salmonflies, and the adults are often confused with each other.  There really isn't any sure way to tell the difference without keying out the bugs, but salmonflies tend to be orange, while goldens are usually yellowish-brown.

Salmonfly exuvia, on a burnt tree above classic stonefly habitat.

When salmonfly nymphs are ready to hatch, they migrate to the edges of the stream and stage under rocks, before crawling out of the water.  Usually when you find them right next to the bank, it's only a matter of hours or days before the hatch is on (unless the river blows out.  That's bad).  The nymphs congregate in the flooded willows or horsetails near the bank, on bridge abutments, or under overhanging rocks.  Trout follow them.  Anglers often find nymph "shucks" or exuviae around these areas;  that's the technical term for the nymphal exoskeletons left behind by the adults.  Yes.  I am a super nerd.

In my experience, a salmonfly hatch lasts for a VERY short time.  These big bugs are sitting ducks for fish, birds, mammals and predatory insects.  Also, stonefly adults, like mayflies, have no working mouth parts, so they can't eat or drink.  This all means that in order for salmonflies to survive, they all hatch, breed and die pretty quickly.  It's a coordinated burst.  A few might be early or late, but they have a lot harder time mating and not getting eaten.  There are usually only adults on a given stretch for a few days at a time.

I've said this before a million times, but if you find a lot of shucks and no adults in a given area, the hatch is pretty much over.  You might still get fish to eat the adult imitations, but that's it.  Hasta.  As we speak, on a few stretches of Missoula rivers, the hatch is already done.  On others it has yet to begin.  If you want to be there when it happens, I know of only one way to do it.  Drive to the river and look; turn over some rocks, check the flows, and hope you get lucky!