We blew into town on the coat tails of a three day soak. It was blowing, raining, cold and everyone and everything was soaked to the bone. Even the normally stoic hemlocks on the banks of the North Branch were bowing their mighty branches to the soak. The folks at the mug and jug in town said we must be out-of-towners if we were fishing in this crud. That afternoon while wading the North Branch, we took a few small Brook trout and a few rainbows but there was no visible bug activity. The fishing was slow but enjoyable. The rain eased. The skies were grey.
The next day we floated the trophy waters below the big dam. Overnight the rain ceased and the morning air was crisp and dry. We put in and started our float. As I normally do, I started with a dry dropper combo and took a small rainbow right off the bat in the first seam I drifted through. Getting the skunk off the day like that is always good. The day wore on and the wind picked up. The serene quietude of the morning air turned into a blowing gale-force wind. The heavy breeze swirled down the river’s trough, hammered the drift boat and spun it in every direction but the one we wanted to go in.The wind bashed our casts back down on the water and into our faces. Our casts piled up. A few fish were brought to hand, but both of us were thinking to ourselves, the catching should be better than this.
After days of soaking rain and a full day of a blasting Canadian wind, all God’s creatures were waiting for the world to turn back into a hospitable environment.
The third morning we found clear blue skies with the morning air as still as stone. Our float started as it had the day before but early on we began to see bug activity. The activity increased and the variety of bugs grew into a hatch unlike anything either of us have ever witnessed. Bugs of every type were fluttering in the air. I could list them off, but the list would look like a hatch chart for the entire year for the eastern half of North America. We took fish on every possible combination of flies and rods that we had. We found them rising on every seam in every foam line, and under every overhanging branch.
As evening drew closer the clouds of bugs got thicker. As we went from section to section we found thick hatches shifting from one type of bug to the next. But it didn’t really matter what we tied on. Big fluffy impressionistic dries, prefect anatomically correct representations they all worked. Two fly rigs. droppers, nymphs, they would eat it all, and with such reckless abandon it actually got comical.
We drifted through a section that the day before was like a desert of fish activity, barren and desolate. Only 24 hours earlier we felt like the camera quietly panning though a Sergio Lenoe film. Nothing Moved but us, as we floated along watching for a strike. But on this it day was quite different, it looked and sounded like people were launching golf balls into the river from a crowded driving range near by. We came around one corner and broke out into insane laughter at the site of fish rising with such frequency that all we had left to do is laugh at the sheer hilarity of the scenario. We anchored up and wore it out. These fish would take anything we threw at them. You couldn’t line them, you couldn’t stop them from feeding, they were in fact the dumbest stockers we have ever seen.
After wearing it out catching those idiots, we decided we’d move on and focus on some better fish. At dusk, right before the take out we found a pod of fish rising dead in the center of a deep run. We tried every conceivable combination of flies, but these fish were big, not idiots, and keyed in on one particular insect. We lined them a bunch and put them down, a bunch. We waited, they returned to a rhythmic rise every time. We tried every pattern we could think of, and I got sick of changing flies and gave up. My friend decided to try one last pattern, the last Mahogany spinner he had in the box.
He said, “all right this is my last cast, if she doesn’t take this one she won’t take anything.”
He dropped it just two yards in front of the fish and we both waited in absolute silence as the fly made a perfect drift right into the feeding lane. Slurp, she took it. Nice Fish, and nice way to end an insane day.
You can’t plan for a hatch like that, they just happen sometimes when you happen to be around. But when you hit it right, that’s what keeps us coming back for more.