Tuesday, April 1, 2014
If you've been around here for a while, you've come to know three things about me.
First, while I love to chase trout, I hate fishing nymphs. I’m an unapologetic, can’t stand still, gun and run streamer fisherman, period, and at times it’s put a serious crimp in my catch rate. That is, it used to. This recent swing in fishing fortune leads me to the second thing…
... I’m a Mt. Dew addict. While you probably wake up each morning and head for the coffee pot, I get out of bed and stumble downstairs to the basement fridge for some green lightning. It’s often what gets me from under the covers, thinking about how good that first slug will taste. It’s a sad thing to admit, but I’m hooked just as firmly as if by nicotine or hard drugs.
So how does my trout catch rate lead to Mt. Dew in a single step?
Late in the Fall of 2012 I visited my nemesis, The Smith, in southern Virginia. The river has kicked my ass again and again over the past decade, keeping a stingy hold on its numerous, but finicky, brown trout. Regardless, I keep going back. Stubborn, I guess, both the river and I.
That particular day, like most every other, I parked at the old mirror plant, dropped the tailgate, and rigged my gear. Ready to slip into my waders, I turned and hopped to a seat, clumsily knocking over the ubiquitous open soda bottle, dumping pop all over my boots and small, open Cliff Days Worth box of woolly buggers, soaking everything completely and cruelly wasting half-a-bottle of my green liquid crutch.
The boots would be fine but the flies were a mess. A quick shake was the best I could do, for that moment, so I closed the box, stuck it in a vest pocket, intending to rinse the whole shooting match once I got to the water. I forgot the cleanup, of course, once I stepped into the flow, intent only on catching that first trout. It didn’t happen right away, goddam Smith.
After an hour of frustration and a few changes of flies, I remembered the buggers. They were a sticky mess, as you can imagine, but I pried a mid-sized olive from the tacky blue foam and tied it on. First swing, the skunk was off as a nice twelve-incher came to hand. Second swing, another brown. And so on throughout the day.
The light bulb came on. A Eureka moment ensued.
To make a long story short (you’re welcome), after a lot of trial and error, Mt. Dew-soaked olive woollies have become my go-to trout candy; #8s with a lead wire underwrap and a bright red gill finish at the hook’s eye. “Untreated” olives don’t cut it. Similarly treated blacks or browns or whites don’t work. Saturated olives get attention.
I have a handful of theories as to why this works, but can prove none of them. Perhaps the brominated vegetable oil (BVO) that keeps that soda’s coloration so perfectly suspended (and causes most of the civilized world to ban this ingredient from human consumption) affects the viscosity or hydrological properties of the water around the fly in a manner that’s somehow appealing to fish. Maybe, because it only works with olive buggers, the eerie green solution generates a prismatic effect of some sort. Or it could be that, like me, the caffeine gets the trout’s motor running. I don’t know how, but it works. Consistently.
So now, before I head for the stream, I soak a handful of buggers in Mt. Dew (not diet or caffeine free – only the real stuff), then let them dry before putting them in my “sticky” Cliff box. I’ve even taken to carrying a small atomizing bottle of the soft drink to “re-energize” a fading streamer (or to take a quick, reviving sip myself). I’ve done it quietly, though. My fishing buddies don’t know what my edge has been.
Now I don’t want to get into a protracted ethical discussion about doctoring flies. The way I see it, if I’m willing to drink the stuff then it’s fair game to apply it to a streamer. It’s not like it's a scent or anything. Whatever the reason, it’s helped me tame that bloody Smith River and, as an amusing side effect, has my puzzled compatriots murmuring to themselves with great regularity.
Got a river kicking your ass? Give it a try.
But don't get hooked.
Note: Of course, the third thing that you have come to know about me by now is that I am not to be trusted on the 1st of April.