On a recent trip to the upper Colorado River, an offhand observation ended up turning a day of bitter skunking into a dry-fly bonanza. Even though this particular scenario may never happen to you, it highlights the importance of paying attention to detail and being willing to adapt to unexpected conditions, two critical components to success in fly-fishing.
After a terribly crowded weekend day of bumper-boats, a couple friends and I decided to drive back up to the launch in the evening, and were pleasantly surprised to find it nearly vacant. We spread out and began walking the near bank, casting hopper/dropper rigs into the first seam or chucking streamers at the far bank, just as we had been doing all day. Despite our best efforts, however, the nets remained dry.
Believe Your Eyes
As I was moving up to make my next cast, I noticed a distinct V-shaped wake zipping away from the bank about 20 feet above me, like a mullet on a salt flat. Could that have been a trout in water that skinny? It seemed unlikely, but there was a mud puff in that spot when I got closer, so something bigger than a minnow had definitely been sitting there. A few minutes later, it happened again, but this time I caught a brief glimpse of a sizable trout as it bolted from a lie that was practically on the shore.
I’m still not sure why they were sitting so shallow, but it seemed to be a pattern by that point, and there was a lot more shoreline left to cover. I actually took a few casts with my hopper/dropper rig first, spooking yet another fish away from the shore with it before realizing it wasn’t going to work in this scenario. Taking time to sit down and build a completely new rig when you’re racing against the sunset is not an easy decision to make, but in this case, it made all the difference.
Now armed with tandem rig featuring a size 18 Parachute Adams and my all-time-favorite Ice Dub Renegade on a long leader with light tippet, I began making delicate casts that landed just a few inches from shore, and immediately hooked into a beautiful, 16-inch brown. My friends ran up to join me, and over the next 45 minutes or so until dark, we each landed several nice trout, all sitting less than a foot from the bank. Once again, a casual observation, followed by willingness to try a different approach, resulted in an extremely satisfying end to an otherwise frustrating day.
Evan Jones is the assistant editor of the Orvis Fly Fishing blog. He spent a decade living on the Florida coast and now makes his home on the Front Range of Colorado.