The other weekend I was up near Bend for a family trip and I had the opportunity to get out on some of the trout waters in the surrounding area. The mornings were cold and the air was crisp. Walking the banks of the streams, seeing different hatches through the day and the occasional fish coming up to the surface all let me know that I was surely in trout country.
On the last day of our trip Miranda and I stopped in a few spots on a small local creek. The first spot we came to was so still and silent. There was one fish sitting in right where the trail met the river. I worked the fish for a bit, trying three of four tiny flies with no success. He looked at a few presentations but never committed. My trout game is rusty. Tying size 18 flies with 6x felt so foreign compared to my usual setup this time of year with size 5 traditional spey hooks and 10lb Maxima.
I walked up and down the banks in this first spot and that single fish was the only one I was able to spot. The river just felt barren in that stretch. Before heading home, we decided to stop in to one more spot, just an unlabeled parking lot off the highway. There were a number of other fisherman there which to me felt like a good sign. We hopped out of my Jeep and started down the trail. When the trail met the river one of the first things I saw was a fish coming slowly to the surface to take a small dry. Another good sign!
We sat on the river bank for a bit, watching the fish and the mayfly hatch, while I was forming a gameplan in my head. There was a small tuft of grassy bank that was exposed on the near side and it looked like I could kneel on it and get a good downstream presentation to the rising fish. As I started to approach the outcropping I slipped and nearly popped my left shoulder out of place. It has dislocated many times over the years but this time it stayed in place thankfully.
As I knelt into position I had Miranda downstream focused on me and I said, “Get ready.” I rolled my shoulder around a bit making sure it was in there good enough to get back to business. It was. The first few presentations went straight by the rising fish with no interest. Miranda is used to me being on alert, with nothing happening. I switched my 16 Parachute Adams to a size 12 Para Wulff in Purple, more similar to the size of what I saw flying around. I set up a reach cast about four feet upstream from the largest fish I saw working in that pool. On the first drift he came gently toward my fly and slowly opened his jaw.
I was fishing my 8’6” 3wt Redington Classic Trout that day. I like the 3wt in these situations because the lower line speed and reduced power makes for more stealthy presentations. It was so fun the feel the deep bend in this little rod under the tension of a nice fish. Fishing 6X, I appreciated the soft action for protecting the little tippet. And the end of a good fight, I got the fish to hand. I was so impressed with the color and spots and size of this dry fly eater. And that feeling of satisfaction lasted well beyond the commute back home.
It was so fun to get out and do some trout fishing in a different area. When it’s good, and the trout are feeding up top, it’s such an engaging way to fish. I’m so set in my ways with swinging flies that I’ve got used to the slow pace of the swing and the way a steelhead feels when it first comes to the fly. Trout fishing is so much more active and in a lot of ways it’s much more challenging. The casts need to be accurate as does the offering in many situations. I’m looking forward to more trout fishing down the road.
Words by Marcus Mattioli
Images by my awesome girlfriend Miranda Stiles