The days are long now, and often warm. Runoff wanes. Water levels drop and water temperatures climb into the optimal range. Everything is green. Streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds all explode with life. Wild rose blooms on the banks and cottonwood fluff is in the air. Everywhere you look there are colorful songbirds, herons, sandhill cranes, and osprey. Gophers scatter in the fields as you bounce down the gravel road to your favorite stream. The deer are finding places to give birth to the next generation, or fattening up in the alfalfa fields. It’s quite a contrast to the short, chilly days of winter.
The biggest difference (to the flyrodder, at least) is the bugs. In winter, a calm day might produce a smattering if tiny midges and kindle the hope of finding a couple fish rising in the slowest currents. Now, on a calm afternoon or evening the space above the water is filled with a veritable smorgasbord. Mayflies. Stoneflies. Caddis. I’m talking about the drakes, PMDs, giant salmonflies, golden stones, smaller yellow and bright green “sallies”, Rhyacophila, Hydropsyche, and the list goes on.
The angler isn’t the only creature that takes notice of the bugs. The birds and garter snakes are snapping up the clumsy fliers and those that linger too long in the grass and willows. And the fish are “looking up” in expectation that their next meal has a high likelihood of coming off the surface.
It’s a dry fly paradise.
I hope that you spent some time this winter dialing in your fly boxes, because this is hatch matching season. Even if you don’t see fish actively rising, this is the time of year where searching the seams and riffles with your favorite dry fly can really produce. The fish have the feed bags on, and the surface takes are often startling in their aggression. On top of that, the fish seem to be in peak physical condition. With the exception of the cutthroats up in the highest country, the spawn is well behind them and the trout have had all spring to regain their fitness snacking below the surface. The water is cool, and well oxygenated. At this time of year, when your fly disappears in a swirl and you come tight, don’t be surprised if the fish goes airborne instantly. And if your barbless hook comes free on that leap, or during the following run, take solace in knowing that you at least got a good look at your prize, and that the next drift of the fly might raise another trout, even fatter and more lovely than the last.
Take Care and Fish On,