The title of this report refers to the moment in the fishing season when blind-fishing a dry fly down a sunny bubble line is no longer a futile practice. On Monday evening, an evening in which I turned down two gracious invites to fish so I could, selfishly, fish exactly where and how I wanted to fish, was that moment. I waded into the top of a long bubble line armed with a small #16 CDC caddis, and began throwing little slack line casts down the main bubble line, along the back seams, along the logs, and even skated the fly through the backwaters. The trout were small, all brook trout, and eager enough to keep it jubilant but not so foolish as to make it easy. It was slow and careful fishing. The air was absolutely swarming with popcorn caddis, which, at a certain point, masked the appearance of the sulphurs which, for a few minutes, hid the sudden upstream spinner fall of Borchers and mahoganies. This transition of masking bugs is common in May. One event bleeds into and hides another. This leads to a pleasant puzzle of fly and tippet changes. Before long, my easy blind fishing with the caddis had transformed into an intense affair between me and four good fish rising in front of and below a particularly good log jam. A near-blanket spinner fall.
They were all decent fish, head tail raising confidently in the bubble line. I avoided the temptation to dash into casting position with the high-stepping enthusiasm of running back headed to the goal-line. This was without a doubt a downstream casting scenario, which meant I’d need to get upstream of the top fish and work my way down the line. This took minutes of slow moving through the muck on my side of the river to get up to the top. A long breath. A look behind at the wall of alders and spruce. And then it was time. It went something like this:
A friend texted me from downstream. Any good up by you?
I thought he was being sarcastic.
1a. Catch of the SOB that refused me earlier…and the best fish of the bunch.
4. Refusal and spooked.
As I’d been enjoying an absolutely perfect, all-to-my-self evening, I’d become aware of a big riser downstream of me. It first rose downstream of a leaning spruce tree, then above it, and then fed right up to me, covering about 100 feet of water in a half-dozen or so rises. It set up by a small alder, rose twice, and then dropped down fifteen feet. I love such fish. They do not always love me. I threw low, and it rose high, twice. I changed flies and it rose above me, almost up to where I’d been refused by fish #4. Changed flies. Covered the upstream rise. It rose directly across from me. I covered that rise. Changed flies. Vowed to finally invest in spectacles. It rose way downstream, by the spruce. Perhaps, I thought, it would reappear upstream.
I stood in the river, fly in hand, for a perfectly long time. The river went quiet and smooth in the dark. I stood long enough to feel the river coming through the numerous pinholes in my waders. I was mouth-breathing, anxious, hunched, ready. My phone buzzed, broke the trance. Same friend: Quiet down here. And, I guess, it was quiet up where I was as well. I hiked out of the river and I thought, well, there it is.
Anglers this week, weekend and next week will see a whole bunch of bugs. The giant Siphloplectons (aka NeverFalls, though they do fall), Borchers Drakes (Leptophlebias), mahoganies (#16), popcorn caddis, black caddis, yellow stones, mattress thrashers, lots and lots of #16 sulphurs (or light hendricksons, if you must), and probably next week we’ll see the first of the March Browns. I expect it’ll be a fine week to be a fly-fisher. I’m going to fix my waders (which I think means I’m going to get some new ones) and head out tomorrow evening.
You can get lucky this time of year and, similarly, you can get unlucky. The spinners that my dad and I hit yesterday evening were an anomaly, I learned, over coffee in the fly-shop. Today the South Branch hatched huge clouds of popcorn caddis and the fishing, according to Tanker, was really good, dude. This week has provided good reports from the North, South and Main, and Mio, and just about everywhere in-between — but not everywhere on the same day. If you are on a string of bad luck — and I’ve been there — every morning can feel like you’re about to get selected as a juror for a long trial. If you are lucky, well, your report will read like mine. And it’s luck when the fishing is still a tad inconsistent. But knowing that a good rise of fish is a possibility has added a much needed breath of optimism to our twin river valleys. The fishing wasn’t very good for about ten days and while it might not be great now, it’s a hell of a lot better than it was.
Hardy Day: May 20, 10 am – 2 pm
Hardy Representative Dirk Fischbach will be at the lodge this coming Saturday with a full suite of Hardy (and Greys) rods and reels, and a special promo: Spend $200 on Hardy and Greys products, and enter to win a free Hardy reel. Have old Hardy reels you’d like to sell or trade? This is the day to bring them in.
Hardy is famous for its classic, collectible, made-in-England reels. They also have an incredible line of rods and more modern reels. This year Greys, a prominent international company under the Hardy umbrella, released the Wing series of rods. At under $400, these have been one of our most popular rods in 2023 and are worth a test cast.
May 27, Garage Sale Donations at Gates Lodge, 9 am – 11 am
Got old fishing and hunting stuff? Or, old art, collectibles, camping gear, or just some sports equipment? Think no one would want it? Think again! Mason Griffith Founders Trout Unlimited needs YOUR donations to make their All Sports Garage Sale a successful fundraiser. This great event relies on you donating your old sporting gear (fishing, ice fishing, hunting, etc) to them, which they will sell on August 11th at a big old garage sale.
It’s easy, bring all your stuff to Gates Lodge on May 27, from 9 am – 11 am. Volunteers will remove from your life, and even say thank you!