My #2 son is home on a week's leave from
the Air Force. I had introduced him to fly
fishing last summer and he caught a couple of
trout his first day. He'd had little success
n our next few outings before he reported for
duty, but fly fishing was still tops on his
mind when he returned home.
On the 4th of July I took him up to a mountain
valley at about 9,000 feet. The valley walls are
covered with lodgepole pines and aspens, with snow
still showing on the high mountains while wildflowers
carpeted the clearings. It's a beautiful place. The
road into the valley is challenging for even my
high-clearance 4X4 truck, but it still gets quite
a bit of traffic from people who enjoy this sort
of drive or are willing to do it for the scenery.
Happily, the small feeder stream running through
the valley gets surprisingly little fishing traffic.
The stream is 10-15 feet wide and its crystal clear
water ranges from ankle to knee deep. It is filled
with brook trout. Nine inches is a monster there - but
they take flies like the "Jaws" shark took people.
The take is really exciting, even if the fight is wimpy.
I'd been there two weeks before and had a great day
with ant patterns, including pulling eight out of one
little hole. As we drove in, I told my son about this
"magic hole" and guaranteed he would catch a fish.
We parked near the "magic hole" at about 11:00, strung
up our rods and tied on our ants. As we walked towards
the stream two hikers and their dog suddenly appeared
on the opposite bank. The woman hiker picked up a stick
and threw it in my "magic hole." The dog leaped in to
get the stick. Looking up and seeing us standing there
with our gear and shocked expressions, the woman said,
"Oh, I'm sorry. Were you planning on fishing here?"
Ironically, these were the only two people we saw on
the stream all day. Needless to say, the hole had
lost all of its "magic."
We fished our way upstream. With clear, shallow, water
and not a cloud in the sky the fish were unusually
spooky - often running for cover as soon as we could
see them. We moved slow and low, pausing until they
They were feeding at the bottom, getting ready for
the midge hatch that starts about 3:00. These fish
have always been willing to rise to a dry fly, though,
probably because the season when they can get "big food"
is so short at this altitude. So, since neither of us
enjoys nymphing in such a small and shallow stream,
we stayed with dry flies.
Between the time spent resting the fish and the time
spent getting my son's flies unfastened from the
streamside brush, it took us awhile to discover
that ant patterns held no attraction this day. We
switched over to various small dry flies. Well,
actually my son tried a variety of patterns. I
had decided not to fish until he got his first
one of the day. I just watched and coached him.
We planned to leave at 5:00 and, as of 4:15, had
caught no fish. I was worrying that my son might
lose his appetite for fly fishing if he got skunked.
Especially since I had guaranteed him a fish on this
We came to a fork in the stream. I sent my son up
the main channel and took the less promising side
channel. I thought the problem might be that we
weren't giving them a big enough fly to attract
their attention. But I also didn't want to try
something too big for these little fish. I tied
on a larger fly with the colors, if not the full
size, of the moths I had seen that day.
Just as my son rejoined me where the channels meet,
a trout came up out of nowhere to chomp down on my
fly and I landed and released him. Now I was really
feeling guilty. Not only was he still fishless, I
had just caught one in front of him!
We walked a few yards to where a very shallow riffle
comes into a pool at a bend in the stream. I spotted
a trout, good sized by local standards, feeding at
the head of the pool.
I gave my rod to my son and told him to go upstream,
cast into the riffle and drift the fly down over this
fish. He'd never fished a dry fly downstream before
and, as it turned out, he didn't understand my directions
on where the fish was feeding. He got a good drift in
terms of speed, but it was about four feet to the left of
this fish and his retrieve was pulling the leader
directly over the trout's head.
When I called out to tell him what was happening he
got excited and jerked the fly over the trout. The
trout moved forward to look at the fly as it whizzed
by upstream, then decided it didn't want anything to
do with this strangely behaving bug and scooted for
deeper water. I figured that its momentary interest,
and my prior catch, was a good sign that we had the
There was a small area of quiet water in the pool on
the outside of this bend. I told my son to cast into
the riffle and to pull his fly back to line it up so
that it would drift into the seam where the current
met this quiet water.
He got his drift into the seam on his third try. A
trout lunged up and grabbed his fly. "Got one," my son
yelled. He was grinning from ear to ear as he released
the fish, his first catch in nine months. He came over
to sit by me and chat as he recovered from his adrenaline
rush. Then I told him to go back and try the same
He ended up hooking seven trout and landing five from
this one small spot in the last half hour before we
had to leave to get home for dinner-doubling his
lifetime fly fishing total.
You've never seen a happier fly fisher than my son
as we walked back to the truck. As for me, I only
caught one 7-inch trout in six hours on the water-but
I had a great day as a father! I'm sure we'll both
remember this 4th of July for many years to come.
~ Brad Morgan (oldfrat)