Friday, August 2, 2013

Stalking the Bank for Brook Trout

Brook trout on a pink albert
Little, high altitude creeks in Idaho offer a unique challenge and amazing scenery if you are will to put some time into finding them. Lucky for we Idahoans, turning north at almost any intersection off Interstate 84 will land us in amazing high country, full of small and median sized streams. If you get lucky, you might even find a little gem of a creek full of hungry brook trout.
Grassy banks, submerged log jams, crystal clear water and tight spaces make small stream fishing a different beast and a fun new challenge in my opinion. I try to stay on the bank, walking on my knees and stalking my fish much like a heron. The on-the-bank technique helps me preserve these fragile ecosystem and prevents the stream from becoming murky with debris. I suppose I do my fair share of mashing the bank down...sorry little wild flower. Terrestrial fly patterns usually work great for these streams including, ant, beetle, hoppers and crickets.
 Generally, brook trout will take just about anything they can fit in their mouth if well presented. I like selecting flies with higher visibility (like the pink albert this little brookie hit)  or a colorful terrestrial and then go up in size until I can see it well between blades of grass or behind logs.  Small creeks require accuracy and stealth and some advanced fisherman prefer a shorted, lighter fly rods for these situations.  I caught this beauty on a tributary of the Payette River near Smiths Ferry, ID.

Owyhee's Browns are Hopping for Hoppers

Brown on a hopper
If you fly fish and live in or around Boise, then I can safety bet you've made the "way earlier than I want to be up" morning dash to the Owyhee river in Oregon. I've done it. In fact, driving nearly asleep at the butt-crack-of-dawn in order to beat my fellow fisherman to the river seems to be the modus operandi.  Unfortunately, no matter how early I leave and arrive there is always some guy with a felt hat, smoking a cigar, standing in what I claim as my favorite fishing spot. Damn it...again, does this old timer ever rest? Tardiness is the mother of invention the saying goes for procrastinators like myself. On this day my late arrival meant fly fishing where I normally don't, not because I had a choice but because all the "good" spots had bipeds standing in them.  As luck would have it my late arrival would actually pay off and I finally got my perfect day of fishing on the "O". The fish were generous and active, the weather, drizzly and overcast with a slight breeze and my fishing compadre (my father-in-law) was great company. The water was clearer than I am used to seeing this time of year, not the pea green I am accustomed to. The clear water did not make the fish any more picky however but rather made it easier for me to spot them  basking in the shallows. Another bonus is that the clarity provided for some amazing pre-strike stalking action. What a thrill it was to see fish rising off the stream bed to attack our flies or merely give them a sniff then glide back down.   I found it difficult to time the slow, deliberate feeding the browns exhibited today and my jitters probably cost me 6-8 fish.

Big and Ugly on Big Ugly flies!
 What worked. Honestly, just about anything that normally works on the "O" worked today. We started with zebra midges (red and black) and skwala off the bottom. then two PMD (18-20) hatches in the late morning,  provided fast action on top with rust colored flies or emerger patterns.

My favorite moments of fishing today involved casting big ugly hoppers onto lazy pool like stretches of the river, even in places where I didn't see fish feeding on top. I'd plop the hopper down near the far bank and give it 20-30 ft of natural drift and before I knew it a set of rubbery yellow lips would emerge to suck down the fly like a sinkhole.  It was a great day and I was nodding off on the ride home like a tired puppy. Thanks for driving Dave!

I added a link to the USGS river flow webpage. The Owyhee is easy to wade in all but the deepest holes at 150 cfs.  Get out there and enjoy casting big terrestrials for big fish (late summer is best).