Monday, December 1, 2014

The Off Season

I know that many of my acquaintances are still out there fishing, despite the foot of snow we got last Wednesday into Thursday.  I saw lots of photos of people fishing the Salmon River out near Pulaski over the weekend.  I saw some photos of nice rainbows and chromes from Lake Champlain tributaries.  I spent the long holiday weekend cooking and stacking firewood and skiing.  I'm pretty sure I'm done with the fly rods for the season with ski season now firmly underway.

I have returned to the last couple spots I fished this season, and my box of woolly buggers appears to be permanently gone.  Perhaps I'll stumble across that box upstream on Ayers Brook next season, and I'll ask a local friend who also fishes that brook to keep his eyes open next spring.

But, for now, I'm assuming those flies are gone.  And, they are hugely important flies to have with me at almost all times.

I mentioned in another post that Orvis had very kindly refunded my purchase price for some wading boots that fell apart earlier this season.  I had fished those boots for 2.5 seasons and they gave me a full refund.  I bought a different brand of boots, but I was determined to give that money back to Orvis.

So, over the weekend, I ordered some hooks, maribou, hackle for woolly buggers, chenille, and beads - enough material to tie at least 150 woolly buggers in white, olive and black/grizzly.  I paid Orvis back for the boots and then some.  But, these are easy flies to tie, they are important to carry in all but the lowest and clearest water conditions, and I now have better hackle material for them than I've been using.

So, I probably won't fish much for a while.  But, I'll be tying flies and dreaming of the next opening day.  I also intend to tie some big, bright streamers that will be useful on Opening Day, in the Otter Creek Classic tournament.  I have a nice selection of big heavy streamers from Montana Fly Company, but many of them are colors too dark for the early season "chocolate milk" water colors.  So, I'll work on some big, brightly colored flies for those conditions over the winter.

Plus, I need to tie some hare's ears, zug bugs, prince nymphs of various flavors, pheasant tails, RS2's, Ju Ju baetis, lots of stone fly variants, and a few other patterns that I use a lot.

So, my "off-season" should still be pretty busy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I almost fished

Saturday morning, I was getting ready to go fishing.  It was cold and windy, but I knew I could stay warm enough.  My plan was to fish the Winooski below the Bolton power dam.

I was in the garage, setting up my rod, when I ran into a problem.  I'd put on a sinking tip leader and added some 2x and 3x tippet material.  Next, my plan was a woolly bugger as my lead fly.  Except, when I reached for my box of woolly buggers in my vest, instead I found an unzipped pocket and no box of flies.

I spent the next half hour looking all around the house.  I searched the cars.  I searched the garage.  My fly tying gear.  I couldn't find the flies anywhere.

This was a box of flies I'd tied myself.  The woolly bugger is about as easy to tie as any fly out there.  Maybe the greenie weenie or San Juan worm is easier, but I rarely use those flies at all.  After about half an hour, I hopped in the car and drove to the last place I had fished (or at least, that's what I thought).

I looked all around the place where I parked, hoping the fly box might have dropped when I was putting my gear away.  I hiked down to the White River, looking carefully for the flies.  No luck at all.  Dejectedly, I drove home.

The financial loss isn't huge.  I had maybe 40 woolly buggers in that box.  For about $200, I can buy enough material to tie 300 woolly buggers.  I can easily tie 2 dozen of them in an evening rather than wasting time watching television.  If I buy them rather than tie them, I can replace the 40 flies for about $100 plus the cost of a fly box.  Given that I have too many fly boxes already, I won't even need to buy another one.

By the time I got home, it seemed like the air was colder, the wind was harsher, and I opted not to fish.  I watched college football instead.

Today, I double-checked a spreadsheet to see where I'd fished my last time out.  It turns out that I'd fished on Ayers Brook in Randolph, rather than the White River in Royalton.  So, I now have a new place to look for my missing flies, although with the short days, it might be the weekend before I get there to look.

My plan for this week is to tie some more woolly buggers.  I don't have to have them, and I could have fished without them on Saturday.  But, that's a fly I use a lot both early and late in the season, and I feel unprepared without them.

I think I have about 600 flies on hand at any point in time.  I'm sure that I could find other flies that the fish would take.  Or maybe, I was just being a weenie, and I let the missing fly box be an excuse to stay warm on a raw day.

I skied yesterday and I'm planning to ski again next weekend.  Hopefully, I'll find my flies or tie some more, and get out fishing for a bit next weekend.  But, it's also possible that my 2014 season is over.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Regular season ends tomorrow

I got out last weekend on Ayer's Brook, a tributary of the Third Branch of the White.  It can be a fun little stream at times, especially in the fall when browns leave the Third Branch to spawn in Ayer's Brook.  My previous time out, I hooked one brown but didn't get it to the net.

I was fishing that day with a friend who had taken a couple nice rainbows in Ayer's recently as well, and he turned two bows that night, but got nothing to the net.

But, this past weekend, the river seemed dead.  I was very careful as I approached some of the holes where browns will spawn, and I saw nothing.  Not one strike.  It was pretty frustrating actually, as I lost 5 dropper nymphs (fished behind a streamer) in 2 hours.  The stream is small and full of downed wood, so losing flies is not uncommon.  But, losing 5 with 0 strikes was frustrating.

The regular season for Vermont's trout waters ends at the end of October.  I had hoped to take off work tomorrow and fish that last day, but it just isn't going to happen.  So, as I think back on the season (it's not really over, but lots of water will be closed before the weekend), I'm torn on how to summarize things.

I caught more trout in Vermont this year than any other season in my life.

I had the most prolific trout day of my life outside of the Sierra Nevada or Alaska on the main branch of the White River.

I failed to catch one big fish this year, after taking 3 last year that I'd put in the "big" category.  I see pictures on Facebook all the time from people who are catching big fish here in Vermont.  The truth is, most of those fish are taken by guides that I know, by their clients, or by people who get to fish way more often than I fish.  If I'm lucky, I get in about 40 days per year.  And, I do consider myself lucky to have a life that allows me to fish that many days per year.  Every year, I try to ski 50 times and fly fish 50 times.  I rarely make that goal, but any time I get to 40 for either, it's a good year.  I'm not quite there for this year yet.

I got completely shut out this year on the Middlebury, Furnace Brook and Otter Creek.  The only trout I caught in Addison County came on the New Haven.

I caught only 2 small brookies on the Dog River, and I can't remember the last time I caught a brown on that river.  The Dog was listed as one of 5 Vermont streams in a new book published this year that listed the top 50 fly fishing waters in the northeast US.  If you count the Connecticut, on the VT/NH border, there were 6 local rivers in that book.  I've never fished 2 of them, and I fish 3 of them every year, but the Dog is a river that I still don't understand.

I caught fish on some new waters this year and found a really fun White River tributary that gave me one especially memorable morning of dry fly fishing.

I caught way more fish on the White this year (main branch and Third branch) than ever before, and I had one really short but fun evening with dries on the Third Branch.  Both rivers are still recovering from Hurricane Irene, but my best fish of the year all came from the Third Branch.

I caught my first ever browns on the Winooski, and I got 5 of them in that one day.

Rivers I fully intended to fish this year, but I didn't include the Lamoille, Clyde, Batten Kill, West Branch of the Au Sable in NY, Waits, Wells, Lewis, and the Black in southeastern VT.  I did fish the Black in northeastern VT.  Of those rivers, it's the Clyde and Batten Kill that I most want to fish, and I need to get there.  Sometimes, the learning curve of a brand new river that requires a long drive leads me to stay closer to home on waters I know.

I've still never taken a landlocked salmon (that's why I need to fish the Clyde) or a Vermont steelhead (Lewis).

I wish I had the money to fish with guides on a regular basis.

I'm hoping to save enough money over the winter to buy a 2-person pontoon float boat.  If I can pull that off, I'd use the boat mostly on the White, but also the Winooski and Connecticut.

Lastly, thanks to a new law that went into effect on January 1 of this year, a number of waters are now open year round for catch and release fly fishing.  Those include the main branch of the White and the Winooski, which is where I spent almost 50% of my fishing days in the regular season.  Plus, I can still explore the Waits in the extended season as well.

Tomorrow, my snow tires go on my car.  Ski resorts are getting ready to make snow.  Thanksgiving is coming.  But, I'm not quite done with the fly rod yet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Season winding down and I'm not catching anything

A friend of mine just posted a picture on Facebook of a nice rainbow he caught at lunch today.  It seems that everywhere I turn, local fishermen are taking nice fish, even as we approach the end of the "regular" season here in VT.  And yet, I'm catching nothing at all, it seems.

I've gotten out just once each of the past two weekends.  The first weekend, I hooked a brown briefly on my third cast and that was it.  I was hoping to get out again that weekend, but my wife and I needed to help her parents with a few things, so it never happened.

Last weekend, I had a lot to do, but I did get out for a few hours on Saturday evening.  I was mostly working streamers with a trailing nymph.  We'd had a lot of rain and the water levels had come up over 18" since I'd last fished this spot.  I was a bit dismayed when a drift boat came by just as I'd started to fish, and the boat not only didn't go around me, but instead the occupants drifted right through my hole and even cast into the hole while I was fishing it.  I was livid.  This is simply not an acceptable practice on a huge river that they otherwise had to themselves.

I started with a chartreuse weighted streamer and had one soft strike early.  I'm guessing the strike was on the nymph rather than the streamer.  For a while, I moved to a tan streamer with no luck.  Eventually, at the best spot in the stretch I was fishing, I went to a weighted white woolly bugger.  On my very first cast, I had a hard strike only a few feet from where I was standing, but I didn't hook the fish.  That was the last strike I had that day.

The last 5 days that I've fished the main branch of the White, I've caught a total of zero fish.  It's been over a month since I've caught a fish in that river.  I've been catching fish on the Winooski.  I've been getting an occasional fish on the Third Branch of the White.  But, in general, I've been averaging about one fish per day of fishing over the last 2 months.  If not for a 7-fish day on the White river, the average per day would be well under 1 fish.

So, maybe I've got a mistake in my blog.  Others are catching fish.  Big browns.  Rainbows.  Lake Champlain salmon and steelhead.  Lake Memphremagog salmon.  Just not me.  So, maybe I was overly kind when I wrote that I was a mediocre fisherman.  The last 2 months have been very frustrating.

Unlike last fall, I haven't caught a single big fish.  I've caught very few fish recently.

As the season winds down, I know I've caught more trout in Vermont than any previous season.  But, I've caught no big fish at all.  And, I find myself questioning what is going on.

Due to changes in state laws, some of the waters I fish are now open year round to catch and release fishing, instead of closing on 10/31.  If I'm lucky, I'll get out this weekend.  The next weekend would normally be too late, but I can now continue to fish.  I will probably still be out there until I find myself skiing instead.

But, it would be nice to be catching some fish, especially when my Facebook news feed shows that others are catching fish regularly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The fishing did get better thankfully

I'm not going to say that my wife is a jinx.  First of all, I enjoy being on the water with her.  I've had some very successful days while with her as well.  But, this is her first season fly fishing.  When I point out different bugs in the air, she just sort of listens.  Last week, I got excited when I saw my first Northern Case Maker caddis of the season in the air.  It meant absolutely nothing to her, but it certainly made a difference in my fishing the past few days.  I'll point out various bugs and then explain to her why we are using certain flies.  I do this as I'm tying her flies on for her.  Or getting her un-snagged (I did teach her to roll cast to try to get herself un-snagged this past week), or untangling knots.  Or simply checking her tippets for wear or her hooks for sharpness.  I guess the point is that I'm still doing all of these things for her, plus coaching her on how to cast, where to cast and where to stand when casting.  This takes time away from my fishing.

Still, I love being out there with her.  It's time we can share together.  It was fun to simultaneously hook some browns last week, even though neither of us landed the fish.  But, on Monday of this week, she went back to work and I still had three days of vacation time. - time that I'd be fishing alone.

Monday, I headed north to the Black River.  There are (at least) 2 Black Rivers in Vermont - one in the southeast portion of the state that empties into the Connecticut River and one in northern Vermont that empties into Lake Memphremagog.  The southern Black River is a well known trout stream and it can be crowded at times.  The northern Black River seems to be much less well known, and I've never seen another fisherman on that river.  Last September, I had a very fun 8-fish day on that river.

I started this Monday a few miles upstream from the town of Coventry.  In this part of the river, the primary fish are small wild rainbows.  The water was a little bit higher and cloudier than I expected, and not long after getting started, I changed my 2-nymph rig into a white bugger with a trailing BWO nymph.  On my third or fourth cast with the new set-up, I hooked a fish, but I never saw which fly it had taken.  A bit later, after no action for a while, and after losing my nymph to a snag, I switched to a small beadhead PT nymph.  Almost immediately, I hooked and lost a fish.  A few minutes later, I hooked and landed a feisty rainbow in fast water.  Fifteen minutes later, I hooked a slightly bigger fish in fast water, and after a nice fight, it threw the hook just as I was about to net it.  And then, things died.  I went 2 hours without another strike.  I even went into the town of Coventry and fished for a while at the falls.  This spot usually gives up at least a couple browns on stripped white woolly buggers.  Be careful not to fish this spot early in the year.  It is closed for fishing to protect spawning rainbows in the spring.  I think it opens on 6/1 every season.

So, despite an interesting period of time when the fish were "on", the day ended with only one rainbow in the net.  But, I'd had 3+ hours of fishing time just for me, and I'd had some strikes and hook-ups.  This was much better than any day the previous week.

On Tuesday, I headed to the Winooski.  I got to the river at 2:30 in the afternoon and I was surprised by the number of people fishing mid-afternoon on a week day.  Doesn't anybody have a job anymore?  Luckily, a popular spot that I fish on occasion was not occupied.  Both parking spots for this area were empty.  On the weekends, both are full all the time.  This spot is a long riffle leading into a sharp corner up against a stone face.  The best fishing tends to be higher in the riffle, in the moderately deep water, but the current is fast there.  I started with my rig from the day before - a white woolly bugger and a PT nymph.  This is a frequent tactic of mine.  Rather than change flies right as I arrive at a stream, I'll start with what is on my rod while I look into the water and into the air to see what insects I can find.  After 10 minutes with no strikes, I'd seen plenty of BWOs and one Northern Case Maker caddis.  I had the appropriate nymphs for these insects, but they weren't weighted and they were small.  So, I switched to a sinking tip leader and went with a 3-fly rig - size 14 Beadhead Prince Nymph to help get the flies down, size 16 orange caddis pupa, and size 18 ju ju baetis.  I continued to fish where I'd started, and after about 10 casts or so, decided to move downstream.  One thing I always do when I move up or down there days is leave my flies in the water.  You never know when just moving down or up a bit can lead to a strike, and that can't happen if the flies aren't in the water.

Just as I completed my 3rd or so step downsteam, I got a strike and hooked a fish.  It turned out to be a holdover stocked rainbow that had taken the baetis nymph.  Over the next hour, I caught 5 more fish, but surprisingly, they were all browns.  I got 1 on the prince nymph, 2 on the caddis, and 2 more on the baetis.  I rarely catch browns in the Winooski, so getting 5 was quite a surprise.  And, if I hadn't been paying attention, I could have completely missed that they were browns, and assumed they were light colored rainbows:

This is some of the lightest coloring I've ever seen on a brown trout, and all 5 of them were similar.

I kind of hated to leave this spot, but with about an hour of daylight left, I wanted to try a spot upstream that holds some big fish.  The river was really crowded by now, as the 9-5 workday people had descended on this stretch.  Someone immediately grabbed my parking space as I drove away, and I saw at least a dozen fishermen on the river during my drive upstream.  I was pretty sure my second destination would be empty, although it seems like more and more people are finding this spot these days.

The spot was empty, but the fishing was challenging.  Due to slower currents, I had to get rid of the sinking tip leader.  Otherwise, I kept the same fly rig.  I managed one wild rainbow on the baetis just after sunset, but that was it.  Even though a full moon was rising behind me and I intended to fish into the darkness for a bit (I was wishing that I had some mouse patterns with me), that ended abruptly when some kids who live nearby started throwing large stones into the water near me.  I yelled to them a few times but only heard laughter in return.  Rather than risking a rock in the noggin, I called it a night.  But, 7 fish in a day was my best day in months.

Yesterday was my last day of vacation.  The weather forecast called for intermittent rain.  My son needed to use the car in the morning.  My daughter had a 4:00 soccer game.  This limited my time, so I opted to fish the Third Branch of the White.  This is a river that has been challenging to me for years, despite the fact that I can access it less than 2 miles from my house.  But, it seems to finally be recovering from Hurricane Irene and the number of wild fish is definitely on the rise.  Due to my limited time, I had to fish quickly - a few casts in each hole and then move on.  This allowed me to cover over half a mile of water in less than 2 hours.  Early on, while still in a tributary named Ayers Brook, a fish flashed at the bugger, but never struck. Fifteen minutes later, in a hole that was crystal clear, I noticed my woolly bugger being sucked under a branch, and I was afraid of a snag.  I pulled the fly back to try to avoid the snag and was shocked to discover that I'd hooked a brown on my trailing PT nymph.  I don't know if the change in direction triggered the strike, or if the timing was just lucky.  Either way,  I managed to catch a stunningly beautiful wild brown:

The rest of the fishing resulted in no strikes at all, although I wish I'd had another hour to fish the last 2 big holes.  I hiked through town, back to my car, and caught the second half of my daughter's soccer game.  And just like that, my vacation is over.

However, fishing season is far from over.  There are 3 weeks left in the regular season, and I can fish the lower Otter, lower Winooski and lower White all winter if I want.  I'm sure I'll be out there again this weekend, with or without my wife.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not what I expected

My fishing vacation has pretty much been a bust so far.

I took a week off a bit earlier last season and did pretty well.  I've been at it for over a week now and the fishing has been unbelievably slow, while at the same time, I am seeing reports of lots of fish and big fish from around the state.  It's been very disappointing, to say the least.

We started just over a week ago - my wife and I - on a Saturday morning on the White River.  This has been a consistently good spot for me, but there was just nothing going on that morning.  We went through the standard flies for this time of year - Hare's Ear, Prince Nymph variations, BWO nymphs (small ju ju baetis, RS2's and tiny bead-head swimmers), pheasant tail, orange caddis pupa (the Northern Casemaker caddis is one of our latest hatches), etc.  I also tried an iso dry for a while with no luck.  Despite a sunny morning, we saw just a few BWOs and tricos in the air.  No surface action.  no strikes.

The next evening, we headed further downstream on the same river.  Same flies.  Same lack of luck.  Again, no bugs in the air, despite some warm sunlight.

The next day, we fished the Winooski in two different spots.  The first one almost always produces fish, especially when there are BWOs around.  There were just a few BWOs in the air, but neither wets nor dries produced fish.  Not one strike.

Now, to be honest, our water levels are low and the water is clear, especially on the White.  We have stayed away from big streamers so far, waiting for some water to cloud up the rivers and bit.

We moved downstream on the Winooski to a spot that doesn't give up many fish, but frequently gives up big fish.  Just before sunset, my wife and I each caught one fish on an iso nymph, while on the retrieve.  That is a funny thing about this hole; dead drifting and fishing on the swing seem to fail often, while fish will attack on the retrieve.  Hey, whatever works.

The next day, we headed to Addison County.  My son came along this day.  We started on the New Haven, just above Bristol, in some nice pocket water.  Absolutely nothing.  We got some lunch and stopped in at the local fly shop.  I picked up a few extra ju ju baetis and orange caddis pupa, and the guy at the shop said that our next destination was fishing as well as anywhere.  So, we headed to Belden Falls on the Otter Creek, fishing from the far side.  But, the water was low and the fishing was just plain slow.  I caught one smallmouth on a Montana Prince Nymph.  The takes were all very subtle.  At one point, my wife and I each hooked a brown at the same time.  I don't think she ever really set the hook and the fish was gone quickly.  For me, it was just bad luck.  I was fishing a double-nymph rig and the fish was on the upper fly.  I had him almost to the net when the trailing fly snagged for a moment and that allowed the fish to easily escape my barbless hook.

After that, we had a couple days of other obligations, including an expensive trip to Boston to see Bryan Ferry, who cancelled the show long after all of our gas, food and lodging money had been spent.  This was very disappointing.  I really wanted to see the show, but I also hated spending so much money to see nothing at all.

Last night, we got back out on the river.  We fished the White again, in some pocket water between our last two fishing spots.  We'd had some decent rain the night before, so I pulled out some streamers.  The best colors in that river are usually olive or black, so I concentrate on those, plus the normal nymphs.  I had one strike in 3 hours.  My wife had none.  Just as we'd started to fish, a local friend had sent me a text, asking if I wanted to join him and a friend in a river closer to home.  We passed, not wanting to create a group of 4 on a small river.  He later caught a 20" (or so - my best estimate from photo) rainbow, got half a dozen fish to net including one nice brown as well, and missed more than he caught.  The one difference in terms of flies was that he was using white streamers rather than dark.

My wife is back at work today.  After 5 days of fishing, we have each caught 1 trout.  I have three days of vacation left, and I'm leaving shortly for a long drive to northern Vermont to a river where I usually do well with small wild rainbows and occasionally a big brown downstream.  It's supposed to rain the next two days after today, so I'm not sure where I'll fish, but I'll be out there, I'm sure.

Compared to my vacation a year ago, this one has pretty much been a bust.  I caught 2 big rainbows last fall and I got fish almost every day out.  These days, it seems like a good day if I simply hook one fish.

Maybe I really do suck at this game.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Third Branch of the White

I consider the White to be my "home" river.  I fish there at least 50% of the time that I fish.  But, I tend to fish the main branch despite living only 2 miles from the Third Branch.  Why?  Because I tend to find that the Third Branch sucks.  The other guy in my small town that fly fishes a lot says that he gets skunked at least every other trip to the Third Branch.  Recently, he's had some better luck, running into a yellow sulphur hatch and getting some fish, and he's even taken rainbows with mouse patterns.  But, he's a good fisherman and even he admits he struggles on the Third Branch.  A fisherman that I see once a year in Addison county for a fly fishing tournament tells me how lucky I am to live by that river.  I think he may have last fished it 20 years ago, when it had a reputation as a decent river.  These days, it's a struggle and a little more driving almost always yields some fish.  (Well, Saturday morning, I was skunked on the Winooski, so other rivers are not always better.)

Upstream from the town where I live, the state stocks brookies in the river.  From the middle of town down to Bethel, the state stocks browns.  I usually catch a few of those browns every year, but not too many.  I know that there are large wild fish in the river as well.  One of my son's co-workers took a brown close to 30" 2 summers ago.  A friend saw a fish at least 24" spawning in a tributary last fall.  A few years earlier, someone kept a stringer-full of 5 browns and they were all huge.  So, those fish are in there, but I find it to be a very tough river.  For the most part, to be honest, I just ignore it and drive a bit more to fish the main branch.

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking a nap on the couch, planning to fish, closer to sunset, about 20 miles downstream from where we live.  While I was taking a nap, the aforementioned local friend sent a text.  He had found a huge hatch of flying ants midday and was fishing on the Third Branch.  I saw this text a few hours later and assumed I'd missed it completely.  But, shortly after I saw the first text, he sent two more.  He told me where he'd been fishing and said to "just head down to the river and listen for the splashes".

Dry fly fishing opportunities like that don't come along very often, so I headed out quickly.  I found the spot, but had a few issues.  It was a steep descent to the river.  The land was posted against trespassing.  And, even down at the river, I didn't see any easy way to cross to where I needed to fish.  But, I could see fish rising, so I knew I had to fish.  This was right where a small stream entered the third branch.  So, I hopped in my car and drove to a spot where that smaller stream crossed a road, and waded/hiked about 20 minutes downstream.

As I arrived at the spot, things were very quiet.  The flying ant hatch appeared to be over.  I approached the water very stealthily, keeping a low profile, even though the sun was already behind the distant peaks.  As I knelt down to tie on an ant pattern, a fish broke the surface.  Then another.  And another.  By the time I was ready to cast, there were 8-10 fish working the surface.

I tried a few casts (I had tied on an ant pattern hoping to match the flying ant hatch that was winding down) into the lower, slower pool, which is where the fish seemed bigger.  But, they were also wary and I couldn't tempt them to the surface.  Even with a long, fine leader, each cast seemed to put the fish down for a bit.  So, I worked on the lower end of a riffle where some smaller fish were working the surface pretty loudly.  After 10-12 casts and no strikes, I wasn't sure what was up.  I couldn't see my fly in the water, so it was hard to know if it was floating or even in the right lane for the fish.

I reeled in to change flies, and discovered I couldn't see my ant because it wasn't there.  It had snapped off, probably on my first cast or two, and due to a bad knot.  I was really torn on what fly to use.  Finally, I opted for a size 16 Royal Wulff, primarily because it seemed the fish were eating small bugs and this one would be easy to see.

By the time I changed flies, I knew my fishing time was short.  It was already sunset or close to it, and I had a decent hike back to the car.  But, on my third cast to the riffle, a fish hit my fly hard.  It was a decent brown, although I couldn't be sure if it was a wild fish or a holdover from spring stocking:

I apologize for the poor pictures, but when I'm solo, I try to keep the net wet, land the fish, unhook it quickly, snap a quick photo, and get the fish back in the water.  This brownie was probably just short of 12".

It was only a few casts later that I had another take.  This time, the fish was clearly bigger, and it moved downstream to fight in the big, deep water.  At one point, it had taken out most of my fly line, and it was showing no signs of getting tired.  The fish was deep, my fly line was deep, and suddenly the water erupted on the other side of the stream as the fish streaked for the surface.  At that point, I was finally aware that it was a rainbow and not a brown.  After a good fight, I landed the feisty fat rainbow - one of the my better fish of the year.  I quickly got this fish unhooked and back into the water, but I got a decent photo:

At this point, the fish were all down.  The rainbow had seemingly notified every fish within 100 yards to be careful.  I sat on the bank, waiting for any fish to return to the surface.  The first fish to return were the bigger fish in the slower water.  However, they were still very wary and any cast in their direction put them down immediately.  Not long after that, the fish in the riffle started rising again.  This time, it only took one cast and I hooked another fish.  My first thought was that it was a rainbow, because it was tail dancing on the surface the second it felt the hook.  Instead, it turned out to be a brown - the smallest of the 3 fish I'd caught:

At this point in time, it was about 20 minutes past sunset.  I had a tough hike back to the car.  But, I didn't want to quit quite yet.  I waited 3-4 minutes to be sure no fish would return to the surface, but it remained very quiet.  So, I headed to the car.

All told, I probably drove 40 minutes.  I hiked another 40 minutes.  I fished maybe 25 minutes, and probably 5 of those minutes, I had no fly on my line.  Other times, I was simply in a waiting mode.  So, in 15 minutes of real fishing, I took 3 nice fish from a river that rarely gives me any fish at all.  I'd call it quite a successful little adventure.

In 5 days, my fly fishing vacation starts, not that I'm counting down the days...