News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

The frustration and delight of tough trout

A good day on the Metolius River is one trout hooked, landed, and released.

A great day is two trout hooked, landed, and released.

Anything more than that is a spectacular day.

Why am I happy with such modest results from the most beautiful trout stream in the Northwest? Well, the Metolius is a very tough river to fly fish.

First, the water in this big spring creek is very clear, so the trout can see everything, including the little details of every fly.

Second, there are a lot of bugs in the water, so the trout can afford to be picky, choosy fish.

Finally, some of the best fly anglers on the planet pester the trout of the Metolius. Combine that with catch and release, and you've got some very, very educated trout.

Yes, those trout, with brains the size of a pea, regularly dole out humility to very good fly anglers. After all, these fish have one job: to survive and reproduce, and they're very good at their job.

So, no matter how skilled you are as an angler, the trout of the Metolius will drive you nuts on a regular basis.

That's what happened to me on Sunday.

Changing flies

I spent much of the day hoping to find a mighty hatch of massive Green Drake mayflies - and big trout eagerly gulping down big flies. What I found was a few scattered Green Drakes - and tons of Pale Morning Dun mayflies. I managed to fool one rainbow trout on a Pale Morning Dun Sparkle Dun and another rainbow on a Green Drake emerger. So, it was a pretty great day.

Until I found one trout rising in a little section of flat water.

This trout, a redsides rainbow, was eagerly slurping down Pale Morning Duns as I slowly crept into position to cast downstream and across to the fish. I could clearly see the trout moving around in the water. The fish couldn't see me, as I was concealed behind a bush.

My second cast floated a Sparkle Dun over the trout. The fish rose and ate the fly. My hookset was a little early, and the fly flipped out of the trout's mouth.

Amazingly, after a five-minute wait, the trout began rising again. I don't think the trout even felt the hook from that Sparkle Dun. I tied on an Almost There PMD pattern, and the fish rose to the fly - but stopped short of eating.

If you see a Metolius trout slam on the brakes short of your fly, don't show it that fly again. It's time to change up.

First, I made my 6X tippet a little longer, which reduces drag on the fly and also makes a cast less likely to spook the fish. Then I tied on a Pale Morning Dun parachute fly. The fish rose to this fly as well - but turned away just before reaching the fly. The resulting boil looked like a genuine rise, but I could see the fish the whole time, and it never ate the fly.

I tried nine more flies over the next 90 minutes or so. The fish sometimes moved toward my fly or boiled on the fly, but it also ignored some flies. I was incredibly frustrated, but I also felt lucky to see the trout react to each fly. It was as if the trout was giving me a graduate-level course on fishing over picky fish. The trout kept on eating natural flies - including Pale Morning Dun adults and spinners - and something else I couldn't see.

The trout finally ate a tiny, size 20 stonefly imitation. I tied it on after seeing the tiny stoneflies in the air. Sometimes little stoneflies flutter on the water, and they look like caddisflies or mayflies. It was pure luck to finally notice the tiny stoneflies. These were probably the flies that I couldn't see the trout eat. Tiny stoneflies are almost invisible on the water's surface.

The hook rattled out of the trout's mouth, and it shot away like a torpedo. I never really hooked this frustrating, delightful trout. I fished over this trout for almost two hours.

Leave your ego at the door, kiddo

I think these grinding episodes with tough trout teach me a lot about fly fishing - and myself. If fly fishing were always easy, it would become boring. The great thing about fly fishing is that there are always new things to do, see, and learn. In the end, I'm so lucky to live near the Metolius River, where the trout are not pushovers - but they're great teachers.

I want to mention the outstanding fly tiers of the Go Fish Group - a Sisters fly fishing club - who recently gathered for Tie-A-Thon. A happy group of fly tiers spent the day tying flies for several groups that teach fly fishing to kids - or people who need the tranquility that fly angling provides.

These groups include the Mayfly Project in Bend, the Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, and Clydehurst Christian Ranch in Montana.

The Go Fish Group will have future Fly-A-Thons, and I'll let you know ahead of time. Anyone is welcome to come to a Go Fish Group meetings, which are the third Monday evening of each month at Sisters Community Church. For more information, call Gary Kutz at 541-771-2211.


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