August 18th, 2008
Fishing With Ducks
Observant fly-fishers are normally the most successful
of their breed, and over time I have endeavored to be
as observant as possible since I need all the help I can
get when I am attempting to catch fish. Two incidents
in recent weeks have help to reinforce this maxim of
fly-fishing success in my memory.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
Both of these occasions happened on one of our local
spring creeks where I have the blessing of unlimited
access, and both occurred in the evening hours, which
is my favorite time to fish these waters.
The first incident occurred around the middle of July, and
after a very warm day for Montana I drove out to the creek
as the sun began to drop toward the western horizon. Being
north of the 45th parallel our summer evenings are very long
in mid-summer with twilight extending until nearly 10 P.M. I
prefer to arrive on the creek as the shadows begin to lengthen,
and the cool air from the nearby mountains begins to fall into
the valley. At this time all of nature comes alive after a long hot
day, and I revel in the wildlife and the subtle shades of color
that tint the clouds and surrounding mountain peaks. Even if I
fail to connect with any trout I find much pleasure in the beauty
of God's creation on a Montana summer evening.
A soft breeze was blowing out of the south when I arrived, and
except for a few caddis bouncing around along the edge of the
stream there was no apparent insect activity. An occasional tiddler
(small fish) was splatting at the bouncing caddis, but otherwise the
surface of the creek was an unbroken mirror reflecting the cloudless
big sky stretching overhead. Parking my vehicle near one of my
favorite stretches I strolled leisurely along the banks enjoying the
cool evening breezes and the sounds of nature that surrounded me.
I scanned the surrounding meadows looking for mayfly spinners
dancing in the setting sun, but there were none to be seen. I had
not even bothered to put on my waders or assemble my other gear
since it appeared that nothing would be happening this night.
I sat down on a wooden bench along the stream mesmerized by
the delicate shifting currents as they pulsed over the weed beds.
How long I sat there I am not quite certain, but suddenly my
reverie was broken by the faint twittering of birds somewhere
over my head. Looking up I saw a large flock of swallows
swooping and gliding about a 100 feet above the stream in an
obvious feeding frenzy. Quickly I was on my feet and headed
back to my vehicle for my gear.
Returning to the stream in record time I was greeted by the
gratifying sight of circular rings and trout noses breaking the
surface. Wading into the stream a quick check with my
aquarium net produced several small mayfly spinners. Choosing
what I believed to be a satisfactory imitation I proceeded to cast
to the closest nose, and was gratified with a quick connection with
what would prove to be the first of several very nice brown trout.
Just the other evening I was once again on the creek. A strong
east wind was blowing, and the dark faced clouds reminded me
that winter was hiding just over the northern mountains. I sat
hunched against the wind watching a small family of mallard
ducks working slowly upstream. Unaware of my presence they
swam along, stopping here and there to tip up and feed on the
bottom. When they arrived opposite from where I was sitting I
noticed that there was a disturbance in the water several yards
below the feeding ducks. Concentrating my attention on the water
I could see the flash of feeding trout. There were no insects hatching
that I could observe, but there were several trout feeding just below
the ducks. Suddenly it dawned upon me that the trout were feeding
on the nymphs that the ducks were dislodging as they fed on the
Elodea and Fountain Grass on the stream bottom. The ducks were
performing the San Juan shuffle, and the trout were taking advantage
of the bounty.
Fortunately these ducks are not unfamiliar with anglers so my
movements did not cause them to fly away or quit feeding.
Approaching from downstream I could use a hook cast and
drop my imitation in the drift line created by the feeding birds.
It was not exactly like taking candy from a baby but it was close.
I think I like fishing with ducks! ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
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