Most fly fishermen have a "season" or two that they look forward to most throughout the year. It could be a stonefly hatch for someone out West , or a Green Drake mayfly hatch for a Colorado fisherman ,or maybe a Fall run of steelhead for a Great Lakes resident. For me there are two different times of year that keep me up at night planning the next trip in my mind. One of the two is the early Spring smallmouth bite and the other is the Winter streamer fishing for brown trout in the tailwaters and larger rivers in the Ozarks.
The streamer game isn't for everyone for sure , it can be an all or nothing prospect most of the time and you have to get used to those times when the conditions just don't lend themselves to big predatory fish chasing big flies. Of course, the true diehard streamer guy knows that it only takes one cast to make two or three fruitless days on the water all worthwhile.
That's why you continue to make cast after cast without so much as a roll or a chase , all the while knowing in the back of your mind that if you really want to catch fish all you have to do is put on a big ugly nymph and an indicator. No...those little bug eaters aren't what has kept you up late each night before the trip , working at the tying desk to create something that closely resembles a small mammal when retrieved through the water column.
Luckily for me I have a couple of buddies that have the same passion for streamer fishing that I do , and this time of year we try to make it out to float some of our favorite streamer waters at least a few times .
A forecast for overcast skies and rain with the probability of a rising river was reason enough to generate a conversation about making the first trip of the New Year.
We drove through rain on Friday morning, headed for one of our favorite streamer waters, for the opportunity to fish in more of the same all day long on the river.
Even with the cloudy skies and persistent rain , the crystal clear low water conditions made the fish skittish at best when presented with our flies. A few long distance chases and even a half-ass eat or two , but at the end of the day the only thing we had to show for our troubles were several empty beer cans floating in the bottom of the boat and sore shoulders.
You lick your wounds that night at a local bar/cafe over several more beers and a greasy burger the size of a pie plate. Excuses are thrown around and in the end the final decision is that we really just don't know what the hell we're doing. Our best chance is to just cross our fingers and hope our luck changes.
After listening to the rain hit the metal roof of the camper cabin all night long , the first thing on the agenda in the morning is to check the water levels. Up to 750 cfs from 400 cfs the previous day...and the little line on your phone depicting the water level is on a completely vertical axis. We wanted things to be different from the previous day and it appears as though we got our wish.
Partially dried out rain jackets and gloves are donned and rods rigged with still wet flies from yesterdays trip are stowed in the rod holders.
The weather is of the low overcast , dreary type...but our attitudes are much improved from yesterday and we're excited to see what the fast rising off color water has in store for us as we push off. Todays float is half the length of the first days. The window of opportunity is short before the muddy , debris filled water catches up with you and renders the fishing miserable at best.
Before you can float out of the pool you just launched in you get your first eat of the day , of course the fish manages to somehow elude six inches of razor sharp hooks , but it's a good start. The next fish comes before you can even get into a rythym on the oars , this one eats like he means it and makes it into the net.
In the next couple hours several of his buddies make their way boatside as well , along with many who simply flip us the bird as they somehow smack the fly and simply swim away unhooked.
Two thirds of the way through the float the debris starts to catch up with you and the fishing slows down. Each cast ends with the task of removing bits of leaves or chunks of moss from your fly. Smiles are still the order of the day regardless , that small window of opportunity resulted in six fish for the day. Three of those pushing 20" and being of the variety that resemble footballs in their build.
By the time you reach the takeout the river is at 1000 cfs and still shooting straight up , the fishing is definitely done for at least 24 hours on this river.
Lady luck had thrown us a bone for once and we were in the right place at the right time.
There are bigger fish and better days ahead, with a little bit more luck , but this wasn't a bad way to start off the new year.