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Week of January 28th: Behavioral Drift

The USGS WaterWatch gauge has a special place on my phone.  Even if I am not going fishing, I take a look at the flows even in other states.  There is a button that pulls up the graph for the past seven days, thirty days, and one year.  No one is wondering, but if they were wondering why my boots are dry, it is because that graph cannot remain constant and seems to change most dramatically before a weekend.

Four events witnessed in the last thirty days rendered our streams too high and fast to safely wade.  Winter conditions are tough enough on a good day, so I say “kudos to you,” if you are among those who caught your January fish.  Double props if you found one looking up for a dry. 

There may still be time before the month ends on Wednesday, but the forecast and conditions are looking pleasant until February.  Is normalcy and consistency too much to ask for? From what I have seen and heard, eggs and streamers are working right now.  Both can be fished slowly and thoughtfully and hopefully near the river bed.  John Collins just brought in some sculpins, and Kayla restocked her Georgia Peaches (and some new Florida Oranges!) Kayla's flies are tied on a jig hook, perfect for Euro nymphing, and JC's sculpins (in multiple colors) are great when the flows are up - fish them deep!

The air temperature and water temperature should be working in our favor but we did dip down to thirty-two, twice.  Once temps start getting near forty degrees, the fish realize they are hungry and start slowly prowling around until they get some nutrients and warm up a bit.  Read on to learn that it is okay to let the nymph drift off the bottom and into the column, too.

The shop is feeling like days of yore with more people tying at open tying night on Tuesdays and with classes occurring on a regular basis.  Sign up for the mailing list or check out the website as spots in some classes are limited.  In our 101 class we cover basic skills and tools and simple patterns, which got me thinking about eggs and nymphs.  Even though the angler’s assertion is that brown and brook trout spawn in autumn and rainbows spawn in the spring, eggs are a popular pattern throughout the winter.  It is also during this time the nymphs are moving around the ecosystem in a phenomenon known as “drift behavior.”  

Aquatic insects, as nymphs, move for several reasons - food, pollution, and to avoid predators and competition.  This movement happens when the bug swims into the water column and drifts for a significant distance before resettling downstream.  Certainly bugs get knocked loose and swim around through the course of their life, but the behavioral drift occurs in great enough abundance to be noted, recorded (learn more in this article), and useful for our purpose. Nymphs recognize low light conditions and low temperatures are safe times to migrate for safety and to find the right environment for the next generation. Drift your stonefly, prince nymph, or other favorite winter pattern up in the column, too, past rocks and through pools with confidence and hope that it fools the predator lurking below around dawn and dusk. The behavioral drift sounds like an underwater hatch of nymphs!

Our next Technique Series is a material based class on dubbing where we can learn which dubbing is best for absorbancy and which for repelling water.  Want to learn why fox and when possum? Who makes Antron and what is Sow Scud? Just don’t ask where to find the best colored fox belly fibers for dubbing Hendricksons…

Last but not least - plan ahead!  Don’t ask how I know this, but there is a low–key tradition at the University of Notre Dame.  Knowing that they may one day be married and certain they want the wedding in the University chapel (who wouldn’t!), first year students reserve any open spot well in the future as the date, well in the future, is the only open day for their dream nuptials.                

No pressure here, but spring is about fifty days away. Book your guided trip to put your flies to the ultimate test!  Weekends are filling up.

See you out there,

Roy B.


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