April 16, 2010

Lumpy Gravy

A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.
Frank Capra

Think off-center.
George Carlin

As often as I have walked away frustrated from a day's fishing, there have been those days, albeit too far in between, that will bring fond memories and grins when they come back to me.
I had one of those days this past week, but I'll spare you the superlatives. Suffice to say I managed to stay 'ahead of the curve'. Those of you who know what I mean will either understand and smile, or move along to something else, and that's fine. Depending upon your recent experiences, this will either be a fun read, or, if you've run into a dry streak, it'll probably engender a little disbelief. I know, it's always easier to laugh along and agree when things are going well. I've been prone to wrinkle my nose and throw a few stones myself when Lady Luck takes an extended vacation.
Until I either win the lottery, write a best seller, or somehow stumble into an inordinate amount of cash, my fishing exploits are pretty much limited to local excursions. Places pretty local that it doesn't cost an arm and two legs just to get to. And since I don't do lakes anymore, that really cuts a swath through the available opportunities until my home water, the Spokane River, which won't actually be fishable because of the flows until July, re-opens in mid June.
So, through the winter and spring I hop in my little red Honda and make the two and a half hour drive west to Rocky Ford Spring Creek a couple of times a week. If I had a vehicle with a more voracious appetite for fuel, well, let's leave that right where it is. For that I will always be indebted to a woman who really opened my eyes several years back, although she did see fit to break my heart. Over the phone, no less. But again I digress.
The creek is in the process of shedding its previous year's aquatic growth. As the daytime temperatures inch ever higher, more and more old growth is released glutting the flows with a primordial stew of gooey green detritus. Anyone who fishes spring creeks with any regularity has probably been witness to this process. It will continue for the next few weeks, making afternoon fishing a tediously patience-wearing process, in that it totally rules out a few popular fishing techniques. Actually, it can prove disastrous to almost any method where and when you drop your fly into that morass. But, beyond limiting yourself to fishing in only the wee hours of the morning or waiting until long after dark to strip leeches or buggers, there are a few things you can try.
In the morning of this particular day my fly of choice was the scud. A heavily weighted scud. If you can cast with a little dexterity, it's possible to land your fly in areas that are more or less void of the green stew. And the weight in the scud will get it to the bottom in a hurry, sparing you the task of abandoning the effort because it too slowly sank and therefore collected crap, demanding a stripping of your fly back to clean it off, and trying again.
As with all things, though, there simply are no guarantees for success. That's why, especially at this time of year, I tend to be a little more stealthy in my approach to the area I'm interested in fishing. That's one thing that always will amaze me when I fish here; how many guys have no idea how to just plain old slow down, be quiet, and maybe even stand still!! It's always fun, or maddening, to watch them tromp in through the cattails, stripping line off their reel while furiously false casting, totally unaware of all the bow wakes heading in every direction away in a hurry from the area! And it doesn't end there. I call it the domino effect, because those freaked out fish will fan out in every direction, in turn causing panic in the fish they intersect. And so on and so on. So, I make it a point to be careful in my approach. That way I've got more fish, more calm fish, in closer proximity to me. That often equates to some awesome sight-fishing and means more, shorter, sometimes much shorter casts to fish that aren't worried about their security.
That system served me well on this day. After maybe two hours of cautious, intelligent approaches and short, well-placed casts, I'd landed several very nice fish, close enough to observe many of them as they first investigated, then ate the scud. Sight fishing in this manner is like counting coup as far as I'm concerned.
But it was later in the afternoon that really made my day. I had moved a good distance upstream, to a narrower, deeper section of the creek. The flow here, because of the constriction, is quicker, bending through a channel bejeweled with very large, round granite boulders. Just upstream of the bend is an eddy, where, in my approach from downstream, I saw many large noses breaking the surface. I stood silently for a few minutes, counting three of four separate fish, all totally engrossed in the midges coming through the rocks to their position.
I've been working on a derivation of the Griffith's Gnat for some time now, not being really confident with the original. So I made a few alterations. I added a tiny shuck using a feather from a fine grizzly cape. I used a dark dun hackle through the black-dyed peacock herl, rather than the standard grizzly. And I tied it very sparsely on a Dai-Riki #24. Test time.
The closest I dared get left me about a fifty foot well-placed cast. I only had about three feet of space between the bank and the rocks that bent the current. But I also had no wind to adjust to, and lots of space just off to the bank side with which to measure my cast.
It was one of those times, and there really are so few, that I wished some one would have been there watching. My Gnat landed softly, following the swirls in the eddy, and then a nose emerged from the water. My Gnat disappeared. I raised my rod carefully, not wanting to explode the seven x tippet, and the twenty-two inch male responded with a leap that made my heart stop before running right past me downstream through the channel. I had to go quite a ways downstream after him, no easy task, while he continued on his way, with me by now well into my backing.
That took several minutes. When I returned, I was appreciative of the fact that the fish were still bumping the surface. After a quick examination of my tippet and Gnat, I cast again into the eddy.
And was rewarded again, this time with a smaller, but no less energetic male, who went upstream for quite a distance before I was able to take his head away and turn him.
Then, as is so often the case when I tie only one prototype, the next fish to be tempted got a souvenir. I hope he wears it well. I'll be back, with more.


  1. Steve,

    When prototypes pay off, that's a great feeling! I've been enjoying my early morning read on your blog this morning (starting from the newest, working my way down to the last one I read last month). Now that I'm caught up, thought I'd drop a line and thank you for the reading pleasure.

    Saw a little article/interview of you in the Spokane newspaper a couple of months ago. Regular local celebrity in the Spokane area, eh?

    Take care!

    -scott c

  2. PS, Shoot me an email, I've got a question/favor(?) to ask. You can get to my email from my profile. Thanks.

    -scott c