Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn Has Arrived Along with the Slate Drakes

Since sleep isn't coming easy, I figured it was a good time to post a report on my outing this past Saturday.  I only had a few hours in the middle of the afternoon, so I fished the South Branch of the Raritan River, being that it's only a short drive from my home.  It was the perfect last day of summer - warm sun softened by high clouds that often blocked its intensity, leaving the cool breeze to hint of the coming season.  The first of the summer tired leaves left their tree limbs and littered the water surface with their dull green, yellow and brown hues. The river was low and clear with temperatures in the mid 60's; comfortable for both a wet wading angler and trout.

With the low water, I barely waded except to move between pools and to land stubborn fish.  Mostly I crouched or even sat along the bank as I worked the deeper fast runs and pools, avoiding the slow, smooth stretches where few trout, if any, might lie in full view of predators.  I started by fishing my Pumpkinhead Midge, and hooked a nice fish early on, but that was it.  As the clouds thickened, quite a few Slate Drakes (Isonychia sp.) were about on the water and in the air. This is where checking the water surface pays off - as I fished the midge, I scanned the water surface and noticed many empty Isonychia nymphal shucks drifting along.  A sure sign they are active and the fish will likely be feeding on them.    So I switched to a Vinnie's Isonychia Nymph.

And very quickly I was into fish, a mix of small wild browns and stocked browns and rainbows, that took the fly aggressively.   My method is simple and straightforward and as old as the hills - a single nymph fished dead-drift off the end of a 10 foot long leader tapered to 2 feet of 5X.  I attached a small split shot about 6 inches above the fly, occasionally changing the size to suit the depth and speed of the water I fished, so my fly drifted and bounced along the bottom unencumbered.   I cast the fly up into the top of the runs and spillways, and then followed the drift with my rod tip while keeping the line tight, but not so tight so as to pull the fly unnaturally.  When I fish this way, I make sure I fish the fly all the way through the drift and down below me until the current pulls the fly up to the surface, to cover as much water as possible.  Hits may come at any time during the drift.  It's nothing special, no fancy European name, just short line nymphing while sitting one's arse to lower their profile.

After catching a bunch on the nymph, I started seeing fish taking the duns off the surface, so I switched to the Isonychia Emerger and worked over the rises.  I was rewarded when I made the right cast with a nice rainbow and two browns before the surface activity stopped.  I then switched back to the nymph and caught a couple more before losing my last one to a submerged rock.  That was my sign it was time to be grateful for a wonderful few hours on the stream, and call it a day.

The next month or so we should see regular Isonychia activity, so if you plan to get out, make sure you have some of the nymphs and a dry to imitate them.  My favorite dry is the Isonychia emerger, and of course I only use Vinnie's nymph.  We have videos on how to tie both of these patterns under the Fly Tying Video side bar to the right.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on tying these patterns.

Here's a photo of Vinnie's Isonychia Nymph - tie some up!

Sharpen your hooks. 


Anonymous said...

Matt, when you fish in low clear conditions like this are you using an indicator? I'm finding even the smallest indicators are spooking fish these days. I had more success dropping midges off dry flies last few weeks. Thanks, and thanks for another great report. -Greg.

Mr. Q said...

That nymph imitates an Iso nymph perfectly....I was inspecting the shucks on rocks the other day....Is it true that Iso's crawl to the shore or sticks to hatch? Or do they swim to the surface?

Matt Grobert said...

Greg, thank you. I don't use indicators to fish nymphs. I just concentrate and watch the line/leader for subtle or unusual movement. Sometimes I feel the take, too. Matt

Matt Grobert said...

Mr. Q. Isonychia will hatch from both the water surface and by crawling out on rocks. In pocket water where there are midstream rocks they seem to prefer crawling out. In riffles or pools they seem to surface hatch - there are very few exposed midstream rocks. Matt

Mr. Q said...