Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ants, ants, Buggers, ants, twirl and repeat

Last year, our first dedicated to the high country, we struggled. We found fishless lakes, were stymied by savvy cutthroat, and were left feeling a bit disenchanted.

Whey duh f*^k are the trout?
But such struggles are often the prerequisites of fishing glory. This summer has been better, and maybe we're figuring some stuff out. Or it's just been a better summer in the high country.

Our season started in late May, when we happened onto a spot we came to know as the aquarium. This was not a lake I had any expectations for, but we caught several 16- to 18-inch cutthroat trout, under a  dense canopy of pine trees, that were eager to run down a big pink scud. Stir in a few nice-sized grayling and it was easy to note that this felt a bit like a harbinger.

I see that smile...
Among the things we've figured out, or at least become confident of:

  • Ants. Ants. Ants. Ants. Ants. Ants. Bloom's Parachute Flying Ant. Ants. Hoppers. Beetles. Ants. Rubber-legged ants. Scuds. Ants.
  • Get flarping wacky. Use that old chewed-up, lead-wrap-showing hackle-dangling Bugger. Strip a foam hopper on sinking line. Jig flies. (More on these techniques coming in the January-February issue of American Angler.)
  • If at first you don't succeed... hike around the lake. Wait. These fish and fisheries are as moody as they come. Multi-mile scrambles on top of Jeep-trail journeys rarely allow for much time, but do your best. 
  • Use ants on the end of your leader or tippet, which should be connected to your fly line. Tie them on and cast them. Ants. Just so we're clear. 
  • The adventure is worth the effort. The post-hike beer-endorphin cocktail is also nice.

It wasn't all lifestyles of the fishy and fjellvant, though. This past weekend I hit six lakes in one afternoon, while waking and going to bed in my own bed. It felt a bit like Double Dare's obstacle course where I got to a lake and whacked a button and then ran on to the next. At those six lakes, I caught an entire fish. It turns out that these lakes, from 8,200 feet to 9,200 feet in the Pioneer Mountains, are still actively used for irrigation and get terribly de-watered by the end of summer.

Yeah but it was a good fish. 
As the season winds down and we prepare for a trip to the Adirondacks, I feel content with our efforts. And we still have hope for a 4-pound 7,500-foot-high cutt and maybe a 17-inch brookie before the trick-or-treaters' knock, signaling the forming ice...