Indian Summer

It has been a very pleasant week. Warm weather, comfortable evenings, what we used to call Indian Summer when I was a kid. Our afternoons have been in the seventies all week, and yesterday, wow, a gorgeously sun drenched eighty degrees!

Its funny how eighty can feel hot, even stifling in August, and just so perfect in October. Standing in an ice cold river certainly adds to the comfort factor, but even later, sitting on the porch with a cold Molson, the warm air simply envelops you and feels absolutely wonderful. It occurred to me that would probably be the very last eighty degree evening I would enjoy for seven or eight months.

I arose before sunrise this morning to find sixty-five degrees here in Crooked Eddy, the morning of the change. Tomorrow morning’s low temperature will be twenty degrees colder; Monday’s high thirty degrees short of yesterday’s lofty glow. And yes, there is more rain coming.

I tried wading in high water yesterday for a while, finding a hodgepodge of insects in the drift, and a few small scattered trout rising. There is a subtlety to rise forms. It takes a good deal of experience to read them accurately, for the clues vary constantly with water depth and current speed. Very large trout can rise with just the slightest disturbance in flat water, but there are clues to what lies beneath. Hydrodynamics are as immutable as all the laws of physics: a body displaces water, and a moving body will displace at least some of that water in it’s direction of motion. Sometimes that little swell in the surface film is so subtle as to be overlooked, and sometimes it isn’t there. When you can be certain of the absence of displacement, you can be pretty certain that you are watching little fish, though as with everything in Nature, there are exceptions.

I spent a little time yesterday picking and choosing which of those scattered rise forms might be worth a cast or two, figuring that a pound brown trout would be a suitable foe under difficult late season conditions. Never got one of those trout to take, most refusing to even hold their positions for an approach, but I was enjoying the day so why not indulge a bit.

When it was time to go I waded out thinking about my next stop. I pulled off along another river and watched one particular piece of water: nothing doing there. I drove on checking out several other places, finding the Friday afternoon crowd of visitors had arrived. There was a single truck parked at one of the pools I had in mind, so I pulled in and walked down to the water. There was no sign of human habitation, so I went fishing. Once out in the river, I began to look for rises, and I noticed an angler standing in the shade well upstream watching the riffle.

I spotted a dimpling rise three quarters of the way across and began to work my way out, tying one of my trusty size 20 olives to my tippet. Once I had worked my way into position, I still faced several very difficult currents, but there simply wasn’t any better position I could get into. I started working that trout when he rose a couple more times, but he didn’t seem to care for my comparadun. I switched over to a hackled pattern that gave the appearance of a smaller fly and managed to get him to suck it in, or so I thought. There was no one home when I lifted.

About this time my hackles got prickly and I turned to see that other angler had come down from the head of the pool and was slipping down the bank behind me. Some guys simply cannot understand that other anglers do not necessarily want company. He had chosen one end of the river, so I had chosen the other, leaving him to his water. He did pass me by a reasonable distance before he waded out into the river, but the effect was still the same: he cut me off from my intended fishing, which was working downstream through the tail of the pool. Thanks, pal.

I had seen one rise way over along the bank. Though it was just a soft dimple like the fish who refused my olive was making, there was that little swell that I recognized from across the river, I knew that was a better fish, and I also knew that my best plan would be to fish for the riser out in the current first. After the refusal, that bank fish sampled something again. I waited, and eventually he took another, this time several feet downstream and a bit closer to the bank. Meanwhile the refuser dimpled again and I wasted a few casts on him to pass the time, always keeping my eye on that better fish.

After about fifteen or twenty minutes, I had watched that bank fish rise maybe four times, enough to confirm that he was moving around in a triangular area of slower water perhaps ten feet long. That pocket was created by a sizeable rock a foot or so off the bank that caught the heavy current and directed it out toward the middle of the river. This was a very rocky area, a boulder field on the deep side of the river, so there was a lot of strong, fast current between me and that trout in the triangle, a difficult casting scenario if ever there was one. I cut back my leader and knotted three and a half feet of 6X fluorocarbon, then replaced the fly. I had studied the situation, and moved a few steps deeper to put myself where I could cast at a sharp downstream angle to defeat most of those intermingled currents; slack would have to defeat the rest of them.

At last I made a pitch with the olive, something I could see to check my drift. It alighted near the top of the triangle and floated perfectly for about half the length of the triangle, then those wonderful currents pulled the slack out of my tippet and skated it away. I changed the fly, figuring that my trout may have seen that skating display, though he had risen around the middle of the triangle prior to my cast. I waited, he moved downstream and rose again in the wide bottom of the triangle. I directed this cast further down the pocket, knowing I could only expect about four or five feet of drag-free drift. The fly dropped in the middle of the triangle and drifted perfectly down to it’s bottom without a take.

I didn’t check my watch, but I probably spent half an hour or so in this wait and cast mode. That trout wasn’t rising often, and he kept cruising up and down in that triangular pocket along the bank. The olive went untouched, as did an ant I offered him, so I thought that a different small terrestrial might turn the tide my way. I opened my vest’s fly pocket and dug around, finding a little size 19 Grizzly Beetle that made me smile. The trout came up again, two thirds of the way down the pocket from the rock, and I laid the little beetle in there. The drift looked clean, but he didn’t take. I picked it up gently and cast again, placing the fly a bit closer to the race of current that formed my side of the triangle, dumping some extra slack in the leader to ensure the drift. Game!

He was surprised when his snack pulled back at him, as was my “neighbor” standing down river when the ratchetting of my Hardy drew his attention to the bow in my rod. The trout stayed in the heavy current, dangerously close to a big, sharp edged boulder that would make short work of that 6X tippet, but my trusty Paradigm allowed me to keep a measure of control, finally leading him to the net after a spirited exchange. My bank sipper turned out to be a deep, buttery eighteen inch male with his spawning kype already formed. I twisted the beetle free with my forceps and slipped him back in the flow. I hope he fathers a bunch of strong, challenging wild trout for years to come!

I backed carefully out of my somewhat precarious casting position, and the angler downstream asked if it was a good fish. “Yes, it was a nice fish” I answered. With no other rising trout in sight, I backed into shallower water and decided to fish the short section of river bank upstream on my way back to the walking path. The 6X was removed, and I knotted my cricket to the remaining 5X, figuring that a choice meaty terrestrial just might tempt a trout that wasn’t snacking just yet. Working upstream and back to the middle of the river, I spied one nice bubble at the edge of a sizeable rock that brought an instant grin.

A cast, a take, and a screaming reel: a perfect way to end a gorgeous Indian Summer day!

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