January Midges on the Provo River
It was Wednesday, the 17th of January. The sun was just beginning to cast its early morning rays across the eastern slopes of Mount Timpanogos. The snow covered peaks, half shrouded in billowing, white clouds, glistened in the light of the new day.
The radio blared a song about fishin' for a true love and I sang along — changing the words to fit the occasion.
I drove up the canyon until I reached a stretch of the river that was unoccupied. I wanted some solitude today. I wanted to escape the pressures of life and slip into that forth dimension of time and space reserved only for fishermen.
It was cold but I was prepared. As I slipped on my neoprene waders I noticed that the trout were porpoising in the flat water. Must be a midge hatch in progress I thought. I mused over those tough little bugs. The air temperature hadn't reached 20 degrees, yet it seemed those little snow flies couldn't wait to meet the new day. Of course, if I had a couple dozen trout trying to sip me out of the film I guess I would be in a bit of a huffy too.
I tied on a size 20 Griffiths gnat that I had trimmed flat on the bottom so it would float right in the film and headed for the river. There were still plenty of shadows on the water (the sun wouldn't hit the water for another hour or so) and that little dark bug was hard to see. After a couple of casts I decided the best way to solve the problem was with a yam indicator.
I tied the indicator about 4 feet up the leader from the fly, saturated it in floatant and got down to work. I was fishing with a five weight rod and a 6X dppet. I was glad I had my five weight. Throwing a cable at these trout would scare them all the way into Utah Lake.
It was time to be deliberate and careful. Long casts, parachute casts, were in order. Now I was mumbling to myself as I worked to drop my gnat gently on the water — upstream from the rising fish. I knew that one sloppy cast would put all the fish down.
"Cast. Mend. Watch that indicator. Did it move? Yes! Raise the rod tip. Got em! Careful, thaes a might big fish for a 6X tippet. Let the rod tip do the work. Don't horse him. Give him some line — but not too much. Now I have him. Nice fish!"
One of the great things about these small flies is how well they hook the fish. They have such sharp points that all you have to do is raise the rod tip. If you jerk too hard you'll break the fish off. Now I was smiling — this was finesse fishing at its best.
I watched the feeding fish for a few minutes, letting the sound of the stream, the cool mountain air and the breadi-taking beauty of the steep-walled canyon immerse me. Most of the time the trout were taking the emergers just before they got to the film. When a fish did break the surface with its nose it created only a tiny dimple or a few small ripples. More often, the dorsal fin would break free of the water as a fish rolled near the surface.
As soon as the sun hit the water the fish were gone. It was as if someone rang a bell or blew a whistle. One minute the fish were actively feeding and then they simply vanished.
Time to switch tactics. Now the trout were holding in the deep runs and pools along the banks. I broke off the gnat and tied on a dropper. Might as well see if I can pick up a few whitefish along with the trout. I attached a Latex Caddis to the dropper and tied a Hare's Ear to the tippet. A couple of small split shot kept the rig bouncing along just off the bottom.
I picked a deep run with some overhanging willows. Now I was talking to myself again: "Short accurate casts. Dead drift right into the fish. Have to almost 'boink' them right on the nose. Watch that indicator. Cover the run thoroughly. Keep that fly in the water and down where the fish are. Casting doesn't catch fish."
Most of the whitefish were schooled at the bottom-end of the deep holes. And, some of them were big. "Let the nymphs drift out the bottom of the run into the swifter water. The indicator is moving sideways! Raise the rod tip. Nice whitefish."
Now I was using a shot-gun technique to cover the entire length of the run. "Got to be aggressive, make it happen. Keep casting — deliberate — repetitious — don't thrash around.
It can't be time to leave already!? It seems like I just got here. Where did the morning go? Just one more fish ...."