Monday, October 10, 2011

Shuffling the deck

It's that time of year where the deck gets shuffled. The hot days of summer are behind us and there is snow in the hills. As the days get cooler and the nights start to get downright cold, the internal trigger on the anadromous fish is pulled. Dour fish that have been sitting in the deepest runs they can find to escape the summer heat,slowly start to move. Big bucks start to ease out of their lairs and began their upstream  migration, following the overpowering instinct to find a mate and spawn. The early fall rains have begun, water temperatures are cooler and fish began to move at all times of the day.During the summer, their upstream movement was masked by the low light conditions of morning and evening. Now, fish can clearly be seen moving through tail outs and narrow slots at almost anytime of day.These once placid fish move aggressively to the fly once again.

A little larger profile fly is effective when water levels rise and cool

These early fall rains bring in fresh fish from the ocean as well. Fish that have waited for just this time to enter the stream of their birth and continue the cycle that will bring future generations. These late entering fish could still biologically be described as summer run fish but, on the river I fish at least, we start to see some fish that are distinctly different in appearance. These are the Nostril fish.The long sleek body of a summer fish is gone.A summer fish?A fall run fish? I can't answer that for sure. These fish have the body lines of a winter fish, not the overall length and mass necessarily, but those linebacker shoulders are evident. There is also a distinctly different spotting pattern on these fish. My friends and I have often wondered if these fish are a remnant strain from one of the logged out tributaries whose spawning gravel has long since been buried by silt and debris. Those tributaries can't support near the numbers that they once did, but small runs of these special fish do hang on where they can find suitable habitat. In talking with the old timers on the river, we have learned of distinct run timings of unique strains of fish that used to happen like clockwork. These individual genetically different runs of fish used to blur the line between the seasons. It wasn't just a summer and winter run, there would be fresh fish pouring into the river almost every month of the year.Each run timed to coincide with the water temps and conditions on one of the myriad of tributaries it was raised. Each fish type a genetically different creature,even from the one that is in the creek next door.

I am quite sure that many rivers in the Northwest have/ have had run timings and different strains of fish in the same system, genetically unique to the tributary they were raised. I would love to hear stories of fish on your rivers that fall into this category.

These fish still exist in small numbers and are seen every year by an even smaller group of anglers.

The fun part of this time of year is you never know what you might catch. A fish that has been in the river for awhile but is rested and willing to tussle, or a fish that is new on the block and ready to show you some kite string in a hurry.

The deck is shuffled, fish are moving and there are some wild cards out there.

Good fishing

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