It seems like every fisherman these days is after the big fish - the one that's going to take off and get in to your backing, the one that won't fit in the net, or the one whose tail is too big to wrap your cold, wet, fingers around. That said, we often forget the little things...
The water was up a little bit, and had the green tint that every one of us spends hours of time on the road chasing around. Honestly, it was the best water I've seen yet this year. It was a cold morning, but I had really high hopes for the first pool that I swung through. Nothing. Alright, I went back to my pack, changed colors, and went through again. Second pass...and still nothing. Meanwhile my fishing partner for the day, fly tyer extraordinaire, Greg Senyo, had gone through a couple times with the same result. Nada.
What could possibly be going on - we were on the right river, there was nobody around, and the water was perfect. I knew there were fish in that piece of water - in fact if I knew how many were really in there that I didn't catch I'd probably quit fly fishing and guiding right then and there. Regardless, they didn't eat our flies, and so we moved on.
We took a shortcut through the woods, on an old road, and ended up at our next stop. We fished, and finally hooked in to a few of 'em. A mix of bright silver and dark fish, which gave us a good bit of fun for the better part of an hour.
We moved up again, and Greg tied in to a good one. After an interesting fight, and an even more interesting net job, he held his fish up for the money shot.
We started to work out way back downstream, and then I ran in to this old dog.
Although it was a really big fish, it still wasn't quite what we had come there for.
Another quick jaunt downstream had us in to some more of these things, and another nice fish fell victim to the cosmic superfragalisticexpealidocious white bugger.
We were getting warmer now. So close to what we were after I could almost taste it. By this point in the day the water temperature had warmed up enough so that the fish were moving out of the holes and runs, and in to the faster water as they made their way upstream. I stopped at the top of the chute, and watched a half dozen fish shoot through over the course of a couple minutes. There it was. I caught a fleeting glimpse of a gray torpedo shooting through the water.
The decision was made to fish right below this obstacle. We figured fish would be holding up in some of the slots and buckets below the fast water, and with the number of fish we'd seen in this stretch of river already, we figured our guess was pretty good.
By this point in the day just about any steelheader would have been satisfied. We'd caught a whole bunch of fish, hadn't seen many people, and some of the fish were big. But not me. Not on this day. I was looking for skippers and I still hadn't caught one.
I decided to quit screwing around, and took a second to gather myself, take a leak in the woods, and then got my game face on. It was time to be serious. Once I was focused I got on the board pretty quickly with this little guy. He ate a swung egg pattern (a secret technique for targeting skippers). The fish went left, right, jumped, dove, and ran itself straight on to the bank. True skipper style.
As you can see from his bewildered look on his face, this young guy didn't quite know what to do during the photo op.
Daylight was fading now, and I was looking for another to end my day. Cold air was descending in to the valley, and the sun was beginning to set behind one of the shale walls. We'd made it all the way back to the first hole where we'd started and hadn't caught anything. After about a dozen drifts with the indicator rig, I figured that my luck had run out. I turned around, set my rod over my shoulder, started reeling my line in, and walking towards my pack.
I about jumped out of my skin as my rod doubled over, and I turned around to see another silver BB (this one was too small to be classified as a silver bullet) shoot out of the water with my small streamer in his mouth. After a ten second fight, in which this fish put out every ounce of energy that he had, I had him in my grasp.
It's amazing how in a day where you catch a whole bunch of fish, it's the two smallest ones that stand out in your mind. These guys crush flies with reckless abandon, sit in the funniest little spots, and for the first three seconds of the fight make you think you've got the biggest trout in the river.
Today Dudewater celebrates the skipper, jack, timmy trout, dink, or anything else you can think of to call these things. The fights may not be long, but you can be sure that these little buggers will give you absolutely everything that they have, and then some more. They're definitely some of the most fun fish to catch in our rivers, and I hope we get another big push of them soon.