I believe that every great river has it's mysteries and "The Lady" is no exception to this rule . The one I will share with you tonight is one that has facinated me for several decades ... I am going to introduce you to the river's most secretive inhabitants , the ghost browns of the Ledges !
The Ledges is one of the five legendary large pools in the upper 1/2 of the Elk River C&R . As is true with the other four (Mill Pool , Angle Hole , Trestle & Meadow Hole this is heavily fished , glassy smooth , often very technical water . It's the kind of a place where inches become miles , mistakes are magnified and if the trout are "on their game ", you had better bring your "A" game ... I think of it as 4th , in degree of difficulty, of the 5 with the pecking order being , starting with the toughest ... Angle Hole , then the Trestle , then the Mill Pool , the Ledges and finally the Meadow Hole . I can already hear people saying "tough & technical , you must be joking . I went down there during Sulpur season and blew up rainbows on a #16 Usual , with a Sulphur spinner trailed off the back , on 6x . They were blasting it every cast " !
Showing off my psycic abilities ;) my reply would be "yep you were fishing the fast water at the head of the pool , with the fish bug drunk from the mammoth hatch & spinner fall . Most of the fish were 8-13"s , rainbows , and the fishing was so good you didn't even notice what was going on 30 yards downstream . If they are honest they would then have to admit that my assessment of the situation was pretty darned close . Close enough that they might come back with" so that was you just above the tailout ? The few times I looked up you seemed to be doing more looking then fishing . I did see you catch a couple right at dark ...." Oddly enough it probably was me just above the tailout ! There is nowhere I would rather fish right at dark on a late May or early June evening then the flat shallow water , just above the tailout of the Ledges and therefore I do it often ....
Now the obvious question would be why would you choose to fish the rather flat , shallow water near the tailout when you know you could be catching fish all evening in the fast water at the head of the pool instead of watching water and others catch fish ? It's a valid question , with a number of almost equally valid answers .... a. I like watching water , b. I like watching others catch fish and c. there is a stillness down there that is very appealing to me . Now all of these things/reasons are true but they are not the real reason ... The reason is it's because I know what lives there ! You see the low rock ledge , lined with grass , that forms the bank of that little piece of water is undercut . This undercut is and always has been in my years here , what might be thought of as a boarding house for large wayward brown trout . Kind of like a motel for brown spotted sharks . I say sharks because they range from large - huge and I use they because there always seems to be a fair number of them :) . The ghost browns of the Ledges !
By this point , if you are still reading , you are probably pondering at least 2 things ! These things might well be ...1st : how sad it is that the old elkfisher has finally lost his last 3 marbles and 2nd that lost marbles or not it's time for the elderly river idiot to explain the whole ghost business . Fair enough ;) .
I call them the ghost browns because they simply appear out of thin air , ok water actually , right at dark . You can stand and watch the water all evening (and it's thin enough that you can see every pebble) and never see a fish over 8"s and not many of those . Then it happens . Right at last light (think headlamp to tie on a fly time) you see a tiny ring . You don't fish yet . The ring appears again and again ,with the timing between appearances forming a steady rhythm . You still wait . Upstream 6' another ring apprears and settles into it's own rhythm . You watch and wait . Then a 3rd , 4th , 5th , etc . ( Some nights as many as a dozen) join , all rising softly and rhythmically . Now you fish !
The presentation must be perfect , drag and you are done . You make your throw and .... THERE got him ! Based on anything observed swimming there 1/2 hour before you would reasonably expect the response to your set to be the easy tug of an annoyed 8" brown trout much like I did when I 1st stumbled into this phenomonon years ago . Your reasonable expectation soon turns into shock (in a good way ) as the trademark headshake , is followed by the slowly accelerating 1st run of a heavy brown . You land him as quickly as possible attempt to straighten out your rig and repeat the experience . It is a rare night that you hook more then 3 or 4 before you simply can't see anything and 2 is a good night .
The 1st time you experience this you will find yourself taking the walk back down the next morning to look things over closely and maybe catch one in the day time . Of course all you will see is the same 8"er that was there yesterday afternoon . The big fish have vanished leaving the shallow water to the little browns , dace and darters . You shake your head , smile and head back up river , thankful to have had the encounter the night before and determined to visit the brown spotted river spirits again soon .