Picabo Angler

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July 15TH Double R Fishing Report "The Skunk"

Monday, July 14, 2014:


Another morning on the lower “field water” of the Double R Ranch where there was a strong Trico hatch, this time with clouds of spinners over the water in some locations.  Again, there also were Callibaetis duns and spinners, about a size 16.  While there were occasional bursts of wind, most of the time we were fishing under “glass” conditions.  My Guest landed a dozen fish but your Stream Keeper got “skunked” for the first time this season.  Fish were rising everywhere for hours, both in the middle of the channel and along the bank, but I couldn’t do anything correctly.  I “missed” fish.  I pulled the hook out of trout mouths on the set.  I spooked fish with lousy casts.  I had blood knots and clinch knots fail.  I broke a couple off on my 7X leader.  I dropped a fly box in the water.  You name it.  I couldn’t even hook a trout on my trust soft hackled flies or my ordinarily deadly Trico Hatch Matcher.   Fortunately, no other Members were present to witness the debacle.  Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and the extremely tough fishing it provided.  

THE SKUNK . . . .

 Every fly fisherman has been “skunked” at one time or another.  While the term may not be defined in your favorite dictionary, we all know what is involved . . . . frustration, disappointment and an unsatisfying session on the river all stemming from not landing even one fish.  I say “fish” because most anglers will reject the notion of having been skunked if they landed a Chub or the universally disparaged Whitefish.  To avoid the label, some fly fishers will rationalize a morning barren of landed fish by pointing out that it was their first time fishing a new and unfamiliar river, by blaming the wind or absence of a mayfly hatch, by attributing lost fish to that “damned barbless hook regulation,” etc.  Space limitations preclude me from listing all the excuses I’ve heard (or voiced) over 50 years of fly fishing.  

Reactions to having been skunked run the gamut.  I have one female fly fishing companion who becomes somewhat grumpy if she does not land a trout within the first hour and, for her, a trout need not be large in order to avoid The Skunk; the fish just needs to be brought to net.  Then there is the school of thought that one’s guide need not be given the customary tip following The Skunk.  Some skunked anglers are embarrassed when their companion lands all the fish.  For those mired in a competitive fishing mindset, one’s masculinity can be threatened.  Perhaps the most prevalent reaction to The Skunk is audacious prevarication.  

I recently became embroiled in a debate over which Skunks are the hardest to stomach and most frustrating as they unfold.  My chief opposing debater set forth the proposition that a Skunk is more annoying when no “risers” are encountered all day.  I disagreed on the basis that the absence of a hatch just sets the stage for some determined plying of the stream with one’s favorite soft hackled flies which surely is the prescription for turning the odds in one’s favor.  Another opponent postulated that the worst Skunk has to be the failure to land even a “dink” when fish are actively working a monster hatch of an easily identified insect; to him, there can be no explanation for neglecting to capitalize on such a plethora of opportunity.  Yet another debater asserted that the easiest Skunk to accept is the common result of fishing in near gale force wind; I responded that there are a number of strategies one can use with success (e.g. use an oversized fly; fish the calm margin water adjacent to “wind seams” and along the bank; swim a soft hackled fly).  I was unanimously declared the winner of the debate when I argued that the worst Skunk to handle is the Skunk which just happened.  

Doug Andres

Stream Keeper