I like to catch fish when I go fishing. You probably do too. Most times I am successful, but there are days that I don’t even get a bite. You might think this is the kind of day that really drags for me, but it really isn’t.
Stream fishing is where my heart is, so I can get lost for a full day even if fishing has been tough. Every few feet of a stream differs from the last stretch fished. The various currents in a stream are a fun challenge to negotiate. I love trying to get my fly into water that seems close to impossible to reach. I will lose a fly if it means that I might encounter a trout that has been passed over by other anglers because they didn’t dare to cast under that tree or into that log jam.
Upper Christopher Creek offers some of those challenges, but I hadn’t fished it all summer. Since I am generally a catch and release angler, I didn’t want to fish for trout in low water conditions where the temperatures were approaching their higher tolerance levels, and cause any more stress to the fish. Recently, with much cooler weather and stream temperatures, I ventured up to See Canyon.
I was targeting the wild brown trout in the creek. On past trips, I’ve caught them as small as three inches, with the biggest probably about 10 inches.
It might seem odd, but I get really excited when I catch a small trout. I take special care in releasing it. I smile knowing that this fish was born in a creek with quality water, and great bug life to sustain him for years to come; and only a short drive from my home.
At the trailhead parking lot I could see that the leaves had already mostly fallen, so I would need to be sure that I used any available rocks and trees to hide my approach.
When I got down to the creek, I noticed that the water was still very skinny. I was pleased to feel the cold water as I examined a few rocks in the riffles to see what the bug life was like to help me decide what to tie on as a reasonable imitation. I knew that any fish I came across would be in good shape.
Because the water was so shallow, the spots between the larger holes where I sometimes find fish were just not producing. I then spent more time focused on the larger holes. Even a big pool in a small creek at this time of year is generally only a couple feet deep.
Sure enough, there were some trout in one of the larger holes, but those leaves I noticed missing from the trees around the parking lot created a big problem for me in the water.
Normally, a large pool requires some stealth and a fairly long, delicate cast to avoid detection. There are quite a few places on the creek where this is possible, but I had never fished Upper Christopher when these big holes were covered with floating leaves.
So while I could see four trout swimming enticingly around in the pool, my casts kept catching floating leaves. I carefully drifted my fly and the attached leaf through the hole to avoid scaring the fish, but as many leaves as I pulled out, there were hundreds more blocking my attempts to get a fly to the fish.
As frustrating as that might seem, it gave me permission to just stand there and watch the trout. They would move around the pool feeding, or would duck under a big rock briefly.
The biggest trout had selected a nice run in a little faster current at the top of the pool. When he left the spot to explore the pool, a smaller fish took his position. He quickly reasserted his dominance when he returned, and the smaller trout darted back to the main pool.
I knew that as I moved up the creek that I would encounter similar conditions in the slow pools with heavy mats of floating leaves. While I still fished, my focus had shifted more to observation and appreciation.
In parts of the creek, those once floating leaves were piling up and settling on the bottom. This reminded me that every summer on the same stretch of the creek, the bottom appears to be moving with an army of cased caddisflies.
These caddisflies seem more prolific on Upper Christopher than the other small streams that I fish, and I always wondered why. They no doubt have taken advantage of this heavy leaf fall into the creek as their primary food source, and it seems that it also provides a nice building material for their cases.
Since I was a kid. I have never had a bad day of fishing. When fishing gets tough, I sometimes shift my attention to what I can learn about the stream, and another great day of “fishing” results.