Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Black gnats

I have caught more fish on a size 16 black gnat than on any other fly pattern. They have not been the largest fish I have caught. And with the exception of a particularly feisty rainbow on the Gallatin River, they have not been the most memorable fish I have caught. But in terms of sheer quantity, the black gnat has long been my most productive pattern.

My semi-scientific research seems to bear this out, as I usually will fish two flies at a time just to see which is more attractive. My go to kit on high-elevation lakes, where catching large numbers of small fish is very easy, is a black gnat coupled with whatever else I see flying around, usually a mosquito. The black gnat is almost always what the vast majority of fish will strike.

This last weekend at Josephus Lake was no exception. We wanted to spend the weekend seeing someplace we had never been before. Based on how much my son enjoyed fishing earlier in the week, we decided camping somewhere near an alpine lake would be a good choice. So on Friday afternoon, we packed up and headed to the area bordering the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

We made our camp a couple of miles down the road from Josephus Lake. It was a terrific site, with level spots to pitch tents and a nice log bench near the fire ring. Notwithstanding the lack of water and restroom facilities, primitive camping is a great joy. Our kids get a real kick out of being in the outdoors, especially since they pretty much have free rein to get as dirty as they want.

On Saturday morning, we made breakfast, broke camp, and drove up to the lake. When we got there, we were glad to have camped elsewhere. There are three sites at the lake, but there were at least eight vehicles crowded into them.

We found a spot on the shore and got flies onto the water. Within minutes we had a strike. It was exceptionally small, so I reeled it in quickly and released it. Moments later I had another fish on, so I let my daughter land this one. Next fish I gave my son a chance to land one with the fly rod.

After that I tried to let my daughter hook the fish and land it on her own, but she lacks the experience to mend line and recognize when to set the hook, so she missed the strikes that she had and I had to take over again.

Children's attention spans being what they are, they were ready to do something else within an hour. So we went back to the car, made some lunch, and then ventured off up the trail into the wilderness area. Our youngest had been sleeping in the car while we fished, and mom was catching some Z's when she wasn't taking pictures, but we all went off on the hike together.

It was a beautiful trail, and we had it almost to ourselves. I really started to wonder why I commit so many of my Saturdays to long bike rides and coaching soccer games, because camping and fishing in the mountains is far more rejuvenating than suffering through a long ride in 100 degree heat or screaming my lungs out on the sideline of a soccer field.

The nice thing about a long weekend is that I can have my cake and eat it too. Monday I rode up Bogus Basin Road for one last training climb before Lotoja. Plus I had to do something to burn off the fried chicken and waffles that I ate for dinner on Sunday (wonder if Rachel will blog about that meal). Monday afternoon, we had friends over and grilled bratwurst. (Can you tell by what I'm eating that I'm finally down to my goal weight? It won't last long if I keep this up.) All in all it was a nearly perfect long weekend.