Last year, I took a friend who had never floated in a drift boat to float the A-section of the Green River. It was mid-week, which meant that there were very few Floaties on the river.
I had placed my friend the pole position in the front of the boat in order to ensure he would have the best chance at an epic day. My son was happily perched at the rear, with me on the oars. For anyone aspiring to boat ownership, this is where you end up most of the time; trading your fly-rod for graphite sticks of a much larger diameter. The sun was intense and the water was high, but the incessant wind was noticeably absent. The only action on the surface belonged to the fiberglass monsters flogging the water with strips of nylon. After serving up almost every dry-fly on the menu; the usual suspects like cicadas, hoppers, and crickets, I started visually poaching for ideas by watching the guides in other boats. I really wanted my friend, who is a capable angler, to catch something, anything. If someone tells you they haven’t been skunked on the water, they are either lying or selling something, or both. Most of the guides had their clients nymphing, DEEP. A couple of them were throwing rigs fished with weights which looked more at home at Gold’s Gym than on a river. That being said, their sports were catching fish. My friend didn’t want to nymph fish and instead opted to throw a streamer. I understood, as it is a lot more fun to cast and strip than to lob barbells. As effective as nymph fishing is, and I do it all the time, it is a bit like using a Ouija Board, or having sex with a condom; you are never really sure you are communicating with the other side until something dramatic happens.
After a few hours without so much as a sniff, I began to feel the pressure. I set my son up with a nymph rig hoping to change our luck. He is a novice fly-fisher who, prior to this trip had only thrown dry flies. Within two casts, the drought was over. He proved to be surprisingly adept at hooking the anchor line. After three repeat performances, he asked for a beetle pattern and a sandwich.
Again, I turned my attention to the other boats, specifically the ones routinely catching fish. Ethics aside, I made a mental note to throw a pair of binoculars in the boat for the next trip. The closest boat was racking up double hook-ups faster than a fish increases in size when it is “unintentionally released”. I noticed that the anglers consistently catching fish were set up with a two fly rig with the weights tied below the flies, sometimes called dredge or bounce nymphing rig. Not sure how I feel about this set up. I can’t help but assume that the angler in the front of the boat was bonking fish on the head with his weights while the angler in the back was snagging them. At the time, my friend decided to stick with the streamer, which eventually yielded some results, not epic results, but results nonetheless. Speaking of results, the guides who set up their clients with the dredge rig were definitely achieving them, which for them is their living. Far be it for me to deprive a person from earning a living. Ethical questions are rarely black and white, so it appears we have another issue upon which to float, and wade, into the gray.