World Fly Fishing Championships 2016 in Vail, Colordo: Session 1 Upper Eagle River

World Championships Vail Colorado 2016

Session 1 Upper Eagle:

First of all I want to thank all of the people who came out to support me during the world championships. During the first session there were a lot of spectators that came to watch me fish. I appreciated your interest and support including my dad, Mark Spitz, the Cortland and Umpqua crews, and members of our youth team. I know there were others that showed up during the session but since I had my head in the game I didn’t see you all. Thanks though.

Second, I have a confession that I forgot to take pictures of my beats during the tournament. At the time I was focused on the task at hand and missed the photos that would have been nice to have for these posts. Now that I have confessed.... I can move forward albeit with few images to aid my beat descriptions.

I had beat 17 on the Upper Eagle. The beat had a deep swift run at the top with hard edged seams on both sides. The run smoothed and slowed near the end to a shallow tailout and then transitioned to a shallow wide riffle with a couple of small boulders on the far side. There was some slow shallow water on the near edge of the run where fish were rising during my setup time. I set up four rods including a 10’ 6 weight Sage ONE for streamers with a floating line to fish the shallow tailout and riffle, a 9’ 3 weight Sage Z-axis for dry flies, and two 10’6” 3 weight Cortland Competition Nymph rods for a Euro nymph (my thinner leader) and a Euro leader dry dropper setup. This year I threaded my rods, tied on one fly, and bundled them together broken in half with rubber bands. This drastically decreased my setup time and increased my beat scouting time but it was cumbersome and risky bringing the rods on the bus with me.

An Eagle River brown trout on a Pliva Perdigon

I started my session at the top of my beat on my knees in position to feed downstream casts to the rising fish in the skinny slow water on the near side. Unfortunately, less than a minute before my session the clouds passed and I was left with bright sun. The fish immediately ceased rising. I waited a couple minutes for any lingering heads that might show themselves. A small fish rose. I placed a slack line reach cast downstream and caught it with a shuttlecock on the first cast. The brown trout was a whopping 204 mm; just four mm over the minimum measurement. At least I was on the board.

With no further rises I ran to the bottom of my beat and grabbed my streamer rod. Thesession I’d had on the Eagle in the last America Cup brought some of the hottest streamer fishing I’ve experienced with 8-10 fish coming in the last half an hour to streamers. I hoped the skinnier bottom of the beat would bring similar results and I wanted to capitalize on the streamer bite before the sun got higher so I headed to the bottom of my beat and started pounding the opposite bank with a ginger humungus and an olive slumpbuster. I had some quick interest and brought a nice brown to the net on the humungus. I kept working the bank and stripped my flies quickly past a couple of boulders. I had a fish chase my fly for about 10 feet. I quickly kneeled to not spook it during the chase and stopped my flies dead. It took right away on the pause and I put it in the net. I had several more follows and hooked one fish that I quickly lost but the fast and furious streamer fishing that I hoped for didn’t materialize.

I went back to the top of my beat and approached the top of the run with a nymph rig. The water was deeper and faster with less structure in the center tongue of the run than I would have preferred. The near side was smooth but it was too deep to kneel and lower my profile so I felt pretty visible to the fish. This presented a presentation challenge. I tried to stay off the fish as much as I could but eventually had to get closer to fish the far side where there was more structure. I only got one fish up here my first time through. I knew I was spending too much time trying to make adjustments to find a magic bullet in this piece of water so I abandoned it.

I circled around down to the tailout of the run. Our team was fortunate enough to fish the Cordillera lease water upstream of the competition water a couple of days before the tournament. Pat Weiss worked his upstream wizardly ways floating a sighter at the tail end of a pool/run with tuck casts to get the flies to depth quickly. He caught over 30 fish his first time through in a space no larger than a Volkswagen Beetle and I caught half a dozen in the same spot when I took his rod from him for a few minutes. This water was smoothish and thigh deep with a couple of boulders for fish to hide around. When I saw the mid-depth tail of my run I decided to try and approach it the same way with a greased sighter upstream. I landed about a half dozen fish on Pat’s bleached pheasant tail and a “France Fly” baetis nymph. If I can get permission I’ll share these flies in future posts. I expected more fish in this spot but there were a couple of differences in this situation vs. practice. First, there were no boulders for fish to hide around or me to hide behind in the back end of my run. Second, I had to bring fish back to the controller and it’s possible I spooked some fish I might have been able to catch if I could have remained stationary in this water type.

Once the run got deep enough I didn’t feel I could fish it properly upstream, I returned to the tail of the run and riffle and quickly fished streamers again. This time I received no interest. My biggest regret of the session is not focusing on this water with a shallow nymph or dry dropper setup the second pass through. From what I heard, Pablo Castro Pinos caught half or more of his fish in the last session with a dry dropper in this water.

After my failed streamer attempt, I ran to the top to try a deeper rig at the top of the run after resting the water. I tied on a three fly nymph rig and worked the deepest center of the run. Several fly switches later I still didn’t manage any fish from this area. I caught another fish when I moved to the far seam near my top border. However, I broke off quickly after that on a rock and had to rebuild things. I wish I would have re-rigged with a shallow dry dropper to suspend my rig along the far seam near the boulders. I found it difficult to hold rigs along this seam with a nymph rig because my flies would either hang up in the rocks on the far bank or the upper end of my tippet would get pulled downstream faster than where my flies were because the distance from my position required a diagonal entry into the water. A shallow dry dropper rig might have allowed me to hang a nymph slowly along the seam where I’m confident there were more fish to be had.

At this point, with about 30 minutes left, the wind kicked up. Euro nymphing drifts, whether upstream or across, became difficult. I switched my other nymphing rig to a Euro dry double dropper rig (see this post) with a tan chubby Chernobyl a foot below my sighter and the “France Fly” and a Pliva Perdigon below. I caught several fish quickly in the middle section of the run where my upstream presentations struggled earlier because of higher depth and speed and the smoothness of the water made a sideways presentation difficult without a suspension device to help me fish a little further away. Several fish in, I hooked a nice rainbow about 18-19” long. It took a bit of a run and pulled my dry fly under the water erratically. At this point one of the much maligned finless disgusting behemoth hatchery gutter fish, which had been stocked earlier in the summer, ate my Chernobyl that was oh so naturally bouncing around under water. For some strange reason, the 6x I was fishing below my dry didn’t survive and the bottom fish parted ways with my two nymphs in tow. Trying to salvage the situation I fought the giant stocker for what seemed like an eternal five minutes or more, though it could have been less. I worked it over to the shallows near the bank with a lot of side pressure. It was somewhere in the 27-30 inch range. I thought, I had a shot at beaching it in the shallows where I could slide it into my net but unfortunately it took another run across the river and managed to wrap me in the boulders across the bank. The crowd behind me was vocally as bummed as I was internally. Even more unfortunately, the fish broke me off above my sighter so I had a wholesale re-rig to complete. It was frustrating to waste that much time with no reward from either fish, especially since I had been catching fish regularly until then after my switch to the dry double dropper rig. After I rebuilt the rig I had about ten more minutes in the session and I think I landed another fish or two but the details are fuzzy in the post stocker frustration.

I ended the session with 14 fish for a mediocre 11th place in the session. I dropped a couple of fish but mainly I made some strategic mistakes covering water at the bottom of my beat that could have resulted in a few more fish. Looking at the scores, if I could have landed the behemoth stocker I could have jumped my score by 4-5 points as well. Sadly my score contributed to a bit of a slow start at 6th place for the team with 20% of the competition over.

Next time I’ll take you to my trickle, beat 14 on the lower Eagle in session 2.