Thursday, September 27, 2012

One to Remember

For the last few days I have been pressure washing the back deck at the Landing.  It has been a slow process since there have been football games to watch, floaters to return to Sunburst, intermittent rain showers, and a tempermental pressure washer that tends to die for no reason.  Yesterday after fighting the pressure washer for an hour or so I decided to quit and try a little fly fishing in the riffle just above our take-out.  The riffles on the lower end of the river are quite different from those in the blue ribbon section.  Down here many riffles consist of a limestone ledge running across the river with a series of runs from bank to bank.  Right now many of these runs can be fished because the river is low enough to wade through some of them to get to the next one.  This must be done with caution and more often than not I end up on my keister at least once during the day.  I waded up the riffle yesterday throwing a streamer/popper from feathercraft given to me by Brian Wise (I believe it is called a femme fatale).  Anyway, I had a few small fish hit it on the surface but switched to a nymph when I reached the best runs.  Looking at my boxes I decided on Brandon's Turkey Tail Nymph, which he insists is one of his best creations.  I typically don't fish other people's flies since I too enjoy creating my own, but for some reason the Turkey Tail was calling to me.

This fly will not win any beauty contests, but after less than an hour of fishing it yesterday I can attest to it's effectiveness.  My best fish was a fat 15" rainbow in addition to another small bow, and 3 browns that were probably last year's stockers.  Nothing to write home about, but not too bad for less than an hour of fishing.

Today I awoke to a warm, yet drizzly day.  After getting the kids ready for school Amy dropped them off on her way north to pick up some sheep.  Finding myself alone with the weather too poor for any outdoor work related activities, I decided to head back to the Landing and explore the riffles below the take-out.  I had never fished these riffles and really didn't remember how they were set up.  The first set afforded several nice runs and I quickly caught a small brown on the Turkey Tail.  This fish (and those caught yesterday) hit when the sun was out.  Once the sun was hidden behind the clouds it seemed as if this nymph lost it's effectiveness.  After struggling for a while with the Turkey tail I switched to a yellow beadhead princelike nymph that I enjoy tying.

  By this time I had worked my way to the end of this series of runs where I found a nice ledge.  A well placed cast presented the fly along this ledge and I was rewarded with a swift take on the first drift.  I could immediately tell this was a better fish seeing a large flash as the brown headed for deeper water.  After getting the fish on the reel a short battle of give and take resulted in the landing of a somewhat skinny 17" male brown trout.

Several more casts and the fly was lost so I decided to move on in search of the next riffle which I could hear just around the bend.  While walking downstream I found a large root wad blocking my way along the side of the river.  The current had dug out the gravel around this root wad leaving some nice exposed boulders below the surface.  I quickly tied on a Pat's rubberlegs and small dropper and tossed it in amongst the boulders.  I could immediately see several fish come out to investigate, and a small twitch resulted in the first of 2 green sunfish.

After quickly releasing this fish I caught another and then hooked a small bluegill on the dropper, which would be a fly that would produce a number of brown trout in the next run.

Walking toward the next riffle I continued casting a rubberlegs with the dropper as the water was relatively deep and had some large rocks here and there.  One rock looked particularly inviting and a cast just above it produced a nice spotted bass that had several friends with it as I brought it to hand.

Up to this point despite catching a few dinks around the root wad and adding a spotted bass to my creel, the trout fishing had been relatively slow.  Little did I know that the last riffle of the day would change my outlook on the trip.  With the current ripping through small seams across a slippery limestone bottom I had my eye on the main channel located on the opposite side of the river.  Several casts to smaller seams produced nothing as I carefully picked my way across the rocky bottom toward my destination.  I set up on a side channel and began working my rig along submerged rocks and channel edges.  The current here is fast with some of the water being quite deep, large rocks split the current in several places and getting a good drift can be a challenge.  For the hour or so that I fished this 30 yards of stream it seemed as if I could predict which casts were going to catch fish.  I first had to make sure I was in a secure position so as not to fall, I would then determine where I thought the fish would be.  It would then usually take me a cast or two to figure out how I needed to mend to get the proper drift through the area.  Many times a downstream mend was required on half of the fly line and an upstream mend on the other as some of the casts were longer than one would like to make.  More often than not a good drift resulted in a willing brown trout grabbing my fly and putting up a valiant fight in this strong current.  After catching several 12 inchers on the rubberlegs I considered taking off the dropper since they didn't seem to want it.  I had however missed several fish which I assumed had taken the smaller dropper so I decided to leave it on.  Fish after fish continued to eat up and down this riffle and soon I was catching them on both the rubberlegs and the dropper.  Eventually the fishing slowed so I added some weight to see if I was missing a few fish that were sitting deeper.  Sure enough I began picking up fish again, although the added weight soon cost me my dropper.  Fishing on with only the rubberlegs I returned to a boulder where I had seen a larger fish flash a time or two.  Hoping the added weight would change my luck with this fish I laid a cast into some slower water between two runs.  A few mends and my indicator dove for the bottom.  A quick lift of the rod and a nice brown was airborn for a split second before heading downstream.  I knew this was a nice fish after seeing it jump, but after getting her on the reel I began to wonder if it was bigger than I thought.  One big run downstream with the drag screaming and I eventually stopped her bringing her to hand after a few minutes.  I did not measure this fish, but it was a nice fat 17-18" sow brown that I failed to get a picture of due to the difficulty of the wading in the spot where she was caught.  After unhooking her I gently revived her for a minute or so and as I lifted my rod to cast I was surprised to find a nice 12" largemouth chewing on my rubberlegs.  A few more 12-13" browns and I was worn out and ready to head back to the Landing for some lunch.

After the rain we had last night the river is now rising and the runs where I caught these fish should be unreachable to the wade fisherman by morning.  All we can hope is that the higher water will move them out of the main channel and into some of those side seams where another angler can have the kind of success that made this day one to remember.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Great Summer at SBR

     Well it's official, we have survived another busy summer at Sunburst Ranch.  This, our ninth summer, was by far the driest, hottest summer we have endured yet.  Thanks to our loyal patrons it was successful despite less than ideal conditions.  The river dropped to levels that had seldom been seen since the fifties, and even so getting out and walking could be avoided by careful paddling, and packing coolers that weren't too full of beer (some had to walk a litttle). 

     Those of you who did the shorter float are aware that we now have our own private takeout downstream and no longer have to put up with the zoo that is Dawt Mill.  Located halfway between James Bridge and Dawt, floaters only miss one small riffle, and then the dead water that is the mill pond.  This spring's small flood (or a landowners chainsaw) put an end to the rope swing just above Dawt so our takeout does not affect that once popular stopping point.  With a large gravel bar and covered pavillion, Sunburst Landing proved to be a big hit with floaters who enjoyed swimming or relaxing in the shade while waiting to be picked up for the short ride back to Sunburst. 

  Amy and I always enjoy seeing many of our favorite campers each summer, as well as those new campers that will hopefully be back.  I was surprised by several of my high school buddies this year, and Amy and I both had other friends and family come visit which we enjoy very much.  Hope you all had a chance to make it down this year, and if not we still have a few months of good weather before things get too cold.  Hopefully the rain will keep coming and the fishing will be good again this fall and winter.

Next year will be our tenth summer so stay tuned as we hope to have a customer appreciation weekend with a band and good food.  Big Smith is no longer together so it looks like we will have to find someone new this time around.