It was an accidental trip! Well…well… for James maybe, but for me, it was a “planned” to be excursion somewhere sometime during the meeting. I have planned this in my mind even before the meeting. Now I just need the final hit from a “weak” program in the meeting. I looked through the ABS meeting schedule at the first day of the meeting… marked all the interested talk and sections… and it seems “the weak link day” jump right out in my program book. “Monday! This is… skip this and skip that then I will have a nice morning excursion in Utah!” I convinced myself that those are less relative and "take a rest" is important step for further trip! : P (Note: I had finished another meeting in NY at this moment. And it was a really fruitful and intense meeting)
James was a friend of John, he is crazy about Animal, any kind of animals… big cat especially. He had excited to show me some bobcat trails just behind the hotel, the mid-night “cat - like” screaming before the excursion… He was very excited about my plan, so he hopped in! We met each other around 5:00 AM at the lobby. It was a easy wake up around 4:30 AM to me. This would be my second outing in Utah this year, I am still feel crazy to see Provo again!! The moonlight was just beautiful, we had some quick free coffee from the counter. Bring along me trusty bananas. I mean, real bananas to eat. Not something special mascot. Some people may hastate about the bananas: banana and boat, banana and fishing etc… I don’t. I just love it because it is an easy and quick energy and it is tasty!
Drove along the little cottonwood canyon under the washed moonlight was such a treat. We arrived Provo as an early bird! The air smelled fresh and chilly, you really would appreciate this moment in the summer time here near desert! Needless to say this is my beloved Provo and the silky blue river just gently harmonized with the fresh air and sage smells. It’s unreal! Forget all the combat fishing just happened couple days ago, we had the river all by ourselves. We rigged up in the parking lot and headed toward the downstream…”Caddis! Tons of Caddis size #16 light tan color with green body. They are everywhere now… “ I yelled to James. James wasn’t that really interested in caddis flies… instead he was using his binoculars and observe the waxwings eating caddis flies. Indeed, that was a fun thing to see too.
The trails along the Provo are very nice, you don’t need really search for good holding water or good standing area, every little dirt path will lead you there. I guess this is the good “byproducts” from it’s popularity. We past several good waters, James got a little bit confused why not just start fishing… “You got better water downstream, and they suffer less fishing pressure!” I explained to him. We all agree a bit of walk is a good idea. Plus, we were really enjoy this quiet morning moment (I know it won’t be something like this soon… even this is Monday… yes… blue ribbon river got it name from people, from it popularity). On the side channel a quite nice pool sit in the end, for irrigation I guess. James could not hold his fly rod high any more… “I got to cast this pond!” He told me with inpatient voice. “Yes, go ahead!” I agree… there is not need for a 2 miles hike, since we were here fishing only for a half day… The first cast into the pool, he was on… and lost. “Jezz, those fish are quick!... and fun” “Ha.. you got to be fast! They are adapted to eat quick caddis” I laughed. A second cast, James yielded a little 6 inches brownie. “That was fun!” “This is a good sign”. I had my “Little Yuhina” 3wt fiberglass rod ready by then. The water in mid-Provo was still high… but that day I had something in my mind, I had something I eager to try in my home river – a wetfly swing- There is no trout in Alabama (literally). Although I have tried swing streamer patterns for stripers and yield some pretty exciting results. There are something special for those size #16 wetflies swing! To me! I have tied several from cowbird, from partridge feathers for this trip! “Now, it’s real game! Let’s move to the main channel, bigger water, bigger fish” I was jumping along the rocks when I told James my intension.
The bank was covered with blanket of caddis flies! They will flipped around the ground, flip-fell into the water… but fly. Because of the cold temperature disabled their fly ability temporary… It seems I was baiting the fish every time when I disturbed the vegetation along the bank… but the rises still lousy… somewhere here and there… I guess those Provo trout were spoiled with gigantic caddis hatch. James have something in his mind, start to cast just downstream from me. I tied on a Elk-hair caddis pattern started to working on my way up… got several 6 inches brownies… a very quick success on top! I was extremely happy. Because this Little Yuhina is really fun to fish! Soft and accurate! The fish fight like a chewing gum… : ) There is something special in this rod, or say in the fiberglass! Differ from other friends, I choose material that is light in hand, fun to fish, also good in looking… Yes, I am a shallow college boy. “Good looking” is very important, is very essential in photography, which is another byproduct fun I have in fishing! : P Part of reason that I brought along this fiberglass rod is I want to try some wetfly swing on my little fiberglass rod. I did not expect to have an extreme catching experience though (that would be with my XP 590), instead I am searching for “fun element” that day. Several small fish later, I decided to give the swing a try. I have learned the swing “verbally” from Vlad (will introduce him later), visually from the DVD, but never practically from my hand and, most importantly, from the fish. “The approval from the fish.” I guess it doesn’t matter you claim you are a good tier or your friends assert you are a good tier or caster. It is useless if the fish didn’t approve it! I need the final agreement from the fish, or say from the “fishes”. Right?!
I settled down in a nice riffle run… water was really high, not much space allow me to walk around in the middle of calmer water. I waded in, small shallow run on my back, major run in front of me, in addition, a color change signal the drop off right in the middle of the major run. Perfect! This is a good spot, I know. I trailed a small wetfly nymph #18 (a mayfly emerger type) behind my #14 caddis dry. Cast 45 degree above me in to the run… started the sequential searching along the seams and along the run. By then, I have no sight of James… I knew he is down stream somewhere… probably already had tons of fun with those brownies. James is the outdoorsman who will enjoy himself as always…birds, fish, insects etc… I was worrying about my wading more than worry about him, just to be honest with you : ). By then the caddis was heating up and start to fly and craw all over the places. Since this is a caddis time, my strategy was to cast my dryfly upstream to get some good drift, then twitch it in it midway (B taught me his deadly “caddis dance” last year…thanks B), followed by a submerge swing and the snap T cast back. OK… the plan sounds efficient and elegant in my mind. I was happy with this plan A. (BTW, Part of reason I like the EHC is they are easy to dry and easy to cast, one more shake they are ready for dry float again) (Note: one of my problem in fishing dryfly is they “die wet” too quickly… I am a really lazy guy, I hate change flies just because they get wet…see…; ) I have several reasons make me prefer to fish wet… change fly is one of them. : P).
Ok… plan A does not work very well at this moment… I felt a bit anxious, since this is my first time fishing swing for trout… “maybe I should do something different? The swing?” I mumbled… remember the water is still high…the riffle really were catching up my line when I cast the dry upstream… impaired my downstream swing section… I remember the old timer have said… “smoothness is the key in the downstream swing, and the line control is the backbone of it!” “hmmm the line control… got to do something…” the drop off still looks fishy and I have see some rises just below the run … “They are there…just try to gain more control of my line” I told myself. I decided to cut off the upstream cast… just cast my dry and dropper 45 degree downstream and maintain a good control by mending my line into current carefully. The drift and swing are really beautiful now, I am happy…. I think the “Little Yuhina” is happier now too… since I don’t need to punch him that hard into the upstream. The downstream cast and swing turns out really smooth… I really enjoy this new Plan B! My mind was still soaking in the happy new rhythm…BAM… I got a hit just at the end of the swing…”Heee ba….” I cheered for the swing… it happened so fast and so disturbing… ( in a good way…) well… the disappearing was just as fast as it comes. Few shakes later and she is gone… Wow… the swing work! I am so happy!! Ecstasy to be exactly! Even no fish landed yet… but I knew the success is not far! I have heard the landing rate in swing is about 50% of strikes… “The important thing is the approval of the fish… or fishes…hopefully.” A friend from FFR_ Joe said ” it’s all about the take!” He is right! And I know I am truly honored by the take. Now I have 100% confidence in this run and, most importantly, in this swing thing. Surely I am not over confident, the next hour was truly classified NON-STOP ACTIONS (no kidding). I have got so many strikes that I even can’t remember how I handle those strikes with a little 3wt in the riffle. The only thing I have to say is the landing rate is not 50%... is about 25% to me… still fun though! Joe stood on my shoulder and said “Hey! It’s all about the takes!” : ) … (to be continued)
OK, no more teasing, this is the real beef ~ part 1
Just got back from a road trip in the west, other than an adventure trip, it was ‘more and less’ an "expected" trip. A great trip, I meet up with several old friends, fishing my home rivers - Provo and Cottonwood creeks in Utah. The flight was delayed several hours because of the thunderstorm in Dallas, TX. It turned the evening sunset flight into a mid-night flight. Thus, I missed the prefect sunset view of Salt Lake City. I truely love SLC, the city is full of energy and creativities, young looking and filled with sportsmanship feels. Powder Snow and great public access of the river system are two of the reasons make it so, and I do care about those two reasons! SUV with different types of roof racks are pretty standard decorations for this city. (Blue Ribbon - Provo river and Cotton wood creeks are only 40 minutes away from the downtown; within 4 hours drive you can reach the best world class western style rivers like Snake and Green river; 6 hours drive will make you enter Jackson Hole and Yellowstone region, needless to say the plenty of public accesses to some unknown creeks with great sceneries. I have to say, if I have one city to live in the US that would be here in Salt Lake City). : ) Flight was late, but “the mood” is high. I haven’t see my brother B for a year! Still remember the last year trip he picked me up around 3:00 AM from the airport, and we headed to the stream straight (pretty much). The story turns out pretty much identical…my flight arrived around mid-night in the SLC international airport. B and his girlfriend R were all stay late worry about my flight. I did stay in B's house that night. Although it was mid-night arrival, we just could not stop talking about how good was the fishing, from Stripers, Tuna, Tiger Musky to Brown trout and Cutthroat; from secret patterns to new techniques I bet I am away from FF for a long time! (I mean talk to FFman face to face…): ) B is a truly FF bum…(although he get a lovely house and family, he react just like a bum…ha) His superb skillz and highly mobilized attitude have make him one of the most experienced angler I ever seen. I always encourage him to attend the FF competition. For some unknow reason, he will wait until I move to the West. We definitely will team up in the future! I was so glad B told me that the fiberglass rod was a great tool in winter midge fishing there. (He has a 3wt 7' Airrite rod). We chatted for a couple hours until 2:30 am. I was actually reluctant to go to bed! I could not believe I was that close to Provo river, if B did not stop me, I probably will go swing some streamers that night! I have been waiting for this trip for almost a year! Now I just need to make sure I am not too excited to be able to close my eyes for another few hours. : ) I drove to the Provo early alone. (B had to work a couple more days then we will have a full swing of adventure a week later.) The bluebird sky and arid air with sage brush smell really brought back all my sweet memories. Down the hill, I entered the Heber valley. Middle Provo river show it’s gentle meander shape in from of me. “Glad to see you again! Provo” I mumbled. Provo is a tail water fishery, the water is coming out from Dam J. Constant steady flow create a small blue ribbon river with plenty of public access and some big fat tout. Have you heard that the overgrown population will cause some problems? This is river that people keep talking that “we can’t have that much fish in there…big fish too!” Although it might be crowded with fishermen at times because of the convenient access and high density of trout, I do love the mid-Provo. I caught my first trout here, and I learn how to nymphing here as well. (Noted. I am a big nymphing weird guy, if possible I will avoid dryfly fishing and try to nymph all my way… will explain this later…). I arrived the river at Saturday Morning, the parking lot already had some early birds in there. Because of the high run off this year, B had told me the night before, "the water was a month late than last year. We still had a great salmon fly hatch into this past July." "Wow… may I encounter a salmon fly hatch? : P" I said. B continued:"You might see many fisherman concentrate on the section just below the dam, because there are fewer good holding water in the river now due to the higher run off". Keep this info in mind, I have my nymphing plan in my mind and ready to meet up some brownies and white fish.
I was nymphing with my XP 9 foot rod that afternoon ( sorry, fiberglassflyrodders, the “main dish” always need to wait until the stage heat up right? : ) The main reason I have to use my XP is that I was still in the situation of constructing my longer glass rod, and the flow was high thus prevent me using that “little yuhina”…but there was one moment the Lamiglas really shine it’s bright light… Hint!) High sticking was the ticket that day. I was getting a lot of actions by “bombing” my heavy tungsten nymphs in the pocket waters. The instant take of the white fish is really a thrill. After working my way into a smooth run. I met a guide who was teaching a lady how to nymph by using indicator rig. This is a pretty long run under a big riffle. Great spot that people usually will stay there… holding the water and holding the trout… I was not disappointed… It was just about right feel to observe what other fisherman is doing…I sat in the bend to observe them for a while, also enjoy this great river by deep breath into it. (Note: it would be very dangerous to sit in the glass here in Alabama… you know the fire ants are pretty bad during the summertime : P ) The caddis flies have been around the riverside for weeks. They were all over the places, trees, bushes, grasses and banks. Trout are not really crazy for them during the mid-day, even they were readily available on the surface. I guess there are so many aquatic insects down there in this time of the year. I take a slow pace that afternoon, noticed the warblers and waxwings were taking the caddis flies. It’s such a joy to see those high skillful performance- air chasing and sharp turn in the trees. I observed those guide and lady for a while. I noticed the indicator rig did not work out very well… it must be a little bit frustration for them. Provo river is famous for it high density of trout 3000-4000 trout per mile. But there is times the fishing could be very technical. Ryan in the 4 Seasons Flyshop told me : “ the aquatic insect in the mid Provo are super abundant… the fish literally just sit in the water and open their mouth then they can get a good feed…. if you are not getting your flies down deep enough… it could be very frustrated. …Plus… the sections with easy access really get pounded… trout could be spooky for un-natural drift…” OK… looks like it was a technical time now… nothing happening on top… I rigged up with a heavy CZ nymph trailing with a #20 PMD emerger, add another two AB shoots in front of my #10 CZ nymph. Pull out the old trusty white yarn indicator. I am ready for some indicator nymphing~ The reason I am not doing CZ/High sticking nymphing here is because the water is calmer and the fish is spookier. Use indicator also allow me get a longer natural drift and possibly cover the other bank. I passed the guide and move to the downstream bend and start to chuck my heavy indicator and nymphs. Few adjusts I was into fish right in the seam between the currents. All brown trout… about 12-14 inches. Cool! They were there! That was a quick success, and they are taking the #20 emerger fly. Afrter 3-4 fish, I had a fat brownie on, I can not resist to pump it’s diet… part of the reason for that is due to the curiosity instinct of my biology training. “What are they taking now?” I carefully have little suck from the throat… OMG, they were indeed taking PMD emergers! You can tell the distinct yellow color just start to emerge from their splited cases. Theose PMD are slightly bigger then what I thought, #16! not #20. Great! Now I have 100% confidence to do some high sticking and at the end of the drift I let the flies swing up along the tail out. I got a pretty good success at that moment. The guide came to me and asked what I was using. His name is Mike, a very friendly guide speak with soft tune. I showed him the stomach content and explained to him some of my flies that has been very good to me for past few years. We had a great conversation indeed, rods, reels and casting that sort of things… I ended up gave him half dozen of my ties and hopefully his lady will get into some fish. I decided to cross the river and do some photo shooting and maybe fish for another pool. I took my times to organize my camera gear into the water proved bag, have some jerky and drink. I try to cross the river in the tail out, man did I make a foolish decision?! The water is way more higher than what I though… I am glad I packed my gear before the move. YES, I slipped!! just before I finished the cross. The other bank has so many big rocks. I was really wet! I reorganized my gear again… dump out the extra water from my waders. By the time I looked upstream, I saw the lady is fighting a fish, a really good one! Great! The guide Mike gave me a big wave and a thumb up! I guess this is still a great ending of the day!
I am a biologist grew up with a fishing rod in my hands. I have been fortunate enough to embrace my love of art and science in my career. Most of my free time were well spent in the nature, either studying bird behavior or chasing variety of fish with fly rods. My favorite art medium is watercolors, I love the natural and spontaneous feel created by watercolor pigments. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University. Welcome to my website. Mark