As I have mentioned from the beginning, my journal entries afford me the opportunity to share not only my experiences, but also to compare the expected or hoped for adventures with the reality of the events as they unfolded. I fish and guide on two different stretches of water on the Mad River waterway in SW Ohio. One is the public access mainstream that begins, for me, in the little town of West Liberty, and ends just south of Urbana. The reason I end my trout fishing focus around the county line of Champaign and Clark counties is due to the spring cold water influence that wanes at about the boundary line. As the river continues past this point, the water slows, straightens out and warms which produces less than favorable conditions for my targeted species, the brown trout. The river north of this county line is heavily influenced and is primarily formed by cold water springs and steeps of cold clear water emerging through the limestone base. The character and quality of the water and surrounding flora and fauna in the upper section of the Mad reminds me of some of the finest limestone streams that I have fished in the Midwest.
The second type of water I am fortunate to be able to enjoy are private spring streams formed by large natural springs that are a part of the headwaters of the Mad. These small springs emerge from the ground, and then flow towards West Liberty joining a couple of other spring creek tributaries. These streams are unique in that they remain cold during the middle of Summer, and in twenty some years of experience, I have never seen them freeze even in the dead of winter. The constant flow and temperature of spring water, with very little wash in of ground water runoff, produces a perfect environment for trout to thrive. These small private streams are classified as blue ribbon in regards to size, health, and population. They provide fly fishing opportunities for brown, brook, and rainbow trout in a traditional English chalk stream setting. The unique and at times challenging opportunities that the Mad River system provides can keep a fly fisherman busy twelve months a year. Trout and the water they live in can be a wonderful close up look and walk through God’s creation without trampling it as we wander through.
In my last journal entry entitled April Reflections, I mentioned what we thought might occur in terms of insect activity on the Mad River system during the month of May and what fly patterns we anticipated needing in our vest. Lo and behold, nature came through and with the exception of a few colder than expected stretches of weather, we were properly prepared. The main stream of the Mad produced about a three week hatch of size 16 and 18 Mad River yellow sulfur mayfly. The trout were very selective in regard to their takes, and quite honestly, proved to be very challenging in regards to being fooled by our imitations. I was able to spend a dozen or so late afternoons, into the evening, casting to rising browns, while fooling only about one in five that showed me where they were holding. My only consolation was that my fishing partner, Buck, experienced the same kind of hit ratio in regards to rising trout. Collectively, we were able to fool enough 10 to 14 inch brownies to claim victory, however, an unbiased judge might have called it a split decision.
Based on what we observed in the air and on the water many patterns were tried. In the way of Sulfurs, we tried a variety of size 16 and 18 Parachutes, Cripples, Spinners, and Emergers all with great hope but limited success. Caddis were observed and the size 17 Parachute pattern offered in tan and UV olive seemed to be a sure bet. They did the job but we certainly felt like we missed more than we caught. Size 16 Mattress Thrashers in cinnamon and also UV olive seemed to be exactly what were seen bouncing on the water. We fooled a few but overall I would say the fish were not that impressed with the imitations from my vise. Long 7x leaders with my size 18 Polar Cripple Blue Wing Olive were bound to be the ace in the hole. Only a few of our finny friends seemed to agree with my opinion and expectations.
Finally, a beautiful deep pool below a long shallow riffle became the scene of larger than average brown trout completely leaving the water in pursuit of emerging brown drakes. The trout were feeding in the riffles, the pool, the foam below the pool, and along the edges with reckless abandon. We were able to fool three beautiful butter colored browns in the 16 to 17 inch range with a size 12 Brown Drake Klinkhammer pattern in a thirty minute span right before dark.It was as if we knew what we were doing! That experience lasted for all of one night. The next couple of outings produced the same kind of results as the early part of the month, one here and one there.In retrospect, in regards to our success when it comes to a fish count on the mainstream of the Mad in May, we won through attrition. As far as lessons learned and experiences enjoyed, the river owes me nothing. Every evening that presented the opportunity to cast a fly to a rising trout I found myself saying, “There is no place I would rather be”.
The private stream report is a little more exciting. I had the great privilege of introducing fly fishing for trout to three different groups of individuals in a very target rich environment. A Father, Son, Uncle, and Nephew were all able to fly cast to large, even extra large Brown, Brook, and Rainbow Trout with incredible success. Dry fly offerings of size 12 March Brown Cripples, size 14 tan and also olive Mattress Thrashers coupled with droppers in size 18 Red Midge or a size 18 Green Caddis larvae fooled all three varieties of the resident trout in lengths from 16 to 21 inches.A size 8 Rusty’s Matuka streamer in olive and black inspired brown trout up to 25 inches to attack as if it was their last meal. Imagine the smiles and high fives produced by learning to cast early in the morning and then posing with the trout of a lifetime for pictures in the afternoon. That does not happen everywhere. I know this kind of experience inspires beginning fly fishermen as well as grizzled faced Trout Bums to long for their next chance to feel this kind of rush. I must admit, it is such a humbling, gratifying, and blessed kind of feeling for me to be involved in this kind of adventure. I am truly a lucky guy that is living the dream. Thank you so much to my fishing companions from the past and those of you I have yet to meet on the stream.
The path ahead will probably involve crossing a stream on the journey. These days, my dreams also involve a trout. Early Summer Dreaming includes bamboo fly rods and terrestrials falling from overhanging bushes and blowing in the wind. Over the years, I have been very fortunate in regards to acquiring bamboo works of art from some of the finest artisans in the world of hand made bamboo fly rods. Dickerson, Payne, Summers, Winston, and Constable rods were made to be fished with and I do. I am not going to attempt to explain the feeling of casting a cane rod. If you have, you understand. If you have not, I would suggest you add it to your bucket list. Bamboo fly rods with a terrestrial pattern tied on the end of the line is a dream I plan on living out for the next couple of months.If you need some suggestions to add to your fly box, please check out the Featured Patterns section on our Website for some proven winners. I wish you the best of luck this early Summer on the water and in life in general. If I can help with your fly selection or a trip to the stream, please feel free to reach out. I have always sought out the advice of more experienced tiers and fly fishermen and I still do. Thank you again to all of my mentors, counselors, and fishing partners for helping make my dreams come true, I would love to return the favor by passing it on.