North Fork of the Clearwater, Idaho
When you are tying up big foam October Caddis flies you know you are doing something right. And when you are being pelted by them as you are tying them, you know you are definitely doing something right. We were tying by light of our lantern- a flashlight pointed to a half-filled vegetable oil jug, and by the end of the night dozens of moths were stuck to it. Big caddis everywhere. In all of our poor planning of this trip, we managed to time this hatch perfectly.
The October Caddis has to be one of the biggest types of Caddisflies. With dark brown wings and a burnt orange abdomen, they are a perfect target for these native trout. And West Slope cutthroats are notorious for their eagerness to eat big bugs off the surface- which means we will think we are way better anglers by the end of the trip than we really are… But since these fish were actually seeing size 6-8 bugs all day, we knew we had the upper hand. In reality, any larger caddis imitation would have worked for these fish, because lets face it, they are West Slopes, but we still chose to tie our own variations of October Caddis. Mostly because it gave us a reason to stay up at night and drink a few beers, but anyway- we caught a ton of fish on our flies.
Pool hopping, rods under the windshield wipers, swerving around the dirt road trying to stay away from the cliff’s edge, but staying close enough so that we could see every run, riffle, and pool in the river below and quickly pull over when a good spot was seen. It was best not to stay at one place for too long, and it seemed that even West Slopes can shut off after a certain point of seeing the same fly too many times. We had the valley to ourselves and there was plenty of good water to be fished, so Ryan and I kept moving.
So many fish were eating that our dogs began to pick up on the sound of the line snapping off the water signaling a hook-set. I know even Boh watched my fly get eaten a few times.
A porpoise-like rise as the bug disappears, back arching, fins exposed, fish on. The water is so clear on the North Fork that we could see a fish from ten feet down in a pool, slowly swim all the way to the top for our flies. These fish spoiled us, and the fish gods reminded us of that when we got skunked at the Henry’s Fork a few days later.
But the fishing was good, and that’s all that ever really matters.
We would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t bring some heavier gear than dry flies and two weights to a river system that holds bull trout, so naturally we also had a seven weight with sinking line, and a big articulated white bunny-leach streamer. And not that catching native fish on the surface could ever get boring, it came to a point where we were obliged to start slinging some meat. I’d really love to see a bull.
So we hiked a little further into the valley, spooked a black bear from about thirty yards, across the river and up the mountainside, and caught no bull trout. But I did get a nice Cutty to eat that streamer, and for a second I thought it was a bull.
Maybe we’ll get one in BC. We can only keep fishing at this point.
Tight lines and stay core,
and get off your computer and go fishing.