July 14, 2012

Wind, Deer flies, and Cutthroats -- Video

I went and visited the Upper Blackfoot River yesterday. This is such as beautiful region of southeast Idaho with dirt roads and wide open mountain valleys.

The section of the Upper Blackfoot that I usually fish is the Stocking Ranch, but there is plenty of other water in the narrows and the lower valley. The Stocking Ranch is in the upper valley and I love this portion of the valley. It is always beautiful and peaceful. I love walking through the tall grass and sedges, although I don't like it as much in the fall when the Canada thistle is quite high.

The Ranch from Google Earth

The water on the Ranch is amazing. It is crystal clear and very smooth, almost like an irrigation ditch. I know that doesn't conjure up a very nice image in your head, but this river is no irrigation ditch. It is just smooth in course and flow. This, of course, makes the it a challenge to fish in some ways.

Looking east on a typical stretch of river

The first challenge is that because it is so clear the fish can see you coming a mile off. There are relatively few trees, or cover for that matter, on the side of the river. Also, the bank is high in most places but the water is deep so I prefer to just walk the bank looking for feeders and sight cast to them. This means, however, that you have to walk slowly or even sometimes C-R-A-W-L through the grass! This is what I generally do. After I sight a fish I get down on my hands and knees and slowly crawl within casting distance -- especially with tenkara, given I am limited by my line's length. Some guys who fish this water fish with streamers and cast 70 feet so they don't have to crawl. I like to sight fish, so down on my knees I go!

Looking west

Another challenge is that there is almost always wind. The river lies in a larger open mountain valley. The air is restless at 6500ft elevation. I have rarely ever been there when there isn't at least a modest breeze. This wind, of course, makes casting an issue. Sure, if you are just chucking a streamer with a 6 wt rod you may not even know the wind is there. But if you are trying to sight cast and place your fly just a head of a trout then the wind can be a pain in the butt! And so it was yesterday. There were some monsoonal thunderstorms blowing in from the southwest and the wind was at a steady 10 knots with a few 15+ knot gusts just to make things interesting. Even though the wind was a little annoying I really didn't mind it because it kept the deer flies off of me for a few minutes at a time. The deer flies can be pretty brutal at the Ranch so come prepared. I wear a Buff the keep them off my neck, face and ears, and light gloves to protect my hands. Long sleeve shirts and long trousers are in order as well. I don't care for chemical repellents, but I suppose they may have their place on particularly bad days.

I approached the Ranch waters from my usual parking spot and headed for some deep holes where I had taken fish before. There was little activity on the surface, but I could see an occasional riser tight against the windward bank where the water was less disturbed. Since we had had some very hot days over the past couple weeks and since this river is in a "hopper meadow" I rigged up the Kasugo-4209 with a foam hopper. I chose that rod because it is long (almost 14ft) and I really like its balance and action. I think this rod is greatly overlooked by the tenkara fishing community. It feels lighter in the hand than other rods of similar length and its action is very smooth and dependable. For a line I went with a 15ft furled mono line from Streamside Leaders. I attached 3ft of 4X fluorocarbon to the tippet ring then another 18 inches of 5X fluoro to that. My hopper was a size 6, completely foam with legs.

Stay low and cast right against the windward bank -- if you can!

So you ask "how did that long line cast, especially with wind?" It cast nicely! The Kasugo transfers the energy to the line without issue and the fly just, well, flies out to the target!! Sure, the wind got in the way of a few casts but not that many, surprisingly. Remember, since this water is so clear you only get a few casts at a fish before he either takes your fly or you put him down.

As far as fish, I took a few nice ones. The largest was just over 18 inches. She was a beautiful fish with the usual stunning Yellowstone cutthroat colors. The others were smaller but just as pretty. I did miss three large fish. They took the fly but I was off on my hook set. I also had a few large fish refuse the fly. Still, it is thrilling when you see this large shape come up out of the depths but at the last second refuse and go back down.

Pretty cutthroat

A nice solid fish
Smaller -- it helps you appreciate the large fish

The token rainbow

I did video the fish, so you can see them in action. Again, you may want to view the video in You Tube as it will be a little bigger.

Take homes from this trip: 1) The Kasugo-4209 is a excellent large water rod. 2) The Kasugo-4209 can handle a long line with a large wind resistant fly very nicely. 3) The Streamside Leaders monofilament furled line can handle turning over a long tippet with large fly and place it where you want it to go.

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