It just makes you giggle…

Posted by Al Agnew on October 25th, 2011
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The Yellowstone in front of the house hasn’t been fishing all that well lately. I go down about two or three evenings a week to check it out, mostly in the side channel, because the main river is getting pounded unmercifully. Parks Reece, the local fly fisherman/artist/satirist, has a print entitled “Yellowstone Summer”, which shows a trout looking up at about a hundred flies. I can figure that any time I look out a window, there’s about a 50/50 chance there will be a boat or raft drifting by. But they don’t go down the side channel any longer now that it’s getting lower, and any fish there should be a little less sophisticated, or at least not so worried about ducking drifting nymphs.

But the trout (and even the whitefish) in the side channel have been scattered, and some evenings I might catch only one or two.

Yesterday evening I stood in front of the three rods hanging from the hooks in the garage, trying to decide which to take. One is a 4 weight with a dry fly already tied on. I haven’t seen any consistently rising fish in the side channel recently, so I rejected it. One is a 7 weight with a streamer. The evening was sunny, so I didn’t figure the streamer would work until nearly dark. I had an hour before it got that dark. So my default choice was the 5 weight with a pair of nymphs. This time the nymphs were a size 12 gold bead hare’s ear, a venerable nymph that still works perfectly well even though it’s not much in vogue these days, and a size 16 black and grizzly soft hackle. I’d been using green bodied soft hackles, usually one of my favorite flies, with little success, so I figured I’d try something just a little different.

I got set up right where the riffle drops off into deeper water at what is now an abrupt edge of the bar over which the riffle flows. First drift…Thingamabobber jerks hard sideways, I come back on the fish, and a 12 inch rainbow instantly clears the water by three feet. Two more jumps and a charge between my legs that’s so fast I don’t get caught up on the slack until the fish has wrapped itself around my left leg. I’m giggling like a fool.

Two casts later, another take. This one instantly charges me on the hook set, and I don’t even feel it until it turns at my feet and zips downstream, taking out the slack I was trying to strip, the extra slack, and about 20 feet of line off the reel. Then it jumps four feet high, hits the water and somehow, like one of those Olympic gymnasts on floor exercises, jumps again another three feet. Now I’m laughing out loud. When the rainbows are this hot it’s truly a blast. This one is bigger, too, a good 16 inches.

The third fish comes from the same place, two or three drifts later. It doesn’t jump, but just like the other one its first move is a charge directly at me, and then a hard run downstream, where it then just churns the surface for a bit before coming undone.

The fourth fish takes the soft hackle on the swing at the end of the drift, hard enough for me to easily feel the jerk instead of relying on the indicator. It acts differently, with several surging runs and then a lot of surface rolling. It’s a brown, and a good 20 inch fish, the biggest brown I’ve caught on the river so far this summer.

I get several more takes, catch one more rainbow of 15 inches or so, but then go through a short spell of what looks and briefly feels like takes but I come up empty. I finally think to check the flies, since I’d gotten them hung on the rocky bottom a few times, and sure enough the hook is broken off on the hare’s ear. Oh well, it’s getting darker anyway, and if the fish are this active they should maybe take a streamer. So I put one on, and sure enough catch three more rainbows, including a beautiful 18 incher. And then it’s too dark to see. I’m no longer laughing out loud, but there’s a smile plastered to my face as I start back for the house.

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