It has been real cold lately around here for the last couple weeks, ranging from the low single digits to the mid-20s. All the ponds and creeks (that aren't spring-fed or fast flowing) are frozen solid, and up until yesterday, there had been snow on the ground for a week and a half. But two days in a row of warm weather was too much to pass up, so this morning I decided to try a nearby spring creek that holds a population of wild rainbows. I knew I'd probably be able to pick up a couple on deep drifted nymphs, but I had no idea of the treat I was in for.
When I got on the pool at the access, the air temp was in the low 40s, and it was totally overcast. When I got down to the water, low and behold, there were some bugs coming off and some trout rising to them. There were both Blue-winged Olives and midges. The midges were more numerous, but not wanting to have to fish a super small fly, I decided I'd start of with a #20 Olive dry. It worked. I hooked my first fish after about five minutes, a rainbow of about eight inches that got loose just as I was bringing it to hand. On the very next cast, I also got a rise, and I landed this one. It was a classic small trout from a small stream, only 5" long, but brilliantly colored and gorgeous in every way. It was also the first trout I've caught in nearly a month, so that in itself made it a little more special.
That was the last rise in that pool I saw either to my own fly, or to the naturals, so I moved upstream to a spot that I knew would produce. It is a deep, slow hole where a small spring branch feeds into the creek. The spring-water is a constant 55 degrees, and I suspected that the trout near its mouth would be pretty active. This is slow, glassy water, so a pretty long, drawn out stalk was necessary to get in casting position without spooking the pool, but finally that was accomplished. I knew that I would have to make good on my first couple casts, because this is not the sort of water where you can make a large number of casts without making the fish suspicious. So I watched the pool for about 10 minutes, in which I saw that there were several fish rising there. I took my guess at which one was the largest, and made the cast. The cast and the drift were acceptable, and the fish took. It turned out to be a pretty solid fish after all, a 14" wild beauty. It fought hard, but eventually I brought it to net. A 14 inch trout is not the largest this stream has to offer (I've caught them up to 20" and there are confirmed reports by the biologists who electroshock it of a single 27" rainbow), but it is about as large of a fish as you can expect to catch on any kind of a consistent basis, so I was pretty happy. And of course it was brilliantly colored like all wild rainbows tend to be in the wintertime.
The fishing didn't turn out as good as it could have, but it was still better than I had the right to expect. I caught just three more fish after that 14 incher, all small ones, but I couldn't help feeling like it had been a pretty good day. Any trout caught on a dry fly this time of year is a true pleasure, and even if it's a small fish it's something well worth being happy about. If nothing else, this little trip will give me something to think about when the weather gets colder and the fishing gets tougher.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach