Sunday, 8 January 2012

Winter fishing on the North Platte

We haven't really had much of a winter yet and when temperatures reached the mid-50's during the first week of January I couldn't help but think about fishing.  I kept my eye on the weekend forecast for Alcova where the high temperature for Sunday was predicted to be 48°F.  As the week progressed the forecast high dropped lower and lower, I decided to go anyway.  I fished from about 11:30 until 2:30.   By the thermometer in the truck, which I read every hour or so as I thawed my frozen feet, the high for the day was 36°F, a couple of degrees below the Saturday forecast for Sunday.

With the flow out of the dam at just 500 cfs fishing was quite different from 5000 cfs in August when I was last there.   At these temperatures the guides on the rod ice up and the wading is brutal.  At these temperatures the fish are just plain sluggish too.  There is a short period during the day when they seem to be mildly interested in feeding.   Just before 1:00 the fish turned on for about a hour and I managed to hook a half a dozen fish and landed five of them. They were all rainbows between twelve and fourteen inches. A fish this size used to be considered small for the reef but any more they seem typical.  I did have one good fish on for a minute.  Once the fish realized it was hooked, it surged off shaking its head. Just as I managed to get the line onto the reel I had nothing but a steady pull, no life at the end of the line, just constant tension.  I broke off and walked back to the truck to rerig while warming my feet. 

When fishing nymphs or midges I always tend to throw a standard two fly rig with enough tin shot to get the flies down (how many depends on the flow) and anymore I just use a thingamabobber as an indicator.  I tried serving up various patterns including leeches (green and black), scuds, a crane fly, a crayfish, a red midge larvae and of course the old standby glass beadhead midge pupae in size 20.  I only hooked up on the midge pupae so eventually I just fished two of those.  I was using black and grey/tan.  When I was packing to leave, another fisherman who had been working the far side of the river from me came by and asked me what I was hooking up on.  I showed him my rig and he was genuinely surprised (as non-midge fishermen usually are) that such tiny flies actually worked.  He was fishing a three fly rig which included a leech, a scud, and a rock worm pattern. He did not hook up.

Tying midges patterns is dead simple.  There are about 600 beautifully illustrated midge patterns in the Takahashi and Hubka book Modern Midges: Tying & Fishing the World's Most Effective Patterns.  Ed Engle's book Tying Small Flies is excellent. You can see some tying instructions for the the midge pattern I use most (just vary the colors) in a previous post on the Mercury Midge.  I like the TMC 2488H hook these days, it's very strong.
If the weather is similarly warm next weekend I think I'll head up to the N. Platte again. I might try the Miracle Mile for a change, I haven't fished there in years and I've heard about guys swinging flies for big browns.  I really need to fix the pesky pinholes in my waders before venturing out again.

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