The Mighty Worm

Right now, it is hard to believe that the temperature was pushing 50 degrees just a couple days ago.  In the last 24 hours, almost 10″ of snow has fallen at my house.  Last night I shoveled the driveway and you can’t even tell.  It’s back to the reality now of how winters in Eastern Idaho are supposed to be.  Since the weather was so nice on Saturday, Brent, Kyle, and I headed out to one of our favorite local haunts to try and stick a few decent fish.  The past couple times I had been out on this particular stretch of river, the fish were gradually getting more difficult to catch.  The normal Hare’s ear and Copper John set up just wasn’t doing it.  When faced with challenging fish in the past, one of the most effective flies to use is the mighty San Juan Worm.  Who would have thought that a red piece of string on a hook would be such a useful fly?

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Big ol’ Tail

It didn’t take long to realize how effective the San Juan Worm was going to be that day.  In fact, the joke of the day was that the fish were too smart for a well tied may fly or midge imitation, but they would readily gulp down a simple worm pattern.  We moved around a few different places and the fishing remained fairly consistent most of the day.  On a side note, I learned how helpful the RIO Indicator Line is for fishing in windy conditions.  Not only does it launch an indicator rig with very little effort, the heavy shooting head also cuts through the wind with ease.

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‘Bow with a Bad Attitude

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A Beautiful Wild ‘Bow

Throwing streamers is a lot more exciting that staring at a bobber, so we decided to head downriver to a spot that usually produces a few hogs on streamers.  Brent worked his way out to a bottleneck in the river and almost immediately hooked into what looked like a nice fish.  I headed downriver to give him a hand and was happy to see a dandy brown trout on the end of his line.  Big browns make everyone happy.

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Gorgeous Coloring pattern on this Brown

Kyle and I continued fishing upriver from Brent, while he continued to work the bottleneck.  Kyle and I were getting into ‘bows pretty regularly, but nothing over 18″.  A while later, Brent hollered for help again and I started to work my way down to give him a hand.  As I was heading down, the fish came off.  Fortunately for Brent, he was able to reconnect with the fish and bring him in.  Once again, it was a beastly brown, rocking some awesome spotting and color patterns.

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Last week was one of the most memorable and probably the most successful weeks I’ve ever had on the water.  Monday provided some stellar ice fishing, with the average fish being 4 lbs and 20″ (yes the trout are that fat).  I made it down to do a little ice fishing with my cousin, and that is always a great time.  Saturday provided some very enjoyable weather, and once again some stellar fishing with great friends.  I’ve got a lot of things going on this week and won’t be able to get out on the water at all, but I’ve got plenty of great memories to keep myself entertained.

Get Organized

What do you do when it is too cold outside to cast a fly?  You get organized of course!  Organizing your fly boxes is also a great time to take inventory of what you have and what you need to tie more of.  Can you ever have too many flies?  I don’t think so.  Everyone has different ways they like to organize their things.  Here are a few of my boxes that I got around to straightening up during our most recent period of subzero temps.

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Dries and Nymphs

While getting organized, I often like to think about the places I would like to fish throughout the year.  I think about what time of year certain flies work best.  Sorting through my still water patterns got me excited for kicking around in my float tube, chasing tasty perch and chunky ‘bows.

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Still Water

Sorting through my hopper and salmon fly box reminds me of much warmer days.  Every spring, usually in late May or early June, the Salmon fly hatch goes off.  Fishing the salmon fly hatch does not require a lot of technical skills, but it can be a lot of fun.  It is one of the few times of the year that big browns will come up from the rivers depths and actively feed on the surface.  As summer really starts to heat up, throwing hoppers can provide some of the most exciting fishing to be found.  There is something awesome about watching a big trout slowly rise from the depths of a pool and inhale your hopper.

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Stoneflies and Hoppers

My carp flies remind me of walking the flats in search of a good mud line.  My first carp of 2012 came during the first week of March.  I am hoping to catch one even earlier this year.  I plan to focus a lot more of my time this year on chasing carp and really improving my carp fishing skill set.  More than anything, I’d like to land a carp over 30 lbs this year.

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Carp Treats

The temps here in Eastern Idaho are finally starting to warm up a little and I have been able to get out and do some fishing again.  Thank goodness the trout don’t mind the cold.  Cabin fever seems to set in all to quick when I am not able to be out on the water.

No Off Season

I’ve always had a hard time understanding what people mean when they use the term “off season”.  The last two nights have been well in to the negatives, and that has helped me understand a little better why people clean up their fly rods and put them away for the winter.  As I write this, it is currently -2 here in Rexburg, Idaho.  When it that cold, I usually will not go out and fly fish.  First and foremost, it can be very dangerous, especially if you are fishing alone.  If you take a spill in the river when it is that cold out, you can get yourself into a troublesome situation very quickly.  Secondly, exposing fish to subzero temperatures is not good for them.  I don’t usually keep wild trout that I catch while fly fishing, so I always do what I can to safely release them.  If the temp is -10 outside, that gets a whole lot harder to do.  Eastern Idaho has some of the harshest winters around, but I am still a firm believer that there is plenty of good fishing to be had.  The metabolism of a trout slows way down in the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want or have to eat.  Temps in the teens can be enjoyable to get out and fish in if you dress the right way.  A couple days ago, Brent and I decided to head out and hit the Henry’s Fork.  The forecast called for warmer temps (32 above zero vs -20) but it also called for a big snowstorm.   You’ll rarely hear me complain about a good blizzard.  A good water year makes for some excellent fishing, as well as healthy fish.  When we arrived at the river, we quickly noticed it was littered with shelf ice.

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Brent with a Beautiful ‘Bow

Brent was the first to hook in to a fish.  As he retrieved his wooly bugger along the shelf ice, a willing trout came out and struck.  Landing fish with the shelf ice can be a little tricky.  Brent’s net made things a little easier.  We continued fishing a while and eventually started working our way back down river.  I hooked in to my first fish of the day, a little 14″ ‘bow.  It wasn’t the big brown I was looking for but it sure felt nice to feel the tug on the fly rod again.  It had been a while.  The fishing was slow so we decided to head up to the Box.

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Little ‘Bow…My First and Only Fish of the Day

The hike in encompassed so much of what I love about winter fishing.  You are able to enter a world that few people ever get to experience.  The solitude is refreshing.  The snow was deep, but not to the point that it was uncomfortable.  Brent brought snow shoes and that certainly helped the situation.  We made it down to the river and there was not another soul in sight.  We were both a little surprised considering how nice the weather was that day.

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Hiking in

It didn’t take Brent long to hook into a fish.  Small streamers were the name of the game.  Over the next couple hours, the snow continued to fall, and Brent continued to catch a fish here and a fish there.  I missed one small ‘bow but was unable to hook or land any more fish that day.

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Brent with a Beautiful Hybrid

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Falling Snow (Photo Courtesy of Brent at Uprising Blog)

Despite the slow fishing, it felt great to get out and on the river again with my fly rod in hand.  There is something about standing in the middle of a river, casting a fly, and anxiously waiting for a fish to attack your offering.  Winter fishing is a great way to ward off the cabin fever during the “Off Season”.