It had been far too long since I'd been out fishing. I'd started to doubt my credentials as an angler. Rains fouled the rivers on our annual early season trip, and they'd messed with my plans ever since. I started to worry that even the itch to get out fishing was starting to fade. Plus, it's May. There is no better time than the present when it's May in Minnesota.
I decided a slow start would suit me on this day. That was part duty calling and part weariness from a long short week. So I finished up a couple things I needed to get done, drank an extra cup or two of coffee, and finally got my stuff together after a brief incident with a misplaced reel.
I got to the river -- a favorite stretch of the South Branch of the Root -- around 1 p.m. (Okay, really slow start.) I cursed myself a little when I found a fellow angler in my favorite run. He was nice enough bloke, so I didn't curse him. And he had a fish on, so that gave me hope that the long walk to my second-favorite stretch of this river would not be in vain.
The river was a bit off color, but the flow was normal, and I could see trout rising almost immediately when I reached the riverbank. There weren't many risers, but there were some big tan caddis on the water, and there were more rises than bugs. Things were looking up.
I started with a ridiculous choice that nearly always seems to work for me on riffled water in a caddis hatch. I call it the Super Bushy Adams (or SBA, when I feeling especially ridiculous). It's really just a poorly tied Adams in size 14 or so. I started using this, um, pattern years ago on a day when my poorly tied caddis patterns weren't working and my attempts at an Adams pattern looked like they could work in water where the trout didn’t get a good look at the fly. And, I found that they skated pretty nicely.
After a few refusals, I looked more closely at my super bushy Adams and realized it had a preposterously thick tail. I clipped that off and started catching them.
I lost what would have been my best fish of the day after a pretty good fight. I even had an audience on the bridge just downstream. I couldn't get the fish to the surface, so I can't exaggerate its size with any certainty, but based on its weight and fight, I'd guess it went at least 16 inches.
The fish rose easily to the dead-drifted SBA placed barely above its lie -- I didn't want to give him too good a look. It ran into heavier current and bore down. Then it ran downstream. It put on a good show for the guy who'd stopped on the bridge to watch, bending my Fenwick FF70 to the butt. I went somewhat easy on the pressure, not having full faith in my tippet. And the trout shook himself off in the current downstream. I apologized to the guy on the bridge for my performance.
After a bit, I switched to a proper Elk Hair Caddis and did even better. No surprise, I suppose. What was a surprise is that I was getting them on the dead drift. If I were a decent student of hatches, I'd probably understand this. At least I was educated enough to know to try skating the flies when the dead drift stopped working.
I caught 20-some trout (I'm a terrible counter) in a few hours on the water and missed many more -- especially while casting downstream and skating the fly. It was plenty of ammunition to taunt my fishing buddies who were working back home. I didn't even wait to get back to my truck to begin doing that.
It's good to get out alone for any number of reasons. But I realized I desperately need to work on my solo fishing photography techniques. It's fun to take photos when fishing with friends. But when you have no witnesses, the need for good photos takes on a greater urgency. I mean, that guy on the bridge was only going to stick around for so long.