Thursday, September 26, 2013

FISH XXIII: Turnaround Day

Today was turnaround day and with dark clouds on the horizon it looked like rain. It would not be long before we got that and a whole lot more. With the long detour through Laramie necessitated by the road closures through Poudre Canyon, all of the attendees of the first session were gone shortly after breakfast.

The six of us that were staying for both sessions approached the day with varying degrees of intensity. Deeni Taylor and Mike Turner took a drift boat with guides Scott and Rob to Hohnholz Lakes. Cliff Beyler and I decided to hike upstream to fish the water off the ranch and the only smart ones in the bunch, Terry Heath and Chad Sukurs, took a relaxing morning by the fire in the lodge then fished a bit in the afternoon. They missed all the rain, hail, lightning and thunder that later pelted Cliff and I and forced Deeni and Mike off the stream after they had intelligently abandoned the lakes. Later in the morning, Cliff and I could see the heavy weather to the north of us. We knew Deeni and Mike were getting hammered. 

But at the beginning of our day, Cliff and I hiked upstream until we were off the property, found the stream again in the dense willows and climbed down a steep bank and into the river. Cliff immediately caught a good brown on a hopper as a light rain began to fall. The fish was on the inside seam of a riffle. The brown ate Cliff's hopper deliberately. We were off to a great start!

Cliff with a nice brown!
I waded upstream and found a big pool where a riffle ran into a cutbank before making a left turn forming a slow tailout. The big left created a swirling eddie on the downstream side of the riffle and I immediately caught a 15 inch brown on a droppered nymph in it. Under threatening skies and low light, I thought I saw a much bigger fish flash on my hopper just before I hooked the brown. Playing a hunch, I put on a much less garish hopper, removed the dropper and made a cast into the swirling waters at the tail end of the eddie. The fly slowly swirled and spun unmolested before the current started to pull it out of the eddie and into the slow tailout current.

Just as I was about to recast, a big silver form materialized under my fly. The fish suspended vertically and in this posture, followed the tan hopper downstream for about ten feet and at least, ten seconds. The big 'bow watched my fly for the whole ten seconds from about two feet away. Just before the hopper got sucked into the faster water of the next riffle, the fish made its move. As if ascending through Karo syrup, the 'bow slowly made its way towards my fly. Finally, its big mouth opened to engulf my hopper, then clamped down tight and dropped below the water's surface. I struck and the fish exploded. The 'bow raced all over the pool then ominously headed downstream.

Luckily, two things happened: First, the fish headed back upstream when pressed hard by my 4 wt. and secondly, Cliff showed up to help me land the 'bow. Cliff made sure my beach landing worked as I backed up with a tight line. After we landed him, Cliff was kind enough to pose with my fish so I could get some photos before heading off upstream to get in some fishing before all hell broke loose weather-wise. Thanks Cliff!

A 24" beast!

For the next half hour we experienced heavy rains, a blinding hailstorm and frightening riffs of lightning followed by rumbling thunder. Cliff and I caught a few more fish that day during the periods immediately after one storm and just before the next one rolled in. We even managed to catch a few more hefty 19-20" bows, but nothing like that one that took the hopper.

In between storms, Cliff casts upstream...
...then gets a sweet drag-free drift!

We covered a lot of water on this chilly day, but soon it was time to head back downriver for a hot  cup of coffee and to get spruced up before the next group arrived. Thanks Cliff for a great day!

A thick 'bow caught in the brief sunshine between storms.

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