Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Another look at the East Branch

After years of fishing the East Branch year round, I have developed a routine. I have my favorite spots, I bring two rods, I adjust my rig and flies for each one and I pretty much know what to expect. And when it doesn't work out, I chalk it up to the fish not cooperating that day. Yesterday it dawned on me that this is not exactly an effective, or even fun, way to fish. After I had fished the usual first two spots without a bump, I considered the obvious: my favorite spots are everybody's favorite spots. This stream gets a ton of pressure. And I've only grown attached to fishing these parts of the stream because they're so familiar. I decided I'd change it up this time and look a little harder for the fish. I put aside any kind of plan and started walking.

I've often walked past a spectacular mess of fallen trees that criss-cross the stream and thought that there just had to be some big trout hiding in those logs and branches. And also how impossible it would be to get a fly in there, let alone a decent drift. This time, I decided to give it a shot. I had a short 3 wt that was made for close quarters. The worst that could happen would be some lost flies. I rigged up a large foam beetle with a tiny nymph dropper and made some casts around the logs and the bank. And in true form, I also made some casts into the overhanging trees, but nothing too messy. I was thinking of moving on while trying to see how close I could cast to a log when the water exploded and my line came tight. I put on as much side pressure as I could to keep the trout from getting back under that log, while avoiding the tree above me. Somehow I managed to get it to the net without much drama. A nice fourteen inch brown had the beetle firmly lodged in its jaw. Even though this was exactly what I had hoped would happen it still shocked the hell out of me.

I fished on downstream until I hit my usual last stop (old habits die hard) because it's a fairly reliable place to find rising fish. But not today. I tried a few prospecting casts with different flies, but nothing was happening and the memory of that brown, and that log, loomed large in my mind. So I went back. I tried swinging the nymph and beetle rig along the far bank and past the branches of the downed trees that formed a brushy little pen. I figured I'd lose some flies doing this and sure enough my third drift stopped right next to the branches. I was about to give the line a tug when it started to move. I was still recovering from the surprise when I got the trout in the net. It was a beautiful wild brown with red spots and brightly edged fins. 

Maybe I had an unusually lucky day, when everything seems to click, but I can't help but gather something from this outing. I don't really know this stream that well at all. And I'd settled on the path of least resistance by passing up tight spots that looked like more trouble than they were worth. I had just been reminded that pressured fish have to hide somewhere and it takes effort to find them- especially at the end of the summer months when they've seen thousands of flies. On the walk back upstream I passed a chute of water that's about two feet wide, right under a tight canopy of trees. I've considered this spot before too, but passed on the cramped quarters, in a hurry to get to one of my comfort zones. I figured I'd try a couple casts in there before calling it a day. I'd just leave if I got hung up or lost my rig. I had to crouch way down to even get close enough for a short cast- but as the second drift swung through the tail of the tiny run I felt that tug I was hoping for. And it wasn't a branch this time either.