Time: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM
Water: Low and CLEAR
Weather: 70s, partly cloudy
Third time's a charm. After trying to go twice last week I finally made it to the Current. I guess they got tired of calling me in to work. I pulled into Tan Vat to find a few too many cars so I headed to Baptist. Only one other car at Baptist so I was good to go. I ended up having the river more or less to myself.
First fish of the day (size isn't everything)
The water was in classic Autumn shape, low and clear, actually ridiculously clear. It was one of those days where you need your A-game. For the most part, I've Euro-nymphed all year. A more delicate approach seemed to be in order so I went the wet fly route. I caught one little rainbow right as my flies turned to start to swing, but the rest took them dead drift. I'm far from an expert on this but this is how I do it. I basically break down the water into sections. First I'll go straight upstream and raise my rod as they come back to keep decent contact with the flies but not so much that it messes the drift. Then I'll cast up and across, then up and a little more across and so on until I'm more or less casting right across. Once I'm casting more across than up I'll track the flies with my rod and let them drift past me. Then I'll either swing out the drift or hand twist the flies back in, or both. A long rod helps a lot. I use a 10 foot 4WT. Strike detection can be tricky when the flies are drifting. I have a foot of hot orange mono built into my leader that helps. I keep one eye on it and one eye on where the flies should be and set the hook at the slightest hint of anything. Some days you're lucky and they strike hard, Tuesday wasn't one of these days.
Anyone know what this mayfly is?
There was all kinds of bug activity going on. The olives were coming off a little in the morning until the sun scared them off. There were also a bunch of little (about a #18) caddis around and also some very pale yellow mayflies that were in the #14-#16 range. My bug Latin is a little lacking so I'm not sure what they were, but I did get a fuzzy picture. Despite all these tasty morsels around risers were few and far between. When I did find a rising fish it was generally taking the pale mayflies. It's hard to pass up dry fly fishing so when I found a riser I'd switch out the wets for a dry. I used CDC duns and a CDC and elk for the one that looked like it was taking caddis.
I ended up catching five or six rainbows on dries. Unfortunately when I'd find a rising fish it was always just that, one rising fish. So after spooking or catching any risers I'd go back to wets. Successful wets were split by species. Every wet-fly caught rainbow took a Peter Ross I had at point. Every single brown took a soft hackle of some kind. I used lots of different softies but If memory serves me right a Partridge and Yellow worked best. However, the big one took an Olive and Dun Spider.
Working my way downstream I spotted a really nice brown. It had spotted me too and had a case of lock jaw. I made a mental note of it's location and kept fishing my way downstream. On my way back upstream I was ready. I retied all my knots just to be safe and waded into position as ninja-like as I could. I couldn't quite see if the fish was still there but I was hopeful. Getting a better look was out of the question as I would likely spook it again. The clouds came and went all day, but it seemed like I was only catching fish when the sun was blocked. So I stood there and waited for the clouds. After who knows how long it was time to cast. Miraculously, it landed right where I wanted it. Even more miraculously I saw a golden flash and even more miraculously than that I didn't screw up the hook set. It's nice when everything comes together. I was in a great place to cast but a fairly crappy place to play a nice fish. I got the fish on the reel then tried to keep it out of the nearby logjam while I waded to friendlier waters. The fight was down and dirty but after a couple nice runs I got it into the net fairly quickly. I snapped two quick pictures and let it go. The fish shot right out of my hands immediately so it's safe to say it's still swimming around Baptist getting bigger. This fish has definitely had a rough life. It's jaw was deformed on one side and it had a nasty scar on it's snout. It should be easy to pick out if/when it's caught again.
I couldn't think of a better way to end the day. Despite not catching many fish I'd say it was a successful trip. I was a little rusty on my wet fly skills but I'll probably get plenty more practice this fall. Next time I head fishing I need to fight the urge to fish Baptist. I'm in danger of getting stuck in a rut. I might just go to a different river altogether. Who knows, maybe I'll really change it up and go night fishing at Taney.