Summer Patterns & Four Weights

The Cumberland Queen 8 foot for #4

Warm sunshine and high skies illuminating each pebble on the river bottom in low, gin clear water. Sounds like summer time. It feels like it and fishes like it too.

Fly hatches have become sparse again, and there is a terrestrial box tucked in a vest pocket. If you find a trout rising, it can be really tough to figure out what he’s rising to, as there hasn’t been much in evidence these past few days. When I reach for a rod to carry for the day’s fishing, I choose a four weight like my Cumberland Queen. And though there are still boxes of spring mayflies in my vest, I have started prowling my summer haunts.

The Queen and I took a walk to one of those haunts yesterday morning, only to find an angler in the pool I had planned to fish. I left him alone and tried my second choice. There were caddis in the air, the same black ones I found on the Delaware Monday night, and I hoped the pattern I had tied for a possible return engagement there would temp some low water browns in the bright sun of morning.

The first trout I put that fly over ate it readily, but that cursed spool of 5X tippet came back to haunt me again. The trout kept my fly as soon as I tightened; and he wasn’t a big one. I checked the tippet a few inches above the break and it broke on a gentle pull. Another try a few inches further down the line held, so I tied on another fly and hoped for better luck.

There was a trout at the edge of some shade where the fast water started to slow along the bank. My cast looked good, but drag was easy to come by casting across the fast current. The trout popped the fly and I tightened upon air. A miss, perhaps a splashy refusal, regardless the result was the same.

The rest of my morning centered upon a big fish tucked into a bank side hide, that seemed as interested in playing with me as I was with him. The missed fish on that caddis? Perhaps, but that take was his last out on the edge of fast water and slow. He spent the rest of the morning giving me fits back in the nearly motionless water tighter to the bank.

He would appear to follow every relatively long float I could muster until it began to drag, then refuse the fly. Just to keep me honest, he continued to sip various tidbits back in there, every once in awhile walloping something hard. I finally tipped my hat to him in early afternoon and headed out.

I made that walk early this morning, finding a touch of natural beauty sweetened with solitude. I waited a while until the caddis became active and I saw a small trout take a swipe at one of them, then eased into the river and cast my black caddis to known holding lies. Fishing the water may be a cure for impatience, but it’s never a cure for a fishless day, not on this river.

As the morning warmed I went looking for yesterday’s nemesis, and I may indeed have found him. If this was the same fish, he wasn’t in his shady lie this time, he was out in a deeper channel pounding something. The only visible insect life was the caddis, which he stoutly refused to touch. I don’t know just how long I worked on the trout, but the glimpse I got of him on his second rise made the time worthwhile. I tried every fly I thought might intertest him, everything that had been hatching lately or was due to show soon, and he ignored them all, eventually retiring from the game.

I waited, and sure enough there was a hard rise downstream. I put the caddis on him quickly and got a solid take from a good fish, who started the Hardy talking right away. He was a nice brown, a hard fighter, but he wasn’t the big boy I spent all that time on. He was a chunky 18 inch fish though, and I was glad to slip him into my net on this second tough morning.

My next conquest was half his size, and I had to wait a little while again before another fish showed on the surface. That one was a long poke downstream, but the Queen was more than equal to the task. The fish screamed away at my hookset and I was really impressed until I got that foot long brownie in the net and saw the fly stuck in the top of his head. I guess it hurt enough to make him fight like a fish twice his size.

With no more activity to the south, I walked back north and looked to see if Mr. Shady was back in his lie. No sign of him, or anyone else for that matter, until I heard a solid thunk from downstream. Fish were up, several of them, all of a sudden. I cast to the first ones in range as I eased down and they promptly stopped rising.

I was thinking a hatch must be getting started, though I didn’t see anything besides a caddis or two. I tried a sulfur. No. Then began to scan the water in the bubble line I was standing in. Nothing but bubbles there, no sign of an insect of any kind, but those fish were rising hard when they rose. I scratched my head and went through the litany of patterns as I had earlier in the morning, with the same result.

Whatever had those fish feeding, it didn’t last very long. My opportunity was nearly spent when I considered the lone fish that was making softer rises, and dug out my sulfur box. I had one spent dun imitation left, and I tied it on, checking that hateful tippet three times. I could have sworn I heard that familiar chorus of Hallelujah when that trout tipped up and sucked in my little CDC spent dun.

There was music, for the little Hardy Perfect was in full song as that trout blitzed downstream. This was not a foot long trout with the hook in his head, this was the kind of trout I was looking for. He turned and charged upstream and had me reeling as if my life depended on it. He dug for the bottom and I raised the rod high, the supple cane bowing heavily as he bucked and raced away again. It was a hell of a fight, and I was glad to be the victor when I finally led that grown up brown into the net. He measured twenty-one inches, a trout with shoulders, and was none the worse for wear, darting away as soon as I lowered him into the flow.

The battle seemed to have put all the remaining risers down for the count. The run and the pool below were quiet, the bright water twinkling in the high sun. I exhaled and gave it a moment before I started north.

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