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Tips for Early Season Trout-Fishing Success, with BJ Gerhart

Description: This week, my guest is guide BJ Gerhart [33:50], a longtime veteran guide at Three Rivers Ranch in Idaho and one of the savviest anglers I know. He shares his tips for getting around the common problems of early season trout fishing, mainly cold water and high flows.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." It is April 1st, but this is not an April Fools podcast, except for maybe one of the questions that I have in the fly box. I think might have been intended as an April Fool's phone call but we'll find out a little bit later. [00:00:30.538] Anyway, my guest today is Veteran Guide, BJ Gerhardt. And BJ is a guide that I've been fishing with for many years. He is a good friend, and we're gonna be talking about fishing in the early spring and some tips on, you know, how to attempt to catch some fish in the early season. Because it's often tough with cold water and high water. So, BJ's got some great tips that hopefully will help you have a better [00:01:00.018] day on the water.
And speaking of BJ, BJ is a guide at Three Rivers Ranch in Idaho. And I have a trip coming up September 28th through October 5th at Three Rivers Ranch where I'm gonna host the trip, and this is one of my favorite places in the world. I love this lodge, and the guides, and the staff there, and the waters that they have around there. And it's a [00:01:30.059] great time of year to fish that area because the, you know, warmer water and lower water of August and September have gotten better. The weather's usually very nice. Nice and cool nights and often warm days, although you never know, you can have rain or snow at that time of year. But we've always had great fishing at that time of year. And so if you're interested in fishing with me at Three Rivers Ranch, [00:02:00.325] there is a trip listed on the Orvis website, and you can sign up for it there.
Would love to see you there at Three Rivers Ranch in Idaho. And before we begin the podcast, people ask me to, you know, recommend products or talk about products occasionally here on the podcast, and I try to do it as often as I can. And I'd like to tell you about things you might have missed. One of the things that you might have missed [00:02:30.283] are the C.F.O. II and IV reels. Now, the C.F.O. reel is a reel that I have been using since the 1970s, since it came out. And it's my very favorite trout reel. I kinda alternate between the C.F.O. and the Mirage LT reels. I use the Mirage LTs for my 5, and 6, and 7 weights. But for my 2s, and 3s, and 4 weights, [00:03:00.141] and sometimes 5 weights, I like to use a C.F.O. reel.
It's not a disc drag, it's a click and pull. They are, in my opinion, the most beautiful trout reel ever made. And it also has an amazing sound when a fish takes a line from your reel. It's just there's nothing that sounds like a C.F.O. They're made in New Hampshire, made in USA, and they've been [00:03:30.317] through a number of iterations over the years. They've been made in lots of different places. But now, we've settled back to having them made in New England. And we originally came out with a C.F.O. III, and it's sold pretty well. So, we've now come out with a C.F.O. II, which would be a good reel for a 1, 2, or 3-weight line, even a 4-weight line, [00:04:00.207] you can put on a C.F.O. II. And then a C.F.O. IV, which would be for your bigger rods, your 5, 6, and 7s.
Now, anyway the 2 and the 4-weight reels came out without much fanfare, but they are available. And again, it's probably if you care about the way your trout reel looks and sounds, it's just one of the most beautiful things you can put on a fly rod. [00:04:30.486] And although it only has a click-and-pull drag system, which is really nice for very light tidbits because it's so sensitive and delicate, if you need extra drag, you can always palm the outside of the reel, which was the way the reel was developed. Just put your palm up against the reel and that will slow it down. So, not so sure everyone needs a disc drag on a trout reel. Generally, we don't need to [00:05:00.411] slow down a fish very much. But occasionally, it's nice to have a disc drag, but you probably don't need it for about 95% of your trout fishing. So, the old click-and-pull with fewer moving parts is just a great reel to have on a trout rod or a bass rod for that matter.
All right, let's do the fly box. And the fly box is where you ask me questions or you pass along a tip that you think other listeners might benefit from. [00:05:30.326] And I try to answer them or I put your tip on the air, and you can send me your question, just email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can either just type your question in your email or you can attach a voice file, and I may read it on the air. I read all of them, and I listen to all of them. I don't use all of them, but I do use an awful lot of them. First question is an email [00:06:00.333] from Mason, "What is the effectiveness in relation to UV light and trout vision of Hareline Ice Dub, Krystal Dub, Spirit River UV Dub, flash materials like Krystal Flash, Flashabou, Mirage Tinsel, Holographic Chenille, and Variegated Speckled Chenille with accent flash and standard darker color. I have to admit, I'm worried and confused since I have tied many flies with this stuff and have a large stock of it on my bench. However, anecdotally, [00:06:30.585] this stuff works pretty darn well. Perhaps, this is due to a different factor than the flashiness."
Okay, so Mason...and the reason Mason is asking this question is because in last week's podcast, Jason Randall and I discussed the fact that adult trout really can't see colors in the UV spectrum. They lose this when they get to be bigger than about 2 or 3-inches long. And I think there's a real misunderstanding [00:07:00.582] about things that are labeled UV. And you know what, just because trout may not be able to see UV doesn't mean that that dubbing isn't gonna work really well. Sometimes these things that are labeled as UV are just good dubbings, and good materials, and good colors. And, you know, we can assume that trout see about the same colors that we see.
And things like, you know, [00:07:30.359] Krystal Flash and Ice Dub, Flashabou, Opal Mirage Tinsel, they have great reflectivity and trout can see that, and they can see the Holographic Chenille and Tinsel. You know, it just adds some sparkle and some life to your flies. So, don't worry about this whole UV thing. If you like a material, and it looks good, and it catches fish [00:08:00.515] and, you know, it works well with the patterns that you're doing, then just use it. Don't worry about all the UV stuff, it's still great material regardless of how it's labeled. Let's do a phone call. The first one is from Scott, and it must be an April Fool's question or Scott's making fun of some of the practices we employ to safely [00:08:30.065] release fish. But I'll take it seriously and answer it.
Scott: Hey, Tom, I've got a question and a tip. My question is, for years, we didn't fish for trout in water temperatures over 70, then it went to 68. Now, I'm hearing people say 66. My friend Chad says he won't fish for trout in water over 64. Well, I'm for upping, Chad, I'm not fishing for trout in water over 60 degrees. [00:09:00.476] And my question is, what do the rose and bros think about... Oh, the rose and bros, yes, that's what I refer to your audience, as the rose and bros. What do the rose and bros think about my 60-degree limit? My tip is for a great new leader design that I have. I start with a 6 foot, a 3X tapered leader, and I put on a tippet ring. And then from the tippet ring, I build the rest of my leader, 4X, 5X, 6X drive line. Then if I catch a fish when I'm [00:09:30.033] landing it, when I reel up to the tippet ring, I can just cut the tippet section off. And that way, I don't have to touch the fish. The fish doesn't have to come out of the water, and it doesn't even have to look at me. So, there's no hard feelings. So, that's my tip. So, in conclusion, over 60 kills, Chad sucks at fly fishing, keep them wet, roll tide.
Tom: So, Scott, [00:10:00.206] if you stop fishing at 60 degrees, you're gonna miss an awful lot of fun because that's kind of the prime water temperature for trout fishing, anywhere from, say, 55 to 65 degrees is really in the prime range of trout activity. And, yeah, we like to stop fishing for brook trout when it hits 65, but, you know, if you stop at 60, [00:10:30.423] you're gonna miss a lot of good fishing and trout are very happy at 60 degrees. They have a lot of energy. You don't have to worry about stressing the trout out too much at that temperature. So, you know, you can stop fishing wherever you want, but you're gonna miss an awful lot if you stop fishing at 60 degrees.
Regarding your suggestion for cutting off your leader at the tippet ring, well, you're gonna leave a lot of and flies, [00:11:00.236] and fish, and a piece of tippet. And why don't you just use a barbless hook and use one of those fancy release tools or a pair of forceps, and keep the fish in the water, and slide the barbless hook out? I don't think you need to cut off the whole tippet. You're gonna lose a lot of flies that way. Here's an email from Zach, from Bristol, Tennessee. "I recently started tenkara fishing and was wondering what kind of flies from Orvis would be a close match to Kebari flies. [00:11:30.048] I had one comment. I went to one of the free Orvis Fly Fishing 101 classes last summer after hearing about it in one of your podcasts. It was a huge help. I would recommend it to every beginner."
Well, Zach, thank you. And by the way, if you're not familiar with the Fly Fishing 101, these are free classes, usually held on Saturday mornings at Orvis retail stores, where you can get some basic casting lessons and basic knots and kind of a basic introduction to fly fishing [00:12:00.137] in case you're interested in it. So, they're great classes, and they're free. And just check with your closest Orvis store for the schedule, you do need to sign up for them. Now, regarding those Kebari flies, those flies, to my eye, they look like a soft hackle, but the hackle is cupped forward instead of cupped back. And these flies are meant to be kinda suspended [00:12:30.166] in the water, and you can kinda jig them up and down and twitch them.
And the fact that they offer some resistance because the hackle is tied facing forward, allows them to kinda stay anchored in the water column. And Orvis doesn't sell these flies. You can find these flies online. Orvis doesn't sell them. The closest thing to a Kebari fly would be the soft tackle wet flies that we sell. [00:13:00.202] Now, if you're tenkara fishing, you certainly don't need to restrict yourself to those flies. Those are kind of the traditional tenkara flies. But when I tenkara fish, I use, you know, standard Parachute Adams and small stimulators and, you know, the basic nymphs that you would fish anywhere. So, you don't absolutely need to have those special Kebari flies to enjoy tenkara fishing.
Here's an email from Steve, [00:13:30.258] "I had a strange thing happen in the river and wanted to see if you could shed some light on it. I was fishing in a small mountain stream for brook trout. I was fishing a size 14 Parachute Adams with size 16 beadhead, black hazer nymph dropper. The fish kept taking the dry, so I ended up cutting off the dropper because I kept getting tangled every time I caught a fish. However, once I cut off the dropper, I stopped catching fish. I tied the dropper back on and started catching fish on the dry again. [00:14:00.464] Is this just a coincidence or a fish attracted to the dropper and then see the dry fly and take that? Does the nymph make the dry fly sit lower in the film so it's almost like an emerger?" So, Steve, it could be all of those things. I'm thinking maybe when you had the nymph dropper on there, when it hit the water, it made a plop, plopping sound, and it may have attracted the fish to the dry. You know, typically fish in small [00:14:30.198] streams like this are looking up for their food, and in many days, they're more likely to take a dry fly than a nymph. So, the nymph just must have added some magic attraction to your dry fly, and I'm not sure exactly why, but, you know, it somehow made the dry fly a little bit more noticeable to the fish.
Oh, let's do another [00:15:00.175] email. This one's from Cole, "Thanks for taking the time to do what you do. I'm relatively a new listener to the podcast, but it's definitely nice to be able to look forward to the stuff you put out on these always melancholy drives and commutes on Monday mornings. I have a question about nymph flies and the beads on them and beaded flies more generally. I'm a pretty amateur fly fisherman historically. I mostly just fooled around as a teenager and young man at my cabin and northeastern PA during the [00:15:30.026] nice months, waiting around in sandals and shorts, throwing dry flies and Woolly Buggers in our spring fed streams. I did an all right job, snagging some stock fish, but also got doses of success landing those more precious crimson bellied-native brookies that are absolute treasures to behold. However, now that I'm getting deeper into the fly fishing game, I'm starting to expand my horizons.
I bought my first set of waders and boots this past winter, as I would like to get more time on the water [00:16:00.277] in those not so nice months, like early season and even winter for some of the streams where Pennsylvania allows year-round trout fishing. Part of the learning experience has been starting to get into fishing nymphs and other beaded flies, which I believe are about the only game in town during the colder months before real hatches and surface feeding becomes active. First question, why are beads on nymphs usually gold? I have seen a fair amount of images and videos of fly nymphs and subsurface [00:16:30.299] water organisms, but I really haven't seen anything featuring gold in their bodies or heads. I would think this would throw the trout off, and I would assume dark colored beads would be the standard similar to the color of split shot.
Second question is regarding casting. I can usually toss dry flies and unbeaded flies pretty decently. I've found, though, that sometimes when I switch to some of the beaded flies, my casting just becomes garbage. I'm thinking they're just too heavy. I fish a 9-foot, [00:17:00.285] 5-weight fly rod with floating 5-weight forward loaded fly line, and usually a 5X leader. Is the leader just too flimsy to toss that weight? Might switching to 4X or 3X do better to turn the weight it flies over?" Well, those are great questions, Cole. First of all, there are a lot of different color beads available. There's rainbow beads, there's pink beads, there's white beads, there's black beads, there's silver beads, there's bright-fluorescent orange beads, [00:17:30.630] and there're more muted kinda camouflage beads. So, there's lots of different colors.
Gold was the original color that people used and seems to work fairly well. But, you know, all those other colors will work too. And why a shiny bead works on a fly, nobody really knows. You know, it said that the flashy bead simulates the gas bubble that nymphs developed [00:18:00.294] when they rised to the surface, it helps bouy him up to the surface. That may be true. The flashy bead, the gold bead, or silver bead, or whatever, might also just be an attractor. It might catch the fish's eye. And they see something that's flashy in the current, and then they go over to inspect it, and they see that it kinda looks like a nymph, so they eat it. I don't know. I really don't know. I do know [00:18:30.478] that I have used darker muted especially black beads on a lot of my beaded flies.
And in some rivers where the fish see an awful lot of beadhead flies, these seem to be a little more subtle and work a little better. But there are also times when a gold or silver bead works. So, nobody really knows but they do work. They are effective. And is the exact color of the bead important? [00:19:00.004] I'm not so sure, but I do tie my nymphs with different colored beads sometime just to experiment. Regarding your casting, yeah, those beadhead flies are heavy, and they don't cast as well as just a dry fly, or an unweighted nymph, or a wet fly. It's similar to the casting problems people have when they're throwing a big weighted streamer. It's gonna slow things [00:19:30.294] down, and it's gonna affect your casting.
The best advice I can give you is to open up your casting loop a little bit. Don't try to throw a really, really super tight casting loop, which is, you know, what most people tell you to do. They tell you to try to tighten up your loop, and that's great for dry flies and unweighted flies. But when you're throwing beaded nymphs, you're gonna have to open it up a little bit, open up that casting loop and [00:20:00.043] just open up the arc on your cast. Try not to cast such a tight loop. And, yeah, you can go with a lighter beaded fly if you want or 4X or 3X, might turn it over better, a little bit stiffer, tip it. But the problem is that, yeah, your fly won't sink as well with the heavier leader, and it may affect the way the fly drifts in the current. So, [00:20:30.275] I would just open up your casting loop and stick with the 5X.
Dakota: Hey, Tom, this is Dakota calling from Colorado. I wanted to call with a question and a comment. My question is are there any public tools that you use to help check if a river's flow is too high or too low to fish before you go out? There are a few times last year due to a lot of precipitation and snowmelt in Colorado, that I tried to get out on a river, only to see that the water flow was at a visibly unfishable pace as soon as I got out there. I would've loved to know prior to my trip out, so I could have picked a different spot. I know there are some apps out there, [00:21:00.147] but would love to hear if you have any trusted sources that you'd recommend. My comment is that I wanted to validate a caller from a few weeks ago, who while winter fishing couldn't get rising fish to bite on dries or nymphs but was able to be productive using a Woolly Bugger. I had an identical experience, and I even credit that listener for being the reason I caught anything that day. It was their idea to try Woolly Buggers when nothing else were to even though the fish were rising. After two hours of seeing fish rise and not catching anything, I switched to streamers and not only three casts in, did I have a handsome brown trout on my line [00:21:30.036] using a black Woolly Bugger. Thanks for your advice and tight lines.
Tom: So, Dakota regarding your suggestion, yes, sometimes fishing a Woolly Bugger will work. You know, the fish might be feeding on something else, but the Woolly Bugger is an awfully attractive fly to fish. And sometimes when you get frustrated and you can't catch them, great idea to put on a black Woolly Bugger. I do it myself. Regarding public tools. [00:22:00.087] Yeah, the best tool that you have are the USGS flow charts. And they're available either from the USGS site itself or a lot of the apps that you get or the websites that you look at, they take these flow charts and they will insert them into their app or insert them into their website, but they all come from the USGS gauging stations. And the way to tell [00:22:30.262] if the river is higher than normal, is there are usually little icons or, I think they're triangles, on the flow chart that show you the 18-year average flow on that particular day.
And then there'll be a line that shows you how the current flows, and they're in real time. The flow regimes that they show are, you know, actual, what it's flowing at right now. [00:23:00.089] And if that's above that little triangle from the 18-year average, then, you know, it's higher than normal. And if it's below that, it's lower than normal. So, that's the best place to go. And again, you can find those flow charts at many, many different sources, okay? But back to emails. This one's from Brad, "I'm looking to buy the new Helios 10-weight. [00:23:30.055] Can you tell me what the difference is between the 9-foot and the 8-foot 5-inch model? I'll be using a rod for tarpon and stripers in New England."
Probably not many stripers in New England, although they're occasionally seen there. "I use an 8-weight now in New England, but I'm often fishing in strong winds on the incoming tide and would like to try a heavier rod. Any advice would be appreciated." [00:24:00.241] Well, Brad, the difference is that the 8-foot 5-inch is a quicker rod. It's a faster rod. This rod was designed for things like throwing bass bugs under bushes, fishing for snook in tight mangroves, and also for things like baby tarpon in really tight spots. It throws a tight loop, it loads quickly, but it's a faster action rod. The 9-foot rod's gonna be a little bit more moderate [00:24:30.343] action. And personally, if I were fishing striped bass, I would stick with a 9-foot rod.
I think it's gonna be a better rod for striped bass fishing. And if you're fishing for tarpon on the flats and in more open areas, I would stick with a 9-foot rod. The 8-foot 5-inch model would be more something where you're in a really tight situation, again, [00:25:00.284] like fishing in the mangroves. So, I think based on what you're doing, I'd go with a 9-foot rod. Here's an email from Stefan, from Germany, "I'm planning to visit friends in Ontario, Canada this September, and of course, I will take my fly rods with me. I know that fly fishing for Great Lake steelhead, for which I'm a little bit early in September, I'm afraid, is super popular in the Great Lakes region. I've done it myself, and even after [00:25:30.368] years, I take a look at the photos of the trip at least once a week.
How about salmon fishing for Chinooks and coho? I have the impression that fly fishing for salmon is much less popular in the Great Lakes region. Do you agree? If so, what are the reasons? Are they easier to catch because of the higher abundance? Are they less desirable because they go quickly into zombie mode once they enter a river? I would love to hear your thoughts. The second question is regarding shooting head weight [00:26:00.242] and sink tips. Last year, I started fishing for Atlantic salmon with a spay rod and got instantly addicted. I usually fish in Norway in the summer, so I'm fine with a floating Scandi head connected to a tapered leader or a light floating intermediate PolyLeader. I wanna switch to winter steelhead fishing. I should probably go with a Skagit shooting head and sink tip. When looking for Skagit shooting lines, should the combined weight of the shooting head and the sink tip match the preferred grain weight [00:26:30.258] of the rod or just the shooting alone?
I imagine fast sinking tips can contribute substantially to the overall weight of the line plus tip setup. Hope you understand what I mean and if the question is not too obvious." Well, regarding your second question, Stefan, that is a good question. And I wasn't sure of the answer. So, I had to go and ask one of our experts, Shawn Combs, a rod designer, who does a lot more [00:27:00.507] two-headed fishing than I do. And this is what Shawn says, "You only use a Skagit head weight when selecting a Skagit head based on recommended weight chart for a given rod. For a mission or SA tips, Scientific Anglers tips, the sink tip weight selection is based on the Skagit head weight. I like to use 80 to 100 grain tips on heads less than 300 grains, 100 to 200 on heads [00:27:30.347] less than 550, and 140 to 160 tips on heads over 600 grains.
This is a personal preference, which there is a lot of. Note, the sink rate of the tips have more to do with the diameter than anything. And the tip weight is considered to not dump energy from a heavy head into the tip." So, basically the answer is that you just worry about the Skagit. [00:28:00.184] If your rod calls for a certain grain weight, you just worry about the Skagit weight and don't worry about the tip. Regarding your first question, yeah, I think you really answered it. When those salmon come into Great Lake streams, they very quickly become less aggressive and turn off their striking mode quite quickly. So, you need to catch those fish. [00:28:30.156] You need to find them when they first entered a river and they're still bright, and it's a pretty short window most of the time.
Once the fish are in the river for a few days, they really stop striking things and, yeah, I mean, people hook staler fish or zombie fish. Yeah, I think they're almost sometimes snagging them in the mouth and just passing the fly in front of them [00:29:00.021] when they're gulping, or gasping, or opening their mouth. But you really need to catch them on the first day or two when they enter a river, when they're still bright. So, I think that's why it's not more popular in the Great Lakes, but people do it. And it can be fun. And we just have to get your timing right.
Here's a tip from Jimmy, from St. Louis, "Love the show. Thank you for all you do for the sport. [00:29:30.175] Here's a waiting tip. When crossing water where I'm uncomfortable, I share a net with my fishing buddy, he holds one end and I grab the other. It dramatically improves stability and safety for both of us when we wade. We use this technique several times when wading all the way across the Henry's Fork last year. It's also much less bruising on my ego than holding hands." Well, thank you, Jimmy. Here's an email from John, from Montana, [00:30:00.279] "Just a quick note to applaud Orvis on the great warranty and friendly service. I broke my Orvis rod while netting a fish on Monday. I broke my brand X rod and my brand Y rod, and while they honored the warranties, I had to send the rods back to the factory, and it took a while to get them back. I figured I would be lucky to have the Orvis rod repaired and back by September.
Tuesday morning, I called Orvis. Within 30 minutes, my mind was put at ease. Tom, in the rod shop, took the serial [00:30:30.052] number, asked which section was broken, and checked the inventory to be sure the broken section was in inventory. He assured me that the new section would be sent to me that day, and should be here in a few days. Again, I can't say enough about the great service. I really enjoy your podcast and have learned a great deal from you." Well, thank you very much, John. Appreciate that. And people in the rod shop appreciate the kudos as well.
Evan: Hey, Tom, this is Evan from San Rafael, California. [00:31:00.339] Thanks for all the tips on the podcast and for letting other people submit their tips. And I've got one that will hopefully be helpful. I've been using a mono rig for several years now, and I listened to your podcast with Dom Swentosky and George Daniel, and I know they connect their mono rig to the loop of their regular fly line by just clinch nodding it. And they both agree that, yeah, it cuts through the welded loop, but they don't care. Well, I've got an expensive Orvis PRO fly line, and I don't wanna cut through the welded loop, that's just me. [00:31:30.012] So, there are other ways I know you can nod it. But since I switched back and forth from fly line to mono rig quite a bit, every time you tie a knot, you chew into your mono rig, and I don't wanna do that.
The other option, of course, is to loop-to-loop connect it like you would connect a regular leader, but then you've gotta unspool your hole mono rig at your feet so that you can pass the whole thing through. And the curls of mono rig tend to get tangled up when you're pulling it through and everything. So, this is what I do [00:32:00.611] instead, I tie you about a 6 or 7-inch loop at the butt end of my mono rig. And I use a perfection loop because I use 20-pound Maxima Chameleon. I know you don't like perfection loops for lighter lines. So, if people are using a 6 or 8-pound mono rig, they might wanna use a different loop knot. And in order to put that on, you can just leave the mono rig spooled up, just go to shore, pull one rod length of fly line out from the tip of your fly rod, and put the loop of the [00:32:30.351] fly line over the mono loop, and then you put the mono loop over the tip of the rod.
So, you're going over the rod and the line that's coming out of the rod. Then just run that down all the way to the bottom, go over the reel, and you can tighten it up just like a regular loop-to-loop connection. Then you just use your flywheel to reel up the mono rig off of its spool. The 6-inch loop connection isn't as compact as just nodding it on there, but the bottom line is with a 35-foot [00:33:00.385] mono section, I rarely even get that loop off the reel unless I have a big fish that pulls off a bunch of line. And maybe I wish that that happened more often. But anyway, it's not really an issue. So, hope that helps. Thanks a lot.
Tom: Well, Evan, thanks. That's an interesting tip. It sounds like it would work. I'm not sure I wanna pass a loop over my entire rod, but 6-inch loop should do it. And that would avoid having [00:33:30.433] to tie a knot into that permanent loop on a fly line when you're using a mono rig. So, thank you very much for the tip. All right, that is the fly box for this week. Let's go talk to BJ about the secrets of early spring, trout fishing. Well, my guest today is BJ Gerhardt, and I've fished with BJ many, many times. We've done hosted trips together. We [00:34:00.250] have filmed together. And I always enjoy fishing with you, BJ, because you're kind of a techie, geeky guy, and I enjoy all of your theories and your philosophies on fishing, and it's always interesting with you.
BJ: Yes. Well, it's a pleasure, Tom, and I'm glad to be on here with you, and I kind of have... [00:34:30.153] I think it's mutual as far as what you said, as far as fishing together, and just the theories that we bounce off of each other, the ideas. Yeah, it's just, "Why do fish do what they do? Why do bugs that we use and just techniques..." It's pretty fun to test those boundaries.
Tom: Yeah. And you're the guy who carries a full set of Pantone markers and is always marking up my flies to change the color, which [00:35:00.148] I don't know if I'm there with you, BJ, but it sure works. I'm not gonna argue with it.
BJ: Yeah. That's okay. It's not for everyone, and you can't always pack sharpies so...
Tom: No.
BJ: ...that's all right, yeah.
Tom: But you're an experienced guide. You've been with Three Rivers for how many years?
BJ: Let's see here, 2024 season would put me at 18.
Tom: Eighteen years for the same lodge. And, you know, it's one of the reasons that I [00:35:30.333] love Three Rivers Lodge. The guides are just all pros. They've been there a long time. And, you know, it says a lot for both the guides and the management of the operation. That guides have been there so long. So, happy people.
BJ: Yes, very. And it was probably one of the weirdest situations was after I was here for five years, which is kinda [00:36:00.307] getting into that seasoned guide area as far as time-wise. And I was still the lowest on the totem pole. Everybody else was still in 15, 20, 25 years. And, you know, five years was still... And it still feels like that today, so 18 still feels like I'm at 5 or 6.
Tom: Well, with Doug Gibson hanging around, you're all still wet nose kids, right?
BJ: That is true. And he definitely reminds us of that one a lot. [00:36:30.380] Reminds us of that, yes.
Tom: All right, so we're gonna talk about the problems and the challenges of early season, high dirty, cold water fishing. How's that sound?
BJ: Perfect. That sounds great.
Tom: All right. So, I'm gonna shut up and let you talk.
BJ: Yeah. Well, currently right here in Eastern Idaho, we're still in winter. March is coming in [00:37:00.270] like a lion. So, we're under like blizzard warnings and, I don't know, another couple feet of snow and 50-mile-per-hour winds. But I did see two fishermen out today fishing on the way to the house. So, they were out in the middle of the river fighting the wind. And bless their hearts, you know, hopefully they have some luck to them. But this is that time of the year where, [00:37:30.875] I mean, the weather's been warm, snow's been getting packed, and I think water levels are gonna start rising here slowly as this month progresses.
And I also, just a little background, I grew up in Pennsylvania and fished ever since I was a small child there. So, I also know how the East is relative to spring creeks and, you know, the limestones [00:38:00.249] and all that kind of stuff that's in Pennsylvania as well. And when it comes into that March timeframe I think the runoff, if you call it runoff, for the East starts to happen more predominantly then, like right now. Than it does here in the West, where it's just a little farther behind because of snow. But, yeah, I think there's some tricky just understanding water temperature difference [00:38:30.280] and sunlight. Because we're definitely on the positive end of the sunlight during the day, which I think matters more.
You know, if you think of windows of optimal fishing, of course, you can kinda discuss it in the summers. You know, you have that, pretty much all day, morning, afternoon. It might get a little lull when it gets hot. But then as the fall and winter comes, those [00:39:00.268] timeframes shorten to where optimal fishing is, you know, maybe 11 to 2 or 11 to 3 when it's fairly warm or sunny out for those winter conditions. And then as we come into the spring, we're starting to open that gap a little more to where it's not maybe 11 to 2, maybe it's more 9 to 3, 9 to 4, it doesn't get dark. You know, the sun doesn't really set until [00:39:30.317] 6:30, quarter to seven, right now, and you can be out fishing early.
But I think as we progress every week, we start to open that optimal timeframe. And knowing that sunlight and water temperatures regarding to these spring bugs, and also how the fish start to move back out of their winter runs, which would be just deep slow water for the [00:40:00.519] winter. They'll start moving around a little bit more. So, it's kind of knowing where you're targeting fish and species, also based on bugs. And also I think a big thing to talk about as well is what not to target this kind of March, April, first part of May, depending on where you're in the country. And that would be due to rainbow spawning. [00:40:30.374] Rainbows spawn this time of year, typically in the main rivers. I mean, they'll go up to small tributaries, or if you're fishing in a tributary, they'll spawn in that as well.
But I think I'm a big advocate for not really targeting rainbows on spawn beds and redds. I think that's a big issue in the spring because, of course, you can go find... [00:41:00.489] I mean, for one, the water is rising, so some of your easier places to walk around in the river is in that shallower pea gravel, the stuff that's like the size of like a half dollar or smaller. So, that's pretty comfortable wading, especially when water's getting higher. And you don't necessarily walk around the middle of the center of the rivers or creeks. But you have to also be aware that, [00:41:30.268] that's the same place that the rainbows are spawning. So, as much as it's nice to see maybe half a dozen to a dozen, very large rainbows sitting in 6-inches of water, sometimes even with their dorsal fins breaking the surface. The best thing to do is just not fish to them and not even walk anywhere near them. So, I think it's very... To know that the rainbows will start to migrate there, at least the mature [00:42:00.221] breeding rainbows start to move to those areas. The juveniles, they're still hanging out in the fern [SP], in the runs, and they're still a ball to catch.
Tom: And sometimes when the water is high, you really don't know. I remember a couple of years ago fishing in the Madison below Addison [SP] and walked down from the bridge and found this interesting-looking run and started fishing. And all of a sudden started catching one big rainbow after another. And I thought, [00:42:30.112] "Uh-oh," and the water was high and a little dirty, so I couldn't see any redds, but I said, "Oops, I probably shouldn't be here."
BJ: Yeah. And, you know, that happens. I mean, guiding fishing early season, it happens. I mean, I've caught fish that, you know, can always tell that they're kinda in that breeding dirty bellies. You know, kind of colors. Colors are dark and you're just like, "Well, we got that one." But I typically try to leave the [00:43:00.286] spot or... And the other thing too is with drift boats, a lot out of drift boats is there's been times that I've almost released my anchor and just looked over the side of the boat and just seen what I could see as fairly clean gravel. And I was like, "Oh, my, I gotta hurry up, you know, not drop it and scoot down another 20, 30 yards. And then drop the anchor, so I'm not dragging the anchor all the way through it." So, it is hard and it [00:43:30.286] happens. I think when it just happens, that's just part of fishing. I think, if you're specifically out targeting, just to come back with stories of catching two dozen fish over a certain size that were all super easy, I think that's maybe stretching it. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah, making it a little too easy.
BJ: But, yeah. And I find the browns start to move around pretty good. [00:44:00.377] Moving to banks structure, is that water temperature starts to come up a little bit as well.
Tom: You pay attention to these things. Have you noticed a particular temperature or temperature range where the browns start to move from the deeper holes into the shallower stuff along the banks?
BJ: Yeah, I found that kinda in between the 46 to 51. I [00:44:30.325] find that's when they kinda leave the runs. And you'll always still find a couple in the deep runs as well. But typically, I'll start going out and a lot of times it's before I even take water temperatures, which I should just do to start with. But I'll go out and start to fish a run or a good looking hole or something like that or an eddy, and then all of a sudden find that the fish [00:45:00.188] they're not as abundant as they used to be in the winter regarding being in that winter hole cell. Then I just kinda move around looking after that, you know, as far as looking for browns by banks and structures. Because again, the water's coming up and they're definitely not wanting to go sit in the fast water as that water constantly increases speed. So, they're gonna start looking for some kind of [00:45:30.267] shelter structure to hide around.
And then also too, I think they're very hyper. I think they eat a lot in the fall, of course, before spawning, somewhat post spawn for the brown trout. And then I think they get super hungry this springtime when they come out, because they're kind of going into winter on a deficient kind of caloric body weight anyway. So, they're just [00:46:00.269] trying to last through it. And then when they come out, it's just like being on a fasting diet or just having minimal food in your house, and then all of a sudden, you know, the buffet line comes by or things start ramping up. You start to get more hungry and start to eat more. And I think they start putting on a little bit of that weight to be more competitive as well.
Tom: Yeah. Absolutely, you see that. Yeah, I think you see that all over streamer fishing and, you know, the first [00:46:30.260] few weeks of season, the water's decent, can often be very good. Because those fish are just out looking for meat.
BJ: Yes. Yeah. And I find streamer fishing in the spring is just as fun if not more fun than the fall. I mean, brown trout in the fall, they're just kinda angry because they've got their mind on other things and they're still hungry. But there's just, the springtime is definitely pure hunger [00:47:00.164] for whatever opportunity of big food that they can get prior to big prolific hatches on your rivers or creeks. You know, they definitely are going after that. But I find a very slower retrieve, though, as well for those.
Tom: Yeah. Good point.
BJ: When you still have that colder water in that 46 to 50 degree temperatures, they don't chase [00:47:30.120] streamers as hard or as fast. They'll chase them even all the way back to the boat or to wherever you're wading fishing, but they come at a slower pace for them. So, I think to be more successful with those is to slow retrieves. Sometimes even like a weird slow jigging or I strip streamers [00:48:00.155] a lot with a lot of rod manipulation, you know, as far as ticking the rod and really pulling, just stripping the slack, but using the rod to move the fish. And I tend to move it on a little bit slower twitch than I would typically peak season.
Tom: Do you use sinking lines or sink tips early in the season for your streamer fishing?
BJ: [00:48:30.620] Yes, I do, relative to water heights. You know, if you get out there kind of that's early spring but pre-really push of runoff and push of a big increase in water or due to a big early spring rainstorm that increases the creek size, I will use just a floating line. But then once that water comes up, [00:49:00.003] gets a little bit more off color and I find the fish tend to hunker down again, around that structure. Slower seams around rocks, tree structure and also eddies. And with having a slow twitch and a slow movement, I like to get that sinking line out and start throwing that around just to get [00:49:30.109] down there quicker. And then also when you strip on sinking line, it doesn't react to the fly as much because the line's just so static in the water current.
So, I think it helps move that streamer on a slower twitch anyways than if you went straight floating weight forward line to, [00:50:00.609] you know, either going straight to a fluorocarbon or just to a fluorocarbon leader. Like, I don't know, out here, we fish a lot of 1X, 0X, 2X to streamers. But I find it better with the higher water to have that sink line to be able to twitch it on a little slower pace and keep that streamer kinda in [00:50:30.139] the hot zone of where those fish are ambushing.
Tom: I know it varies depending on every pool and run pocket, but what angle do you prefer to fish your streamers, you know, regarding upstream, up and across, straight across, downstream? Do you have a preferred method or does it depend on your water type?
BJ: I think a lot of it depends on water type. [00:51:00.048] I'd say a lot of times, I'm a proponent of throwing it out. If you're fishing I guess floating line, going back to if you are doing floating line, I like to get a mend in the line as soon as the fly hits. And it comes at you on a straight line anyways, but then it'll track your mend. So, the fly will then turn upriver and maybe for a couple of strips or rod [00:51:30.373] twitches. Then the fly comes up river, but eventually it straightens back out to come back down to you and then kind of on a downswing. So, I like to give that opportunity because I notice a lot of fish like to really ambush flies from the back.
And I'm not against stripping down river, but I notice a lot of fish swing, tap it, [00:52:00.318] to where if it's coming up river or even right at the end of the strip, like say, if you got maybe 15 feet left out in the water and that fly is down below you. But just as it swings I find a lot more fish, at least here on the Henry's Fork and the South Fork of the Snake, that a lot of those fish will hit it on the swing as it's retrieving back upriver to you. So, when I throw [00:52:30.303] the mend in at the beginning of the strips, what I'm doing is basically giving it a swing motion to where if I threw the fly, you know, just luckily, and sometimes I wouldn't say it's luck, because you're specifically looking for fish homes, places where they're living, so you kind of have an idea.
But if you threw it and your streamer hits, I think 2-feet right in front of the fish's face, and you didn't know that he was [00:53:00.238] there, I think throwing that mend in is just basically acting like a swing motion, which causes the trigger of the fish to come up and hit it. And then if there isn't a fish, then it comes on down rivers, you know, covers more ground. And then you can do a second swing, right at the bottom end of your final 10, 15 feet. So, it's kind of doubling that swinging motion.
Tom: Yeah. It almost sounds like the change in direction triggers a strike, [00:53:30.119] doesn't it?
BJ: I do. I notice that a lot and I'll do a lot of that. It's easier to do a lot of mending, of course, without sink line. You know, when you start throwing in a sink tip, it gets a little bit more tricky on getting it in there. And then a lot of times, I look at current seams. You know, so if I got two or three boulders towards the bank, I know that when I strip [00:54:00.302] through that, it's going to automatically switch the streamer just on base of hitting different current seams. So, it'll start quicker, hit a pocket. And then, you know, the same thing when you fish, that pushes the rocks. I find a lot of fish on the up river side of those rocks or boulders. And they definitely like that little current wiggle that [00:54:30.228] happens on the streamer end.
Tom: The upriver side of the boulders, not the downstream side, right?
BJ: Right.
Tom: I'm constantly hammering that to people, and I know you are too because I've heard you say it that you wanna hit the upstream side and not so much the downstream side.
BJ: Yeah, that's everywhere. I mean, that is probably the most common thing that I fish the most, is the upstream side of all the [00:55:00.241] rocks, boulders. Just whether it's dry, dry dropper, streamer fishing, it's very productive, and you just gotta be really, really patient and trust the water current. As far as just...I think a lot of people when they fish in that kind of water, they get scared and they don't have the patience to let it get close enough to the rock. So, it's kind of fun, test your... [00:55:30.478] So, it's like a little game. Whether the river's gonna take your fly, or fish is gonna take your fly, or you give in too early and you take it back.
Tom: So, how about some favorite early season streamers? You got some patterns that you like?
BJ: You know, I go back a lot to a very basic Woolly Bugger. I mean, I [00:56:00.294] really like Woolly Buggers. And I think when you start getting into those off color situations in early spring, every piece of water's gonna always start just getting a little more off color than it does the rest of the year. Before it gets too dirty, I find olive coming out of the winter into that early spring, I find olive Woolly Buggers tend to really produce more. [00:56:30.507] And then as the water color gets dirtier or, you know, you just lose visibility down to maybe less than 20 inches, 2-feet 18-inches, somewhere in there, I'll start running black colors. And the only time I'll ever use... And I'm a big clouser kind of guy too because I love clousers. [00:57:00.384] And I really like chartreuse clouser in spring.
Like, the old saying is, "It ain't no use if it's not chartreuse." So, it's just, I tend to find that chartreuse color green, even though it doesn't imitate any fish I've ever seen in the river. I think that they are able to see that a lot better in that really murky [00:57:30.584] off color water. They, at least, I think are able to see it and know that it's a fish outside of feeling it. Of course, you know, they feel a lot of those fish to ambush, but I think they see it a lot better than just your olives and stuff like that. But I really don't fish chartreuse flies streamers any other time of the year.
Tom: Just early season. Interesting.
BJ: Just early season, high water, [00:58:00.923] and an off color.
Tom: What do you fish on a bright day? Let's say you got a, you know, sunny day and the water's clearing up. What would you fish then?
BJ: I do a lot of whites and browns. I like that kinda natural tans, brown kinda color for the spring as well. Unclear days, bright sunny days, maybe the water's a little clear. [00:58:30.052] It's just more of those, again, white and olive, I find is a good combination, anytime of the year. But I like that combination in the spring too is just a good olive with a white belly.
Tom: A white belly. How do you put a belly on a Woolly Bugger? Do you pull something underneath it?
BJ: Well, sometimes I used to... The way I'd wrap the Chenille, I would just [00:59:00.051] double wrap it. And just kinda... I mean, it's just the way that you can kinda get a couple of ribbing underneath the white, just kinda give it a twist.
Tom: Yeah, like what do they call it, crocheting or weaving?
BJ: Yeah. And then the marabou too. Whenever I put the marabou on the back, I'll stack it with olive and then white on the bottom. Yeah, and then I kinda like that kinda [00:59:30.508] more of a Grizzly hackle for the all olives and browns. And then the same thing when you get into clousers, you know, the same thing, you can just stack that same color. But, yeah, and I don't use two... I mean, sometimes I'll use big streamers articulated stuff in the spring, but I guess that all depends when the water gets a little warmer.
Tom: Yeah. It seems like [01:00:00.334] those great, big articulated ones work better once the water gets up above 50. That's what I've found.
BJ: Yeah. And I like leech patterns too. Those are fun patterns as well to fish. And that kind of goes back to the Woolly Bugger too, is that you can fish that dead drift or tight line. But you can also throw it under... [01:00:30.224] If you're wanting to throw an indicator or if you wanna... You know, I guess it's just kinda talking about is early season. Sometimes you have a skwala, which is an early season dark stonefly that happens. So, a lot of times just fishing like a black and purple or black and dark green chubby chernobyl. You can also put a Woolly Bugger underneath it. And every time that you [01:01:00.266] mend that dry fly, for one, you're moving that stonefly naturally on top of the water.
And then it also jigs and moves that bugger a little bit to either be a leech, or a wounded fish, or something to trigger it. So, to be able to fish leech patterns and Woolly Buggers as far as you can either strip them, slow strip them, or just fish them like a heavy net for a lightning with swinging. [01:01:30.289] Again, I know we've talked about this in the past, but swinging flies is always, I think, just a super beneficial way to end your drifts, is having something that will swing nice and can entice some fish.
Tom: How about nymph fishing early in the season? What do you do there?
BJ: Did you say, I'm sorry, new fishing?
Tom: Nymph.
BJ: [01:02:00.650] Nymph fishing.
Tom: Nymph fishing. Yeah.
BJ: Yeah, nymph fishing's good. I think you start to have...if you have stoneflies, you definitely have a migration of stoneflies moving. So, the rubber legs, at least out here, it just seems Pat's rubber legs is the stonefly pattern to go to, and it's the most successful. I mean, for whatever reason the fish in this area is really loving [01:02:30.242] compared to realistic versions of stoneflies. Yeah, and those bugs will start to move as well. And then, again, it goes to having that first stonefly, which is basically the first stake of the sky, which is the big stone this year. And those are green or very blackish nymphs that crawl around early. So, those are typically the first ones that are kind of moving. And I don't know, [01:03:00.268] maybe that's why the olive Woolly Bugger sometimes works as well because the fish are also looking, maybe keying in on it as well as they loose skwala nymph that's floating down the system or moving through the water column.
Tom: What size do you fish those Pat's rubber legs for the skwala?
BJ: I like the kind of 8 to 10 area. Nothing too [01:03:30.017] big. You know, they're a fairly large stonefly. I mean, I've seen them definitely be bigger than most golden stones. Certainly, not as big as a salmonfly. But, yeah, I like the smaller sizes getting into that 8 and 10 size. It's more manageable. And then if you have to get it deeper because being a [01:04:00.146] smaller fly, it's not gonna sink this path. They just don't sink as fast as some of these new Euro nymphs that just, they're like lasers to the bottom. So, you know, you can always add a piece of split shot or something above it. And then midges. I mean, we have midges right now that have been going on here late winter, but they'll continue into the spring. So, midge nymphs are very good as [01:04:30.025] well. Any kind of zebra midge, I tend to find the springtime, at least here, black and red, seems to match the color a little better for these big black midges that we get here late as the snow starts melting off.
Tom: So, when you're fishing the skwala nymph or Pat's rubber legs, when do they hatch? When do they start in your part of the [01:05:00.182] world?
BJ: Over here, depends on the piece of water, but I've seen them as early as the end of March, the third week of March on... We do have some spring creeks around here as well, and I find them happening in the spring creeks here 10 to 14 days earlier on all bug hatches moving into the spring. So, I pay attention to the spring creeks first. And if I'm [01:05:30.295] noticing those bugs are happening there, but I'm not really seeing any skwalas... And the Henry's Fork is, for whatever reason, we're not known for a big skwala hatches but they're here. It's not that they don't exist. They're just not in maybe the large numbers of, oh, I know the South Fork of the Boise River, some stuff more west of us have.
And then the same thing up in the, [01:06:00.351] I think it's the Blackfoot and up there in Montana, it gets really good skwala hatches in the spring that just kind of attracts people to it. But I find out here that it's definitely in that kind of end of March, April, that I'll start seeing them, and fish will start looking for dries. I mean, that's kind of when I start to [01:06:30.188] not throw indicators anymore, as I would through the winter. I start just moving to... If I am going to fish a nymph, it's gonna be under some kind of general stonefly dark skwala pattern.
Tom: In that time of year.
BJ: Yeah. Because if a fish is in an area or a pocket of the river, and unless if you're sitting there for 10 to 12 hours and [01:07:00.134] staring at a piece of water to find 1 or 2 skwala that happen to fly around or crawl out of the bank, you really don't know. And so you might be progressively fishing up or down a creek or a river and you might just stumble into a little hot pocket area of where six or seven skwala just crawled out of the water. And it might be a big brown that's just kinda hanging out because it's [01:07:30.130] the sweet spot. And he's looking for him. So, I always find that I'm never going... If there is skwalas and some dry flies starting to fly around something that's bigger like that that you're just not gonna catch them on an indicator. So, I'd rather have that extra fly, you know, that's imitating something.
Tom: [01:08:00.005] What do you use for a dry skwala pattern?
BJ: I really like, just like a purple and black chernobyl. I find those good. We'll just say that like an olive trued maybe as well, is a good pattern to use. And then olive stimulators. You know, if you can get your hands on some stimulators [01:08:30.533] that are olive. Again, in that 8 to 10 area but that's kind of what I use. It's pretty general. I find that they're not as picky when it comes to the stone or the dry fly as they are later whenever they get more pressure, when more of those are thrown. So, you know, you fish salmonflies and golden stones throughout the year. It starts to become...[01:09:00.308] the fish get a little more selective. Because they've seen so much and they get harassed so much. And I think the lack of people fishing skwala as the fish and coming out of in winter and the fish are hungry. They're just happy to see a steak floating on the surface.
I mean, and it goes also like, tippet size. I find that they don't care as much about tippet size as they do a month or two later after...[01:09:30.610] people get after them with more dry flies. So, if you can kinda get into that, I think if you can get there early enough and pay attention and fish those early, early spring bugs and stuff like that it's... Even on some of the spring creeks and spring creeks back in Pennsylvania and also out here, that I find those fish they're just not as, I don't wanna say educated, but [01:10:00.346] they definitely don't have my smoke coming out of my ears. You know, like making me think too hard. So, it would be pretty [crosstalk 01:10:08.822].
Tom: Yeah. The first hatch of the season is always the best, isn't it?
BJ: Yeah. It is. And it goes into the same first hatch of like, you know, you get early season caddis in the spring. You know, just moving into the next bug cycles. Mother's Day caddis, [01:10:30.552] that's coming in April. And that's during high water. That's during that kind of after runoff is started and peaked out and Mother's Day caddis starts kicking around. And then, you know, no Bach, you used to get some grannoms that get moving around early. And yeah, there's those first caddis hatches. It's just a blast because those fish, [01:11:00.306] it's the first caddis they've seen, first caddis that's been thrown to them. And they're willing to cooperate a lot better. And blue wings as well. I find blue wing fishing in the spring so much easier than fall.
Tom: They get a little picky in the fall, don't they? As we've seen.
BJ: Yeah. Unless if you're stripping them, so [inaudible 01:11:27.268].
Tom: How many dyes have I done that with you? [01:11:30.161] Stripping like a size 20 blue wing olive and the brown trout just crawl all over it. Why are they doing that? You and I have never figured that out.
BJ: I have not. I have not figured that out. I've spent many a time, like, hanging my whole body over the side of the drift boat just with my face. I mean, I'm holding my glasses so nothing falls in, my hat's off. And I'm sitting there 6-inches off the water trying to see a swimming [01:12:00.570] blue wing nymph, running underneath the water like that. And I still not have seen anything that resembles why they're doing that. And it's very difficult to get people to do that. It's, like, breaking giant rules. Stripping blue wing emerges or nymphs from...
Tom: And stripping them like a streamer.
BJ: I know. [01:12:30.273] And I get plenty of people that look at me and just say like, "Are you serious? I'm not doing that." Like, it's very difficult to get them to break the habit of just, the whole dead drifting in. But I have no idea. And I've never ever fished anywhere that I've ever fished blue wings, have I ever stripped him or even thought about it. And I'm kinda kicking [01:13:00.744] myself, you know, just to think that I probably should have.
Tom: Yeah. What have we been missing?
BJ: I know. Instead of trying to feed a size 20 blue wing olive to, you know, a sipping brown trout that's just super picky and starting to pull your hair out and ready to throw rocks and your rod in the water, and then all of a sudden all you had to do is just strip it past them and eat. You didn't care. [01:13:30.400]
Tom: It just goes to show you that sometimes people that don't know anything about fly fishing, do better than people who have been on the water, you know, for 40 years. Because they do different stuff. They discover new stuff.
BJ: Yeah. They discover...and they don't have these roles embedded into them, just drilled into [01:14:00.060] them over and over that you can't do that. You can't do this. I find fly fishing especially, I don't wanna say that there's really no rules. I don't know if there's a fly fishing police that's gonna come out and write me a ticket for stripping a blue wing nymph in the fall.
Tom: There are two rules that I have in fly fishing. Don't hook yourself in the eye and don't drown. Those are my two [01:14:30.346] rules.
BJ: Yeah. Those are very good rules.
Tom: Yeah. Other than that, you can hook yourself in the ear, the finger, you know, barbless hook. You can get it out, no problem.
BJ: Yeah, just have fun, throw it around, just... You know, and I don't think I have to necessarily strip them in the spring though.
Tom: I don't know. We've never tried it.
BJ: Neither have I. [01:15:00.298] But I do know that they're bigger though. At least here, the blue wing olives are bigger in the spring than they are in the fall.
Tom: What are they about size 18 there in the spring?
BJ: Yeah, 18 to even 16. A lot of times, I have just some of the most fun I have in that springtime is throwing caddis with a... A lot of times I'll throw two dries, sometimes. So, I'll throw a caddis with a blue wing behind it. And just [01:15:30.177] because it's a size 14 Mother's Day caddis is what I'll typically throw with a size 16 or 18 blue wing. But also a little more green. I know when you look at flies and fly shops, you'll see blue wing olive selection, and there'll be different colors that are more green like a lighter color olive. And then there's some that are just...they're starting to push the envelope of almost being a [01:16:00.031] brown and really dark. And I find that the brighter colored green olives work better in the spring. And those darker ones are more of my fall selection.
Tom: Interesting. Because...
BJ: And...
Tom: ...the olives that I see in the spring, out there and here are pretty [01:16:30.111] brown. But you say the lighter olive color works better.
BJ: Yeah. I've had that...
Tom: Interesting.
BJ: ...look better. And, yeah, and it could be as much as just the fish are confused between the two of a Mother's Day caddis [inaudible 01:16:47.102]. Since they're relatively close to the same size, that it could just be...again, I know we've discussed this over the years, but it's [01:17:00.288] the silhouette that gets the fish moving to it. And, you know, I don't know, how much to say a parachute bluing olive, kinda still resembles a tight folded up winged caddis.
Tom: Yeah. It could...
BJ: You know, just a...
Tom: ...very well.
BJ: ...olive body. But, yeah, I mean, I find whenever there's caddis and [01:17:30.010] blue wings going on the same time, it's just kind of the combination that works the best.
Tom: Split the difference.
BJ: Yeah. Because I mean, every fish, again, they're just moved around and, you know, one fish might be in a spot just picking off caddis fluttering past them, left and right. But then another fish is just sitting in a slow seam or a back eddy and just sitting there sipping on blue wings. [01:18:00.272] And I move a lot in the spring too, kind of moving around. I tend to not sit as long in one spot as I do the other times of the year.
Tom: Just because you never know exactly where they're gonna be feeding in the spring.
BJ: Yeah. Just kind of the dispersal of the fish, which is kind of the fun part in the spring, as I find is guiding [01:18:30.000] and also just fishing is that's the clue of where the fish will typically territorial live for the rest of the year, most of the year. Unless if they're drugged by a fisherman down river, too far out of their home range, then they won't go back. They'll find a new spot. But I find it really educational and kind of a nice little memory game of figuring out where those fish are. Because it just [01:19:00.148] seems like after the spring or, I'm sorry, after the winter and as that water comes up, water temperatures start to rise, fish come, moving out of those deep runs and just disperse through the river. You're just kind of finding, like, where they're at.
And then when I find one, I'm like, "Okay, this brown trout's living by this rock." And then typically he'll probably be there a lot, [01:19:30.171] you know, for months I think. I mean, as long as it's a place that when the water recedes out of runoff, that doesn't go dry, you know. But typically, I mean, even if it does get too shallow, I'll still find that fish in the general area. He might just slip off a shelf, or he might move one more boulder out, or one more, you know, whole upriver. But they're typically in the same place. [01:20:00.127] So, it's kind of fun to track the fish and be able to start recording some of that information of where every fish go because in every spring, it's all new. It's brand new.
Tom: That's cool. Yeah. That's seasonal dispersal is always interesting to see where they're gonna end up. All right, BJ, well, that has been a great overview [01:20:30.398] of some tips for early spring fishing, of course, in Idaho, but also in other places. Any of these tips that you've given us will work anywhere for the most part, except no skwalas in the East. But other than that, those are great. That's great advice for spring fishing anywhere. And as you said, you've had broad fishing education, so you've seen lots of different areas of the country.
BJ: Yes. [01:21:00.529] Yeah. And I think the springtime is the most consistent throughout the country as far as tackling the fishing. I think once the summer and fall goes around, and depends if you're on a tail water with a dam or if you're just on natural flows. I think things shuffle around a little more. And then when you get the human influence, shuffling the cards a little bit more as well. You know, cards being fished, [01:21:30.213] just kind of moving everything around. I think everything then becomes more regional. But I think as, like you said, a broad overview that most of the country, the springtime is pretty much the same.
Tom: Great. Well, thank you BJ. It is always fun to talk to you. Always interesting.
BJ: Yeah. You're welcome.
Tom: We always like to theorize on all these crazy things and really appreciate it.
BJ: Yeah. I appreciate [01:22:00.319] you having me on. And it's certainly fun to talk about it all and gets us all excited. The biggest part about this whole thing is being excited and having fun.
Tom: Yep. Having fun. Yep. And I look forward to seeing you this October.
BJ: Yes. Yep. I look forward to that too, very much.
Tom: We have been talking to BJ Gerhardt, a long time guide at one of my favorite places, Three Rivers Ranch [01:22:30.337] in Warm River, Idaho, outside of Ashton. And BJ, thank you again, and I'll see you soon.
BJ: Yes, you're welcome.
Tom: All righty. Bye-bye. Thanks for listening to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment, send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips on [01:23:00.114]