Held to a higher standard
I have found that being waist deep in flowing water with a fly rod in one hand and a staff in the other demands a certain amount of attention. This is even more delicate if the run being traversed has any kind of gradient to it and the ice chest size boulders are even slightly covered in moss.
This is where I found myself last week, delicately feeling my way through the gaps between the boulders - that's where I saw what was a magnificent Brown trout, I am sure it was 28 inches but it'd lost it's color and was covered with a grey slime. Perhaps it'd come naturally to the end of it's life?
Let's talk about fish handling.
As Anglers, specifically Fly Fishing Anglers, I believe we are held to a higher standard than all others as our craft, is more art and science than baiting a hook or casting a flashing spinner.
Trout are delicate and beautiful animals and need care.
- Always wet your hands before you touch the fish - this helps preserve the defensive slime they rely on.
- Do not play the fish to exhaustion - play the fish to the net, especially if the water is on the warmer side.
- Trout will rarely squirm if turned upside down - use this technique if possible, then slide, don't drop the fish back into the water.
- Use a net that's big enough and floats so you can work to unhook the fish while it's underwater.
- If you are taking the fish out of the water to remove the hook then do not squeeze as that can damage internal organs.
- Consider spending some time letting that fish rest in the net or releasing it in slower water so it can revive.
- Certainly use barbless hooks.
PHOTO OPPS ON THE FLY
- If a picture is wanted then do your best to get it all set up and leave that fish in the water until just before the picture is taken.
- If you fish alone then consider pictures that leave the fish in the water with just a tail sticking out or maybe just it's back showing - these can be a lot of fun and a creative way to remember that magnificent creature you just landed.
Get out there and have some fun. You deserve it!
Charley Beals, Conejo Valley Fly Fishers President
Fishing the Owyhee River
" . . . fish in the 22" to 24" range not being uncommon."
Mike Bereny, Charley Beals and I recently threw caution (good sense?) to the wind and decided to damn the risk and make our annual trip to Oregon to stalk the big browns in the Owyhee River. This was the 10th year in a row for a couple of us and it did not disappoint.
At the time of its dedication in 1932 the Owyhee Dam was the tallest concrete arch dam in the world and was the prototype for the Hoover Dam. The dam was built in four years which is unheard of today and in the 1700's & 1800's the Owyhee River had a large beaver population which was exploited by the Hudson Bay Company and America Fur Company which was owned by John Jacob Astor (of Astoria Hotel fame).
--- end of history lesson ---
The real appeal of the Owyhee is the very healthy brown trout fishery below the dam. You hear stories of browns up to 36 inches being hooked, however about the largest brown I've seen is probably closer to 28 inches with fish in the 22" to 24" range not being uncommon.
Not only are these fish very large and strong, but they are very adept at using the rivers current and structure (rocks & boulders) to prevent you from landing them. I'm on my third net as I never seem to take one that is large enough. Even in a large net these fish can flop out causing you to miss that trophy photo so care is advised. Getting the fish to the net is also complicated by the fact that the fish tend to key in on very small flies. Size 20's to 24's sometimes on 6x tippet. A challenge indeed!
On our most recent trip the first fish caught (by Mike) was 20+ inches and in the 4 to 5 lb. range. Not a bad way to start three days on the river. On subsequent days we all hooked and landed large fish mostly on size 18 to 22 Split Case Baetis, Black Beauty and Green Rock Worm nymphs. Most of the fish were caught on the Split Case Baetis.
It was a strange year as the usual "go to" places on the river did not fish well at all which forced us to search out new runs that we hadn't either fished before or had not fished in several years. Charley has a great eye for spying out "fishy" water and so we didn't have too many dry stretches during the trip although the usual BWO hatch in the afternoon never really materialized.
One of the great things about the Owyhee is that once you find the fish they are usually fairly abundant so you can park yourself for a while and just fish. According to our local source the river had been fished very hard this year (looks like the secret is out) and that the fishing had been spotty to tough on occasion. This didn't much matter to us as changing our plans was not an option, especially since airfare and accommodations are made at least six months in advance.
There were challenges due to the Wuhan virus, like our airline changing our flight time five times in the intervening months and the fact that our usual AirBNB wasn't available, so we had to settle for a small farm house which we actually enjoyed much more.
I guess the one advantage, if you can call it that, is because of the low passenger traffic on the airline we were able to fly first class for about the same fare as our normal coach ticket (I refuse to call it "Main Cabin").
Restaurants, bars etc. were basically under the same restrictions as here, but people seemed much more relaxed about it. At least they still had prime rib night at the Mirage Café in Adrian (winning). That would have been a real bummer if that had been cancelled.
On our last day we slummed it and fished on the South Fork of the Boise River below the Anderson Ranch Dam which is about 1 hour and 15 minutes east of downtown Boise. This is a great place to fish for mountain white fish, rainbows and bull trout, although for the most part the white fish seem to dominate. Out of the 75 or so fish caught that day only two were trout (both rainbows and one about 20 inches). White fish are great fun to catch and fight like the dickens. They had our 10 ft. / 5 wt. rods bent like candy canes most of the time.
All in all a great trip and if you haven't yet fished the Owyhee you are missing out on a real treat. This is one of the few rivers I can think of where your chances of hooking and landing a very large brown trout is not only a possibility, but almost a certainty, if you spend enough time on the water. If you haven't been I hope your fishing angels get you there one day.
Tight lines and fighting fish to all!
Scott Olson | former president, member at large
Fishing on the middle Fork of the Provo River in/near Park city Utah. Wonderful day of fishing!
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Created with images by Luca Bravo - "untitled image" • Atharva Dharmadhikari - "untitled image" • Taylor Grote - "Fly Fisherman" • Kalen Emsley - "Wet mountain valley" • Dan Roizer - "Virgin forests around a river" • kazuend - "Rushing Stream" • Jeremy Bishop - "untitled image"