My First Trip to the Swift River

I was taken to school and humbled by Swift River rainbows.
These fish are better schooled than I am and that is a fact.
Gin clear water that flows from the bottom and consistent year round makes for an oft visited fishery…typing that makes me feel a bit better about my ‘meager’ skills.
Ted and Billy (Keith had left to make a family engagement), dropped down a bank into a nice looking hole, but there wasn’t any room for a third stick, so I decided to explore downstream a bit. A fair walk in the fog saw a lot of slack water until I came across some structure and movement that looked promising.
Sure enough, there were 4 or 5 ‘bows working a feeding lane and my heart starting beating a bit faster. Alright fellas, “you are mine”, I says to myself with a touch of smug.
A series of wee nymphs 18-22 including jailbirds, serendipities, pheasant tales, zebras, tiny caddis types and a few of my own design as well as micro-buggers a guides special and a griffiths gnat. For the most part these fish just ignored me, but for three strikes and ill conceived hook-ups that brought no fish to net.
About an hour into this, the oddest thing happened. At least 30 more fish appeared seemingly out of nowhere and were ‘turned on’ by what may have been emergers. I could see no bugs, but these fish all in the 12-18″ range were sipping, rolling and even breaking water for about 30 minutes or so. I had a nymph specific rig on a 9′ 5 wt. that wasn’t easily convertible, but I tied on a length of 7x tippet and tried some of the smallest morsels I had. Even a couple small soft hackle emergers.
Nothing but a few half-hearted takes of fish olympic trained to spit a fly! Almost as suddenly as they appeared, the others went back to some unknown lie while the original 4 or 5 continued about their business of ignoring me. Keep in mind, my friends, these ‘bows were nearly knocking my knees.
Clearly, I have something to learn about these ‘Swift River’ beauties.


~ by John McGranaghan on January 13, 2013.

11 Responses to “My First Trip to the Swift River”

  1. Welcome to the Swift River…they sure test your abilities. I have been fortunate enough to get the occasional fish that must be starving. It’s amazing how they swim up to and around you. Each trip is an informative adventure. Also the scenery is always spectacular.

  2. If the “blue fish blitz” feeding occurred downstream of the hatchery pipe, it could have been a “pellet hatch.” This happens when pellets from the hatchery get flushed down through the pipe and the fish start actively rolling on the surface. This is likely to occur in late morning or early afternoon.Some of the regulars create pellet flies from bits of cork. You might be able to fool some with a tan egg fly greased with floatant. Or a pheasant tail nymph fished in the surface film. I often use a small thing-a-ma-bobber secured with a toothpick and once I had a fish try to ead that toothpick, which I believe to have been taken for a pellet.
    Having fished the Swift in all times of the year for over 30 years, my best advice is to be quick to strike and keep persevering.
    Tight lines from Florida,

    • Hey Gerry–thanks for the response. This run was below the hatchery. I’ll keep these things in mind. I’ll be heading back down on a nice day soon. Tying up some 22’s and 24’s for the occasion.
      have fun in the sun!

  3. The fish above Rt. 9 are post-doctorate, while those below only have their Master’s degree with a few PhD’s mixed in. Humbling for sure, but the Swift is a special place as you have now found out. You have the right idea – keep switching flies until you find something that works, and when that stops working, switch again. My go-to flies are small (#20-24) soft hackles in orange or purple (the Orvis Purple Haze is a favorite) or a red thread midge, but those don’t always work. There has been many a day when my hookup to netted ratio is 8:1 or more – but it is always fun nonetheless!

  4. I usually sink ’em but that is a relative term – when the flow is low, not much sinking is required – a tiny pinch of tungsten putty or maybe a #8-10 shot. You are probably better off without an indicator, or if you have to use one, use a small white one – as Gerry has pointed out in his blog the fish are skittish of those red, orange and yellow thingamabobbers. At least in my experience nothing works all the time there. I’ve had days when out of sheer desperation, having tried everything else in the box, I’ve tied on a big orange stimulator, only to have multiple vicious takes from those fat rainbows.

    Tight Lines!

    • Thanks for the tips, Mike. I almost never use an indicator, although I’ve been using on occasion, a colored leader that a friend made up. It works pretty well, giving a depth gauge of sorts while ‘high sticking’.

  5. Sorry I missed you. Sounds like a good time. Those Swift river fish are truly a prize once the code to catching them has been stacked. BTW, the pipe blend you had in grouse camp was great. I enjoyed a bowl on the drive home.

    • Mighty glad you enjoyed it, Larry? I will be heading back to the Swift before too long and see if I can break the code. My fly fishing skills are meager, so it may take me a while. One thing is certain–I will enjoy it.

  6. My personal flies for this time of year are the red thread midges and sucker spawn. This is on NJ rivers though.

    • Next time you come up Jimmy we should make the drive and try some of those ‘Jersey’ flies. BTW–I like that nymphing rig you gave me. It sure makes it easier to manage without a ‘bobber’.

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