Fall officially arrived last week. Water temps have dropped considerably over the past several weeks, and fish are moving off the flats, seeking refuge in deeper water. This makes fishing to active fish more difficult, as sight fishing is no longer an option. Instead, blind nymphing to fish trout-style is the order of the day. This technique, while effective, is a low numbers game, and long days on the water can result in few fish. Nonetheless, any day fishing is a good day.
Winds were howling from the Northwest at 15-20 mph, gusting to over 25. This provided for some difficult casting. With the winds came clouds and cooler temperatures, with air temps in the low 40s, rising to the low to mid 50s later in the day. Definitely fall weather. Flows had dropped considerably the other day, now down to 292 cfs. Flows should remain stable, for the most part, throughout fall and winter, until spring melt. Consistency will be key to finding fish during the cold weather months.
The first order of business was searching for fish. The carp had fled the flats with reckless abandon. Every time there is a major temperature or flow drop, these fish seem to leave the sand flats and move to deeper water. It is likely to avoid predation from the countless number of Great Blue Herons and Double Crested Cormorants that call this stretch of river home. I imagine that once the flows/temps stabilize, these fish become move brazen and venture back on to the flats after some time. Time will tell if these fish will return to the flats once more this fall.
I worked a stretch of deep, rocky water adjacent to a sand flat that has been holding some bigger fish. Previously, I was able to hook up with a fish fairly quick with my darth clam pattern; that was not the case now. I had to work several drifts before foul-hooking a carp. As the fish cam closer to shore I noticed that the fish had a chestnut lamprey attached to its back. I would have loved to get a close look at this specimen, unfortunately the fish came loose just out of reach of my net. I methodically continued to work this stretch and ended up with a couple of fish.
Who says you can't catch dogfish with a clam? Bowfin are present in this area and are quite reclusive. I've found some hiding in the past, in vegetation on the other side of the river. I've only caught them before on meat. I had wanted to catch one on a fly but figured I'd need to use some sort of streamer or baitfish imitation like a woolly bugger or a Clouser minnow. Apparently bowfin eat clams too. I guess you don't survive millions of years of evolution by being a picky eater.
Fish were not eager to take a clam pattern, or anything else for that matter. The bite was slow. I worked a couple of different stretches of river and found a pocket of skinny water where the fish were congregating. I threw a San Juan worm, Clouser swimming nymph, Darth Clam, antron nymph, nothing. I spotted a nice sized buffalo holding in this stretch and tried to entice it with my offerings. No such luck. I finally ended up catching a smaller sized carp on an orange krystal chenille scud. I moved on.
I went back and worked the first area, having rested in for some time now. After trying the clam for a while, I switched back to a San Juan worm. I find it ironic that I end up catching a clam.
Is the season about wrapped up? Possibly. Weather wise, fish are starting to move in to their fall/winter patterns, and locating and reaching them is becoming more difficult. Getting them to bite is a whole 'nother story. I may have one more chance to hit the river before baby roughfisher arrives. My future will unfold this afternoon.
Here's one more fish photo to remember the 2008 season by.
- the roughfisher