Water generation stopped at around 9 AM. I arrived at the the river around 10:30 to find a full parking lot. As I was getting my gear situated to make the walk down river I couldn’t help but notice a conversation between two men fishing together. Apparently one was “guiding” the other and the guide was trying tell the inexperienced fisherman to tie on a certain fly without openly describing the fly. Apparently he thought this mysterious fly needed to be top secret.
I laughed hysterically inside at the manner in which the “guide” carried on. It was clear to me this man wasn’t a guide but he really wanted his guest to think he was. If I’ve learned any thing about fishing I’ve learned that there is no secret bait and you can’t catch other peoples fish.
The Lower Illinois River looks very intimidating at first glance for a fly fisher in that many portions are very wide and flat. When power generation is shut the water drops fast and the flow in those areas slows to nearly a stand still it seems. As I make my way down River I usually go past those areas and find one of the many narrow chutes with big rock and deep cuts. This was the case today. Armed with my 5wt fly set up I tied on a pink San Juan worm about 3’ below a small foam indicator.
Within the first couple of drifts I was hooked up on a pretty little stocker rainbow. It’s remarkable to me the power that a 10-12” rainbow trout has. Every hook set is a new adventure!! Right off the bat I had two fish netted and my confidence was soaring at this point. The water is often clear enough that if you have good pair of polarized glasses you can pick up on the underwater activity of the fish. As I fished that small chute I began to notice fish starting to rise and take meals just under the surface. At about the same time I noticed this I began to miss fish that worm take the San Juan and as quickly as I set the hook they would drop it. At this point I made a fly change to my version of a stone fly imitation below the indicator. I got repeated strikes on this as well but missed a good amount of fish for some reason. I made my way down to a gravel bar island where the river splits and there is a good flow of deep water on both sides of the down steam point on this small island. This is where I would make my final stand of the day.
With the stone fly imitation still on, the strikes and misses kept coming. I landed a few fish but missed 90% of them for the first 15 minutes or so. I decided to change to a small brown wooly booger with a small amount of root beer flash in it with no indicator. This was the change that I should have made much earlier! I would cast about 30 degrees up river and let the fly drift while doing a slow strip and then at just about the same point every time where my line would start to swing….BINGO! Fish after fish took my fly and ended up in the net.
To be honest I’m not even sure how many fish I caught but I can tell you I wore them out……or maybe they wore me out. All in all it was a fantastic day on a fantastic river in eastern Oklahoma and I can’t wait to return.