Along with NPR’s early morning broadcast of an ancient hymn, I heard the first sweet phrases of a migrant robin near the yard. I stepped to the porch in my bare feet for a clearer sound of both music sources, and thought, at last…
A good day to fish Spring Creek, even if later in the day the air would be chilly and the sky deeply overcast. I had plenty of room to cast on this upstate water, and replayed a few lessons learned from a visit earlier this winter.
I quickly landed and released a wild brown measuring a full-net 15 inches, but failed to get a decent photo before the trout flashed away. Hours later, just before departing from this limestone creek, I hooked into a larger brown that took me downstream and easily sliced the fine tippet from a 10-foot leader. In between these fishes I enjoyed meeting up with eight other trout that took the bottom-drifting, orange or pink-hued flies.
So, I’m not complaining, but I’ve got to mention the midday hatch of midges. These tiny, non-biting Chironomidae are two-winged creatures of slow, weedy streams that can hatch at any time of year. Good news! A hatch of flies resembling small mosquitoes means… dry fly fishing, right? Well, sort of. Spring Creek has a way of talking to an angler who gets excited about such prospects. The big stream says, Hold on to your tippet, friend. If anyone commands the center of gravity here, it’s me– and not the visitor.
Trout were rising, and one of them readily seized a #20 Griffith’s Gnat, a small fly big enough to be mistaken for a couple of black gnats fused together, either by accident or buggy lust. The trout leapt from the water a couple of times and was gone. And that was as close as I came to taking the first trout of the season on a dry fly.
All subsequent surface presentations were refused. A Black Midge #20 was too small and dark for me to follow on the water, and too damn large to be considered seriously by the midge-eaters. After my frozen fingers managed to rebuild a leader tippet, I found live midges crawling underneath the gloves I’d laid down on a log.
Comparing the live midges to my artificial, I found the live bugs to be roughly half the size of what I’d been casting and was willing to tie on the leader point. Seeing the problem of my cold, unwilling fingers, and a breeze that maddened both line and leader, I knew that dry flies weren’t about to connect with these rising fish.
That’s not to say that I didn’t become obsessed with trying. A size 24 G. Gnat was the right size but the wrong color, apparently. I could see the darned thing on the surface but felt that, as with emergent patterns, I would almost need to place it into the trout’s mouth before getting a fish to strike. It wasn’t a lot of fun, and it slowly drove me bonkers.
Fish kept rising, and I finally said to hell with it, I’m going back to a Scud. Pink and orange were suitable colors for an artificial fly. I had good action while casting a three-weight line with a rod long enough to manage all the tricky current seams.
The birds weren’t singing anymore, but every once in a while the ducks would fly overhead and a muskrat would come out to play. When a great blue heron pulled up on the bank nearby and asked if it would be okay to fish, I grumbled a bit but gave permission. After all, the heron and the other creatures belonged to this place long before I had come around.