Spring grew in leaps and bounds with the passage of April along Oak Creek. The season announced itself in countless ways, large and small, from the varied birdsong of neotropical migrants to the subtle lengthening of days. Somehow, all of these signs combined with a certainty of life unfolding, and the wheel of the year turning.
I paid a couple of visits to the stream during the first part of the month, including an early April jaunt up through a section of the catch and release area, where the trees were still reluctant to don their foliage. The trout were a bit reluctant too, and spooked easily to my presentations.
Still, I managed to fool a few gems, including this scrappy 12.5" brown that pounced on a #12 Krystal Hare Nymph drifted under a boulder near the head of the run pictured above.
A spring storm in mid-April deposited a thin layer of snow on the higher reaches of the canyon, while the welcome smell of moisture clung to the stones along lower reaches of the stream.
New green leaves provided a warm contrast against red sandstone walls, and the curling whitewater pushing through, all merging into an untamed canvas.
With the recent precipitation came an influx of water that boosted stream flows, and seemed to invigorate some of Oak Creek's finned inhabitants. This chunky little brown moved for a #16 Copper Emmons drifted through a riffled run, and sported red spots glowing like miniature embers.
I lobbed a pair of nymphs into the run below, and another fish struck just as they passed to the right of the partially submerged boulder in the foreground.
Oak Creek breeds tough trout that often fight above their weight class, and this 13.5" brown proved no exception to that rule, using the tumbling currents to its advantage.
As shown in the image below, the fish took a #18 beadhead olive brown Zebra Midge, indicating a preference for the little nymph over the Crawbugger that I had also been casting.
Leaning hardwoods draped a run further upstream in dappled shade as afternoon wore on. This glide is deceptively deep, and can harbor good fish at times. I managed to hook and lose a large brown here on a dry a month ago, and was curious to test the reach again. Sure enough, I began noticing riseforms periodically dotting the surface, and the shadowed sweep of a trout's tail underneath, always a sight to get a flyfisher's blood stirring.
After studying the stream I noticed the occasional size 12 March Brown and a smattering of smaller tan caddis drifting atop the lazy currents. Whenever the larger mayflies passed within range, a trout would rise up and suck the insects down on an unhurried fashion. These mayflies never seem to hatch in abundance, but whenever even a few are present, the trout take notice. They have quickly become one of my favorite aquatic insects to see and match along Oak Creek. I tied on a tan Parachute Sparkle Dun in matching size to an extended leader tapering to 5X, cast up towards the shade of the opposite bank, and managed to put a fish down within several drifts. I rested the run briefly, then cast again with more care, and was rewarded with a snout that lifted over the dry--fish on! The fish raced about, jumped repeatedly, and looked to be a pretty 15-16" brown, but I got sloppy for a moment, and the trout made one last run under a branch, snapping me off in the process.
After a few choice expletives followed by slow deep breaths, I tied on a new fly and length of tippet, and as luck would have it, another fish rose quietly in shallower water closer to my side of the stream. I let the line unfurl towards the riser, and again, a trout broke the surface to intercept the low-riding dry. I lifted back on the rod, and immediately a big brown went airborne, a breathtaking sight. The fish was all over the place, thrashing about and then dogging down in deeper water. Eventually I coaxed the trout to the shallows, and gazed down at a beauty of a 19" brown. It was a female by the looks of it, and among the largest fish I have landed on a dry from Oak Creek, a satisfying catch to say the least.
Soon after releasing her, I spied another subtle rise in a run just upstream, where a channel funneled between two exposed boulders. On the first cast, another trout rose confidently for the mayfly pattern, went airborne, and then barreled straight towards me, making me reel in frantically.
This fish also fought tirelessly, and again I managed to draw it in close, revealing a golden olive, red-spotted male brown of 16", just a flawless-looking Oak Creek trout. The browns in this stream never cease to get me with their beauty, and certain fish like this one are true stunners.
The brown certainly wasn't interested in my admiration though, and after several photographs he was off like a shot, back to his lie. I called it a day soon after releasing this fellow, and reveled in that crazy magical hour or so when good browns were taken on top, a time that always seems so brief in fly fishing, especially in a place like Oak Creek, and yet lingers on in the mind, for days and years to come.