Rogue River fishing report [22 October 2005]
It's the time of year when many trout anglers are hanging up their fly rods and considering the 2005 fishing season complete. A few are already looking ahead to spring 2006 when the new season will open. B and I have a hard time with that concept. Since the Michigan DNR changed the regulations on some stretches of our favorite trout streams so that there is no closed season, we've become almost year-round fisherpeople. And we spend our winter months chasing steelhead too.
This afternoon we headed for the Rogue River near Grand Rapids. We expected the lower portions of the river, below the Rockford dam, to be chuck full of salmon fishermen. So we headed upstream, above the dam, where we hoped to find few fishermen and lots of trout. Once deer season opens and salmon are running, there are typically very few trout anglers on the upper stretches of this river. We arrived around 2:30 and found our choice stretch vacant except for a busy band of wild turkeys vigorously scratching through the leaves on the forest floor for good eats. We also shared the stream with a few late season canoers and kayakers. All were especially cordial and friendly. The water level is probably the lowest we've ever seen it - down around 100 ft3/s. And clear.
We figured to spend the afternoon swinging streamers unless we encountered a BWO hatch. I started with a sink tip line and a black steelhead leech and B chose a white conehead sculpin pattern and a sinking leader. We've been better about coordinating our color choices lately so we can more quickly zero in on flies that might work. I hiked a ways downstream from B to a nice spot and within 15-20 minutes, hooked and landed a beautiful, bright 11" rainbow. I snapped a photo and quickly released him. B promptly switched to a dark streamer and also began to catch a few fish.
Later in the afternoon, a thin BWO hatch stimulated some surface action, so we both switched to floating line and CDC BWO patterns and hooked a couple of smallish, but colorful browns and rainbows. B also had good luck with her tan version of a Power Ant pattern; a few light-colored caddis appeared briefly. I also tried the tan ant but couldn't duplicate her results. At one point, a very large fish, maybe a 5-pounder, leaped clear of the surface and smacked his wide flat side on the water - a loud belly-smacker - just across the stream from B. That got our attention. It sounded like a beaver tail splash. We assumed he must've been after a smaller fish that was temporarily distracted by the BWO hatch. It definitely wasn't the more delicate surface sip of a fish eating a BWO or even a caddis fly. B tried a few different flies in the general vicinity of the big trout splash, but didn't entice him.
We continued on downstream, around Waxwing Corner, switching to nymphs and woolly buggers when the BWO flies and the surface action shut down. I caught a couple more little guys on soft hackle wet flies drifted through the main flow and swung out into the flatter riffle. B caught a lot more fish than I did as usual - a handful in the 11-13" range. She hooked one bigger fish that used the tactic of just parking on the bottom of a deeper hole and refusing to move. She had a hard time budging him and he eventually spat the hook. She never saw him to guess at his size.
We fished until we began to get chilly, then headed back upstream toward the car. I pushed the turkeys ahead of me. They flapped across the river and scratched through the leaves around a fire pit in someone's backyard. Then we watched them make their way up into the trees for the night. We've been entertained by their evening routine many times in this same spot over the last 5 or 6 years. They are not exactly delicate or precise flyers when it comes to getting into roosting position. They must have lots of bruises in the morning.
B's catch to mine, approximate ratio: 3:1
Wildlife sightings: lots of woodpeckers and hawks, nuthatches, wild turkeys, deer, eyes in the ditches on the drive home...
Mood improvement once we turned off the Spartan football game: +800%
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: A+
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