The Rainy Day Chill

A few hours of forty-seven degree water immersion easily makes 70 something degrees feel COLD on a rainy, breezy front day.

I let the heat drive me to the coldest water I could find the other day, and I found a little fishing. The stifling weather seemed to keep most of the fishermen at home, work, or some other air conditioned place, and I was happy for it.

I used to fish the West Branch every summer, making a long trip around the Fourth of July. The trout were always difficult, and that difficulty has increased with the massive increases in fishing pressure the river has seen. It has become pretty normal to find our Catskill trout keying upon moving naturals on all of our rivers. Once upon a time a simple thread bodied CDC dun was medicine on these picky feeders, but the trout have fine tuned their targeting abilities during the past decade.

I managed three trout, a hard fighting brownie between nineteen and twenty inches, and a couple sixteen inch fish that were equally determined to give their all on the bottom of the river. I had to estimate the larger fish, as the fly popped out with his just his back half in the net. That guy ate a delicate size 18 silk bodied CDC dun, a fly with a sparse wing that requires constant attention to keep it floating. I like to tie the wings heavy and tall to maximize visibility and movement, but some trout have begun to shy away from them, requiring a more subtle fly.

A silk bodied CDC dun with a fairly high, medium density wing, a fly that is good for a lot of selective, movement oriented trout. A few seem suspicious though, preferring a version tied just a touch slimmer in the body, with the wing a bit sparser and roughly three quarters height. Canting that wing back a skooch doesn’t hurt either.

Tactics often dictate fishing long, and downstream and across to picky trout, and the constant retrieving of sparsely winged CDC flies wets them thoroughly. These fish often require multiple casts if they are feeding upon a good hatch of naturals, and that means a lot of time spent drying and fluffing the fly. Still, if a good trout demands subtle, you either give it to them or pass them by.

I learned thirty years ago that a fly will be more attractive to a trout if it appears alive and moving. The late great Gary LaFontaine impressed upon me that the light reflecting qualities of my flies imitated movement, so I try to incorporate those abilities in most of my patterns. I am not talking about Flashabou ribs here, more like a touch of Antron blended into the dubbing, or used as a sparse trailing shuck. Perhaps I am losing it, but trailing shucks have become so commonplace that some trout seem to have gone off of them.

If a shuck isn’t the answer, then maybe a little sparkle in the wing is. I was talking with JA a couple of years ago about flies and materials when the topic came around to Enrico Puglisi’s Trigger Point Fibers. I was using them for bodies, spinner wings and posted wings and having good results, and JA mentioned that a friend tied comparaduns with the stuff. “Gotta try that”, I said and I did. The material lends itself to comparadun wings and is much easier and faster to tie with than deer hair. The wings are a lot more durable too. Trigger Point fibers have a subtle sparkle that I believe imitates moving wings effectively, but it not as flashy as Antron. Selective trout seem to like them.

My Trigger Point winged Halo Isonychia has proven deadly!

So, in a nutshell, I guess I am saying that picky trout get pickier as we get trickier. That is the reason I am continuously experimenting with fly patterns, materials and tying techniques. None of us have any hope of staying ahead of all of the trout in the river, but I hope I can always experiment a bit and stay ahead of some of them!

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