Monday, April 14, 2014

Biology, bendos, and breeding

Despite fishing being a relatively small part of it, I had a relatively eventful weekend on the river. On Saturday afternoon, we met a flyfisherman and biologist who gave us a crash course on local insect identification and collection. Once a month one of us will go out and collect all identifiable mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly nymphs and adults and send them off for identification and entry into a database. I've always had somewhat of an interest in entemology as it relates to fly fishing, but never pursued it until this year. I recently bought the book "Handbook of Hatches" by Dave Hughes, and am finding it accessible, entertaining, and informative, but there is no substutite to turning over rocks and rooting through streamside vegetation and having a biologist eagerly identify your findings. It's been many decades since I spent this much time looking for bugs in a body of water and I have to say, the novelty hasn't worn off, and I felt myself transported to the marsh of my youth, collecting water beetles and tadpoles. I wasn't the only one, the rest of the guys seemed to have almost as much fun as they do when they're fishing. If you ever get the chance to examine insect life as it relates to the river you fish under the tutelage of an expert, take it!

Beautiful day on the bank

Some literature specific to Swiss mayflies and stoneflies

Examining our catch
Mayfly nymph

Over lunch the next day I finally found the time to take out my old Hardy JET 6 weight for a few tests casts. I threw on an Orvis BBS reel and headed down to the river with the intention to do some nymphing. That plan went out the window as I spotted multiple rising trout. I tied on a dry, and got to work. Unfortunately, the rod and I didn't quite mesh. The line I had on the reel, although it was a WF6, was a line I'd never been particularly happy with and keep meaning to replace. In addition, I really think this rod might be better served with a WF7, I needed to have far too much line out in order to properly load the rod. As if that weren't enough, it was quite windy and the wind was coming from the direction of my casting side. In short, I found it impossible to make a passable presentation, much less a delicate one. Still, fish aren't nearly as smart as we make them out to be, so in short order I missed one strike, then another, and then finally had a foot long brown on the end of the rod. Now, finally, I felt like I could enjoy the rod. Fighting a fish on it was thoroughly enjoyable, but I think I'll relegate this rod to streamer/nymphing duty.

Hardy JET 9 foot 6 weight

And finally, later that afternoon, I took my kids to see the spawning activity of the Common Nase, a migratory fish in the carp family that's in danger of extinction in Switzerland, and has been protected since 2007. Our river is one of the few and best remaining spawning grounds for this fish, which can grow to 20 inches long. Switzerland, like many other European countries, suffers from an addiction to dam building and hydroelectric power, and this fish is a reliable indicator of the health of a river so we're always happy to see them. Amazingly, they always pick the exact same section in which to spawn, only a few hundred feet long, affectionately referred to as "Nase Curve" as the section lies along an undercut, curving section of bank. I tried to get some photos, but the sun wasn't quite right and my reflexes weren't fast enough to catch the fish when they broke the water.

Spawning Common Nase
One of the few splashes I was able to catch on film
Sometimes, you can spend an very enjoyable weekend on a river with a hardly any fishing. It's certainly not optimal though...

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