Originally Posted by pl4a
One of the things I have absorbed from posts on this forum is that you plain have to spend more time on the water to get better...makes sense. But I also want to make sure I'm spending the right time doing the right things. I'm fishing new local tailwater on Thursday (Big Thomson for trout) and here is my basic plan. Am I missing anything critical? Anything grossly out of order? Other considerations?
(1) Stop by local fly shop on Wednesday. Get an understanding of likely conditions, potentially successful patterns, etc. Purchase something from shop in exchange for information.
(2) Prep equipment night before.
(3) Upon arrival, approach river quietly. Take time to examine the river. Look for any obvious bug acitivity. Look for any obvious trout activity. (Note: I'm concerned about this part because my entemology skills are beginner at best. I know how the basic difference between mayfly, caddis, and that's about it. I cannot identify specific species and certainly could not identify types of specific nymphs that I'd find under rocks. How effective can I really be in evaluating the river conditions if this is my current level of entemology understanding?).
(4) Start fishing. My original plan is to move from downstream to upstream toward the dam--I've always read that you should fish in this direction in order to cast from behind the fish. Is that always the case, or are the instances where I should start at the dam and work down?
Paul- sounds like a great plan. You've got some great advice-- especially about not giving a time you'll be home. This time of year you might find that really small stuff is good- midge patterns both dry 18-24 and wet 18-20 or so, and small mayflies 18-20ish (blue winged olive dries and pheasant tail nymphs) might be hatching especially in the middle of the day when it's warmest. If so fish often won't move far and you may find you have to get it right on their noses, with 7x tippet, casting repeatedly to a riser until all the stars line up and it sips it in.
As far as your approach goes, I think it's very good. I'm clueless about the big thompson, but here's some things to consider asking at the shop, and maybe looking for on the stream. Some of the things are specific because it's a tailwater.
1. When you go to the fly shop ask about productive fly patterns conditions etc. But I would also ask some specific questions about the most productive stretches and times of day, whether there might be anything coming over the dam (fish kills of shad, alewives or mysis shrimp), water temp at base of the dam, and if you're new to this maybe ask for suggestions on rigging to fish two flies at once -- dry plus dropper, and heavy tungsten beadhead nymph plus smaller nymph for example. That way if you see activity on the surface you can fish one way up top, and if you don't you can go deeper. It may also get you some info to file away for later.
2. Yup. And because it's winter, pack an extra change of clothes in the car just in case you take a spill.
3. Don't sweat it. You've already done a good bit of your homework. You don't have to know Latin etc. By stopping in the fly shop you'll have gotten some flies and a good idea of what to expect, and what to look for. So if you see anything crawling around just try and get as close as you can with the flies you have. For the most part there will be only a few choices in terms of possible hatches this time of year:
Midges = small black flies with clear wings. You can match them with dries and larva or pupa patterns the shop recommends.
Small mayflies = upright wings. You can match the dries with small Blue Winged Olives or even Adams and the nymphs with Pheasant Tail Nymphs.
Just try and match them with whatever you've got in terms of size for dries, and about the same or a size larger for nymphs/larvae/pupae. If you don't see any activity on the surface, you could still try fishing up stream with a dry and dropper, or switch to a heavy tungsten bead head nymph like a Prince or stonefly nymph trailed by a Pheasant Tail Nymph and fish down stream. The heavy nymph may pick up a fish, but it'll mostly serve to get the PTN deep, and possibly attract fish to it. As far as identifying nymphs, you can break it down to small thin ones (Pheasant Tail Nymphs), small to medium size fat ones not likely to be moving around now (Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear), big honking ones available all year in riffles (Stonefly Nymphs, Prince Nymphs), and cased caddis not likely to be doing much this time of year (Prince Nymphs and Gold Ribbed Hares Ear again are pretty good imitations as well as Brassies and Copper Johns). You're probably not likely to see Midge Pupa or Larva, but stuff like Zebra Midges, WD40's or whatever the fly shop recommends would be good to try now, especially if you see midges on the surface.
The more time you spend on the water, coupled with having some advance knowledge of what to expect by getting a heads up from a local shop or hatch chart before hand and you'll be able to recognize stuff and be prepared to match it-- most important is size, so even if the pattern is a bit off, if you can get a decent presentation it'll get eaten.
4. I usually like to fish dries upstream and fish nymphs, wets and streamers downstream. I don't know how far the walk in to the dam is, so asking about time of day for hatches and most productive stretches might give you a clue as to how to approach this, and what stretches might be best to skip as low percentage. For instance if you plan on getting there in the morning, but hatches don't typically come off till midday, then maybe it'd be better to go right to the dam and work down. There may also be winter kills of shad, alewives, or mysis shrimp because of cold snaps that provoke feeding binges at the base of the dam (sometimes that happens in winter tailwaters) that might be a good to check out. If so, the shop should know. The other thing is water temps-- water temps at the base of the dam might be several degrees warmer than the rest of the river and trout might be a lot more active right there than the rest of the river, especially if you get there before the water has been warmed by the sun. It could be a good place to chuck some big streamers or woolly buggers if the water at the base of the dam is in the mid 40's. The rest of the river below it might be in the mid thirties and the fish less active and less willing to chase stuff, at least until the sun gets a chance to warm it up a bit. This time of year a little difference in water temp can mean big chances in catching.
Again, I don't know the Thompson, but those are some of the things I'd look for or try to get info on.
The only other thing I'd add is that it might be a good idea to follow up with the shop after your trip. Pop in if you can, let them know how you did, what you observed and give you an opportunity for thanking them again if they were helpful.
Good luck, i think you're really approaching this the right way. We're looking forward to the trip report.