Throughout all my years of brook trout fishing, one fly reigns supreme. Fran Betters came up with something extraordinary when he created the Ausable Bomber. It has resulted more brook trout to hand for me than any other single fly pattern. I've taken trout on the bomber, fished upstream and down, skated and dead drifted, swung and bounced, dry and subsurface, to actively rising fish and prospecting pocket water... there is little this fly can't do. This broad range of uses is something I look for in most flies. Very little I carry is actually single use. I fish for so many species in so many situations I'd have far too many flies if each only served one purpose. And as such, the Bomber with it's many uses has more than earned its place in my arsenal.
One day in December, I was on a morning mission to get my monthly dry fly salmomid, and of course the bomber was the first fly I chose to tie on. The stream I was fishing was a low-gradient river valley stream, running a substrate of brownstone, conglomerate, and alluvial gravel beds. Streams like these are nutrient rich and hold water well, often producing brook trout either of large size or in exceptional numbers -and sometimes both. This particular stream has been more numbers prolific than size for me, and is also a winter dry fly paradise. The fish are very surface oriented, abundant, and spurred on by caddis and midge hatches.
The first run I fished was a shallow gravel train that typically either holds one nice fish or a half dozen tiny ones. Today it was tiny ones, and they could only drown the fly and failed to get the hook point. A few bends down however the water swept around a corner, creating a nice cut bank bend. There are nearly always fish holding in water of this sort, the question was simply whether they'd rise to a dry. I let the Bomber drift, then gave in a twitch where the V of in flowing currents came to a point. Up came a brook trout and I stuck her. December had been beaten.
The Bomber brought a few more fish to hand that day, including the regal specimen below.
But when I came to an especially deep hole with heavy current, I knew I wanted to get down deep to catch whatever was hiding there. On went another fly of Adirondack lineage, though of a more recent generation of fly tyer than Betters: Rich Garfield's Ausable Ugly. Like Betters, Garfield has designed a handful of flies that are unusual, unruly looking, and extremely effective. There's little you can't do with an Ausable Ugly. I made a tuck cast then slowly dropped my rod as the current carried the fly down, keeping in contact but also allowing it to fall. As the Ugly rolled into the depths of the pool, I felt a grab. It was a long female brook trout, all her weight was in her stomach. She'd used much of her fat reserves to spawn, most likely. Brook trout in this shape aren't uncommon in the early winter, as they've just begun to regain weight after the spawn.
Satisfied with that small number of trout landed, I called it a day. The Ausable flies had done the trick.