One of the loveliest things I've been
privileged to see is to watch a fish sip
a dry fly from the surface of the water.
I had a favorite place where I could see
this every summer, but since we don't live
there any more I haven't seen it for a few
The place was Armstrong Spring Creek, Paradise
Valley, Montana. There were large moss/aquatic
vegetation 'mats' somewhat anchored by roots to
the bottom, which floated. These mats made a
very nice hiding place for trout. Armstrong
is a spring creek, you can walk up to its source
and see the water coming out of the ground in
the creek itself. The immediate area around the
spring hold lots of aquatic plants which move and
wave in the current like an underwater forest.
Also great holding places for large trout.
I'm told the head of fish the creek once held
are not present now, but when we lived, fished
and guided on Armstrong it was a wonderment.
Almost from the moment you stepped into the water
you could see trout everywhere. If you took a
step or two fish swept in to gobble up anything
which you had unintentionally dislodged from the
gravel bottom. There were so many fish it was
difficult to choose a place to cast.
Since the water temperature is a constant
52 degrees year round coming from the spring,
the insects had adapted to the conditions
are were present year round. Yes, hatches
and spinner falls every day. The trout did
see a lot of artificial flies, the Rod Limit
was I believe 10 rods per day. Which meant probably
10 anglers, although some did fish a half day
and someone else fished the other half day.
All catch and release, and I've mentioned
previously I don't recall seeing any dead
fish on Armstrong, but it could have happened.
I suspect most who fished it were pretty careful
with their fish handling.
Pretty good conditions for the trout - and
the angler. I do know for those whose casting
wasn't up to par, or who could not buy a decent
drift for their dry fly it could be very challenging.
I do remember talking to a well-known casting
instructor and guru who had fished Armstrong a
day before we fished it and had not had a fish
to hand. I released twenty or so, I really
wasn't counting. Perhaps he should have hired
At any rate, I can still see in my mind the
lovely noses just barely poking out from beneath
the mats, sipping in a small mayfly and backing
up into its hiding place. If you were wearing
a watch, or counting, it became evident there
were more insects than the fish was taking.
It rose (or poked it's nose out) on a very
regular schedule. If you placed your cast up
steam, didn't line the fish or its mat, and had
a perfect drift to your fly, the fish would
dutifully take it. If your timing was off,
sorry. Kink in your leader? Opps.
I have watched fish follow a good fly for some
distance, 5, 10, 20 feet only to turn away.
Sometimes a 'flat refusal' comes a lot faster,
but having a fish follow your fly and not take
it can be maddening. What you aren't able to
see of course, because we aren't underwater
looking up through the fishes window, is what
was wrong with the fly or its drift/float.
We can guess, and we may have an educated
guess, but drag is likely to be the big
cause - especially if the fish is following a
fly and we are watching both - we probably have
lost track of what the line and leader are doing.
That's part of the excitement of dry fly fishing.
Our little Koi ponds here at home have some
duck weed, and a few floating lily pads. There
is also a small Palmated maple which overhangs
the larger pond. Even though we aren't into
summer, our Koi utilize all the cover they have
at their disposal. While I don't believe Koi
are surface feeders by nature like trout, I still
get a kick out of seeing the noses peek out from
under the lily pads or duckweed to grab some bit
of floating food.
Not as exciting as sitting on the bank at
Armstrong and watching for the noses. But
it works for me. ~ DLB
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