** This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke. **
Today was my first day off for the holidays. I’m in a “use it or lose it” situation with my vacation time at work. So with the combination of paid time off and holiday hours, I don’t need to return until the 5th! I’ve been looking forward to just relaxing, spending time with the family, and hopefully fishing myself into exhaustion. I ventured out at first light and fished my favorite local limestoner. I hit the dirt roads going up over the mountain just as the blue haze was forming. As usual, there was snow and ice on these roads. It always amazes me how well those mountain roads maintain their snowpack in the winter. We haven’t had any snow in weeks and the weather has been mild!
While driving over, I’m always trying to anticipate how bad the crowds are going to be. Since it is winter, I was hoping for solitude. You never can be totally sure though given that this is a popular river. I pulled in to the parking lot to find I had it all to myself this morning. That is a damn good feeling. The walk in was peaceful. There is a great section right by the parking lot that I often skip it in favor of the hike. On a cold crisp morning like this one, it helps to warm you up a bit. I think it’s the quiet that I love most about this section in the winter. I’m always taken aback by the silence in this remote part of the mountains.
I started out the day tightlining with a frenchie and stonefly pattern. The first few productive runs didn’t yield a fish, which was a good indication that it was time to switch up. I then went with an egg pattern trailed by a fly we call the “second act”. It’s basically just a WD-40 nymph with a few minor variations. This has been my go to tandem on this river for many years in the winter. The second act is tied very small. Usually a size 20. The whole idea behind this tandem is to give the fish something big and familiar, like the egg, to attract them in. If the fish don’t pounce on the egg, they then see the small natural nymph trailing behind and often take it. You’d be amazed how many fish take that small indiscernible nymph. Today was no different. The action was steady early with many fish in the low to mid teens.
Then I hooked into a hell of a fish in one of Sloop John B’s favorite spots. I was worried I was going to lose the fish due to the tiny hook in the second act. I had dropped many fish throughout the day because of the hook popping out. My luck held and I managed to lure him into some shallow water that he couldn’t get back out of.
This fish put me in the 20/20 club for the day. You know that means! Out comes the Jameson for a victory drink.
As the day went on, the attention switched from the second act over to the egg. By noon I nipped off the nymph because every fish was now taking the egg. The fish also averaged bigger. Many of the fish I was picking up were now in the 14-16 inch range.