After taking almost 10 years off from fly fishing, I had two firsts that significantly changed my life forever. A friend had called me to see if I was interested on going on an afternoon fly fishing trip with him and a friend. Years ago, fly fishing or more specifically fly tying had been a huge part of my life but after going to college and moving away from home I lost touch with this once important hobby somewhere along the way. Growing up, I fished mostly small valley streams, until this trip I had never actually never fly fished on a lake and because of the cost, I had also never taken a guided trip.
I remember that our little outing did not provide the hottest fishing and our guide was quick to point out the anomaly. However, I learned an incredible amount of valuable information about lake fishing in those few hours on the water. This experience also taught me the value of time spent obeying the every command of a knowledgeable guide when fishing new water. Behind chasing Steelhead, fly fishing the high lakes of Central Oregon has become one of my greatest passions. On the surface it seems so simple, some actually make fun of it and call it “bobber” fishing with a fly rod. There are days that it really is that simple and there are other days that will leave you in a tantrum as you watch the guy next to you reel in one fish after another while you throw literally everything you have.
I had one such experience this summer while fishing up at Lava lake just west of my hometown: Bend, Oregon. I launched my fancy new float tube amidst a massive midge hatch. These bugs were huge and looked and sounded like a mosquito but did not bite, I had never seen such a thing. It was early in the season and the fishing reports had been incredible, I figured this was a done deal. I finned out and proceeded to toss my “bobber” expecting immediate action, an hour later; nothing. I adjusted my flies to fish deeper until I was snagging on the bottom, then I tried a slow count down retrieve, pause retrieve, still no fish. I then look over and notice this guy who was anchored in a pontoon just off the shore and he was literally catching fish about every other cast. He was also completely surrounded by other guys trying to get close enough to figure out his secret.
Getting frustrated I tried everything, I actually hooked a nice fish casting to the bank and stripping a buggers and then broke it off because I was too lazy to tie on a heavier streamer leader. This guy was clearly fishing bugs under an indicator so I switched back to my standard two fly Chironomid rig. Knowing it’s always about getting the right depth I went deeper and deeper and deeper until I was regularly losing my bottom fly to wood on the bottom. I just couldn’t get the job done no matter what I tried and I literally threw almost every Chironomid pattern I had in my box and tried to run each at every depth from about six feet to twelve.
I stayed on the water with this guy until the wind could no longer be tolerated and the sun began to set, everyone but the two of us had headed for the pub. Knowing that the game was lost and he would have nothing to lose at this point I walked over and asked the master if he would share his secrets. He holds up a white thingamabobber with a size 12 Chironomid that had a white bead head and a bare [ragged] black thread body. This fly was hanging at best 2 inches below his indicator. I was just shocked, I had thrown 2-3 of almost the exact same fly for hours without a fish. I was right about one thing; it was all about depth and it appears I should have been thinking inches instead of feet. As I am chatting with him he proceeds to tell me that he forgot all of his fly boxes at home on accident and that this was the only fly he had with him but he decided to fish anyway. By the looks of it that fly was a bit skinnier than when it had started but it was still functional. Needless to say, it was an incredibly valuable lesson and is one of the reasons I carry a dozen of that exact fly in every size; no rib, no clear goo, nothing but thread on a beaded hook!
Over the next few weeks I am going to present a series of simple Chironomid patterns that you can use to stock your boxes for the spring. This pattern is a variation of the common snow cone pattern and can be tied in every color combination typical to Chironomids. You will rarely go wrong with red and black with a white head. If you are just learning to tie there is no better place to start than these incredibly effective patterns. This video explains the absolute basics of what you need to tie a Chironomid that will catch a trophy trout on almost any freshwater lake that exists.