They were both going to be caught.
I know that’s saying something but it was patently obvious. We were on a long flat that was only interrupted by a few subtle seam lines. We’d waited a long, hot day with mixed result – quite good given the conditions; quite sporadic compared to what we’d hoped for. But here were a few rainbows rising on the flats. One was on the flat in front of me showing that it would have nothing of my caddis nor pmd dun patterns cast three times each. Fair enough. I’d originally hoped it would take the caddis as most had done so. The next option was obvious – change to a pmd. I tied on a sparse dun pattern as the spinner fall was on and the long-tailed, translucent and upright-winged spinners were drifting through. My dun was the right size and color but the wing too thick. So I went to stage three: feed the fish what it wants. A novel concept. I dug into the mayfly box and on line 3 was the line-up of pmd spent-winged spinners. Cast #1 of fly #3 and up came the chops: fish on. A nice 20″ rainbow landed soon after.
At the same time Amelia had landed a nice, fat rainbow and Ian snapped his fat bow off in a fun triple header. Another rose above Amelia, doing exactly what my fish had just been doing: sipping spent pmd spinners. She too had a caddis on that she’d just caught her fish on. This next fish would have none of her caddis, then none of her pmd dun pattern – the same patterns mine had none of. She gave way to me, choosing to watch me with my spinner rather than change her fly.
I was cross river, watching this nice rainbow popping so subtly at spinners. Maybe 18 – 20 yards from me, it was a perfect mid-distance cast, yet a long distance spinner cast. My first cast was short; second through fourth shroud in competition for attention by several naturals. My fifth cast landed and I made the comment “That’s the one, it’s all by himself.” Jenn made comment behind me that he was a lonely pmd. And lonely pmds fed in the feeding line of a rainbow sipping pmd spinners get eaten. And was.
These two rainbows were doing exactly what thrills me in fly fishing: freely feeding trout eating small shit on long, quiet, calm glides. I know it smacks of “too much fishing” but that exact scenario is what really gets me going. Honestly, the early season in Alberta is about fishing with streamers or big foam/hair patterns cast at water and structure. Sure there are fish to cast to, rising, and often lots of them, but the getting is far too easy as big spring and early summer trout give themselves up far too easily. And New Zealand trout: our trip to New Zealand this year (as with most trips to New Zealand, honestly) was a game of spotting fish and hoping they weren’t doggo from drought east of the alps, doggo from night-time mouse feeding in the alps, or weren’t exhausted from battling perpetual floods on the west coast. As is so often the case in New Zealand we weren’t fishing to freely feeding fish, rather, working the edges of feeding windows of fish that had environmentally induced concerns impacting them. We simply worked the feeding window edges in hopes of attracting them. Some of the mice fish were simply far too comatose to care if we cast once or 120 times – and most gave us a take eventually. Some may feel this a slight to New Zealand: it’s obviously not intended as such, it’s just how things are quite often when working fish and water there. Terrestrials and nymphs along the edges of feeding windows dominate, while so few opportunities with mayflies, caddis, or other smaller insects that require a lighter touch are available on most waters. Of course these happen but the percentages of such engagements are so low.
To get back to the pmd spinner eating rainbows on the flats: they were simply wonderful. A #18 spent-wing pmd pattern cast cross river into the line of a rising fish on a flat. That’s fly fishing. To do it with friends on a perfectly sized stream on a stunning evening: perfect. Here’s hoping we engage exactly that several more times this summer and through fall. Thanks Jenn for taking the time to snap a great photo of one of what are the two favorite fish since last fall. 🙂
See more of Jenn’s work at Ammolie Photography on Facebook.