Trout Bum: When lots of natural food is around, a fisherman's life isn't easy

Thursday , August 03, 2017 - 5:00 AM

SPENCER DURRANT, Standard-Examiner columnist

If you’ve fly-fished long enough, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “The hatch was too good.”

On the surface, it’s illogical. But upon closer inspection, it holds a surprising amount of truth.

Like most of what the fly-fishing community accepts as proven theories (facts don’t exist in this game), the idea of a hatch that’s too good is likely born from angler inability more than anything else.

Just last weekend, while in the high country with my buddy Hyrum, I missed a fish on three consecutive drifts. Each time, the fish struck my size 14 caddis, and each time I was either too late or too quick on the draw. Of course, it wasn’t my fault: The fish short-struck the fly, or better yet, rose to eat but when it saw me, rolled away out of fear.

That’s all a lie fishermen everywhere mutter, no matter how good they are. Using the excuse of a prolific hatch as the reason for not catching fish, though, holds water better than most excuses.

A few weeks ago, I played hooky from work on a Friday and went to the Green River. The yellow sallies and caddis were finally hatching in big numbers, thanks to the flows dropping to reasonable levels.

As one friend said, “The fishing’s so good right now, even you could catch 50 fish.”

Ego in check, I parked at the Little Hole boat ramp, rigged up my trusty Winston Boron IIIx and got to work. The morning air wasn’t brisk, but warm enough to speak of a horrifically hot day ahead. For about 10 minutes, I just walked the banks of the river, watching for rises and bugs.

The first smaller caddis fluttered through the air, tossed about by the lazy midmorning breeze. I knew the sallies wouldn’t be out quite yet, but the caddis looked thick enough to draw the attention of some big trout.

As if on cue, I heard the quiet plop of a fish sucking dries off the surface, and turned to see a flash of sun on a quickly disappearing snout. I grinned. The game was on.

The river came to life as I waded out to my chest, throwing far too much line across far too many currents, because it’s always the fish that are out of reach that appear to be the biggest and most willing to eat. I managed a few fish — fewer than I wanted, I’ll admit — as I worked my way upriver.

Around noon, the sallies would start hatching and I’d be in business. The smaller stoneflies are bright, hatch in huge numbers, and the trout in the Green seem to lose their inhibitions if you present them a sallie on the right drift.

The hatch was thick when it came. Thick enough I had to continually paw flies off my arms, neck, and chest. Two days later, I still felt the flies crawling on me. It’s not that they’re going to hurt me — caddis and stoneflies don’t bite — but their tiny legs crawling over every inch of exposed skin made concentrating on catching fish a tall order.

That’s when it happened. When I noticed the sheer volume of bugs climbing up my waders, behind my sunglasses, and clinging to the brim of my hat, I thought, “The hatch is just too good.”

With all of the natural, real yellow sallies on the water, why would a trout willingly take mine? What made my store-bought fly more attractive than the real thing?

It turns out, nothing did.

With so many naturals on the water, my feeble imitation drifted by, ignored while trout gorged all around it.

And I stood in a river waving a stick, firmly stuck in my belief that the hatch was just too good. It certainly had nothing to do with getting shown up by insects and fish.

Spencer Durrant is a fly-fishing writer, outdoors columnist, sports writer, and novelist from Utah. He’s also the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

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