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Progress: First Trout from the Lower Boise

posted October 25, 2020

Rainbow trout captured in hand-net submerged in river

I have been spending the better part of my weekends over the previous 4-5 weeks working on my fly casting form, trying to tighten up all the little areas I need to work on as a novice, and also trying to absorb as much information as possible that may lead to discoveries about what the weakest links in my approach are, which remedying would bring the greatest improvements to my fly angling.

Studying Structure

In my opinion one of my key weak-points in surf fishing was an underdeveloped ability to identify beach structure, a crucial skill for finding fish in the surf and a skill I hope to have the opportunity to develop down the road. It did not seem at all implausible the same structure-reading abilities might apply to my experience fly fishing on the lower Boise River. As far as the results seem to suggest, this observation was correct.

In addition to The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing, mentioned in a previous post, I have found Tom Rosenbauer/ Orvis's instructional videos to be highly instructive and educational. This video lesson about finding trout is highly informative, as is the "Steam Tactics" chapter of the guide book. I tried to take careful note of the content of these resources with the intent to apply as much as possible in the field.

Finally, a Bite

After studying, I went out mid-morning a couple weekends ago with rain expected in the afternoon. There was some degree of wind and the sky was cloudy the whole time I spent on the water. However, I made a point to look for the specific structures I have been learning about, most notably seams where fast current runs adjacent to slower current. I began to identify a number of areas I passed by as suitable, but each of these was occupied by at least one angler, sometimes two or three. I have still not quite shaken the "shyness" of wanting to fish in relative isolation, in part because I do not want to do anything that may negatively impact the experience of those fishing proximal to me. I would like to make a point to be more social with my fishing in the future, but in any case I finally came upon a spot that seemed interesting and was vacant of any people.

I spent a few hours fishing this pool I came across as the weather transitioned to less favorable conditions. About a quarter into this time, as my nymph ran along a seam I was fishing, I suddenly watched my indicator submerge and in the same instant a small fish lurched from the seam and then quickly disappeared. This took place before I could react, and slack line prevented me from responding effectively to the first sensation of the bite.

I figured I had made some sort of correct assessment about where I was fishing, and continued in the same manner for the rest of the outting until I determined weather was close to turning.

Studs for My Rubber Sole Wading Boots

I purchased Simm's Freestone wading boots (rubber soles) back around February of this year along with Simm's Tributary waders, thinking I would have ample opportunity to fish the Southern California surf before departing at the end of the year. Unfortunately, due to the COVID shutdowns this did not come to fruition. However, I have been making good use of this outfit on the Boise river.

One of the things that really began to stick out as I turned my focus to the practical study of river structure in the field is the degree to which my movement and subconscious willingness to navigate the river were impeded by the lack of traction I would experience wading across terrain consisting of stones and boulders. Before making my boot purchase, I had read many strong recommendations about adding studs to rubber-soled boots in order to achieve traction comparable to felt on stone-based terrain. I figured I would wait and see what my experience was like before making this additional investment.

Simms Hardbite Stud - Vibram

After the trip noted above, I decided it was time to install some studs on my boots. I picked up a puck of Simm's Hardbite Studs and at the recommendation of a sales associate, some star cleats to complement these.

Installing Studs on Simm's Tributary Wading Boots (Without Electric Screw Driver)

The process of actually installing the studs turned out to be much more arduous than I expected. I highly recommend anyone looking to do this without an electric screwdriver have some sort of long-handled nut driver on hand, as I found the driver supplied with the studs to be somewhat difficult to use.

At least the way I approached it, getting the studs to penetrate the designated slots takes considerable effort. I placed the stud in the nut driver, then touched the nut down to the slot and made sure it was properly aligned. Then, applying substantial force directly into the slot and torquing in a repeated, aggressive manner, the rubber would begin to strip and the screw would slowly maneuver into place. The most difficult part of the process is the initial stripping of the surface rubber. Once in place, the manual driving motion gradually became easier until the stud was fully in place. The star-cleats were much easier to install and simply required a traditional Phillips head screw-driver. It took me approximately a cumulative hour to get all the studs installed, and I had to take a multi-hour break between each boot. I would definitely recommend using an electric screw driver if you have one available.

The stud pattern I tried, 8 hardbite studs and 3 star-cleats per boot

As far as I could tell from the brief research I did, there are no standard approaches to stud placement, and the general attitude about the subject seems to be "do what works". I placed 3 star cleats and 8 hardbite studs on each boot in a mirroring pattern. For those looking for more information, here is one of many articles that goes into more detail about this process:

First Rainbow in the Lower Boise

Despite having read certain anonymous internet opinions proclaiming no benefits to installing studs and/ or cleats on rubber-sole wading boots, my trip the following day was marked by a substantially better wading experience. The traction I now get is night and day, making current and reasonable foot-steps almost the exclusive concerns of keeping balance in the water.

The following afternoon I proceeded to the river once more, and I saw much less angling activity on the way to the spot I had fished the day before. I quickly determined to select a different spot a much shorter distance from the truck, where I could identify a pool marked by riffling on both ends as well as other very distinct and inciting features. There was a very distinct seam where fast current flowed into slower moving current characterizing the deeper water of the pool. I figured if I was finally going to find fish feeding at the surface, this would be as good a place to scope as I could hope to find.

It was very shortly after, standing still and glancing out from the shoreline, I began first to hear and then to see the subtle splashes and disturbances on the water's surface indicating the activity of feeding fish. I assembled my rod and tied a copper john nymph, and did my best to stalk carefully into the water towards the center of the pool, close enough so that I had a chance of landing my fly in the current on the far side where the brush and bank structure seemed ideal.

After numerous casts attempting to affect a clean mend on the line, I was able to roll one "perfectly" without dragging the indicator and fly, and within seconds the indicator was underwater. This time my line hand was prepared and I set the hook readily. I began the fight with what was on the other end of the line as I watched the indicator "swim" in oscillating patterns not far beneath the surface. Soon the fish lurched at the surface and I could see it was a modest rainbow trout. Landing this fish would mark my first trout of any kind from the lower Boise River (the part below the dam) which runs through the city.

I was testing a new set up for my net which failed spectacularly, but rather than elaborate here I would prefer my net situation receive a post of its own. In summary, the retrieval and untangling of my net chord was clumsy and frustrating as I worked the fish at the same time. I was eventually able to get the net into landing position, and brought the trout in shortly.

My first Trout from the lower Boise River, about 10" long

This was a nice little fight that did not last too long and by all appearances left the fish in a healthy and energetic state. I learned from previous trout handling to keep the fish submerged as much as possible, and for the first time in over a year removed a fly from a fish's lip. Without getting into the ethics and philosophy of the topic, I lean generally towards the "fishing is a food acquisition activity" part of the spectrum, which seems to separate me from many interested in fly fishing specifically. However, this trout measured too short to legally retain in this part of the river, so I took the above picture and then inverted the basket and away it went.

I should note with some shame that right as I had arrived in the parking lot by the river, I realized I had left my rod in the storage closet back at the house. Out of frustration I briefly considered returning home and forfeiting the trip, not because the drive was not short, but merely out of self resentment for not having gone through the basic checklist I try to address before departing for any type of trip involving some amount of preparation. But earlier in the day I had been listening to a podcast where the subject of gratitude was addressed, and having been in consideration of this topic myself afterwards, I began to feel guilt for the waste of opportunity I would be making, in my development as an angler but also simply the enjoyment of the evening, by refusing to fetch my rod and return to the river. I certainly did not perceive this trout as a reward for my decision, but more as a reminder of the punishment of failing to make the best of the opportunities I have.

With deeper reflections out of the way, I can check Rainbow Trout off my list and am left with the aspiration of landing a Brown Trout and a Mountain Whitefish from this section of the river. If and when I achieve this, this blog will not be the last to know about it.