Potomac-Patuxent Chapter Trout Unlimited
To kick things off, Bob Dietz gave a wonderful presentation on how to select, rig and fish the wet fly. If you’ve never seen Bob’s presentation you’re missing out. He explains some of the history and development of particular flies, rivers of their origin, even some of the politics that swirled around English fly fishing. I’ve seen Bob’s presentation a couple of times and think it’s more informative and easier understood than most of the programs I’ve seen at the fly fishing shows.
Unfortunately I had some stuff I had to do late afternoon and was only able to fish till about 4 pm, so this is a two part report. I’ll do the first half; then Ken Bowyer who stayed all day will finish it up.
After a little picnic lunch, Ken, Bob O’Donnell and I drove up to lower Falls Road and hiked up river from there. All the pools close to the road were occupied but as we hiked further in some good water opened up. The water was so clear I could clearly see the bottom of pools several feet deep, and the spring colors being so vibrant I decided to fish without my sunglasses. Midges were out by the billions and I found a pool about a half mile up where fish were rising to them. They were big grays’, maybe a size #20 or so, and I had several mating swarms come so close I could see the center flies coalesce into tight clusters and lose altitude before breaking up to rise and cluster again.
It was obvious the fish were on them, the difficulty was getting fish to take my confederate instead of the thousands of real flies dipping on or hovering just above the surface. Checking to see if they were on the Sulphurs I tied on a #14 Deer Hair Emerger and got a swipe on the first cast, then a fish on the second. After a couple more drifts I switched to the Sulphur Wet. When pounding the same stretch of water I fish single flies instead of a tandem rig; reasoning the fish will normalize and stop reacting to the same fly after they’ve seen it come by a few times, and the rotation stretches out my options. For the next couple hours this is what I did, rotating the Deer Hair emerger, with two different Sulphur wet patterns, and changing my casting position from one end of the pool to the other every 30 minutes to vary my drift. It wasn’t anything crazy but I had fairly steady action and ended up with five hook ups on the emerger, and three on the wets, netting a total of five.
By 3:30 and the Sulphurs were coming off pretty regular and the fish getting more aggressive, but I knew I needed to scoot. I saw Ken working his way up the path so when he got there I turned the pool over to him and headed out. So at this point I’ll turn the report over to Ken.
A few others also had to leave early on Saturday. Jack Benoit fished 50 ft of riffles downstream from the picnic area at York Road. In 2.5 hours, he brought 7 smallish (6-9 in) beautiful browns to hand using a size 16 gold wire pheasant tail nymph.
Bob Kaiser had a good time working the sporadic sulfur emergers in the early afternoon. He then switched to a hare's ear nymph and pink San Juan worm and landed three 10" fish.
Joe Kunsman fished upstream for a little over 2 hours. The most important thing Joe learned from the clinic was that it is illegal to fish with 3 flies in Maryland. He should be in jail by now! After trying to imitate our instructor fishing a Partridge and yellow upstream under the Interstate bridge and catching one nice brown he moved up to the somewhat shallow flat water just above. To his surprise in the clear comparatively shallow and flat water he was looking at a great number of trout holding in feeding lanes. He stood right behind them and they paid him no heed. He tried a lot of flies including a nice selection of wets but they hardly moved or showed any interest. Finally he put on a #18 parachute Adams. In less than an hour he netted 5 nice trout on six strikes. Here is the neat thing as he saw every take from beginning to end. He had never sight fished exactly like that before, a totally fun experience. On pulling out of the parking lot he lost a tail light on the guardrail. Great for his wife's car on Mother's day!
Bob Dietz went to Bunker Hill after lunch. He tied on a sulfur emerger wet a size smaller than he was using at York, and almost immediately took a trout. He then proceeded to lose that fly in a tree; it was the only size 16 he was carrying. Steve Fletcher showed up; they fished fruitlessly for a while, and then agreed to meet back at the spot in the evening. Bob worked his way downstream to almost I83, with only a few takes and no hookups. Working his way back upstream, he came across a flat area with trout rising everywhere to midges. After experimenting with flies for a bit, he took four on a Renegade without even moving his feet. The first of these made him regret that he had not charged his camera -- it had a completely red adipose fin and was quite striking. The fourth fish swallowed the fly, so he cut it off and tied on another Renegade. "That fly immediately turned my leader into a corkscrew so that I needed to tie in a new section of tippet. By the time I finished, the fish had stopped rising, so I took it as a sign that it was time to move on. (I'm not sure why, but for some reason unfished Renegades tend to corkscrew my tippet. They're fine after I've fished them for a while. You would think that a fly tied in the round wouldn't do that.)"
By the time he got back to Bunker Hill it was around 5 and Steve was there trying his luck with his tenkara rod. "No joy for either of us for the couple of hours, even though there were fish rising steadily around us. We were joined by one more angler, who wasn't having any more luck than we were. He did mention that there was going to be a streamside tenkara demo next weekend. I believe it's to be in conjunction with the Maryland chapter picnic."
"Steve gave up, and watched me fish from the bank, while the three of us there did more talking than catching of fish."
Being focused on sulfurs, which were there but sporadic, Bob somehow failed to notice that there were a lot of caddis, of several species, on the water. A quick fly change to something more caddis appropriate, and he immediately put his fly into a log on the opposite bank, losing both flies. He then repeated that performance -- twice. Re-rigging had used up enough time that the sulfurs finally came on in numbers, and the trout were noticing. Every one he saw on the surface was very gently sipped, no splashy rise at all. He put on the largest sulfur comparadun that he had (they were definitely the larger sulfurs) and started to take fish immediately. He netted four and a fifth self released close enough that there was leader inside the tip top. This was all in about a fifteen or twenty minute period. There was probably enough light left to catch at least one more, but by then he was cold and tired, and called it a day.
That made for about 9 fish for the day if Bob added it up correctly, but he worked for them. He said he also lost more flies in one day than he had for the season up until now, so he paid for them as well.
As Dennis mentioned earlier, he, Bob O'Donnell and I hiked in from the lower Falls Road parking lot to the canyon section. Bob took one of the first pools in this section. Dennis continued up stream and I stopped at one of the middle pools. The first pool I fished had no rising fish but a bunch of midges and a few sulphurs were hatching. After trying several sulphur patterns including a partridge and orange, and midge patterns including zebra midges and griffith gnats to no avail, I switched to a parachute adams with a pink san juan worm as a dropper. To my surprise, a small brown smashed the parachute adams. I got a few more swipes and looks at the adams before switching to a light hendrickson which produced another brown. There were 2-3 small grayish birds buzzing this pool while I fished. They buzzed me a couple of times like Hummingbirds but maybe somebody can identify them correctly for me. I decided to move upstream to the next pool where I found several fish rising occasionally. I spent the next 1.5 hours throwing a dozen different flies to these fish without getting more than an occasional look. A highlight of fishing this pool took place when a dragonfly was flying about a foot above the surface when a brown trout came up and snatched it out of the air! Then I moved up stream finding Dennis getting ready to leave at about 4 PM. While he reported success on deer hair sulphur emerges, I tried 2 different sizes of this emerger along with 2 different sizes of CDC emergers to no avail. I then brought 2 browns to net on a Little Marryat wet fly and also had several more strikes before things went dead for about 45 minutes. For about an hour starting at 5:15, more sulphurs were hatching and fish were rising frequently. During this time, I caught 6 more browns and lost 2 others with 2 taking a partridge and orange and the others taking a parachute sulphur. Things shut down around 6:15 so I quit at 6:30 and on the hike back to the parking lot, I didn't see any more rising fish in the various pools I passed. I ended up landing 10 and losing 2 others in additions to the many missed strikes, etc. At the parking lot, Dave Simms had just finished changing out of his gear and reported that he didn't have a good day. A short time later, Lou Reichel returned to the parking lot and reported the following.
After lunch, Lou caught two on partridge and yellow below York Rd. Bob D. did not like any of the flies he tied. With a large midge hatch on the water, he changed to midge pupa/larva with no luck even though he did see rises. A crazy duck wouldn't leave him alone.
At about 4:00 he went up to lower parking at Falls Rd. and met Bob O'Donnel on the river. Sulphurs were hatching and fish were rising. He played around with wet flies and CDC and deer hair emerges. After seeing a brown trout play with a sulphur on the water, he changed to a comparadun emerger with shuck, and then typical dry sulphur ("biggest I could find around #12"). He got 6 and missed many more. One small brown (about 8 inches) had the fly deep in it's mouth and while getting it out with forceps, Lou saw a black spot in mouth, and a small black midge came out of mouth and flew away. Around 6:15-6:30 with the sun at eye level shining bright, down and across river gorge, the water appeared orange and red and the trout stopped feeding immediately. They must be affected by reflection of sun going down.
Bob O'Donnell returned shortly there after. He took 3 right off the bat on a partridge & orange that our president tied and handed to him a long time ago. The 3rd fish unraveled the fly and he was done for a spell after that. That partridge and orange was the only one he had and they didn't like any of the other wet flies he tried. Fish were rising and jumping in front of him so he switched over to dries. He took 1 on a tiny light cahill and then 3 more on a parachute sulpher working his way down to the bridge at Falls Road. The best fish was the first one, a brown about 14" out of that deep hole where he started fishing. Bob and I went to McDonalds for a quick dinner before heading home.
Thanks again to Bob Dietz for the excellent wet fly clinic. There’s still time to make another trip to the Gunpowder and try his techniques during the sulphur hatch.
Dennis Covert and Ken Bowyer
© Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited 1999-2018
P.O. Box 2865 Wheaton, MD 20915
This document last modified 05/16/12