One of humorist and outdoor writer, Patrick McManus' first books was called, A Fine and Pleasant Misery. My buddy Jay always reminds me that when we go camping no matter whether we are going top shelf (with a trailer) or roughing it, there has to be a certain amount of misery.
I was hoping to camp out along a river at some point this season. Bill Young and his brother, John were game!
"Where do you want to go Bill?"
"Let's hike downstream and set up camp!"
Bill is a minimalist. A few items in a backpack, his trusty Andersen 5 weight bamboo fly rod and a box of flies. Bill's brother, John, joined us as well. A quick check of the Environment Canada weather page warned us that miserable weather was on the horizon. That was not going to slow us down. We had our layers and rain gear.
We hoisted our packs and got our 60 year old (plus) legs down the trail to our destination. We were only going to hike a few hours and set up camp. The weather that morning started off at -4C and the puddles along the trail were frozen. The sky was blue but the upslope wind told us that something was coming!
We arrived at our spot, threw our backpacks off and set up our rods. It was time to fish before the weather changed. It was quite cool and no hatches were happening. We set up for nymphing and the cutthroat were hungry. We were into fish right away and lots of them. What were the hot flies? A San Juan Worm definitely was the winner although a CDC Red Tag and a fly that was essentially a piece of pink fluff on a beaded hook worked great too. But the most important part of our nymph set up was split shot, enough to get your nymphs deep into the run!
The wind was blowing from the east. A long roll of thunder told us that we better find our rain gear and secure our camp. We set up at an old hunting camp. There was lots of shelter from the elements. Once set up, we layered up and got back on the water. The rain came and the temperature dropped to about 5C.
As predicted the steady rain started and a few rolls of thunder made our afternoon feel like 8 o'clock at night then the hatches started. Lots of mayflies. Blue Winged Olives were the primary mayfly. I had a bunch in my fly box. Size 18 to size 22 mayflies, really? These are cutthroat, will they really key into bugs that small. In a word, yes!
Well we tied the tiny BWOs on with another fly (usually a small parachute adams) so we could see where our flies were on the water. Again we caught lots of impressive cutthroat. Bill's brother has not had great days on this particular river but today that tune changed. He was into fish all day.
Bill went exploring further downstream. He found two productive runs. One which gave up a cutthroat in the 20 inch category.
We fished till dark and got a fire going. Our hands were cold and needed warming. What an amazing day of fly fishing. The miserable weather brought out lots of mayflies and the cutthroat were on them. The steady rain intensified and then later turned to snow.
We all pulled out our warmer clothes and hunkered down. Supper, a night cap and then off to the tent. A warm sleeping bag was calling.
The rain and snow showers slowed in the night.
The morning was cool, about 4 C. We quickly built a fire and got the coffee on. The bacon and pancakes went down great. There was no rush to hit the river so another pot of coffee was brewed as we enjoyed our warm fire. We got out our fly boxes and shared some flies. Exchanging flies and ideas on patterns teaches you lots.
The all night rain had brought the river up just a bit and thankfully the cutthroat were still willing.
Later in the morning we packed up and headed upstream. Bill and I knew the water well so we had no problem finding active fish!
In one run, BWOs were hatching. The BWOs in this particular run were size 20. I had 3 takes with my size 18 BWO fly but they all shook off.
The only boot prints we saw were our own. Mayflies were hatching and the cutthroat were on them.
We got back to Bill's truck later in the afternoon. The rough road back to the pavement was a slippery quagmire. The snow had made the peaks in the area completely white.
A quick stop for supper and back to the city! Great trip!
For most, Patrick McManus would have been right. We loved our trip.
CDC Red Tag
The calm before the storm!
Mayflies were hatching everywhere and the cutthroat were rising constantly!
A.K.'s BWO Quill (slightly modified)
Wiggle Worm San Juan Worm
It rained, its snowed but we were warm and reasonably comfortable.