Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hog Huntin'

I met up with my brother in law at the mouth of the canyon Friday morning for yet another fishing adventure. We arrived at the river only to find the water level had risen. There was also a lot of "cabbage" or vegetation floating in the water. Not only does this usually make it more difficult to catch fish, but it also means you would have to clean your flies and line off after almost every cast. We starred at the water for a minute or so then decided it would be best to head up to another section of the river. I hope the rise in water level on the lower section was due to a higher volume of water being released from the dam and not from some sort of early spring run-off. The best fishing yet is coming soon and an early run-off could really foul the fishing up down there. Another half hour and we were up to a spot just below the dam. The water was nice and clear and that was good enough for me. We headed upstream passing a nice hole just under a bridge. We fished the edge of some riffles for a few minutes but decided it was not the best spot probably so we went back down to the hole near the bridge. We knew there had to be a big fish or two in the area. After fishing it for a bit I decided to look down off the bridge to get a better vantage point. Our suspicions of some big fish were confirmed as I made out several thick shouldered browns hugging the bottom along the edge of the current. We were not concerned with numbers so we decided to target these beasts. We took turns, one being the scout looking down off the bridge and the other being the fisherman. Our method though fun was not too effective at first. One time I was off the bridge down by my brother in law and he hooked what he thought was the bottom. We were pretty sure the bottom of the river was not moving when we saw the fly rod start to pulse up and on! David played the fish nicely and we managed to land it about 30 yards down stream. Not the biggest fish in the hole but a very respectable brown trout.

We had a few other hits and toward the end of our time at the bridge hole I managed to hook and land a short but chunky brown. I had what felt like a nice fish on afterwards but he ran downstream and came unbuttoned. I should have followed him downstream, but I spaced it for some reason and he came unhooked beneath the shadows of the bridge. It was fun experimenting and trying to catch some of these picky fish. We eventually were ready for a change of pace so we headed over to another section of the river that seemed pretty crowded so we opted to head to a different river. We saw a nice hole below an angler access spot so we went over the cattle fence ladder and headed on down. I immediately hooked a very fat little rainbow that put up a heck of a fight and had absolutely no quit in him.

Shortly after that I hooked and landed a whitefish which was fun. This second river we were fishing is known to have a good population of whitefish. We started catching quite a few whitefish, some very fat and quite large.

We had quite a few tangles with a tree at the head of the hole and while I was re-rigging one of the rods David hooked into something very large. After a second or two I saw it flash out in the current and I started yelling, "huge brown! huge brown!". David played the fish perfectly. This fish did not want to budge from the current. After what seemed like an eternity we beached the fish on a shallow gravel bar. This was an impressive fish. I need to remember to buy a small tape measure but I would estimate the fish around 20 inches plus. After a few quick pictures we sent him on his way. That was the best river caught fish I had seen in a long time. It made the trip that much more special. David has a knack for pulling out the big boys and I am glad because I have just as much fun watching as catching.

Neither of these pictures do justice to this fish, in the first his tail is bent away from the camera and in the one below the rod and reel were held in the air well in front of the fish and not down at his level, the reel circumfrence would have easily fit inside his tail.

We ventured downstream but for some reason no other hole produced a fish for us. We eventually came back to the magic hole of the day and landed a few more whitefish and David caught another smaller brown with extremely light coloring. This was a trip where David was able to add one more fish to his Wall of Fame. Until next time, tight lines!

Very light colored brown

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Provo River Part Duex

Just one week ago, my brother-in-law and I nailed fish after fish for many hours up on the Provo River. My brother-in-law brought home a good fish story that he told to his Dad which got his Dad wanting to try his luck as well. Well, lucky he was as we experienced a great day of almost non-stop action. We met at the mouth of the canyon around 8:20 and headed up once again to the river. We rigged up to nymph and I let Jim have at it and I think on the first cast or so he hooked up with a nice little brown. We knew it was going to be a good day. The fishing started off a little slower than the previous week. After Jim landed a few fish I started fishing the head of the hole and Jim fished more toward the tail section. Before long, Jim had dialed it in and was pulling fish out left and right. There was some evidence of midge activity and that is what we were catching our fish on. Jim soon hooked into something slightly bigger. I went to inspect and we saw a decent sized fish but extremely thick. This fish had shoulders! Turns out that it was a mountain whitefish which was fun.

Whitefish, cool!

Jim was doing better in his little seam than I was at the head of the hole. The fish had not started stacking up in my area to feed just yet. After a bit I could see fish start to move into the area I was fishing as the hatch started to pick up a bit. I suspended my nymphs a bit and started catching consistently. Jim came up and got in on the suspended nymph action for a little while then headed back to his spot and continued catching there. I noticed one particular fish that stood out from the pack and I was able to drift my nymphs right at him. My indicator went under and I bagged the fish of the day (and probably one of the biggest fish I have ever caught from this hole) after a nice fight.

The fish of the day, a good looking brown trout

One thing I noticed that was different from the previous week was that when the hatch swung into gear larger fish moved up the water column and made their presence known. Last week I was thinking that the average size of the fish in this hole was way down. This day though, I realized that the "average" sized fish that I experienced last year at this hole were still around, in part because I caught several of them. Maybe there are just more small fish mixed into the bunch and last week the larger fish eluded us somehow. We soon lost count of how many fish we had caught. The wind stayed light for the most part and overall it was great day to be out on the water. Two amazing days of fishing in two weeks was a real treat. At one point Jim headed down stream to explore a bit. Right when he left the fish started rising quite a bit so I threw on a parachute Blue-wing olive (mostly as an indicator) and trailed a midge emerger off the back of it. I quickly landed several fish. When Jim showed up again I let him use my rod to cast to the risers and he quickly added two or three more fish to his tally. Once the rises stopped we called it a day. Despite some cold hands, it was another perfect day of fishing. Until next time, tight lines!

My Father-in-law with a nice little brown

Check out the color on this adipose fin!

Ever wonder why trout are sometimes referred to as "toads"?

Very nice coloring on this trout

Cool spots

Corner pocket, sort of

Darker colored brown

Handsome brown

Removing flies was a common theme of the day

Small black zebra midges were the ticket, got this one right on the kisser

Me holding the catch of the day

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Provo River Massacre

My brother-in-law met me at the mouth of Provo Canyon around 8:30 am. The forecast called for temperatures in the low 50's with increasing wind as a storm front would be approaching around mid-day. I was a little worried about the wind the day before but so far the day looked promising. We drove up the canyon, parked, and luckily did not get stuck in the snow or the snow covered vegetation during the small hike to my favorite hole. The winds were calm and I noticed some evidence of some small midges hatching as I set my brother in law up with a standard nymph rig. His lead fly was a beadhead hares ear with a black zebra midge (size 18) trailing it. We started out fishing the flies on the bottom. I gave him a quick run-down of the dynamics of the hole and let him have at it. Before I could get rigged up he had landed his first fish of the day. And before I seriously started fishing, he had landed about six fish, many of them coming on the hares ear of all things. I got in on the action soon enough and started catching fish.

The best trout of the day, not too big but he put up a good fight for my brother-in-law and he was not camera shy either

I was fishing a little variation of a fly I learned from a professor of mine as my lead fly. It was a black thread midge with ribbing, a little light colored dubbing, and a pearl glass bead. It was a size 16 and it was picking up all my fish at first. Eventually I started picking up some fish on my trailing fly which was similiar to my lead fly minus the glass bead and one size smaller at an 18. Soon enough the hatch started kicking in a little better with some fish rising, not enough to warrant the dry fly yet. I noticed fish moving upstream and podding up in front of us. They started feeding more aggressively so we suspended our nymphs toward the middle of the water column. When we did this it was lights out. We landed fish after fish for several hours. We soon lost count of how many fish we landed which was good. One dissapointing thing is that I noticed that most of the fish were "cookie cutter" small sized fish. Just last year most of the fish I caught out of this hole were twice the size, at least in mass. My brother-in-law caught the fish of the day which was the average size I caught the previous year. I think the reproduction has been too good, especially in this hole. I plan to keep two fish from this hole every time I fish here and see if I can do my part to raise the average size of the fish

Here is an example of the cookie cutter type fish that we pulled out of the hole time and time again

My brother-in-law and I somehow happened to both be looking upstream at the same time and we witnessed a strange phenomenon that got our blood pumping. We saw a huge brown sky rocket clear out of the water, almost like pre-spawning or caddis hatch behavior, but this was during a midge hatch! Several fish later, another huge brown shot clear out of the water right in front of us! It may have been the same fish, who knows? I couldn't figure out why these fish were putting on an aerial display, but we raised our indicators up our leaders and added a split shot and dredged the bottom for these beasts. If I was feeling more ambitious I may have even swung a streamer across the current. We think we may have gotten one good hit, and we got a snag we had to break off, but no 20+ inch monster brown to speak of. Just knowing there still are some hogs in the Provo makes me feel good. I used to tangle with fish near this size fairly often on the Provo about 5 years ago, but now too much of the biomass consists of fish, which means their average size is down quite a bit.

Another angle of the fish of the day, I love the bronze/yellow belly

Small but fat brown trout

The midge hatch never really went bananas, but it got some of the smaller fish smacking a few bugs off the top. I then decided to mix things up a bit and went to a dry-dropper rig. A Griffith's Gnat was the dry and I added an experimental emerger off the back. I tied some small midges with a small piece of orange foam tied in right near the head. I copied the idea from a foam emerger pattern I saw on the net. Ideally the foam should have been right in the film with the fly body vertical but I didn't think to grease the foam with floatant and/or used the wrong type of foam because the fly just kinda sank or washed around with the upwelling and current. Regardless, I soon was landing fish on my emerger creation and let my brother-in-law land a few too on my rod. The wind started picking up and after hours of catching fish we decided to call it a day. It was a memorable trip for sure, and it was a great way to bring in the new spring fishing season that will be full of midge and Blue-wing Olive hatches up and down the Provo River corridor. Until next time, tight lines!