The weather was a bit iffy, and the wind was blowing as we headed out for the first day of tubing this year. Nevertheless, it was warm and the fish were willing, so, what more could we ask?
As is typical of spring tubing, the fish are in the shallows absolutely reveling as they enjoy their release from the ice-bound water. Our first few stops, at locations that usually hold quite a few fish, proved to be disappointing, so we moved on. A fish here and a fish there hit the flies as we went exploring. When we finally found them, though, one of the gals managed to hook and land a dozen fish from a small area along a snag-filled section up close to the bank. One of them was so large, we couldn't get him in the landing net. She named "Bruno."
She had gone float tubing briefly once before but still had never caught a fish on a fly, she told me as we geared-up. She said that she would be ecstatic if she caught even one fish. Suddenly she found herself morphing into a fishing machine. Her husband wasn't doing badly either. He landed a gorgeous 22-inch fish, which was the first of several more.
Others that fished the next day at a different lake also discovered how great sight-fishing to big fish can be. These were fish that mimic spawning, even though their eggs can't hatch because they are not laid in oxygen-rich moving water. Even so, the fish are very visible as well as very intent on each other. Besides that, they are not actively feeding. Enticing them to take the fly meant diverting their attention from the opposite sex. Not an easy task.
Fish that take the fly in the spring often do so quite softly, and that compounds the problems. Setting the hook becomes trickier when you don't feel the take. "Watch your line," I told them. "It will often just quiver a bit when a fish bites." Soon their catch rate improve, but then we had to master the techniques of playing and landing fish. Now my advice was, "when you have a fish on, keep paddling." Failure to keep the fish tight resulted in some brief but exciting hook-ups.
The wildlife was also out in force as it usually is in the spring. A pair of loons courted and fed practically right beside us and also attempted to engage us in conversation. They are an absolute delight to watch with their regal black heads and arresting red eyes. Soon there would be chicks to watch as well.
One day we looked skyward as we heard some familiar honking, and discovered four spectacularly beautiful trumpeter swans flying low over head. Their phenomenal wing-span never fails to amaze me. As they made a couple of passes over the lake we thought for a few minutes that they were going to land and take a rest break on the lake with us, but they proceeded on to other locations. Several species of ducks and the local eagle also made an appearance, as did a very pregnant moose that came down to the water to drink right in front of us.
The last day's fishing saw lots of very stubborn fish. It is absolutely unnerving to be able to see them, quite close up, and not be able to get them to take the fly. Several changes of patterns did no good. By then, they had probably already seen and disregarded all of the bead-head lake leeches, small streamers and nymphs that usually produce takes.
We managed several fish on but not landed until the very end of the afternoon. Then, as we were paddling back to our put-in spot, we stopped at a location that holds fish some years. This was one of the years. There weren't a lot of fish, but there was one very willing buck that took the fly and absolutely took off. After seven acrobatic jumps, he was still going strong. I had to make three attempts before being able to get him in the net. He was real prize. Coppery-red gill plates and a decidedly hooked snout plus a 23-inch length established him as the fish of the week.