Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Storms And Rainbows On The Fly

Arizona Winter Storm.
Friday night brought the first real cold front and winter storm through Southern Arizona leaving the weekend looking bleak, cold, and rainy. That is fine during the week, but this came at the beginning of the first weekend I have had opportunity to get out quail hunting in quite a while. Without four wheel drive on my truck I didn't want to risk going out in the desert and getting stuck so I decided not to go hunting. Saturday morning, my wife went shopping and left me at home with nothing much to do. I looked outside at the clouds that were threatening rain and the wind whipping through the trees and thought to myself, "A smart man comes in out of the cold and wind. I should put in a movie turn on the fire place, and relax". Then my fishing addiction kicked in and my brain immediately answered back "Be a man! It isn't raining! Put on a coat, grab your hat, load the fishing poles up, and go fishing!"

Ten minutes later I was out by my little neighborhood lake with a fly rod, a spinning rod, and my tackle box staring at what looked like a miniature North Sea in a hurricane. The wind was whipping the water into a roiling froth of water, leaves, and garbage. The waves whipped up by the wind were almost a half a foot high and made reading the water impossible. A little intimidated by the wind, I stood there for a while watching the water and wondering how I was going to cast a fly line. I know that the best way to learn is to jump in head first and do it. Whether I fly or fall, I always learn something with that method, so I got out my fly box and set up my fly rod.

The Fly I Was Using Saturday
I picked out a comparatively heavy sinking fly with a small spinning propeller thinking the weight would give me some kind of control in the cast. When I tied it on and let it go the first thing it did was catch the wind and whip the leader and about five feet of fly line out  almost parallel to the ground. I was at the north end of the lake and the wind was blowing north so casting directly into the wind was necessary. My first few attempts resulted in the fly line piling up just inches from the shore line, or right at my feet.  After a while I figured out that casting fly line somewhat perpendicular to the shore line and across the wind was a bit easier, but I still couldn't get any distance at all. I finally gave up on the fly rod for a while and went to casting a small spinner. The spinner bait was easier to cast, but I still wasn't getting any bites, so I decided to call it quits for the day.

I was able to get back out to the lake late Sunday afternoon. The weather was cool and calm, and the water was glass smooth and gin clear. After a quick examination of the flies in my box I decided to tie on a small brown dry fly that looked like it would make the fish drool. I spent the next hour following some casting advise and trying to perfect my form and movement. This resulted in finally getting some more distance in my cast and starting to be able to "shoot" a fair amount of line on my final cast. Concentrating on fly casting and with experimenting with different presentations on the retrieve I failed at a very important part of fishing. I wasn't paying attention to the surface of the water, until a heard the splash from a jumping fish off in the distance.

That prompted me to stop and look around at the surface of the lake, and I noticed an area down around the corner from me that had a lot of surface action going on. Nothing spectacular, just some small ripples here and there. Just enough to tell me I was in the wrong spot. I made the move over to a section of the lake that is basically a large concrete pad with a couple of benches and a boat ramp. I started casting out to where the ripples were and did my best insect impression with the fly and got nothing. I tried using different retrieval speeds and vibrations in a vain attempt to make that poor little ball of fluff and feather look like a tasty trout treat to no avail. Then I paused for a few seconds and looked down to answer a question for a 12 or 13 year old kid who was fishing nearby when magic happened.

I heard the splash almost at the same time I felt the line go tight against the fingers I was using to hold the fly line against the pole, and the hook set was more reaction than design. I stood there kind of stunned for a second, and then I had to laugh. I had fly line in my left hand leading down to about ten feet of line on the ground next to my foot, my fly rod in my right hand with a big arc in it, an ear to ear grin on my face, and not one clue about what to do next. That kid I was talking to probably thought I had more than my fair share of screws lose from the look on my face.

I managed to slowly let the fish take the slack out of my line without throwing the hook, then used the reel to get him up to the shore line. I have watched people pull the line in by hand, but I have never done that, and wasn't real sure I would know when to let the fish take line. I used the reel to bring the fish in close to the shore line and pulled my very first fly fishing catch out of the lake. It was a relatively good sized rainbow with soft faded coloring, but pretty all the same.  I gave it to the kid and had a fleeting twinge of regret as I watched him pedal away with my fish hanging off of his handlebars.

My Very First Fish On The Fly!
I continued to fish until it got dark and managed to catch one more slightly smaller trout. That one just kind of gulped the fly right off of the top of the water and took off almost swallowing it. After letting him go I went home a happy man. When I got home It occurred to me that flies are used as an accurate imitation of real flying insects which led to the realization of where I was going wrong on Sunday. The feathers and fur on larger fly were catching the wind and acting like a kite negating the advantage of the heavier weight and reducing the effective distance I was able to least that is what I am blaming it on.
Second Trout On The Fly!


  1. a wonderful adventure and kudos on a great 1st

    1. Thanks Blake. I had a lot of fun getting this far, and I am looking forward to learning a lot more.