Tag Archives: Pheasant Tail

25 to the Net

My friend Mike gave me a call early in the week, and asked me to fish with him on Sunday. The President’s Day holiday meant that my son’s sports would end on Saturday, so Sunday was wide open. Given both of our evening commitments, the options were limited to ninety minutes from home base. That means The South Platte River near Deckers, and The Arkansas, are the closest bodies of water that can be accessed. I had not fished since early fall, so I was excited at the opportunity to unwind in a river. Winter fly fishing in Colorado tail waters is special. The opportunity to hook up in February is such a unique experience for a native New Englander. A twelve month season allows anglers to escape at their convenience. If you can withstand the variable weather conditions, there are big fish to be had.

I don’t need an alarm when hunting or fishing is the activity of the upcoming day. To that point, I jumped out of bed at 5 am to prepare to pursue native rainbows. Mike, Luke, Tim and I arrived at the river at about 7:45 am. There were a few other vehicles in the parking lot, but those fishermen had taken a route away from our favorite holes. All of our rods were already rigged, so once the waders and jackets were on, we hurried to the prime spots. During my ten minute dash, I spotted a bald eagle at the very top of a tree; we were both searching for the same quarry.

I picked a section of the river where I have had past success. The fish gather at the end of a thirty foot long shallow riffle that drops quickly into four feet of water moving at 55 CFS (Cubic Feet Per Second). Sporadic cloud cover prohibited me from seeing fish, but I knew the rainbows would be moving into the area as the day warmed. My flies of choice were a #18 flashback pheasant tail on top with a Mike Duerr #20 Yong’s Special as the trailing bait. I tie the flies together with Orvis Mirage Fluorocarbon 5x tippet and use a single Dinsmores BB to get to the required depth.

Trees line the shoreline, so lengthy roll casts are the only safe way to reach my intended targets. Ten drifts did not result in a strike, so I changed positions as well as increased the space between my Thingamabobber and the pheasant tail. As the rig reached the end of its drift, the line stopped and I set the hook. The fished moved quickly up the water column, and spit the hook. Disappointed, I restarted the process to see if I could entice another hit. My friends moved into the spot, and positioned themselves around the large pool. As the first bug hatch of the morning unfolded, everyone began to hook up. Disappointedly, I struggled to keep the larger fish on once the fight began. One big bow actually broke me off at the leader. Once I composed myself, I changed patterns. My Yong’s Special was still my trailer fly, but I put a tangerine soft milk egg on top. Eventually, I started to get in a groove, and my confidence improved as fish were brought to the net.

It was pretty cool to see my neighbor, Luke, take his first fish on a fly. He was a natural nympher, hooking up many times throughout the day. Fly fishing is not an easy sport; technique is almost as important as experience. Luke has neither, yet his production was that of a wily veteran. His success was lauded by the group.

As 2 pm approached, Mike and Tim suggested that we make our way home. I gave the final “last cast” call and flipped my flies upstream. After an initial mend, I achieved the appropriate float. As my indicator neared the end of the run, it went under with force. I raised my right wrist to set the hook, and the fish screamed down river. A ten minute fight ensued, and concluded when a kind stranger netted the brightly colored male trout. He congratulated me for catching “the largest fish” he had seen taken from the river, and we released the rainbow back to the pool.

On our way back to Parker, we stopped to have a couple of beers and reminisce about our success. A warm February day on the water is time well spent.


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