Tuesday, March 16, 2010
There'll be days like this. If you're lucky.
But you have to wonder what turns a perfectly normal late-winter day--spring is beating at the door--into a fish fest, an outing on a world-famous river that will live on forever.
"I remember a day on the Henry's Fork way back in '10 when no matter what I tried, I couldn't keep the fish off the line."
Karma? Clean living?
I can't pin it down. I even considered the moon phase, and would have looked at tide charts for the answer if I could have found any handy here, 1,000 miles from the sea. After an afternoon fishing the storied river turned out to be what I hope stepping into Heaven is like, there remains a mystery. A pang. What had I done to deserve this bounty, and what equal and opposite reaction awaited me for the pleasure? Certainly, this good deed will not go unpunished.
Let's start with the midge hatch. There are almost always midges on the Henry's Fork--it's a productive river that runs through prime trout country. But these midges were ... huge. Size 16. Seriously. And they peppered the streamside snow, which is stubbornly refusing to disappear altogether. The bugs were everywhere. In the air. In my ears. On the water.
Then the fish. Rainbows, dark and ominous in preparation for the spawn. Deep pink bands lined their slab-like slides, and holographic colors resonated from their cheekbones. Browns, clearly waiting for the rainbows to begin the spawn, if for no other reason than to steal eggs and generally make a nuisance of themselves, busied themselves with the bugs. Even whitefish, the disrespected stepchild of most Western rivers, tested the riffles during this epic hatch.
Truthfully, when I think of midges, I think of tiny, tiny bugs, long, light leaders and a day spent casting over finicky and winter-slowed trout. This day, though, as the encroaching spring sunshine warmed the water just enough to get the river's fish thinking of food, I got cocky and tied a fly on my tippet that was just as visible to me as it was to the fish--a size 14 Parachute Adams.
No. It's not a midge pattern. But these midges weren't ... midges. They were the Barry Bonds version of midges--they were juiced up. They were ... enormous.
In keeping with winter fly fishing, I stuck with the light tippet, which likely cost me at least one trophy rainbow, but I need to get back to the bench and tie up more Adams.
Like I said. There'll be days like this. But I doubt the kids and grandkids will believe me.