Good Times, Great Fishing

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to fish with a lot of different people from many different walks of life.  Fishing with others has become one of the most enjoyable parts of the fishing experience for me.  Every angler has something unique about the way they fish and there is always something to be learned from them.  A friend is always there to offer a helping hand when you might need one.  Long hikes go by quickly when you are able to reflect on and share old fishing stories with friends along the way.  A little over a week ago, Chris, Jared, Gilbert, and I were able to fish together on one of our favorite local rivers.  It was Chris’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to go catch some beautiful wild ‘bows?

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One of my First Fish of the Day

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Small but Pretty Wild ‘Bow

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It didn’t take long for us to hook into some beautiful ‘bows.  The fishing started off a little slow, but once we found the right spot it really turned on.  Between the four of us, someone usually had a fish on the end of their line.  We caught fish on everything from San Juan worms to Wooly buggers and other streamers.  The temps were in the mid 30’s, winds were light, and skies were overcast.  What better conditions could you ask for?  One of the best parts of the day was the number of wild fish that we were able to catch.  Wild ‘Bows are gorgeous this time of year and the cold water helps them have plenty of energy to put up a good fight.  It is always encouraging to see a fishery with a good balance of wild and healthy trout.

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Wild Hen

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Sparsely Spotted

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Planter

Another factor that made the fishing all the better was how aggressive the fish were.  The subtle takes that are the norm in winter were nowhere to be found.  Throwing San Juan Worms and Size 12 nymph patterns is so much more enjoyable than using size 20-24 midges.  There was no mistaking a strike with a snag on the bottom.

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Gorgeous Buck

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Perfectly Proportioned 

I’m not sure why the fishing was so good on this particular day, but there is no doubt that it was one of the best days of fishing I’ve ever had.  It just goes to show that great fishing can still be had on very heavily pressured waters.  You might have to put  a little extra foot work in, but it is usually worth it.  With the trout averaging over 20″ and each of us catching 25+ fish a piece, we were all satisfied with our day on the water.

That One Night in February

Night fishing is not for the faint of heart.  Night fishing in February?  It could be considered border line crazy.  Double hauling into the wind, hearing nothing but the sound of your streamer whizzing past your head can be a little frightening to say the least.  Despite the risks involved and at times uncomfortable conditions, throwing flies in the dark definitely has its perks.  Chris and I showed up at the river a couple hours before sunset with the plan to stay well after dark in search of some trophy trout.  It didn’t take long to hook into a couple beautiful wild ‘bows.

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White Tipped Fins and Beautiful Colors

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Cheeky

Soon enough, the sun set and we began targeting fish in an area a little more conducive to night fishing.  The first hour after dark went by without as much as a bite.  This wasn’t too out of the norm, as things usually seem to pick up 2 to 3 hours after the sun has gone down.  After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed upriver to our next destination.  With the air temp a meager 3 degrees above freezing and the wind howling like crazy, we bundled up and made our way back to the river, hoping for the best.

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Perfect Weather for February Night Fishing

It didn’t take long to locate where the fish were holding.  Chris was the first to hook up.  One of the most exciting aspects of night fishing is never really knowing how big the fish you have on the end of the line is.  During the daylight, you can usually catch a flash or glimpse of a trout and from that gather a general idea of it’s size.  Night fishing requires the aid of a head lamp, and until you see what is on the other end of the line, images of monstrous trout will be running through your imagination.

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Chris with a Silver Rocket

Another one of my favorite things about night fishing is how dependent you become upon your sense of feeling.  The fish don’t hold anything back in the dark, and most takes are violent. With that said,  it can still be difficult to get the hang of hooking a fish.  Learning to strip set makes all the difference in the world.  There’s nothing quite like strip setting into a big ‘bow, and hearing it rocket straight out of the water in the darkness.

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One of my First of the Night

The fishing continued to pickup as the darkness really set in, and catching a fish every 10 to 15 minutes became the norm.  As we walked along the shoreline, we noticed that the water’s surface was littered with dead baitfish.  Although annoying at times, the wind was actually helping us in this case.  Each toppling wave brought the snack sized meal a little closer to the shoreline.  It became evident why the fish were concentrated so heavily in this area.  What fish doesn’t want an easy meal?

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Chris with Another Chunky ‘Bow

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My Best ‘Bow of the Night

The fishing never slowed down, but around midnight we decided to call it quits.  Chris had school the following day and I had a few things I needed to take care of as well.  Of all my night fishing trips, this one was by far the most successful that I’ve ever had.  Although we didn’t catch any river monsters,  I’m already looking forward to braving the cold and doing it again.

Winter Gold

Have you ever got a wild hair and thought to yourself, “I know there is supposed to be a blizzard today, but how about we go chase some carp!”  Brent did and I was all over it.  Carp might not like the cold as much as they like the warmer waters of Spring, but they still have to eat don’t they?  With this in mind, we headed to a local carp hole to see if we could put a hurtin’ on a few of our bugle mouthed friends.  Upon arrival the air temp was 36 degrees, barely above freezing.  We looked out on the flat and immediately saw what appeared to be a carp breaching the waters surface.  I was giddy with excitement, as the prospect of catching a carp during a February snowstorm was no longer as farfetched as I’d previously thought.

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Snow Carpin’

As we made our way to the water, we found that there were many fish actively feeding in relatively shallow water.  I found a mud line and launched a cast out parallel to the line.  I slowly stripped the fly in, anxiously waiting for resistance and ready to strip set at any moment.  Soon enough, the familiar take came and I had set in to my first carp of the year.  A carp will put your gear to the test in a different way than any trout will.  The initial run is always the most exciting.  The sound of line ripping off the reel is enough to get any fly fishermen excited.  As all fish do, the fish eventually tired out and with the help of Brent I was able to get him in the net.  Some people hate carp and think they are a disgusting and worthless fish, but I think they are beautiful in their own right.  This common was clean as could be and had an almost perfectly uniformed scaling pattern.  He also fought like a freight train.  What more could you ask for?

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What are You Lookin’ at?

Brent worked his way down the shoreline from where I was fishing and shortly hooked into another carp.  Brent’s carp was an awesome deep golden hue.  One of the coolest thing’s about Brent’s carp was that he hooked into it when the snow was coming down the hardest.  The cotton ball sized flakes were falling so quickly that a few managed to land and stick on top of the carp’s head.  After Brent released his carp, it became evident that carp can indeed be caught in the middle of winter in Eastern Idaho.  Who would have thunk it?

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Pure Gold – and yes That is Snow Falling

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Mirror Mirror

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Snowy Ride Home

As it got later in the day, the fishing gradually slowed down.  The fish that were feeding were making their way further from the shoreline, beyond casting range.  On the ride home, I contemplated the early season carp fishing that Brent and I had just enjoyed.  Winter is a time that most guys put away their fly rods.  Anglers that  enjoy winter fly fishing usually spend their time throwing tiny flies on light tippets in search of trout.  Until a couple days ago, I thought carp fishing was out of the question.  I’m already counting down the days until I can make it out again in search of winter gold.