Thursday, July 24, 2014

Trout Lake Report: What a Ride!

Thunderstorms are roaming the area. You make sure you have your rain jacket in the truck and follow the deer over the ridge to the lake.

You kick over to the inlet and tie on a #12 Damselator. You still want to catch a Brown. On the Damselator.

By some act of grace you've hit it right, and you do it right.

You see fish working inside the inlet, and one rolls its yellow sides at you. You drop the little Damselator halfway in and wait. You let the fly drift naturally with the incoming current. You wait some more. You didn't wait before. And now, finally--there it is. A quiet take. You set and quickly snake the fish out of the inlet and into open water where there's room to work with. And soon you've caught a beautiful Brown.

You put the fly back in the same place, and another Brown soon grabs it.

While releasing that fish you see a rise way inside the inlet where the riffles of the inlet stream spread out. This is shallow water, two, maybe two and a half feet. But you drop the fly where you saw the rise. This time you don't have to wait. A fish sucks it in. You set, and all hell breaks loose. It's a big Brown, and since it can't go down it goes up. One, two, three, four times it leaps twisting into the air as you strip as fast as you can drawing it out of the willows and into open water and finally, blessedly, into the net.

This is a noble fish. An extraordinary fish. You measure it before you release it. Twenty on the nose. But it's even bigger than that in your esteem.

By now you've also noticed that the hook is hanging on by the thinnest flap of skin. You came that close to losing this fish. So when all is said and done the biggest thing by far is your gratitude.

A family of geese has moved into the inlet. You've gotten to know them over the past few weeks, since the youngsters were in down, so you give them their turn and kick on down the shoreline to where you missed a good fish a few trips ago. On the way a Rainbow ambushes the Damselator as it drifts behind you.

You cast the fly up into the shallows, and again there is an immediate take. You're amazed to see another flash of yellow, and to net yet another beautiful Brown.

You wonder if it's the dropping barometer. The wind is picking up, and storm clouds are building in the south.

You decide to shelter inside the inlet. You fish along the way, but the action has slowed considerably. It seems that the fish are getting ready for the storm, too.

The geese are still there, but they leave without complaint when you move right in. You get your rain jacket on, pull your hat down tight, and settle in with your back to the wind.

The wind blows harder. The sky gets darker. There is a long, glorious peal of thunder that rolls majestically from horizon to horizon.

Then the rain sweeps in, and the willows begin to thrash in the wind, and the waves begin to roll. You brace your feet on the shallow bottom and grab a handful of willows and ride it out.


When it's over you move out to see if there's any more fishing to be done.

It's not long before the last of the sun comes out.

So you offer the Damselator again.

You get one take, but the fish gets quickly into the weeds and comes off.

And that's it. The lake is quiet as quiet can be. So you kick slowly back across to the truck, dragging a woolly bugger behind you. You throw a muddler along the shoreline for awhile.

And all the time you're thinking about those Browns, and about that storm, and all you can say about the day is:

What a ride!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Kindness to Animals" by Anonymous

Illustration by Walter Beach Humphrey

Little children, never give
Pain to things that feel and live:
Let the gentle Robin come
For the crumbs you save at home,--
As his meat you throw along
He'll repay you with his song;
Never hurt the timid hare
Peeping from her green grass lair,
Let her come and sport and play
On the lawn at close of day;
The little lark goes soaring high
To the bright windows of the sky,
Singing as if 'twere always spring,
And fluttering on an untired wing,--
Oh! let him sing his happy song,
Nor do these gentle creatures wrong.

"Kindness to Animals" by Anonymous

Montana Fly Fishing Magazine, Summer 2014

There's no Summer like a Montana Summer. Get it HERE.

Trout Lake Report: Fishing, Family, and Fire

Last Tuesday there was a haze of smoke in the air at the lake. There was a small wild fire burning to the south of us.

It was a relaxed, farewell fishing trip.

The next day my family and I would hop a flight out of Spokane heading for a week's vacation in Indiana with my family there.

So I was thinking about packing, and travel, and the week's agenda in Indiana when I drove home that night. And also, in the back of my mind, I wondered about that wildfire....

The trip was wonderful. It was the first time all six of my children and all four of my grandchildren (and another on the way) were together. We made the most of it.

And every morning we would check the news. That little lightning-spawned wildfire grew and joined others and exploded into the Carlton Complex Fire, the largest fire in the history of Washington State, burning over almost 400 square miles, prompting the evacuation of three towns--towns we know well, and destroying 185 homes. It came within thirty miles of our home before shifting direction and moving off into unpopulated areas.

We're home now. The fire is still burning, along with four other fires in the state. Conditions for fighting the fires have improved, and today was cool and rainy. The Carlton Complex Fire, which had been 0% contained over the first five days of its existence, has now been declared 16% contained.

And it's just the beginning of the fire season.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Solitude" by Alexander Pope

                                                        "Home in the Woods" by Thomas Cole, 1847

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
              In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
              In winter, fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind;
              Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
              With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
              Tell where I lie.

"Solitude" by Alexander Pope. Public Domain. 

Trout Lake Report: I Know Where You Are

You give up your Ahab-like quest to make the trout in the south end eat your Damselator. You go to the inlet where, even on a hundred degree day, the cool waters flow into the lake. There are rises at the entrance. You tie on the Damselator and lay it out.


There are fish working inside the inlet, too. One jumps into the sunlight: a buttery-yellow Brown. You go for him. He takes. You have him on. And then he comes off. But he took the Damselator.

You catch some more fish out of there. But no Brown. This Rainbow wraps around a branch, so you go in, pushing like a turtle over the shallow bottom, and scoop him up with the net, stick and all.

The cool waters filter in all along the west shoreline here. You work along with the Damselator. Right up along the driftwood you see a dorsal-and-tail rise where your fly is. A big fish. Likely a Brown. You lift the rod, you feel the hook come up against his jaw--and slip off. There's a swirl and he's gone.

There are Rainbows rising, too, and you catch a few. They're fresh and strong.

You tie on a new stimulator. Maybe those elusive Browns will go for something new.

You work back to the inlet...

...turn, and work back to the line of driftwood. Brown hunting. 

You see another Brown come up in open water and flash his yellow sides at you. So you work out there, too. But you catch only a few more small Rainbows--this time.

After catching nothing on the last two trips, you're happy with the Rainbows.  But you put those Browns on notice: I know where you are.