Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Longer Day

The Winter Solstice has come and gone. Today, the day after, is the day I celebrate. It's the first day that has been longer than the day before ever since the long slide toward Winter began.
We've had dark, chilly, wet days around here for the past week. The snow we had in the valley quickly melted away under a drizzling rain.
Then today the wind picked up from the north and blew the clouds away. As I write the temperature is under freezing for the first time in awhile, and the crescent moon is settling down behind the western ridge while the Dippers and Orion glitter brightly in the frosty sky.
The light is coming back. The long rise toward Spring has begun.
Merry Christmas, indeed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flashback: Sixth Grade Camp

Way last Spring, Isaiah and the sixth grade Middle School class went to camp for four days up in the mountains. It goes without saying that he had a blast. His first real taste of freedom.
We went up for a family night. Here he is telling us to get lost until the program is ready to begin.
We mingled and visited with friends whose kids had also avoided them.
Then it was off down the trail to the campfire circle.
It was a great spot, and the fire was fragrant and welcoming. It also provided a little warmth as the evening chilled down. We were fortunate to be there on an unusual year: it was cool but dry. Typically the camp is plagued by soaking spring rains.
It was a real campfire: singing, entertainment, corny skits, and awards. I'll spare you the skits, which took forever to get to the punch line--when there was one, and were full of inside jokes. The kids cracked up and the parents sat there with worried looks on their faces. But here's a taste of the singing, with the counselors leading out.

We were also treated to some entertainment, a one-man band par excellence. I'm sorry that I can't remember his name. I did learn that he's the principal cellist for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, and comes to the camp every summer to teach music and help in the mess hall.
This is great stuff. I loved it. I think he should quit the orchestra. Judge for yourself.

It wasn't too long ago that out of the blue Jeremiah brought up sixth grade camp. He gets to go come springtime. He can hardly wait.

Warm Puppies, Cold River

A pall of arctic air has settled over the valley. Highs around 20 degrees, lows in the single digits.
That makes it nice to be inside by the fire with the puppies. They're a handful, and even though they aren't my dogs I've ended up doing most of the housebreaking.
More work to do on that.
But ain't they cute? If only they slept more.
Through it all I'm having serious fishing withdrawal. One of the primary reasons I fish is to find space and a semblance of solitude. Those are in short supply around the house, especially since the puppies invaded my territory.
And now the lakes are frozen over, and the river is ice-choked in places.
I took these pictures yesterday in late afternoon. You'll notice the point of view is not mid-river. No, I was on my way home from work, and was way up on the bank where the risk of hypothermia is a little lower.
Should the weather moderate a little I will still entertain the notion of venturing in for another go.
Wouldn't want to be a wimp about this.
Meanwhile, the puppies need me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fishing Dogs?

Our family just expanded by two. Both boys got a puppy.
Will they grow up to be fishing dogs? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, pray for the cat.

Monday Fishing Report: ...631, 632...

If Steelhead are the "fish of a thousand casts," then I'm still working up to a thousand. It may be optimistic to think that I'm in the 600's. It feels like more; it's probably less.
I was on the river again today without success. It's still high. If anything, it's a bit higher than it has been. I hit what I could, even high-sticking a nymph here and there. But the funnel effect of the run under the bridge is no longer in play; the fish could be anywhere.
I still hope to find them. Or luck onto them, as my brother might suggest.
Still, it was a beautiful afternoon and evening. It started overcast; then the wind blew the clouds away, the sun came out for awhile, and the full moon rose to crown the evening.
And now that I have feeling back in my extremities it seems like a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Fishing Report: Too Nice?

I made it to the river today. It was a nice day for mid-November, maybe too nice. Not "steelhead weather," but warmish--mid fifties--and sunny.
I liked it. Maybe the fish didn't. They made themselves scarce.
The river is still up, but fishable--barely. One can wade, but the areas open to wading are limited by deep water and a strong current. My favorite stations, the ones which allow the best casting lanes and angles to the best runs, are now inaccessible.
So I made do. I did my best to search the run under the bridge, but I had to use an extremely long line, and even then could only reach halfway down its length. I hiked upstream to the bend above the bridge but the depth of the water didn't let me get far enough from the bank for a backcast. A stiff wind blowing in my face further limited my options.
So I hiked back downstream past the bridge to the gravel bar the salmon like for their redds. Usually that's ankle-deep wading but today it was over my knees. It provides ease of casting by allowing me to get out into the river, and the drop off and holes on the downstream side have given up fish before. But today nobody was home.
Except this doe. I've seen them wade across the river here. But not this time.
I used a sinking tip and threw a couple of different stonefly nymphs, a couple of different marabous, and even a nuke egg. I know they're in there, but they didn't want any of those.
Still, it was good to be there. I hadn't fished since October 30, my last day at the lake. Now I've switched the reel to the heavier rod, switched the fly boxes in the vest, overcome two weeks worth of inertia, and stretched my wading muscles again. I'm ready.
It can't stay too nice forever.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Steelhead Weather

We've got the weather.
We've got the steelhead, from all reports, and the regs to go along with them. This from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Upper Columbia, several other rivers to open for hatchery steelhead fishing
Actions: Open the Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam, including the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan Rivers, September 29, 2009, and Similkameen River, November 1, 2009, to fishing for adipose-fin clipped hatchery-origin steelhead until further notice.
The daily limit will be four (4) adipose fin-clipped, hatchery-origin steelhead, 20-inch minimum size, per day.
Mandatory retention of adipose fin-clipped hatchery origin steelhead.
Selective gear rules apply with various exceptions in some areas (see below)
A night closure is in effect for all waters for the duration of the fishery
Current salmon and all other game fish gear rules do not apply during steelhead season
Release any steelhead with one or more round holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
1) The mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. September 29, 2009 until further notice. Night closure and Selective Gear Rules apply, except motorized vessels and bait are allowed. Release all coho and after October 15, mandatory release of all salmon.
2) The Wenatchee River mouth to the sign about 800 feet below the most downstream side of Tumwater Dam. September 29, 2009 until further notice. Night closure and selective gear rules apply. Release all salmon.
3) Icicle River, from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. September 29, 2009 - November 15, 2009. Three coho, minimum size 12 inches, may be retained daily. Release all floy-tagged coho.
4) The Entiat River upstream from the Alternate Highway 97 Bridge near the mouth of the Entiat River to 800 feet downstream of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery outfall. September 29, 2009 until further notice. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except motorized vessels are allowed. Release all salmon.
5) The Methow River from the Hwy. 97 Bridge in Pateros upstream to the second powerline crossing, and from the first Hwy. 153 Bridge north of Pateros to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop, WA. CLOSED WATERS FROM SECOND POWERLINE CROSSING UPSTREAM TO THE FIRST HWY 153 BRIDGE. September 29, 2009 until further notice. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except motorized vessels are allowed. Whitefish gear rules do not apply. Release all salmon.
6) The Okanogan River: CLOSED WATERS from the Lake Osoyoos Control Dam (Zosel Dam) downstream to the first Hwy 97 Bridge below Oroville Washington. September 29, 2009 until further notice. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except motorized vessels are allowed.
7) The Similkameen River, from its mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam. November 1, 2009 until further notice. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.
Species affected: steelhead
Other information: Anglers are required to release all ad-present steelhead. Any steelhead caught with an intact adipose fin may not be totally removed from the water and must be released immediately. For all waters, mandatory release of all salmon unless otherwise noted above.
Reason for action: The fishery will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and consequently increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. Higher proportions of naturally produced spawners are expected to improve genetic integrity and stock recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage.

I just haven't had the wheels or the time.
Truck's been out of commission for a long time. They're working on it.
Yesterday a friend from church loaned me his rig on one condition: that I go fishing.
So I have plans. I'll keep you informed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fishing Report: It's a Wrap

This late October day was wrapped in cloud, the mountains and ridge tops were wrapped in snow, and this afternoon wrapped up the lake season for another year.
I wasn't sure I'd get back at all before the official close tomorrow. Among other complications the truck is down again. But this afternoon, between trips to pick up or drop off family members, I had the van to myself for a few hours.
I grabbed the chance. For me, the last day has as much ritual significance as opening day.
The water was low, cold, and crystalline; the wind was gusty, and whipped the lake into whitecaps and then backed off, leaving periods of calm in its wake; the temperature hovered around the 45 degree mark; the ragged clouds spit rain now and then--and the lake was richly robed in dark autumnal splendor.
And the fish were there. I trolled out into the deeper part of the lake and soon found them. Their takes were sure, they fought hard, they were cold and strong and shone with a metallic light, and they needed little or no reviving.
I trolled clear to the other end of the lake, with the wind, and then it backed off and the water calmed. So I tied on a hopper, just to see. I tried the shoreline, in vain. But out in open water two fish came up to the hopper as it sat on the quiet surface. Both times I was looking elsewhere--there was much to look at--and missed the takes.
But I was happy to have gotten the rises.
Then the wind rose up again, so I began trolling back against the rolling waves.
There is always a last trout of the season, and this is it. He was long and lean and beautiful, a talisman of the once and future lake.
I don't like to fish on the clock, but I was watching the time to make sure I wasn't late to pick up Kim. I found, though, that the three hours I had fished were ample for what I had hoped to accomplish. I also found that my feet could not have tolerated much more time in the water. Three hours fishing, and almost two hours getting the feeling back in my toes.
I loved it. Lord, how I've loved it, and how I'll miss it. But what a great season it has been.
It's a wrap.