Waiting for John and the Olives
By Clive Schaupmeyer
After a 14-month interruption John, my fishing partner, and I finally
fished together in late September. A long wait, and when we finally hit
the river we had to wait for the blue-winged olives to hatch.
Let me explain. John and I are fishing partners and have fished together
for several years. Until two years ago we fished side by side about 30
days each season. John, who is in his early seventies, is 19 years my
senior. By the end of 1996 he appeared to be slowing down and he tired
easily. In the spring of 1997 he had a triple bypass operation which
went well. But other unrelated difficulties continued to prevent John
and I from river fishing together. We fished two days in 1997, and were
unable to fish this year until the last week of September. It had been
14 months since our last river outing.
All the time we were not getting out together, I would call him once in
a while and occasionally drop in for coffee and offer fishing reports.
John would sometimes drive to local ponds with friends. We often chatted
about river fishing, but we could not get a trip together. Then in
mid-September we were chatting, one thing led to another, and by week's end
we were on a two-day trip to Alberta's Crowsnest River.
The first day was sunny at the start, but by 2 PM clouds rolled in and a
few blue-winged olives came off. There were a few randomly rising
rainbows and we both caught trout on BWO dries. But the olives were
sparse and soon thinned. The trout then turned to a #32 lime green
midges–at least they were the only visible food item on the surface and
the rainbows were clearly surface feeding because they were nosing up.
We left the water early knowing the next day would be cloudy and most
likely raining. Blue-winged olive weather. By 2 PM the next day we would
be in the middle of a cosmic hatch and divine fly-fishing.
It was raining when we arose on day two, and the rain was still falling
when we hit the water at 10:00 AM. We arrived 2 or 3 hours before the
BWOs would come off. We generally hung out, cast small nymphs, and
caught a few mountain whitefish and rainbows. One o'clock came. No
olives. At 2 o'clock some midges surfaced and I landed one nice rainbow
on a #20 black midge dry fly. But still no olives.
The weather was perfect, so where were those little BWO insect critters
the trout so dearly love? Theories raged through our olive-deprived
minds–or depraved minds. Our best theory was that the cool rain and
falling air temperature had chilled the river and put the olives into a
funk. Had we measured the water temperature the day before and again on
the second day we might have answered the question. But I don't carry a
thermometer because if the water's too cold for the fish and bugs,
there's nothing I can do about it anyway. But a thermometer can lead to
understanding and might have helped us figure the problem out. I may
have to buy one.
By around 3 PM, I was starting to think of a deluxe burger because we
had missed lunch. The olives were already two hours late. What were we
doing? Maybe it was plain old stubbornness. Maybe it was our collective
experience. We had seen olives come off late before and my chilled feet
reminded me that the cold-water theory might be true. The olives could
start hatching at any moment, so we hunkered down under our Helly Hansen
rain coats and waited the bugs out in the constant drizzle and rain.
They had to hatch, if for no other reason than it was the only thing
that could happen on John's maiden river trip of 1998. You know, sort of
a fairy tale ending to a special outing.
Eureka! The olives appeared on deck sometime after 3:30 PM and the
rainbows were on them from the start. But these are educated rainbow
trout and they were fussy about fly body color and fly size. These trout
have also learned to hold in tricky multi-current water where getting a
decent drift is tough. But we persisted, and we both caught rainbows on
olive dries. It was just fine.
Fourteen months is a long time to be away from rivers. It was a long
wait that couldn't have turned out better even if we had control over
these matters. Which of course we don't. I hope John won't mind me
equating him to some bugs, but waiting for the olives was also worth the
delay. ~ Clive Schaupmeyer
Our Man In Canada Archives
Bio on Our Man In Canada
Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and
photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to
Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly
anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor
picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers
of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and
mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks,
For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of
Clive's book, Click here!