Last Saturday, I managed to free up an entire afternoon for some trout scouting. I keep a Google map of locations for fishing as a sort of 'To Do" list, with little markers in green identifying places that have been good fishing spots in the past. Yellow markers indicate places that I've heard about or had recommended to me, or simply found on the map and thought that it might hold wild trout. These markers are usually accompanied by short notes such as, 'Look for parking and access.' or , 'Low water mid-summer, check back in spring and fall.'
Usually, I don't have the luxury of time to plan out a scouting trip to check out these places, but when I do, it's always a learning experience. Saturday was one of those days.
I had made plans to attend a picnic later in the evening in a somewhat remote area. Lucky for me, that remote area was host to several yellow markers on my map. I picked out four markers and planned out a rough route in my head connecting them. I wanted to hit the most promising ones first, even though that often means I won't get to the entire list.
When I got to the first location, there were big yellow posted signs every ten feet, making it abundantly clear that visitors were not welcome. Some guys will track down the landowner to get permission, but I take the signs to mean that they really don't want people in there.
The second area simply had no convenient location to pull off the road. A steep drop-off to the stream would have been a challenge to navigate, but there were no spots where I'd feel comfortable pulling off the road and trusting that nobody would slam into my parked car. A bit frustrated, I went to the third spot.
The route to this spot took me on a bridge over my 'backup option': a large, rocky creek that has managed to humble and stymie me repeatedly. I know there's big trout in it. Hell, I've seen the big trout...but with just one notable exception (a chunky brown), this creek has limited me to nothing but smallish 6-7" fish. For a small stream, that isn't bad, but when I know that an 18" trout isn't terribly rare on a given stream, six or seven inches of trout isn't much of an accomplishment.
The third spot looked like a good spot on the map, but in person, it was little more than a few damp rocks in a ditch. In fact, the bridge over it was the only place that it wasn't completely covered by weeds and saplings. There might have been a trout in there, but even dapping was impossible with the thick vegetation.
Finally, the fourth spot seemed worthy of a try. Actually the same stream as the backup option, this was simply a point much farther upstream than I'd ever fished, where the waterway was much smaller. There was a handy pull-off just before the bridge and I quickly got out and walked down to the water.
While it was obviously low, the creek looked fishable, and I returned to my car to gear up. A few minutes later and I finally got to my first cast of the day, hours after I left home.
This was the second outing for my new ultralight rod (which I'll discuss more fully in a later post), and I was still having trouble adjusting to the fast action in such a light stick. Still, I managed a few decent casts and drifts...but failed to persuade any fish. Twice, I was rewarded by quick, splashy rises, but I suspected they were minnows, not trout.
Blue-lining, or searching the map for possible wild trouting locations, then following up with visits, is a venture often met with heaps of disappointment, but it usually pays off just enough to keep a few of us coming back for more.
Well, eventually, I got back to my backup creek, got my pack, and headed for the water. Just as I entered, though, I heard a noise and looked up to see a guy and his young boy fishing and playing in the next pool up. Had it been a lone fisherman, I might have been annoyed, but I was glad to see the young kid out with his dad. Still, I had to make yet another decision. To fish the lower reaches meant walking downstream then fishing my way back up. Upstream would mean getting out and skipping over where the guy and his boy were, but would take me to water I'd only ever fished once before, so I decided to go that route.
As I walked along the train tracks that paralleled the stream, I noticed a small feeder creek that I'd only ever seen at the mouth where it emptied into the main waterway. At this point, the light bulb came on and I decided to fish the feeder instead. Dropping down from the railroad tracks, I started drifting the tricky currents in the rocky streambed, methodically covering every drift in a pool or riffle before moving up to the next. Although I didn't realize it until later, I must have started to really get the feel for my new fly rod, because I noticed myself getting the drift I wanted more and more often, without the exasperating misses and splashdowns. Another quick way to improve your casting is to fish any small stream. You'll either improve, or lose every fly you carried in to trees, roots, branches, and shrubs. Speaking of shrubs, the wild rhododendron was in full bloom...
As I went up, I started getting a few rises, and as I got used to the rod, rises turned into fish landed...and jus tlike that...I'd discovered a new stream for wild rainbows...