Last weekend I went fishing on the Big Horn River with another veteran from the VA Medical Center through my Healing Waters Program.
The military vet had been distanced from his 9-year-old son for a period while the vet was attending a program at the Medical Center. We thought this fishing trip would be a great way for the two to become “reconnected.”
Due to a number of circumstances beyond control, we only had about five hours to fish the river before getting everybody back home. This put us on the water during the hottest, brightest time of day from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The grasshoppers aren’t mature yet so, trust me, this was not the best day to be doing a short, mid-day float down the river.
Our plan was to have the vet fly fish from the boat while his son enjoyed the outdoors and helped his dad net fish. This plan fell apart after a few hours as the fishing was very slow, and our young passenger got more bored and even a bit eager to get the trip over with.
But let not anyone’s heart be troubled, because I always have a plan B!
Just in case the fly fishing was slow, or our 9-year-old got bored without much to do, I brought along a spinning rod for him to try a little “bowling” for trout. This is a set-up I use with tremendous success on larger rivers to catch trout using flies on a spinning rod.
The “bowling” rig is described in the attached diagram. To the upper portion of the rig we tied a #8 orange worm pattern, with a #18 sow bug on the lower dropper line. A “surgeon’s knot” is used to attach the 10-inch “dropper lines” to the main 4-foot long “running line.” Please examine the attached photo of a surgeon’s knot as used for this particular rig. The nearly completed knot in the photo is very simply just a double overhand knot tied with about 20 inches of dropper line to the 4-foot running line in a particular location on the running line itself. Once the knot is cinched up, you clip off the lower piece of the dropper line flush with the knot, while leaving 10 inches of the upper piece dangling to the side. This is where you will tie on a fly. The two ends of the running line are left intact, with one end coming from the swivel, and the other end extending on down to the sinker.
In my column coming up in one month, I plan to take a local lady and her two young children on a trip emphasizing “bowling for trout.” In that article, I’ll describe why I call it “bowling” and how the rig is actually fished.
Back to my vet and his young son: I finally decided to pull my pre-rigged spinning rod from the back of the boat and get some action going. Both guys were located in the bow of the boat, with the father fly casting and his son seated right next to him. I unhooked the bowling rig, waited for the father to cast his fly rod, and then I yanked in my oars, made a quick cast with the spin rod a bit farther out, and then handed the rod to the youngster. I told the boy to just wait for the sinker to hit bottom and watch his rod tip to start “bouncing” as the sinker rolled and bounced along the stream bed. I grabbed the oars again to keep the boat moving along naturally with the lines in the water.
He asked me “then what do I do?” I said “at some point you’ll feel that rod tip come alive and then you just rear back and set the hook hard and fast!” He looked dubious, but paid close attention to his rod. After about 10 seconds, his tip started really jerking. His eyes got wide, his mouth fell open, and he reared back on that rod. A 16-inch brown trout immediately jumped from the water, and the battle was on! He reeled the fish in and said “Wow, that was fun, but Dad, you kind of stink at this!” We all laughed and the two gave each other a big hug. We were near the boat ramp take-out point, but in only about six casts with the bowling rig, the youngster hooked another four fish. He was so excited he didn’t want to leave the river, and he asked his dad when they were going fishing next. Mission accomplished!
Remember, in one month, to watch for more details on how to go “Bowling for Trout!”
GORDON ROSE works as a commercial fly tier and operates Sheridan WYO Healing Waters, part of a national nonprofit organization which teaches disabled military veterans fly fishing, fly tying and fly rod-building as part of their therapy.