Once again I visited the North Platte River below Grey Reef in 2015, but as a result of other commitments, my friend Steve Supple and I were forced to make the journey in mid-April rather than the end of March. We had excellent fishing, but it was not as spectacular as our previous visits during the end of March. The end of March trips coincided with the annual flush period, when the water managers released large slugs of water from the dam to simulate run off. This action washed aquatic worms from the banks and stirred the sediments on the stream bottom making eggs and leeches available to the hungry trout.
The flows in mid-April were stable but high, and we enjoyed most of our success on egg imitations and blue winged olive nymph replicas. Unlike our visit in 2014 we did not employ pine squirrel leeches to any extent. After the success of 2014, I tied ten natural pine squirrel leeches, and I was prepared to experiment with them. Although the leeches were not utilized on the North Platte River, they did produce positive results on two other early season outings.
The first pine squirrel leech success story unfolded on March 28 when I fished the Eagle River between Wolcott and the town of Eagle. I was quite pleased to land two trout in cold early season conditions on my conehead natural pine squirrel leech.
The second situation where the pine squirrel leech produced excellent results was the morning that my son, Dan, and I spent on the Tuckasegee River in western North Carolina. In this instance we had no idea what to present to the trout in a tailwater that we never before fished. By some stroke of luck I tied a pine squirrel leech to my line and began to catch fish at a fairly frequent pace. I shared one of my flies with Dan, and he also discovered that the North Carolina fish favored a natural leech. Dan and I landed fourteen trout in 3.5 hours of fishing, and all succumbed to the pine squirrel leech except for two that favored a salvation nymph. Needless to say I was quite impressed with the performance of the heretofore seldom used leech on waters distant from Colorado.
Since I completed most of my production tying of nymphs and dry flies, I decided it was time to address my diminished quantity of pine squirrel leeches. Only two or three remained in my boat box, and they were the versions that did not contain a conehead. Prior to my trip to the southeastern United States I tied some streamers for my friend David Luther. David and Becky hosted me for several days in eastern Tennessee, and David guided me on some fine local streams, so I manufactured some streamers as gifts. I knew from prior fishing trips with David that he loves to fish streamers. One of the streamers that I researched and produced for him was called the Slumpbuster, a John Barr design.
When I tied these simple streamers, I realized that they are effectively dressed up pine squirrel leeches. The main ingredient is pine squirrel leech zonkers, but they also have a gold braided mylar body. The pine squirrel leech is simply a zonker strip lashed to the hook shank covered with thread. In a bit of a gamble, I decided to tie slumpbusters instead of pine squirrel leeches. I used up my natural pine squirrel zonkers to make one size 8 and two size 6 slumpbusters, and then I produced another seventeen versions using pine squirrel strips dyed dark olive. The quantity was split between size six and size eight. I am very excited to test out these new streamers that take advantage of the soft undulating characteristics of pine squirrel fur.