Today's outing encountered air temps in the teens throughout much of the morning, and sustained winds speeds between 13-17 mph. BTW, thanks go out to the NWS for blowing the wind forecast, you jerks. I don't mind the cold, I can handle that, but freezing rod guides are a pain in the ass when you need to constantly clear your rod guides of ice every few casts. When you combine ice choked guides and a relentless prairie wind, it is down right frustrating. I don't know of any other sport where a soul can be perfectly at bliss one minute, and cursing up a storm that would embarrass a drunken sailor, the next. Regardless, you have to pay to play, and I have found that cold temps = big fish.
The first catch of the day started off with a queer fish. It was a quillback, not odd, but its body was strangely deformed, very odd. The fish was missing a pectoral fin, which likely was never formed, and was medially compressed. There was likely an embryonic deformity during development; it is unknown if the cause was anthropogenic.
I managed to spot some carp today up near the shallows, however, the majority of them were fairly small. There were a few bruisers that were taking cover under a large ice shelf. Every once in a while they would poke their head out from under the shelf. I hooked up with one of them for a while, until the hook pulled free. The fish was likely foul-hooked. I did manage to get some sight fishing in for a couple of fish, always a blast when you're able to pull that off.
Flows have dropped steadily over the past week, down 70cfs from yesterday to 500cfs. Still well above the 80th percentile, but more fishable, and the water much less turbid. This allowed for some sight fishing opportunities, as well as making it much easier to spot schooled up fish. I was able to spot a pod of quillback hanging tight to the river bottom. I pinched some extra weight on to my X Factor to hug tight, and got my fly down there. I was justly rewarded.
I spotted a Greater Redhorse mixed in amongst the quillback. I tried drifting my fly through its feeding lane several times to no avail. These fish are so incredibly difficult to take on a fly and are a rare catch. I'll return another day to seek out these fish, but as for today, there were still fish to be caught.
The buffalo were roaming hard today. When I arrived at the river this morning they were everywhere. Maybe I've got this part of the puzzle figured out? I recall catching a lot of buffalo early on in the season, when water temps were still cold. Now that water temps have returned to 39 degrees, they seem to have moved back in and congregated. I took one on a giant zebra midge again. But the most successful fly of the day was the X Factor nymph. Specifically, the eXtreme Factor nymph was hot. I had one tied in green which was a decent performer, but the brown version was on fire. Unfortunately, it got hung up in the rocks and I lost it after a few fish. I'll need to tie up a few more of these this winter.
Interestingly enough, the nicest fish of the day was also the easiest caught. After I caught the malformed quillback, I unhooked my fly and threw it back in to the water a few yards away from me. I released the fish and picked up my rod. When I had the grip in my hand and pulled in the slack line, I noticed the tip of my fly line starting to move/submerge. I strip set the hook only to find one hell of a beast on the other end of the line. It took the Extreme Factor nymph like a champ. When I finally landed the beast, I could barely get half of it in to my landing net. This was the biggest and longest bigmouth buffalo I've ever caught. It also was the biggest fish of the season.
A big nasty beastie!
A pretty damn good way to end the season. Of course I saved the best for last. I'll have to remember that the tough weather days of late fall/early winter pay off with big fish. Well worth all the work. Hopefully this will hold me over to next spring. March seems so far away. Until the next time in 2009, cheers!
- the roughfisher