Saturday, September 3, 2011

Friends Family and Dry Fly Cutts

After watering up in Rocky Mountain House I handed over my IPhone to my wife Patsy.  For the next week I would be off the radar as I began a welcome vacation.  The first one we had taken as a family in quite some time.  Handing over the phone wasn’t too much of a sacrifice as I was going to be out of cell range anyway.  But I understood the symbolism of Patsy’s gesture.  Roughly an hour later we were nestled amongst the eastern slopes of the Rockies. 

Not a bad view upstream from camp

Good friends Bob and Karen joined us, both familiar with the area and what we could expect.  We camped in a field close to the river.  Our 19 foot trailer set up less than 100 yards from the river.  Each night the peaceful sound of running water soothed us as we drifted off to sleep.  Scramble camping, as Bob referred to it.  No fees, no rules, our dogs could run free and a good supply of dry firewood within easy reach.  The flame broiled steaks and hamburgers were superb!

Bob likes his beef flame broiled

The river we were on teamed with Westslope cutthroat, each willing and eager to eat dry flies.  My fly boxes were stuffed with all manner of foam and rubber, Chernobyl Ants, Charlie Boy Hoppers and Orange Crushes (a variation on the Chernobyl Ant theme).  As it turned out foam and rubber wasn’t the order of the day.  Mayflies were.  Pale Morning Duns (PMD’s), Green Drakes, Less Green Drakes (Flavs) and Dark Red Quills greeted us on almost every run.  Patsy, my two sons Brandon and Sean would be able to fish dry fly’s exclusively for the entire week.

Brandon, Patsy and Sean

I fished two dry flies the entire week, a poly winged olive Sparkle Dun and my own Stillwater Dun tied with an olive body and yellow rib to suggest the Green Drakes that the cutts seemed to show a preference for.  The Stillwater Dun can be found in my latest book, Stillwater Selections.  It is a thorax style dry fly that was originally designed for Callibaetis focused stillwater trout.  By altering its size and color scheme it has proven deadly imitating river and stream mayflies.  I have tweaked the recipe that is currently in my book by swapping the split partridge hackle tails with more durable blue dun hackle.  Here is my Green Drake and Lesser Green Drake (Flav) incantation, tie up a few for your fly box.

Stillwater Dun (Green Drake/Flav)

Hook:  Mustad C49S #8-#12
Thread: Olive 8/0
Tail: Blue saddle, trimmed to a V to form a forked tail, use one size larger saddle or neck than the hook
Rib: Yellow embroidery thread (one strand)
Body: Stillwater Solutions Soft Blend dubbing, olive
Wing: Grey poly yarn
Hackle: Grizzly dyed olive

Tying Note:  Trim the hackle beneath the fly using a two-step process. First, make one perpendicular cut across the bottom hackles roughly on the same plane as the hook point.  V trim the hackle to finish.  The end result is a fly that always lands right side up.

Cutt released to fight another day

The river’s resident cutts were fat, healthy and polite.  The day’s activity really didn’t get going until the air temperatures rose and the sun warmed the water.  Still, we were in the foothills and frost was an occurrence on a few mornings.  We had to be on the water at the crack of noon and by dinner time the day’s surface activity wound down to a trickle.  A short window perhaps but one perfectly timed for the relaxing week we planned on enjoying.  No mad sprint to the water to beat the crowds.  For the most part we never saw another angler. Each run contained fish and some runs where literally boiling if a hatch was on the go, a common occurrence for most of the week.

Mayflies of all sizes and colors were out in force

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and helping my family the finer points of river fishing.  My sons have spent most of their time chasing trout on stillwaters so teaching them the value of short accurate casts, proper positioning, how to study a run, deciphering rise forms, and using controlled slack for drag free presentations was new to them.  Both proved fast learners and were making intelligent reads and good accurate presentations in short order.

Sean with the reward of a drag free drift

This trip was also the first camping excursion for our golden retriever Tessa.  She was a wonderful companion, never straying far and most importantly stayed out of the water.  Tessa was always there to give each fish a sniff and a lick prior to release.  When we were working a run she would stand patiently at ours sides or rest on the bank.  With the hiking, wading and chasing the odd squirrel she was one tired mutt by days end!

Tired Tessa

My week long escape was relaxing, therapeutic and most of all fun.  How can you beat time with your family, good company, great food, a few beer, dry flies and cooperative cutthroat?  I hardly missed my IPhone at all!

The head of the pool.  The place to be!

Please visit my Facebook page for additional trip  images.  Bob and Karen also have an album on their Facebook page too.