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The importance of staying dry
Caddis fly patterns work well on the upper Stanislaus River. - photo by Photo by JEFF LUND

It’s always a good idea to check the weather before a trip to the mountains this time of year, so I did.

A high of 76 degrees sounded pretty nice and a bit like wet-wading weather though I still considered taking my waders on Saturday’s trip to the upper Stanislaus.

But maybe lost in the glorious image of wet-wading under the warm afternoon sun, which caused me to leave my waders at home, was a key element of basic meteorology and planetary science.

The temperature rarely peaks at 7:30 am.

When I got out of my truck at Clarks Fork I laughed. It was in the low 40s, I was in shorts, had exactly one pair of shoes and apparently half a brain. I couldn’t help but wonder if natural selection would have weeded me out by now had it been another period in time.

Fortunately, the water was low enough I could access good casting lanes without submerging my legs until it started to warm up.

So for the first two hours I hopped around boulders dipping nymphs half-heartedly into the cold water.

I didn’t spend too much time at any one spot which is not conducive to successful angling so I drove all the way to Kennedy Meadows to walk-off my impatience.

Somewhere between the parking lot and the meadow itself I unwound. Which in itself is the point of going fishing, now all I had to do was actually catch a fish and good living would be achieved.

There were small trout rising so I switch to a small caddis dry fly. To be an effective dry-fly fisherman it must arrest all of your attention. The angle of presentation is vital, the fly has to sit on top of the water and drift with the current — it can’t drag.

It’s a very delicate operation, until the water explodes and the fly disappears, but just because the fly disappears doesn’t mean anything. Plenty of times due to either too much slack in the line, the fish spitting the fly or whatever else, a connection is not made.

I caught a small brook trout after a few misses, then a little rainbow and decided I’d use dry flies all day. The catching was good throughout the afternoon. I hit a lot of water and when the shade was turning to shadows and the big fish were eating the evening bugs, I decided on one more fish before heading home. This is always a risky proposition because there is of course a chance that ‘just one more fish’ doesn’t happen and then in the interest of preservation of character you really should stay there until it does, even if you don’t have a headlamp or food.

There was a long deep run with large submerged rocks for cover. Hungry trout were shooting out from cover to devour surface flies, so I stood on a rock in the middle of the current and casted up river toward the action.

A large rainbow surfaced and smacked my caddis fly, but I couldn’t set the hook. I casted to it a few more times, but big fish don’t get big by being dumb. I switched to an Adams fly.

On the first cast, the trout came up again, but again the length of the cast left me with too much slack and again the trout escaped. I walked up river a little and adjusted the angle, tied on a different shade of caddis fly and put it perfectly in front of the fish.

As soon as the fly settled on top of the water, the rainbow hit, I set, and it was on.

I’ve caught bigger and prettier fish, but in moments like Saturday evening none of that matters. I entertained the thought of ‘just one more fish’ one more time, but decided to quit while I was ahead.

To contact Jeff Lund, email