With hunting season still a few days away, I felt the need to get outside and enjoy the fall weather. It wasn't a very nice day, cold and rainy, not a good day to scout and besides I knew where I was taking Brandy on Saturday to grouse hunt. We had found a few birds the day before while scouting some coverts I like. It felt like a good day to fish, and an even better day to fish for native brook trout. Some of the best days I've had native fishing, have been on cold rainy days in the fall, when blue wing olives blanket the water and the fish rise carelessly among the leaves drifting by.
I had not fished this small creek in a couple years but knew it well, having spent many days on it when I first started fly-fishing. It is small enough to wade up the middle but wide enough to allow room to cast to the many pockets and small pools that form around the boulders and fallen trees along its course.
When I arrived, the creek was shrouded in fog and mist and the small valley kept the cold wind from reaching me on the water. The water was low and clear despite the rain, the fish were going to be spooky and difficult, but that is part of the fun of fishing for these small trout. I did not find the mayfly hatch I was hoping for, however, but I could make out a couple fish gently feeding on the surface between the raindrops and multicolored leaves drifting by as I watched a pool looking for a clue as to which fly to use.
I settled on a blue wing olive parachute fly with a bright wing post that I would be able to see on the water. I did not see any of the small flies around but knew from experience that this stream had a good population of these mayflies and a good fall hatch. I eased to the edge of the pool and started casting. I immediately hooked into the tree above me and brought down all the water clinging to the leaves onto my head and down the back of my neck giving new meaning to the phrase having a chill run down your back. Now that the raincoat I was wearing was useless, it was time to catch some fish.
I worked quickly up the stream trying to generate some body heat, get upstream, and away from the more commonly fished lower section of the stream. I was finally warming up as I approached a good section of water where several deep runs and a nice pool swept against the steep slope of the mountain. Small boulders and logs formed pockets for the trout and I cast again, first checking above me for clearance from the trees. This time the fly found the water and after drifting a few feet, I could see a silhouette rising from the bottom, it slowly ascended to intercept the small fly just as it passed directly above it. I waited for the fish to close his mouth and tip its nose down then raised the rod tip and felt the power of these small fish, it was only eight inches but fought with tenacity. It jumped several times displaying the vivid spawning colors of a male brook trout as if trying to prove to the forest that they too have brilliant autumn colors.
That was the only trout I caught on dry flies that day, several more came up and inspected, but would not take a fly from the surface. It was time to try nymphs, so I tied a short piece of tippet to the hook bend of a red humpy dry fly and attached a size 16 pheasant tail nymph. I finally found what the fish wanted and caught a few more before turning back.
The biggest fish of the day came just before I started back. A tree had fallen in a large pool since I had last been there, creating ideal habitat for a large trout. I had to creep on my hands and knees to get into position and still had to cast awkwardly over my left shoulder to hit the pocket created between the stump of the tree and the water. There was a nice pocket formed from the water washing out the gravel around the tree trunk where it entered the water and rested on the bottom. The first cast missed the mark and landed on the wrong side of a small rock but a small brook trout shot from the depth and inhaled the small nymph before I could pick it up for another cast. I played the small fish quickly and brought it to hand hoping the larger trout I knew had to be there was not spooked by the commotion.
My next cast hit its mark, and when I saw the dry fly go under I raised my rod tip and hooked into a good fish, a rainbow this time, a wild fish with a bright red strip along his flanks. Only eleven inches but strong and plump, it fought valiantly in the cool water leaping several times attempting to throw the hook. I brought him to the bank and placed him on the leaves, a glistening beauty full of vibrant colors on a dark dreary day.
I can't think of a better way to usher in a new hunting season because nothing sharpens the senses and lifts the spirits like sneaking up a small stream in the fall and stalking wild trout.