Fish were rising everywhere, skimming #28 midges off the film of a deep run. You'd think this kind of frenzy would draw a crowd, but the by-standing cows knew how to keep a secret. The water temperature was optimal, spilling below the dam face which was just out of my line of sight. We were positioned at the head of the pool casting across and downstream into the rising fish. Sounds perfect right? Only one problem. For the most part, we were getting ignored. Sizeable red stripes would consistently breach the water, showing off their girth, and proving that we were in the right place. Although, somewhat mockingly.
Soon enough, a submarine inspired rainbow eased into the hydro-pocket created behind my legs. This fish was clearly not one to be intimidated, and my presence didn't phase him. He casually rooted around in the submerged vegetation as evident by the exposed flesh on the tip of his snout. I didn't even try to cast for him for the first thirty minutes of his stay. I fished over him to the majority of the rising fish, but I kept my eye on this large fella. I tried to notice what he was hunting for, but the clues were few and far between. I eventually did fool a smaller trout in the heart of the run, on an oversized #24 fly. Yet after the countless casts into the populated water, it was clear that even my smallest Tricos and Midges were NOT going to fool many feeders.
Looking back, that was a fortunate change in my tactics. My buddy and I noticed that Sallies and PMDs would get a fish's attention, even if it was only on one in fifty casts. This clued us in that larger food items were indeed on the menu, sporadically. We were dialed into what was in the surface film and seined the river consistently in hopes to better inform fly choice. Finally, the large trout holding in the break created behind my leg began to give its tell. I noticed the eyes of the fish looking towards the surface and several rises got my attention. "Did you see that?" I would yell, "what did he take??" My eyes were always just too late to notice, and I was out of small flies that hadn't already been rejected. So I folded my hand, my assortment of tiny flies, I let him eat, enjoy, and I waited to confirm his tell again.
Finally, I witnessed the fish eat, out of the corner of my eye. Without a clear look, it almost looked like a big dried leaf was his target. Then two more surface rises. Even with a clear look I couldn't really distinguish the prey. I still don't know if they were actually grasshoppers or not... but the items were grasshopper sized... and I was ready to go all in. Plus, you don't have to convince me twice to fish a hopper. So once again I turned to one of my favorites: the Amy's Ant.
By now, the submarine trout was quartered downstream of me, no more than a rod's length away. Trying to time his next rise, I didn't even cast my fly to him, I just threw it into the prevailing current down at my shins, pushing all the proverbial chips onto the table, drifting my fly right over the feeding lane. Sure enough, a determined rise. He had to have seen my eyes widen as he rose up from his positioning, but he was no doubt more interested in the impending meal than concerned with the onlooking cows or my shadow. I told myself to wait on the hook set until he closed his mouth, and that pause took forever. But I was in the zone, dialed in from the technical requirements of this section of river. Of course the fish ran downstream, and playing this fish was no cake-walk. I did everything in my power to prevent losing that fish, starting by bolting downstream to get the upper hand. The fish called my bluff and had his own counter punch. Fortunately the downstream pool was wide and deep, and the fish had no interest in leaving the deeper water. He tried to match me, but eventually folded, conceding his minor losses from our head to head matchup.
The fish taped at 24" and was approaching, if not, 5 lbs. A much-needed win for our situation, even if no other fish from the main run would show any interest in our grasshopper imitations. This poker table was now running cold and it was time to try another section of river.