I swatted the ten millionth mosquito out of my face and focused on her moving tail. Some 30 feet in front of me in clear water was a beautifully large rainbow trout sipping away at the little mayflies off the surface. She was just a foot or so below the water, but right above a weed bed.
She was enjoying this bug factory of a river and was sending a steady amount of ripples downstream.
For several minutes I just sat back to see what she was targeting. She leaned right - her mouth opened. Ate a nymph or midge I guess. She moved up to the surface and downed a little emerging mayfly. Back down again. She leaned left to eat something else. Another 5 minutes went by with me just listening to the birds watching this beautiful fish eat above the green weeds.
Trees behind and above, and weeds on the bank below make casting very difficult here. Not to mention, directly above her was a tree branch that was nearly touching the water. As I looked at the tree branch I somehow managed to watch a beetle (or something) drop into the water. It drifted helplessly into the big girl’s feeding lane. She made fast work of him! With a decent explosion he met his watery grave.
This gave me excellent knowledge! If she was willing to crash on a terrestrial all I needed to tie on was a bionic ant! They have become one of my summertime confidence flies. They float well, and are easily visible. It also seems like trout take ants with reckless abandon. This fly was the perfect decision.I could cast above her feeding lane and let it drift down through - hopefully she would demolish it like I witnessed!
I made the cast. It drifted, then drifted, then drifted right past her. Maybe it was to close to the bank. Another cast, directly over top of her it went.
No cares were given.
Many different books and guides would tell you for fish like this it’s wise to change something when you get a refusal. Since changing flies is quick I put on an even smaller pattern that is quite similar to an elk hair caddis. My thought was, she would see it and think it was some kind of random bug. A small caddis, a beetle, an ant, or maybe even a little mayfly - who knows!
I delicately placed the size 18 dry fly right into her lane. My luck was surreal for this casting environment. I somehow manage to get 2 perfect drifts back to back!
It went right over top of her and I watched her gracefully tilt up to the fly. At the last moment, she sunk back to her original depth…
A little frustrated my analytical mind tried to think through what I did wrong. Drag? Don’t think so, there was plenty of slack and no strange currents here. Pattern? Maybe. She didn’t seem to care what she was eating on before, a tiny midge, a nymph, and some terrestrial. I did what any regular person would do - I frustratingly sent another cast.
Only this time it was a little different. There was a firm tug on my forward cast. Before anything could be done I realized I had hooked a foot long twig with my backcast. Apparently, the force from my cast was enough to break it and send it towards the fish with my little fly attached to it. With a loud splash it exploded on the surface inches in front of my fish. The tail was all I saw as I watched her bolt to the other side of the river.
I went home with the dream of a beautiful fish and a few million mosquito bites. I hope I never forget bug spray again…