...it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. Hebrews 5:11
I had been anxious to quiz the knowledgeable Fisherman
in the Fedora for sometime on how he was able to catch
so many fish in a section of the river where I have never
had any success. His tales to this point were description
and adventure. I really was curious about the fly he had
on, and the way he was fishing it. All of the rookie
questions were passing through my mind, but I did not
want to interrupt the Gentleman of the South Platte, his
tales were interesting and insightful. I did not want to
miss a word, so I sat patiently listening to yarn after
yarn, soaking everything in like a dry sponge...
The Secret of the Depths
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado
"My first cast was up and across stream. I let the nymph
drift in the swift current of a meadow section of the South
Platte. As the nymph drifted downstream, I gathered the
slack of the fly line. The stream seemed wider and the
casts longer since I was standing on the bank three feet
above the surface of the water. The rocks across the
stream were visible only a few inches under the surface.
The spring runoff, just past its peak, had left the water
high and discolored. The conditioner applied to the fly
line kept it on the surface. I watched intently for any
subtle movement in the line. I detected a slight twitch,
one barely noticeable. I lifted the rod tip with enough
vigor to set the hook, but not hard enough to pull the
submerged fly out of the water. The resulting tugs on
the other end delighted me. It was a small brown, about
ten inches long. I released the fish and presented the
nymph again, just slightly downstream from the previous
cast. To my enjoyment, the line twitched again. After
a short fight, I released another ten-inch brown trout.
This was fun and interesting. I was really beginning to
get the hang of fishing a nymph. After a few more
unsuccessful casts, I pitched the nymph to a rock just
downstream and across the current. Another odd twitch
and I set the hook on a third trout. In five-minutes I
had caught three trout using a nymph! I was delighted.
Fishing with nymphs interested me immensely, especially
after I started successfully landing some trout.
Many years ago, I read a book that gave me some very
practical advice on trout fishing. I cannot recall
the book or the author, but I learned two pieces of
valuable information on the eating habits of trout.
The first revelation the book related is the fact that
ninety percent of a trout's diet is obtained from under
the surface of the water. The second revelation is the
fact that trout find their food through three main senses,
smell, sight, and sound.
After I read this, I thought back to my first days of
trout fishing with nothing in my fly box but dry flies.
Back then to me dry fly-fishing was the only type of
fly-fishing. I was a dry fly purist, a snob! I remember
running into a fisherman on a stream who described
fly-fishing with anything other than dry flies as
'sacrilegious'. I slowly learned the error of my ways.
I soon realized when fishing with nothing but fur and
feathers; smell and sound have little to do with
attracting a wily trout to a fly. I was convinced that
fishing clear water would be more productive than
discolored water. I also theorized that I should rarely
be fishing dry flies. I repeatedly tested my theories
on the South Platte River. I do not know if my theories
are correct or not, but I do know I have found the fishing
better with clear water, and with underwater flies.
Fishing in clear water is much more challenging. With
clear water, I could see rather far ahead of where I was
casting, and I could see deeper into the holes I was
fishing. I also realized the trout could see me much
more readily than I could see the trout. The advantage
definitely belongs to the trout.
Having discovered ninety percent of a trout's diet is
under the surface, I started fishing with patterns I
had never used before, wet flies, streamers, and the
dreaded nymph. I say dreaded nymph because I had read
that fishing a nymph was difficult, but once mastered,
very productive. I had been fishing almost exclusively
with streamers for many years. I finally decided a few
years ago to 'expand my horizons,' 'try the untried,'
'take a risk,' 'try something new,' 'take the plunge,'
and 'dare to be different.' I am the type of person
that settles into a pattern and refuses to change.
People have accused me of being dull, boring, stiff,
stubborn, hard-nosed, and unbending. Learning something
new would be different and difficult. I am a slow learner.
However, I do have one redeeming quality (or imperfection),
when I do embrace something new and I enjoy it, I will
work at it to the exclusion of all else until I am a master.
Colorado has a fishing season that lasts twelve months.
The only time fishing is closed is if the stream is ice
covered, which is uncommon. With the ability to fish
twelve months of the year, I had to search for ways to
catch fish during those months when the trout tend
toward sluggish feeding habits. I had occasionally
tried to fish streamers during the winter months, without
any significant results. An occasional small trout would
flash at the streamer, but never would there be a
consistency that kept me fishing regularly during the
winter months. I imprisoned myself to a self-inflicted
sentence of no fishing during the 'off' months, the winter
months. Then I read an article on fishing the nymph.
The article opened my eyes to a new way of fishing; a
way of fishing that would expand the season! I began
to read any article on fishing the nymph. I would pour
over many web sites containing any information on nymph
fishing. I delved into the nymph with an unmatched fervor
and excitement. Nymph fishing would be the answer to those
months of boredom at home; those months of waiting for warm
weather and active fish, or would it?
As with any new endeavor for me, saying and doing are two
very different and disparate actions. It took me quite
awhile to learn to tie a nymph and even longer to try to
fish a nymph. My first attempts at tying a nymph were
nothing more than wasted material. As I got better, I
finally was able to get a nymph I could actually fish.
The first few tries at nymph fishing were less successful
than tying a nymph. At least with tying a nymph, I had a
finished product, albeit an ugly finished product. Fishing
the nymph was frustrating. Monotony set in. I would
endlessly cast upstream and patiently wait for the nymph
to return. I would never see the break of the water; I
would never feel the tug of a trout. I re-read articles,
I re-tied files, and I re-fished promising water. It
finally came down to a do or die situation. I was
determined to fish nothing else but nymphs until success
would follow. It was a long road, but it was worth the
While re-reading articles on nymph fishing, it finally
registered with me; the nymph needs to be fished deep.
I investigated ways to get the nymph deep in the water
quickly. I used yarns in the nymph pattern, hoping the
waterlogged yarn would submerge the nymph quickly. I
tied weighted nymphs. Finally, I had some success. I
would occasionally catch a small trout. The fishing
experiences described in the articles I had read were
still nothing but fantasy to me. I must have been doing
something wrong. Then I found another fishing article on
the bead head nymph, another revelation that might make
fishing the nymph more successful. I tied many flies
with bead heads. I used many different hook sizes. It
was time to try the new nymph design, the bead-head, and
see if things would change for the better.
Several times, I have fished with nymphs in an area of
the South Platte River we named 'the Confluence'. We
nicknamed the area 'the Confluence' because there, the
Tarryall River joins the South Platte. Getting to 'the
Confluence' is no easy task. Along the way, a driver
encounters ten-miles of a winding, gravel road, a road
that climbs almost fifteen hundred feet after leaving
the paved Tarryall Road. The entire ten-miles consist
of a rather steady incline, bordered by Ponderosa Pine,
and deep ravines. Upon reaching the higher elevations,
the road hugs the mountainside with heart-stopping
precipices on the downhill side and a neck-wrenching
slope on the uphill side. On the uphill side with
the southern exposure, countless bushes, separated
by several feet, cover the sloping landmass. The tops
of the pine trees appear as small Christmas trees while
looking down toward the river valley hundreds of feet
below the road. The drive seems endless. The main dirt
road turns off to the last three-mile stretch of four-wheel
drive road. The first mile or two is navigable with two
wheel drive vehicles if the driver persists in patience
and care. The last mile becomes treacherous. I have
driven it with a two-wheel drive truck on several occasions.
It always leaves a knot in my stomach since I am never sure
I will be able to make the traverse back uphill to the main
road. Washouts, deep ruts, shallow ruts, rocks, soft sand,
dry sand, wet sand, sharp curves, steep inclines, and even
a small creek are all encountered along the last mile to
the river below.
To be continued... ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado
The South Platte Chronicles Archive