Eye of the Guide


Satoshi Yamamoto - Aug 12, 2013

Sysadmin Note
Part 13 can be found here

In this chapter, I'd like to go on one more round for "spring creek vs. river". This time, it's about trout. Common rumors and talks go like: "Trout in spring creeks are selective, wary, and educated" which transforms to "Trout in spring creeks are way different from those in rivers!" Let me demystify again.

Do differences exists? My answer is YES for certain aspects but also NO (the same) for the rest. There are resident trout that stay in DePuy's all year around. But also there are many trout in DePuy's (and in Armstrong's and Nelson's) that are coming in-and-out from/to Yellowstone River. Spawning runs and seasonal cutthroat populations are good examples. So, more often than we think we are fishing "river trout" in spring creeks. When Yellowstone River is temporarily uncomfortable for trout, they look for refuges in creeks. It can be during high and  turbid spring run-offs (as in 2011) or high water temperatures (as in summer of 2012). As for feeding habits, like I have already discussed before, spring creek trout DO chase and bite on sculpin and leech imitations. Then during spawning runs, trout chase and gulp on a simple egg fly. There are some bead-head nymph patterns that can work on both the Yellowstone River and creeks. What is the difference?

Is it selectivity? When spring creek trout show clear distinction from their river cousins is when we (anglers and trout) encounter insect hatches. That's when trout (residential and migratory) become "selective" as advertised in magazines. "Selective" refers to fly patterns = insects and their hatching stages (spinner, dun, crippled dun, emerger, emerging nymph, and so forth. The ist goes on). Due to the abundance of insects in spring creeks, it's easy for trout "NOT" to eat our flies! While at rivers, one or two patterns could be all we need (that's why we use attractors a lot) even when we encounter pods of rising trout (REMINDER: of course there are some very technical and selective situations on rivers too). That's why spring creek guides carry boxes of flies. One prime example is during the BWO hatches. BWO [Blue-winged Olives] are known to be multi-brooded so duns, spinners, emergers, and nymphs can be present all at once. Furthermore, those four stages can be in different conditions such as drowned, ascending, crippled, and so forth in three different sizes (18, 20, and 22). For example, some trout would feed on size 20 duns on the surface, while others would be keying on size 18 ascending nymphs at 5 inches below the surface. It sounds like an endless list of flies to tie or carry. Besides the number of flies, you'd better master angle of presentation, appropriate rigging (two dry-flies, dry-dropper, and so forth), and methods of presentations (dead-drift, swing, twitch, and so forth). Trout are not suddenly metamorphosing into philosophers. They are simply doing what they are supposed to do: eat maximum and efficiently with minimum effort. If abundant ascending nymphs are flowing toward their mouths 5 inches below the surface, the  trout would rather stay there and keep feeding than swim up, break the surface, and take duns on the top (= extra effort and energy consumption).

Are they wary? Not always so in my opinion. Paradise Valley spring creeks have limits of rods per day so fishing pressure is much less than public waters (believe me some Montana and Yellowstone Park waters get much more pressure in the middle of summer!). When trout get turned down or swim away from you, that's mostly because of your simple mistakes such as stalking/approaching to trout, positioning yourself, fly selections, and presentations. If trout dash away from your 5-inch streamers that you use in big rivers, that's not even a subject for "Selective?" and "Wary?" discussion (Please refer to PART 8). Considering the size of water and its clearness, trout get simply startled by the sudden presence of transplanted sardines way before they might develop aggression and curiosity to attack them. It's just like deer running away the moment they spot our vehicles from a mile away.  

Are they more educated? This term sounds to me just like fishermen's excuse. Trout in spring creeks, especially at flat and smooth surface sections, can tell our flies as fakes because:
1) they have enough time to examine the by taking advantages of slow currents,
2) wrong patterns,
3) presentations, which translate as "dragging".
It is NOT size of tippets. I have one 7x fluorocarbon spool that I seldom use. I never think about owning 8x either! If trout could virtually see and recognize our 5x and 6x, they could have recognized hook-bends and pinched barbs of our flies!! Please don't overpraise trout or don't blame your failures on your gear.

Spring Creek vs. River: Finally, in a big picture, is there any difference in fishing on spring creeks and rivers? Now some readers must be aware of the knowledge and techniques required on one water can be applied to other waters if one keeps his/her eyes and minds wide and open. Delicate presentations and approaches on spring creeks can be applied any time when fishing big rivers. Then some bold approaches and fly selections on rivers (nymphs & streamers) can be used at spring creeks too. When I fish big rivers, I see them as "A group of little creeks forming a big river". Visiting DePuy's and other spring creeks so many times, I apply that idea and vision to spring creeks, which are considerably smaller than rivers in the area. That enables me to analyze water and situation in more careful and in minute ways and makes me a better observer with keen eyes and an open mind.

After all trout are opportunistic feeders. The keyword is being "open & flexible" in terms of your tactics and perspectives. "Let your daily observation be your instructor" – Robert Venables in his 1662 book "The Experienced Angler".

Illustration by Author. Angler in this drawing appears "Lefty" like author…….

Satoshi Yamamoto, http://leftyangler.blogspot.com, brought his passion for fly-fishing & fly-tying from Japan to Montana and became the first ever Japanese guide in Livingston, MT.  He guides and fishes big rivers like Madison & Yellowstone, spring creeks in Paradise Valley, and various waters in Yellowstone Park. Hence, with his Regal Vise at the bench, his fly tying interests vary from tiny midges to 5-inch streamers and anything in between.  Once his ideas are combined he goes out for experiments at those near-by waters.  Satoshi submits his innovative patterns to Montana Fly Company (www.montanafly.com). 
His own innovative original patterns can be purchased from his fly-shop, http://leftytyer.blogspot.com.

Sysadmin Note
Part 15 can be found here


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