We had some darn good "off season" fishing yesterday. It would have been easy to stay indoors but we braved the elements and hit the river. The river was getting lonely with few anglers this week so we figured the trout were equally lonely, probably hungry, and most likely willing to snap at our flies.
The snow turned to rain mid morning and it was a wet one. It is critical if you want to enjoy fishing in cold wet weather that you get the right gear, it wasn't coincidental that both guests in the boat, AND the guide all had the same jacket on. We also didn't see another angler all day! We love to fish despite conditions, so we all had the Simms G4 Pro Jacket. We've all been fly fishing hard for 15+ years and we all agreed, that we wouldn't have been out in that soggy cold weather if we didn't know for sure that our clothing would keep us dry and warm. We would have stayed inside, probably not consciously but when you got the right gear you also have the right confidence to hit the water snow, blow, or rain. Plus fly fishing is a lot more fun when you are dry, it is really tough to have fun, laugh, and keep morale high when you are damp and cold.
Since the weather was dark, wet, and nasty we figured streamers would be effective. The boys hadn't fished the "trout spey" game yet so I grabbed a couple of setups off the demo rack at Red's.
We fished out of the boat so the guys pretty much overhand cast these setups, but we did work on the Snake Roll Cast for the angler in the bow a little bit. This is a great cast and a very quick way to re-position the fly with a lot of false casting or anchoring while swing fishing.
The leaders we used were RIO - we did equally well on both leaders. I am sure that a 10' leader would have worked as well, but the 7' casts really well.
The Jig Action Was the Key
Sometimes they like it...sometimes they don't. Yesterday getting some additional action on the fly and working "the jig" was the key to generating strikes. I had two anglers fishing the same setups over the same water and it was evident that the little nuances of the swinging presentation were making a huge difference on the angler's success and how many strikes they were able to generate. One of these was the "jig" and getting it nailed was key. It is so important to learn these skills and get enough time on the water so that your hunting instincts kick in and take over. You'll just "know" when and what to do. I can't explain necessarily why I do certain things with the fly, or exactly why I coach my guests on when and how to do these things. It is just that thousands of days on the water will teach you a few things. Yesterday I got one of the guys dialed in and once he got it right (I could sense something was missing) the fish started tackling our buggers. A dead swing would NOT work. You never know why or when, but sometimes they like the dead swing and sometimes they like the jig. I just can't express how important it is to get the gear, get on the water, and try these techniques for yourself. It is very fun, rewarding, and will make ALL of your river fishing better. Your spey game for steelhead and salmon will improve dramatically. You just learn so much about how the fly swims and how what you do effects. Attempting to master the right speed and the right look to trigger strikes from trout is a great game. I have been fishing this way for a few years and it has really reinvigorated my passion for trout fishing this time of year.
Flies for Trout Spey and Swinging with Streamers
Another age old lesson we learned yesterday was the fly does matter. Having a strong assortment is critical. We used two flies primarily. Both are proven patterns and essentially just very high quality Wooly Bugger variants. I won't claim them to be fancy, but they are well tied with great hooks, just the right amount of weight, and high quality hackle.
The Thin Mint Bugger -
For some reason this fly wasn't working yesterday! I can't explain why but it got grossly out-fished by another similar fly that has different colors. I still strongly recommend a variety of these. They fish and cast very well on light trout spey setups.
BH Olive Crystal Flash Bugger - This was the killer. Oh my! There is just something about the way this particular fly balances and fishes. We have several other Olive buggers in the shop here but this one seems to fish better. It has a mylar stripe on the side that is pretty visible when its in current that likely helps.