The Skwala Party is Rockin'
March 13, 2015
I had a great day yesterday and sort of an epiphany last night about our sport. Ok, so the term epiphany might be extreme but I'll blabber for a minute and share some thoughts. I'll get to the fishing in a minute, but check this out. I fished with a seasoned angler yesterday, which is great of course but not because of his casting skill or anything like that. Its because he has been fishing for decades and has seen the good days, bad days, mediocre days, and has been skunked. Many times. All the best anglers have. This builds appreciation for the great moments that occur every day on the river. Win, lose, or draw you are more likely to appreciate the tidbits the river gives you the more you have fished and the more you have struggled. I say this not because we had a tough day, in fact it was a pretty darn good day thanks to his sharp casting. Our day would have been good regardless because he has developed an appreciation for some of the finer components of our sport. A fine fly cast, exceptionally well tied fly, the red stripe of a wild rainbow trout, and that subtle take that only a trained eye would see etc. All these little things contribute to something above and beyond just ripping some lips.
This sport is a lot more than that. This jumped out at me last night after fishing. I scurried off the river at 6 pm last night and raced to Central Washington University to see my daughter play violin at a recital. First off, I don't have a musical nerve ending in my body. I have never played any musical instrument with any talent outside of an elk bugle. Which I can totally rock on by the way. While listening to the symphony play I thought to myself, "how cool is this? All these kids just playing beautiful music JUST FOR THE SAKE OF PLAYING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC!". There is no score, no winner, no trophy, no glory photo. Maybe that doesn't sound very profound to you, but I have always been a pretty results oriented person and I make no apologies for my competitive nature. In baseball you count runs, football you count points, golf you count strokes... or forget to count strokes, and even in fly fishing you can count fish. And I love to catch fish.
The sound of the symphony reminded me a lot of my fishing day and I began to realize that my fishing style is slightly reflective of it. I thought to myself as I listened, "why don't I create something just for the heck of it like these musicians and artists?" Then I thought about fly fishing and all the unnecessary efforts that we make. And these efforts aren't made just for trying to catch more fish or a bigger fish. How many of you have spent more than 45 minutes tying a single fly? Yea, that's cost effective haha! Saving lots of money right. Or false casted too many times just because it is pretty to watch and is a lot of fun? Of course you have. Fly fishing is absolutely beautiful and it doesn't have a damn thing to do with how many fish you catch.
I believe that some of this "just for the heck of it" has been lost in fly fishing. I know that I forget about it from time to time. Polishing your fly cast so that it is effortless, beautiful, and takes on a magical life of its own is somewhat of a dying trend. This might have been about the time the Thingamabobber was invented. Not knocking it, just sayin'. A finely tied Parachute Adams delicately drifted down a seam line use to be what got anglers fired up! I thought back to my day of guiding yesterday and could almost here the classical music playing while picturing fine casting loops, dry flies, and a deep bend in the 25 year old Sage SPL 4 weight rod, that was the angler's graduation present! That rod is a total pain in the as by the way because it is only 2 pieces. What's cool is that it is special to him so he lugs it around anyway. Fishing with a fine old fly rod, even though you can afford anything you want, is part of that classical beauty I am trying to describe.
I love being on a river working dynamically with anglers where the guide and the angler work so well together you don't even have to talk about fly placement, drift, etc. This comes with time but when the rower and casters are fluidly functioning well together its like listening to a perfect symphony. All instruments playing in sync. If you don't know what that sounds like, think of it like a play action boot-leg that results a third down conversion late in the game. Or a 1-1-2 jab, jab, cross punch combination from Evander Holyfield that connects in perfect rhythm. Its just cool to watch! Rowers and casters working together with sharp casts in perfect harmony is what I call "boat tempo". Seeing a drift boat operate with good boat tempo is as beautiful as anything I have ever seen.
Its not all about catching fish but some of it is. I like to catch fish, but I have found when you appreciate all the finer points of the sport including a beautiful fly cast the catching takes care of itself. It just happens. You'll get 'em. Plus you will fish more, which means you build skill, you'll get skunked more, you'll snag more, but you will also have more good casts. As you fish more and more, almost all of your casts will be good casts and the snags go away. What happens then? You catch more fish, less stress, and you are catching them the way YOU WANT to catch them.
For me this isn't always a dry fly. I like to nymph too, but I often fish a dry dropper or a single nymph so that it is more fluid to cast and drift, and I like a small yarn indicator most of the time. I usually fish a little shorter on my depth, lighter on my weight, and make it so the angler has to get a perfect drift in order to get the fly to sink. Contrast this with a Thinagamabobber and a chunk of split shot (which I am not above doing BTW :), and it is very different. The light rig is easy to handle, fast to move around the river, fluid to re-position, and is beautiful to watch in action at the hands of a seasoned angler. I also like to fish streamers and swing flies. It is fun to watch flies being shot out towards the shore and stripped back. Precision is required and I like all the action going on. When done right it is fun to watch. I probably catch a few less fish given that I don't like to deep nymph much anymore, but in the long run I think these techniques challenge the angler and promote finer skill sets.
The end result is an angling career filled with rewards, skills, and a smooth fishing tempo similar to that of a fine orchestra. Or, a well executed play action boot-leg if you don't know what that other word means. As you go on, try to notice and appreciate the finer things in fly fishing. Well build fly rods constructed in the USA, well tied flies, a perfect cast, and take notice of anglers that have taken the time to improve both their patience and their casting.
Fishing Report 3/11-2/12:
I fished primarily dry flies the last couple of days and did well. Much of this was thanks to some skilled anglers (gotta give them props), but there are a few fish looking up. This year is different though. The nice weather, dry pass conditions, low clear water, and early hatch has resulted in a lot of fishing pressure. Typically in March the weather is cold, windy, nasty, the pass is closed, and the fishing for the strong willed. This keeps the pressure at a minimum during the Skwala hatch to a minimum. Word gets out fast in the trout world when big leggy bugs with hooks in them are floating around in low clear water. Some of the fish are on to us. :) If you want to fish dry flies, keep your expectations in check.
Fish smaller dry flies, use a #12 in a very natural pattern. Try these two flies: #12 Solitude Bullethead Skwala Stonefly I also recommend the #12 Red's Skwalameister
If you want to nymph, and please don't let me deter you, use 5X Fluorocarbon - RIO Fluoroflex Plus to your mid-sized flies and 6X Fluorocarbon - RIO Fluoroflex Plus to your little guys (#16/18's). If your goal is to put some fish in the net then NYMPH it.
Dry Droppers - This setup can be very effective. Try using nymphs with a Tungsten beadhead. I like the #18 CDC Pheasant Tail during the BWO hatch.
Nymphs - Low clear water? Sounds like fall. Take a gander at this video for some tips.