Voices from the river

Voices from the River: The Morning Mouse

by Kirk Deeter

I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me. I went fishing the other day and got an early start on the river, not long after sunrise. The air was chilly, and there wasn’t much bug action (at least not that I could see above the surface) so I decided to throw a streamer fly. But as I opened my streamer box, a big, gaudy mouse fly literally fell into my lap. Maybe I was lazy. Maybe just curious. But the wheels started spinning in my head, and I thought, “What the heck… a streamer is a big, ugly attractor under the water, and a mouse is a big, ugly attractor on top, right?”

I couldn’t help myself. So I tied it on, and started wading downstream, lobbing ugly morning casts against the bank, giving the fly a twitch here as I let is swing away from the bank and through the runs. Sure enough… boom! A decent brown trout (16 inches?) whacked the fly. It wasn’t buttoned on very solid, and it got away. About 10 minutes later, another splash and attack. I couldn’t tell what kind of that fish was.

As the sun climbed, the mouse bite quit, and I switched to a streamer, caught a couple fish, and was home for lunch.

Because I try to make every day on the water a “teaching moment” I’m still trying to figure out what happened and why. I’ve always thought that mouse fishing is a nighttime deal, best done in the heat of midsummer. But never underestimate the efficient thinking of predatory trout… they have a hard time turning down that much protein (in the right circumstances). I know some anglers who fish mice in the middle of the day. I don’t think they’re nuts anymore.

Are warm spring days affecting more mouse activity? Heck, I’m already seeing grasshoppers in April where I fish. Haven’t caught anything on a hopper yet, though.

Maybe the fact that this was a smaller, less pressured river (I didn’t name it for a reason) allows the trout to be more open-minded there. Maybe there are a lot of mice in that area.

Maybe it was just dumb luck.

Probably a combination of all the above. But I think it’s worth a second foray to try to figure out the morning mouse. There’s something spectacular about that eat. I may have just cut my catch numbers by 90 percent for the foreseeable future, but that’s okay.

Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT Magazine and the vice president of Trout Media. He lives and works in the mountains west of Denver.

By Chris Hunt.