AQUATIC WEED-BEDS IN SPRING CREEKS - FRIEND OR FOE?
Aquatic weed-beds growing out from the bottom of spring creeks are one of iconic items of fly-fishing scenes. Aquatic weeds dance as the creek flows and the beds host many food sources for trout. But also weed-beds cause micro-currents and make "chutes" between them. Both of which make the fishing spring creeks very challenging and technical!!
For guiding anglers and my own fishing, I visit DePuy's Spring Creek (www.depuyspringcreek.com) every month of year. Trying to catch trout is the main purpose but I also enjoy the seasonal transition at the creek. Aquatic weed-beds are one of those that I observe. In May and June, as trees and grasses grow tall and green, aquatic weeds do so. Although DePuy's (and Armstrong's Spring Creek = www.armstrongspringcreek.com ) flow in a constant level, growth of weed-beds will raise the water column. When Pale Morning Dun arrives, no other waters in the world can be prettier than that!! Through summer, aquatic weeds keep growing and most of them are protruding from the surface of the creek. Then as fall approaches, they start to die down. They will be washed away. Beds will shrink and transit to the dormant stage by December, waiting for the next spring.
The topic in this article is not meant for technical aspects to approach trout. Rather, it's a pure observation yet very important consideration when fishing spring creeks or similar type of waters.
This Fall: 2014
I'm afraid this may sound redundant right after my previous article (Rise Above, Bite Below) but I have to discuss weather tendency of 2014 again. We had very cool and wet spring and summer here in Paradise Valley. Though I haven't fished or guided the creek for decades like my mentor and outfitter Master Angler Tom Travis, I could tell the difference of this season. Aquatic weeds grew steadily but not so rapidly. Once they reached the peak heights, cool summer kept them so. Furthermore, this October turned out to be very nice and warm, which most locals agree. That didn't knock down aquatic weeds, rather kept them alive for another few weeks. (Finally in November, weed-beds started to diminish and died out weeds got washed away.) All of these conditions created some unique situations for this fall.
Annie's Run is a stretch in the upper section of the creek. It's a classic and iconic scene of spring creek: quiet and flat flows that will detect even a tiny bit of drag on your fine tippet and demand the best of your skills!! And in my experience, this stretch holds some of the largest trout that reside in the creek all through the year. Of course, the stretch is filled with abundant aquatic weed-beds. Furthermore, it's very deep!! Seriously you'd better watch out where you step in and on and make sure what your body can handle and endure. Also make sure so your flies and boxes don't get drowned!!
When I started visiting the creek constantly with the Winter Pass from mid-October (I guided a few days too), I noticed that heights of weed-beds in Annie's Run was what we would typically observe in September. Big mass of weeds were growing high through the middle of the deepest stretch, almost all like an island. That pushed water to each bank, creating two separated currents along each bank. Furthermore, the water was running slightly faster than normal condition as the same amount of water had to go through narrower channels.
Fall Baetis trapped right above weed-beds.
Remember this depiction from my previous article? Photo was taken late October 2013 during fall baetis hatch.
Exactly the same spot this fall 2014. Creek water was pushed toward the west bank and totally flowing above the log.
While looking for Fall Baetis hatch, I spotted a few rises along the far bank. I stepped into the deepest spot which I usually avoid. However under this unique condition, as I stepped on a big mass of weed island, I was several inches taller!! Furthermore, since I was making moves among weeds (if not struggling!), waves were absorbed by weeds and not sent toward rising trout. As far as I have fished similar type of waters, waves on flat water caused by our steps should seldom affect trout's rises. Yet, if you are serious about your target, waves traveling toward rises should make you somewhat nervous as they might turn down trout. I have found that I can use weed-beds for my stealthy approach.
Even when a small chunk of aquatic weed is protruding above surface, it can be an obstacle. Oftentimes, trout rise at the far side of that! In this case, protruding weeds have to be treated like rocks. Hence, Above, Both sides of, and Below it, there is a unique current that will require careful line and drag management. If there are relatively big amounts of weeds are protruding like this experience of mine, consider that as an island that has suddenly emerged! Physically, you won't know if beds are soft or solid until you step on them. So be well-prepared! Weeds can wrap around your lower torso and legs, depending on depths. As long as you make your moves steadily, sturdily, and gradually, weeds should go loose. But make sure what your body can handle it!
Writing through this experience reminds me of a similar experience on the other water. A stretch of Madison River within Yellowstone National Park consists of a very similar structure with aquatic weed-beds. It's about a mile out of Upper 7-mile Chalk-Stream section. Between the weed-beds are indeed "chutes" (where trout rest and rise). Those chutes can be very deep and swift!! When fishing for hatches and rises, one tends to forget what he/she steps on. Also, if you happen to step in to the middle of the river or even to the other bank, remember how you get there and know how to get back!
If you happen to step on a deep chute that goes above your chest wader, don't be in a panic and get out gently. Compose yourself and walk back to your vehicle, pretending as if nothing has happened. Take off your wader to dry (inside out). Then sit down on your camping chair, read a book, take a sun-bath (to dry your regular clothes), and just pretend like one of tourists having a picnic……..
List of Advice and Warnings:
- Use weed-beds to step on.
- Walk through protruding weed-beds to prevent sending waves to rising trout.
- Treat a mass of protruding weed-beds as islands or rocks, depending on sizes.
- Read waters carefully and fish/cover carefully above, each side of, and below protruding weed-beds.
- "Chutes" between weed-beds are where trout hold.
- Nymph-fishing through chutes can be very effective.
- Hatching insects follow the currents of chutes too. So look for rises.
- Be in good shape and know your physical limit!
- Wading pole may or may NOT help on and among weed-beds.
- When stepping in chutes between/among weed-beds, make sure of the depth!
- When the worst case happens, don't be in panic!
Satoshi Yamamoto, http://leftyangler.blogspot.com, is an outfitter and a fly-dresser based in Livingston, MT.