A Tale of Two Fish

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

In January I spent a morning fishing a small river I’d visited several times in the prior two months, further honing my so-called “line of sight” skills and enjoying some success. I’d noticed in these outings that arriving at dawn mattered little because there was never any action until around 9 to 9:30 am…likely due to laziness on the part of the subaquatic insect life. Still I’d show up shortly after first light each time, full of coffee and hope.

This time of year this tailwater is no more than a small creek as little as thirty feet wide in some places. I always stepped in at the same hole, served by a well-beaten trail and a convenient clean log where gear (and one’s posterior) could be placed and boots could be tied. Why did I use the same on-ramp that every other joe used? Because using my own fly and my own techniques, I always still caught good fish from this little hole.

As luck would have it, this morning I’d met a fisheries biologist in the gravel parking lot while donning my waders — he was part of a team contracted by the state to perform fish counts and report on habitat. They too were getting into waders and readying non-lethal fish-stunning gear. We chatted briefly, he promised not to stick their cattle-prod-contraptions near where I was planning to fish, and he gave me his card.

I got down to the water and flogged away. At precisely 9:30am I caught a nice rainbow — one that had good size for this tiny place. About a half hour later I caught a second one on the same fly using the same methods, nearly as long but fatter. I photographed each before release. Both fish:

—   Were clearly of the Oncorhynchus genus (i.e. North American trout)

—   Were wild-hatched (adipose fins were intact)

—   Lived in the same hole

—   Subsisted on the same diet

—   Were almost identical in size and therefore probably age

—   Had never migrated to larger water despite this stream having a direct shot to the Pacific

—   Had struck the same fly at the same time of day

—   Had struck the fly exactly the same way (same “demeanor”)

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Tough Bugs

Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide, founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

“Stream channelization, pollution, and insecticides have taken their toll on the mayfly life that, according to trouting literature, once flourished in our waters. The eager rise of trout to emerging insects, that magical event for which many trout fishermen live, is unfortunately rare. Many of the classic hatches have all but disappeared from public waters in the Poconos. If one were to follow a source such as Schwiebert’s Matching the Hatch in preparing patterns for use in our area, he might find a considerable number of them can be eliminated because so few of the naturals now exist in major streams.”

Don Baylor
Pocono Hatches
Pocono Hatches was published in 1980, and as you can imagine this situation has for the most part only gotten worse during the forty years since. Even so, the Poconos still have much better and more diverse hatches than the waters nearer my home in the Philadelphia suburbs. The best thing I can say is that there isn’t much channelizing of streams going on anymore.

Those of us who love fly fishing, of course, have adapted to the decline of the classic hatches. Attractor patterns have become increasingly important in our pursuit of trout and other gamefish. Yet there are still hatch-matching opportunities. We simply have to turn our attention to the insects that have also been able to adapt. There are a handful of aquatic insects that still live, and sometimes even thrive, in our altered streams. Here are some of my favorites.

Midges

Chironomids are by far the most significant hatch in the streams I fish. They are ubiquitous, abundant, and a frequent trigger for selective feeding. Midges are very important during the winter, when they are usually the only hatch available. A relatively warm day in January or February often brings on an emergence.

I like to keep my workhorse fly patterns simple and easy to tie. Although I believe firmly that a wise fly fisher always carries some change-ups, I rely on two midge patterns. For the pupa, which is often the most important, I use an Al’s Rat. This pattern could not be simpler. On a standard dry fly hook, form a double layer of brown size 3/0 Danville Monocord. Add a small ball of Muskrat dubbing as a thorax. Done. I once saw a photograph of a real midge pupa next to a wet Al’s Rat and the likeness was uncanny. For the adults, I like a Griffith’s Gnat. I tie both in sizes 20, 22, and 24.

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Going Up North

Guest Blogger: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor, you can find him @ River Raisin Fly Company on Facebook

The coffee was hot and the last drop of grease from my sausage breakfast sandwich was still lingering on my top lip as we crossed the threshold of the Zilwaukee Bridge. When you cross the bridge, you kind of know you are “up north”. Trout of any species were the target and we were going to fish hard for the next two days. We usually leave southeastern Michigan at 2:00 am to get to the river by a little before first light. Michigan’s Au Sable River is one of my favorite places to fish on this earth and I consider myself lucky to have it located in the state where I was born and raised. The river has brook, brown, and rainbow trout in many areas along the scenic banks of northern Michigan. Its beauty is only matched by its rich history and conservation.

The moment you step out of the car, you are greeted by the wonderful aroma of pine and the kind of air that catches dreams. The ever present bald eagle soaring over the river in the distance or the almost audible hum of the many prolific hatches on this historic water engrain themselves into your memory. Whenever life becomes a little too real, I close my eyes and return to this magical place in my mind. Even just driving to the different places to fish offers a glimpse into the logging life of northern Michigan and the Grayling area. If you are not into fishing, there certainly is enough beauty and history to study but we were here for the fish. A quick stop to the Old Au Sable Fly Shop gave us a bit of insight into the current hatches and water levels. I laced up my boots, put my pack around my back, and started down the steps to take my first step into the sandy, crystal clear waters. “Au Sable” in French means in the sand and you will find these sandy banks all along the river’s edges.

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