We continue “Old Man Week” on the blog with a short entry . Ken wrote this for the KVCTU newsletter in early 2004 I believe . As always there are quite a few posts below . Scroll down to take a look !
Tough Fish by Ken Yufer
The image that the phrase “tough fish” paints for many fishermen is of that large trout they know is there ;they fish for it every chance they have . I understand that feeling . There are large trout I pursue whenever the conditions are favorable, and I always check their lie to see if they may by some chance be feeding in low water . However for me the tough fish are those that say , “I’m here; I’m feeding every day; catch me if you can .”
Dave Breitmeier and I had been working on small-fly patterns for quite awhile . If only we could get small enough hooks (#30-32) we could catch the midge-feeding trout in the Elk River . Dave located some size 32 hooks in a flyshop in Virginia , but they had no eye . Dave , the expert at fly-tying, crafted our patterns on these hooks and cemented 8x tippet for an eye – that was before 9x and 10x tippet . We were really proud of those patterns !
I went to the Mill Pool on the lower Elk Catch and Release (C/R) to try out my three new can’t miss patterns . I netted for midges ,found a pattern that closely matched the dominant midge , then sat down and watched for midge feeding trout . A six-inch brown trout was sipping regularly near a large rock . I ecided to start with him . I got in position , waited until the trout was sipping in a rythm , and cast . Our perfect pattern drifted into his feeding lane . He followed the fly for about 15 feet , then in a show of disinterest , returned to his feeding station . Six casts; six rejections . I tried a second pattern , which was also refused several times . The third pattern was not even rewarded with a look . Devastated , I went back to Dave and told him that we still had a long way to go .
A 12-inch rainbow in the Priss Hole (also on the lower Elk C/R) was another tough fish that I remember . By this time thanks to Tiemco and Varivas , we had legitimate #32 hooks and 10x tippet , as well as lots of small-fly patterns . About mid-pool , there was a log against the near bank . Trout midged there regularly . This became my laboratory for a rainbow about 15 yards upstream . I always went there first to see if he was feeding . Without fail , that rainbow would be feeding about 8 inches down in the film , very selectively feeding on nymphs and larvae .
Back to the log ! I experimented with various flies in the film (down about 8 inches) . Many days I felt confident , because I was catching quite a few trout . I would then move up above the rainbow’s lie , check the drift and depth , then get in position to wait for him to feed in rhythm , and cast . In about 50 outings , I caught this fish a total of only three times . Even rainbows can be tough fish .
The railroad bridge on the lower Elk C/R may be the most heavily fished hole in West Virginia – there were five people fishing it December 29th , 2003 , for example . Day in and day out , myriad fishermen pursue these trout . The fish primarily feed on very small flies . Frustration drove Dave to snip off a #32 hook to immitate a size 38/40 pattern to see if the trout really were eating these smaller flies . They were and are; tough fish !
Three foot-long brown trout have become the most sought-after targets in this stretch of the river . They feed in the eddy on the road side of the hole – in plain sight . These three browns have humbled many a fisherman . After netting insects at the lower end of the hole and watching the fish feed , I usually start to fish up through the hole toward the bridge . On many occasions , my luck was good until I got to the eddy . There would be the three brown trout , feeding at various depths , with changing feeding patterns – always with unpredictability . One day Dave walked across the bridge and heard me yell: I had just caught one of these three tough fish !
Your favorite trout stream probably has tough fish , and they can be great fun , as long as it doesn’t bother you for the fish to win more often than not . Most often these fish seem to be found in heavily fished waters , and they are usually not large fish . Do seek out these crafty trout and give them the attention they deserve . They are the perfect example of the everyday mystery we try to solve . I hope the trout God continues to provide us with these elusive gems .