Welcome to the first of our weekly column, Der Biss (The Bite). Every week, we will keep you up to date on all the happenings on and around the Crystal Valley.
I had a chance to rig up this week and slide into the icy waters of The Little Elkhart River. After spending some time in south Florida during the holidays, I must admit, I was ready to get back to some trout fishing. There is something about cold weather fishing that I have learned to enjoy, and yes, even look forward to. Maybe it's the silence, or the solitude that I crave, but I was excited to brave the sub freezing temps and get a few much needed hours of fishing in. So excited, that as I was pulling out of our neighborhood, I realized that I had left my rod hanging in the garage.
The day before, I had run into an acquaintance who was new to fly fishing. Her and her husband had purchased two rigs over the summer, as well as a cabin in upper Michigan. I was anxious to hear how their development was coming along. Much to my embarrassment, she informed me that while they had all the equipment, they had not yet put it together! I asked if I could stop by her office the next day and show her how to rig them up and we made the plans to do so. She was a great student. Very precise and making sure the backing was evenly applied to her reel. She even "nailed" the nail knot on her first try!! We had a quick casting lesson out on the frozen lawn beside her office (FYI: classic casting... 10 and 2, none of my Amish Nymphing bullshit...). It was obvious... she was hooked. I after the lesson, I was ready to do some fishing myself.
After gathering my forgotten rod, I headed to the Catch and Release section of the Little Elkhart. I grabbed my pack and rod and as I hit the trail, I was surprised to see footprints. Felt bottom footprints. Had someone else caught some cabin fever? The sun was beginning to peak behind the trees as I reached my first planned destination. I wouldn't have much time before dark, but I felt good about my chances to tempt a trout. The water was gin clear, and really pretty normal deapth for this time of year. As I looked downstream, the river looked like a black and white picture, the black tree branches topped with just a dusting of snow. I took a moment to admire the landscape. The air was crisp and sharp to my lungs. I checked my rig and lead my flies through the deep pool. No luck. I switched a few bugs, lost a few bugs, and then made the decision to move. No sooner had I attached my anchor fly to the hook keeper when a voice cuts through the silence...
"Catch any?" The voice called.
"Nope, not yet" I replied.
I was greeted by a young man, who appeared to be in his early twenties at best, in neoprene waders, holding a micro spinning rod.
"I just rolled a big boy on this!" He said and showed me a spinner bait of a small rainbow pattern. He went into great detail of how the fish hit, and described the fight with such passion, I could visualize the ordeal in my head. The Crystal Valley is a small community, and we learned that we knew many of the same people. I had even done some business with his dad, who does not fish. I asked him if he had ever fly fished and he said he had, but didn't know enough about it to be interested.
I offered to help change that.
Chase and I walked upstream so he could show me the exact location of his battle. It was getting dark. We shook hands and headed opposite directions on the trail, vowing to fish together again. I hope we do.
It's always exciting to see people's passion for fishing... It's contagious. I am always amazed the blessings I have received through fishing, and fly fishing to be more specific. It's always rewarding to share that passion with others.
The water is running at normal levels and clear. 42 degrees.
Fish seem to want to eat at the warmest point of the day... And then right before dark. Expect a soft take.
Flies to try: Chicken bone, The Beach Clouser, Steelhead Buggers, and small black stoneflies. Small streamers have been effective, don't be afraid to give them a little action (The Miller Twitch).