March started with great conditions and it lasted to the middle of the month. Rivers were at excellent flows for all types of angling. The dry fly fishing was great with consistent flows around 140 to 150 cfs on the Davidson river and it was the same for all of the other rivers in the area. Water clarity was good as well. However, spring is spring and the good weather took a turn. There were two storms in march that affected angling, one on the 18th and one around the 26th. The latter raised the water to around 3000cfs, or too high to fish levels. This made for some difficult or not able to fish conditions.
Trout feast on aquatic insects, especially when they are hatching and available in the water. People ask when does this insect hatch occur or what is hatching on the 4th of so and so month. Things don’t really work that way. Each season varies and an astute angler will not only watch for insects, but watch the plants. Insect hatches and plants budding will perform in unison by mother natures design. This month the Daffodils and Forsythia began spring up and blooming. The Hendrickson’s began to appear as well.
One day Mike and I decided to head out to the Davidson in hopes of catching a hatch. Jeremy had spied and caught a large brown just a few days before on a blue quill. We headed to the pool where the trout had been before. Sure enough, it was still there and positioned near the surface ready to eat dries. Mike and I moved down into position and waited for the hatch and the trout to start feeding. I gave Mike first chance since I had been out the day before.
Mike waited for a hatch, while I got bored and began exploring. I moved upstream to see if anything would rise to a fly. I had one trout take unexpectedly and I missed. I looked back at Mike and he was still waiting.
I saw some good water upstream and decided to go further up. After moving through some unproductive riffles and a run, I came to a small run with some fast current and a steep bank on the far side. I didn’t think much of the run, too small to hold much. But unbelievably a fish rose just 15 feet away. I made a cast just to the left of the fast water with a Quill Gordon fly. The fly floated right down the seam where the trout was located. It drifted 3 feet when the water exploded with a golden flash. Instinctively I set the hook and felt the pull. This was a hardy trout. I netted a 15” brown. Elated I yelled downstream for Mike. He couldn’t hear me, but when I held up the fish, he got the idea. We both had fish rising all afternoon and we fished until they stopped late in the day.
By chance I was able to catch an insect. Looked like a Quill Gordon from a distance, but upon inspection it had 3 tails not two. This was a Hendrickson, the second one I had caught this season. Needless to say, Mike and I brought a lot of trout to the surface that day. The day was great, good fishing on a great river with a good friend.
Flies and Tactics
Not all days will have excellent conditions, but an adaptive angler will change tactics to make things happen. Later in the month, conditions became difficult with the constant rain. Water levels were high and the water was murky. Trout find food by sight and have the same difficulties seeing as we do when the water is cloudy. Fortunately, mother nature has a cure for when trout can’t see your little fly. Heavy rains wash food from the land into rivers. Trout will take advantage of this to feed on larger food stuff. Many times, a heavy rain will bring large trout out to aggressively feed. They feel secure from overhead predators and want to take advantage of the high calorie pickings.
Anglers who want to make the most of the situation will fish streamers. Streamers are larger flies that represent big bites of food. They are easier for the trout to see and the rig can be stronger since the trout won’t see the tippet. This is a perfect opportunity to catch a larger trout.
I recently was guiding under such conditions. I skipped the dries and nymph and tied on streamers. When fishing streamers, I like to cast the fly directly across the river and let the current swing the fly through the water. Repeat this a couple of times and then take a step or two down stream and repeat. This allows the angler to cover a lot of water in a short period of time. One tip with the swings, don’t point your rod tip directly at the fly, lead it a little so when a big fish takes the fly the rod bends to soften the take. You’ll have less breakoffs this way. Generally, one can expect less action during high cloudy water but you stand a better chance of catching a large trout. And who knows, maybe you’ll catch the big one.
Streamers come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention colors. It’s good to have a variety. Some days one streamer will work and other days it won’t. One thing to consider is weight. Most streamers should have some weight in the form of a bead, cone or underbody to get the fly down. Since most streamer fishing is in higher water, the added weight will help get the fly to the fish.
The Springfly has been hatching and fish have been taking them on the surface. This stonefly has a black abdomen with a yellow thorax. This fly produces some splashy rises when the trout are feeding on them. Also, the Hendrickson mayfly has started hatching. I like to tie these with a mix of gray and brown quills. The body has browns than the lighter pale yellow of the Quill Gordon. Either fly may work in a pinch.
Keep an eye out for rising trout, if you see any try a Hendrickson. You may get a take. Recently this happened on the East Fork with my brother-in-law. He had a great day catching some trout on dries. Which was fortunate, because it’s his favorite way to catch a trout!
Good fishing and tight lines!