Last weekend was the opening of the Wisconsin catch and release trout season and many fly fisherman consider it to be a true sign of spring. I know many people who went out fishing last weekend and others who are planning on hitting the rivers in the coming days and weeks. I didn't get out last weekend, but I am planning on getting out in the coming days. For me this is a reminder to find all of my equipment and put it all in one place so I can get to the river and have everything I need.
This past winter I tied a bunch of flies to replenish the fly boxes just like I did last year. The one thing I have done different this year, is actually putting the fly boxes in with the rest of my fly fishing gear. This is a pretty simple task, but last year I forgot to do this before my first time out fishing. It meant borrowing flies from the guys I was fishing with as most of my flies were at home with my tying materials.
Fishing in March is also usually a little colder than in April or May which means that some additional clothing is often needed to stay comfortable. I like to put a couple pairs of wool socks in my wader bag along with some long underwear. This way I know I will have some warm clothes for the cool March mornings, no matter how fast I rush out the door.
Another thing I like to do is go through all of my equipment and check the condition. This again is based off past experiences of getting to the river in March and after wading for about 30 minutes having a damp foot. A damp foot in June isn't so bad, but in March it is not fun. If you do discover you have a leak now is a great time to go to your local fly shop (The Fly Angler or Bob Mitchell's Fly Shop) and buy some new waders.
Another important item is a fishing license. Of course you always need your license every time , but if you haven't gone fishing for since October you might need a little extra time locating it.
About this time of year everybody is beginning to wonder when and if spring will ever arrive. I really do love winter and everything you can do on frozen water or snow, but as a fly fisherman I really like moving water. A good thing about living where we do is that many of the spring fed streams and rivers are actually open in the winter for fishing.
For fly fisherman the winter months are often a time of reflection, time of hope for the new season and time for fly tying to restock the empty fly boxes. This weekend is the Chicago Greatwaters Fly Fishing Expo. Events like this fall into all three. I have been joined by three other members of the St. Paul Fly Tier's and Fisherman's Club at the expo to help promote the sport and our club. This is my second year attending the Chicago Expo with Club. The Chicago Expo runs from Friday January 29th through Sunday January 31st. The weekend of March 26th to March 28th is the Minneapolis Greatwaters Fly Fishing Expo.
Both of the Expo's give fly fisherman and fly tiers of all experience levels a great chance to get together. There are numerous vendors, lodges, outfitter and guides present at the shows who can help people with their fishing destination. There are also classes and presentations covering a wide range of activities all related to fly fishing and fly tying. The Chicago Expo has quite a few local fly tying clubs with members present giving tying demonstrations and tying lessons. At this year Expos the St. Paul Fly Tier's members are again manning the fly tying theater, where expert and professional fly tier's show how to tie some of their favorite flies.
The St. Paul Fly Tier's will be at the Minneapolis Expo where we will be conducting the learn to tie booth and we will have members tying and answering questions for visitors of the show. I strongly recommend anyone interested in getting into fly fishing and fly tying to attend one of these shows. I hope to see you at the Expo and then out on the water.
The Mammoth Lakes area gave us several options for rivers to fish. I decided that Hot Creek sounded like a good one to try as it is spring fed and should be like the driftless rivers that I am used to fishing. Hot Creek is a warm water spring (50 to 60F) with some sections that are even scalding hot. Hot Creek is catch and release and only barbless hooks are allowed.
After a day long drive I arrived at the river for an evening of fishing. The river is composed several sections. It starts at the Hot Creek Hatchery which is located below the headwaters and main springs for the river, then flows to an open meadow portion that is owned by the Hot Creek Ranch and continues downstream into a canyon. I started at the canyon following the trail down to the river.
Once I arrived at the river bank I watched to see if there was a visible hatch and nothing was seen. I started fishing with an elk hair caddis and a pheasant tail soft hackle. After a few casts and skating the caddis across surface I enticed a nice ten inch rainbow to take the caddis. I worked downstream skating the caddis and landed two more brown trout one 14 inches and the nice fat 17 incher. I also missed a few other fish and lost a couple more. It ended up be a very good evening of fishing.
The following day my wife and I fished in the morning and the evening for a couple hours each. We again fished the canyon section, with what seemed to most of the other licensed fisherman in Mono County. The morning fishing was very difficult. I think this was in part due to the very clear water and all of the fishermen walking up and down stream bank spooking the trout.
The evening fishing was like much the day before. This meant skating caddis across locations that should be holding fish, hoping make something to take the fly. We had good action on both caddis and the pheasant tail. A nice variety of rainbows and browns were caught. Once the sun was no longer visible above the canyon rim we decided it was time to call it a night.