October 13, 2009

Yuba Duba Doooo

Made a trip up to the Yuba this last Friday after work for about 4 hours of evening swinging with the spey rod. Although I normally fish the Yuba with my 5 wt single-hander, I've been fishing it recently with my 7 wt spey rod to help get the gear out to the fish, especially in those spots with all the willows at your back. It's been working great, and swinging soft hackles has been very, VERY, productive. I think the Yuba trout don't like to move a whole lot, and without a drift boat it's hard to get a nymph rig right in front of the faces of those fish holed-up in the middle of the river. With the spey rod I can get a huge swing which basically covers every inch of water from bank to bank. So far this has proven to be really effective. The 7 wt rod works great, but if I had a 6 wt spey I think I'd prefer using that instead: I think the 7 wt is a little too much gun for those resident rainbows... although one of the trout I pricked this last Friday put a steelhead-sized bend in it... Since it's all I've got, I'm going with the 7 wt.

I started out downstream from the Hwy 20 bridge about a half mile, right in the thick of the willows.

-- Anyone who's ever waded the Yuba below the bridge knows the stretch I'm talking about: there's great, wide-open, fishing right below the bridge for about a quarter mile, then there's about a quarter mile section packed with willows lining both banks, and after that, wide-open fishing again. I see most people passing this stretch of willows probably for the simple fact that it's more of a pain in the ass to cast there than it's worth in terms of numbers of fish. I like the challenge, so I've always run through that section with my single-hander trying to get the flies out to some of those larger fish in the middle of the river. Even though you can wade out about 10 feet, without some really "creative" casting, nobody's gonna get their flies out to those fish... but I always try (not too successfully) for some reason. That's where the spey rod comes in handy.--

I was using a two fly rig, but rather than using two different flies I tied-on two of the same basic brown and tan soft hackles that I tie just for the Yuba. These flies always work great in the hard-flowing flats and tail-outs of the big runs on the Yuba. By using one bead head and one weightless soft hackle, I can swing the flies in (what I'm guessing is) a non-linear pattern, which seems to produce more hook-ups. I think I often get a short take on the lead fly (the bead head) and an, immediately following, hook-up on the tailing (weightless) fly, although I've hooked several fish on the lead fly too. I've actually had a double hook-up with this setup, which didn't last very long thanks to those meaty Yuba trout.

Swinging was a little slow on Friday evening with only a few short takes and one fish that promptly broke me off. I stuck to it for about an hour or so until the fish started to rise all around me. I was starting to see some caddis bouncing off the water and it was pretty clear that the fish were eating them from their slashing exploding takes. I swear, as the fish came busting out of the water I could hear tiny laughter... That was when I really wished I had brought another rod with me to throw dries...

Finally I just gave up and started high-sticking with the spey rod near these rising fish. I'm sure that was pretty interesting to watch. Eventually I gave that up too.

As a last resort, I decided to try the impossible, and took off the intermediate skagit cheater and sink tip and put on a 10 ft floating cheater. To that I attached a 9 ft 3x tapered leader, and on the end of that went the ol' E/C caddis. I gooped the fly up really well for fear that it would spent most of its time underwater if I didn't... It was a little harder to get a good cast with this setup. Turning the fly over was a little bit harder, but once I did... WHAM!... a nice 18+ inch resident rainbow.

Next cast... another 18 or so inch fish... And the next cast... you can guess. I pulled 6 fish in without moving my feet, with one fish probably being well over 20 inches. That fish broke me off, but not until after bending that 7 wt spey rod and spooling 50 yards of line. Another fish unseen.

The Yuba is hot right now, and with this rain the steelhead should be pushing up into the system some time by the end of the week or early next week. Get it if you can!

October 1, 2009

Back to the Beast... Carson that is...

This last Sunday I took a trip back to the East Carson with a couple of my old middle school teachers (not your normal school teachers) trying to find some monster late season rainbows. We hit the water at first light and spent most of the day fishing our way downstream towards the state line.

Although we didn't see a lot of people, we saw way more than I though we would see. Most of the people we saw were actually on their way downstream as we were heading up and out of the canyon around sundown... Either they were camping, or they're way more hard core than I am... and I didn't see a whole lot of camping gear.

The morning started slow for myself and Louise, but Scott was unhooking a fish every 5 minutes. He was pulling fish from every piece of water...
Gurgly 2 foot stretch right in the middle of a rock garden... fish on...
In the middle of a roaring waterfall... fish on...
In the trees behind the bank... fish on...

Although he was catching numbers in the morning, his largest up to that point was only probably about 14". After about his 20th fish I was starting to think that he had just caught one, and kept hooking it back on his fly and casting it back out.

Scott's fly du jour was one of my all time favorites, Cutter's E/C Caddis, wihich I had tons of in my fly box, but refused to put it on. Scott's never shy to tell you what he's using, but I was holding out with the setup that I had, hoping to find a 20+ inch toad at the bottom of one of the larger pools. Getting the larger fish to rise to a dry is always harder on the E. Carson, so I usually stick to a nymph rig unless I can spot a huge fish chowing on duns or emergers, which wasn't happening.

About a mile and a half in I found a larger pool stuffed with fish that I couldn't get to take anything. Tons of fish with a couple of bruisers down at the bottom. Not monsters, but still pretty big. It was clear that they weren't interested as they slowly moved out of the way as my flies passed by. I tried lots of flies, but these fish were way smarter than me, so I sat down next to the pool and just stared at the fish as they laughed at me.

While I was sitting there I sort of had an epiphany... I realized that I spend ridiculous amounts of money on extremely overpriced gear, and an infinite amount of time trying to fool a creature whose brain is no bigger than a raisin... Kind of funny, especially when most of the time I don't catch anything... Just thought I'd share that.

It wasn't until about 9-10 o'clock that the fish started to really get active. After sitting there next to that pool for about 15 minutes the fish began to sip some kind of bug off the surface, or so I thought. Midges was the first thing I though, so I put the midge dry patterns on and tried to fool these fish, but again, that wasn't happening. Midges, I don't think, were on the menu that morning. I tried a few other tiny midge/mayfly patterns with the same result. It's really frustrating to watch a fish slowly come up at your fly and then eat something right next to it... it got real old after about the 20th or so time...

Finally, thinking that these fish might not be eating dries, I found a tiny trico mayfly nymph in the box and tied it on. The fish would actually come and look at this fly, but they wouldn't commit as it sank in the water column, so I pulled another nymph of the same out of the box and tied it on as a dropper, but this time I soaked it in floatant to help neutralize the sinking of the other fly... That did the trick... first cast, fish on, and it wasn't a small fish.

Four more fish came out of that pool before I turned and noticed a couple of fish way above the head of the pool in about 4 inches of water sippin' flies. I hauled a huge cast from behind them and though that I may have put them down with my flyline, then.... WHAM! I was fishing without an indicator so it was hard to recognize the take with all the other fish, but there was no mistaking this take. The fish ripped from the head of the pool to the tailout dragging my flyline to the bottom as it went.

Back and forth for a while... but this time I was smarter than the fish.

A little bit later I caught up with Scott and Louise who had gone down river. Louise had finally gotten the skunk off and Scott was on fish #2,045; still using the same E/C Caddis.

They were working the head of another big pool that I thought might hold some big fish, and that was very much confirmed as we looked down from a big rock at the edge of the pool. We could see several big fish in that pool, but there was one submarine in there that was easily pushin' 10 lbs. Now THAT trout looked like a steelhead. I gave it my best, but those fish were way smarter than I am.

We eventually turned at that pool to head back up river, and I finally gave in and put on the E/C Caddis too. We came through all the water I had already fished and managed at least 2 or three fish out of the same water that had blanked me previously.

In one pool, I hooked a fish at the head on the E/C caddis, and as this fish was scrambling back and forth, another fish came flying out of the head of the pool and started trying to EAT my fish! I could feel my fish getting its tail bit at by the other fish, and my fish was no minnow. About 10-11 inches. Scott quickly tied on a sculpin and slapped it on the water right next to my fish. That bigger fish came rippin' up into about 3 inches of water and sucked that sculpin down.

Trout was definitely on the menu that afternoon.

Nice fish, but an even better story.

If I can't catch them myself, at least I can chum 'em in!