Leonard and catch cut through the surface tension of fly-fishing … (Photo:Leonard)
By Chris Leonard
Fly anglers are definitely the different species. Bait anglers, they are quite simple and unfussy folk: can of worms, cold-sixer of Mammoth Ale, maybe some egg sinkers and two-pound test to assure dinner for the evening is nothing other than macadamia nut crusted Alpers trout. Life is just easy when you’re dunking nightcrawlers off the shores of Lake Mary, admiring the mountains as you chat with your buds about Manny Ramirez’s latest homer. But these fly fisher folk, of whom I happen to fall under the same classification myself, are notorious for overcomplicating what in theory is straightforward and well defined: drift an artificial decoy species of a natural food source past the eyes of a hungry fish and get ready for the strike. Yep, it’s that easy. At least it should be.
The late Sheridan Anderson, author of the quintessential guide to learning to fly fish “The Curtis Creek Manifesto,” stated correctly that any hot shot fly angler can hook a trout with nothing other than a size-16 Hare’s Ear. Given the man who claimed himself as “an eternal foe of the work ethic” died very prematurely of drug and alcohol abuse, he certainly was not incorrect in his statement of simplification of fly pattern selection on water. I believe that any fly angler who understands drift and water flows needs no more than six fly patterns in their stash to land a trout in these here parts: Flashback PT, Olive Krystal Flash Bugger, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Copper John and … your trusty size-16 Hare’s Ear. The 300-plus page Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide might have another opinion, but I’m all about economy of information and keeping it simple in the explanation of fly fishing to those new to the sport. But, fly fishers entrenched in the obsession love “matching the hatch” and possessing every fly pattern under the sun. I’m admittedly guilty myself of this diehard habit, as I’ve got enough flies laying around my house that I could probably purchase a second car (be it used, but decent) if I got around to organizing them and selling them off. Yet, it’s truly all about the one and only size-16 Hare’s Ear.
That said, I discovered a way to make fly fishing more challenging for me. It’s not like I need the extra frustration, but there is an element of difficulty in my newest patent-pending product.
What is this I speak of? Photography. After passing three summers debating whether or not to get a waterproof camera, I forked over 269 of my hard earned dollars to Best Buy to own a toy long overdue for purchase. Ever wondered what a hooked fish looks like underwater? Here’s how the process works:
First, I have to select the right fly for the water (size-16 Hare’s Ear). Next, I need to identify a portion of the water likely to hold one or more curiously hungry trout. I begin properly casting with appropriate mending of the line to run the goods in a natural flow right past the victim lying in wait below. When the moment of truth occurs, I set the hook, keeping the line tight as I play the fish close enough to the shore that I can capture that perfect true color Kodak moment.
The last part of this scientific process is usually the clumsiest, as I fumble around in my pockets ‘til I pull out the digital, turn it on, and snap away with the high hopes that the end product, recorded forever, is worthy of publication in Outdoor Magazine (or more realistically, something I can’t be too embarrassed to show an angler on the river one hole over).
Observing life underwater post-fly-in-the-mouth is pretty cool. Is it easy? No. Is it fun? Hell, yeah.
If you’re interested in hooking a few trout yourself to fine tune your snapshot skills, there is plenty of opportunity at Hot Creek, where the trout are feeding heavily on Caddis patterns. The Upper Owens River right now is fishing fantastically. Lots of trout above the bridge. Dredging nymph patterns through the deeper pools is getting strikes. Rock Creek and Mammoth Creek have seen very regular stockings from the DFG trucks all summer, and both fly and bait anglers are doing well on its waters. Standard patterns for the fly anglers, salmon eggs for dunkers. Rush Creek is fishing well also. All of these rivers, and then some, will transfer to some fun with the digital camera. If I were after some stillwater photography, I understand Mary and Convict have been on fire.
Maybe it’s about making it more challenging, or more involved. Maybe it’s about trying something new. Whatever it is, fishing is definitely about having fun.
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.