It promised to be an unusually enjoyable day when I found myself in the middle of a cattle drive on the way up to the lake. I would have been content to just mosey along with the herd--I like everything to do with cowboying; but one of the men, along with his trusty cow dog, rode ahead to clear the way for me.
The day was warm and the lake was mostly calm, but there were variable breezes and the weather felt changeable. Another storm rumbled by to the west.
I put in at the north end again, and paused for a moment under this huge pine to inhale its heavy scent hanging in a pocket of air. That always takes me back to Idaho days as a kid.I tied on the little Stimulator and paddled across the lake. You can just see the pickup under the huge pine in the left center of the picture.
There were a few fish rising, especially up in the shallower areas along the willows and cottonwoods. These areas are interesting right now because just a couple of weeks ago, before the lake finally rose to its summer level, they were dry land. Some of the weed beds are submerged willows and tall grass rather than actual water plants.
I decided to go in after the risers, so I clipped off the 5X and tied on a long tippet of 4X. When I didn't get any action by letting the Stimulator sit I began to slowly drift it behind the float tube over and through the weedbeds.
I got a take. The fish had been making big splashy rises, sometimes leaping clear out of the water, so I was expecting a hard hit. This, however, was a wonderfully subtle sipping rise. But then I did get what I was expecting: the fish, a strong Rainbow, went straight into the weeds. With the help of the 4X, though, I was able to dredge him up and play him into the net.
I paddled along the shoreline casting into likely spots and stripping in or drifting the fly along behind me. The rises had diminished, but I got another sip--and missed him.
Then I found this little cove. There was a nice fish working way in there in the weeds under that big tree. The King in his kingdom. Well, long live the King; the King is dead. I went after him with the Stimulator. I worked him for awhile, following his rises with my casts, dropping that fly right into the weeds. I could see him--his back and dorsal and big head. Nice fish. But he finally stopped coming up. I was having doubts about the Stimulator by then, mainly because it's white. This fish had ignored it as it floated in there in the middle of skiffs of cottonwood fluff. It's cottonwood time, and the water is covered with it.
So I changed tactics. I replaced the 5X tippet, figuring I'd chance it for a shot at that fish. These are the times we tell ourselves that the take is the real goal of flyfishing; that even if the fish breaks off, we've achieved our noble end. But these are also the times when we secretly believe that we, of all fishers, will be able to do the impossible and bring him in. Or die trying.
Then I tied on a foam Caddis. This isn't one of my ties; I don't use foam, at least not yet. But I like this fly. I now call it "Lidia's Caddis" because she has had remarkable luck with it, including her 20 incher. And so have I, I think because her luck rubbed off on it. It has a distinct caddis shape, and it's dark brown. I figured it would stand out amid the cottonwood hatch.
I also decided to rest the King, so paddled on around a point to see what was on the other side. By now there were no rises anywhere. So after a decent time interval I went back. The King wasn't rising either as he had been doing with such abandon before. But I paddled in close and put the fly way back in there where it seemed it would indeed be impossible to extricate a fighting fish.
I waited. It seemed like a long time. I was just about ready to pick up the fly and recast when he came up smoothly, so smoothly, and took what was, by rights, his. I set, lifted the rod high, and backpaddled out of there. He was a Brown. I don't think I could have pulled a comparable Rainbow out of there. But I've found that Browns are more pragmatic than Rainbows; they don't bang their heads against brick walls. This one found itself wrapped up in weeds, so he resorted to nonviolent tactics: he went limp. At least limp enough for me to skate him across the water and into the net.
Then, in the net, he made his real fight. He thrashed five, 10, 15 times before he finally gave up for good. Too late, I'm happy to say.
Here are the weeds he brought with him, and the fly that did him in.
Boy, did that feel good! This is the kind of fishing I love most. I confess: I was proud of myself. I had gotten the take and the trout under challenging conditions.
But, we all know what pride goeth before. I began to lazily pull the fly behind me as I thought about the Brown, replaying it all in my mind, when a beautiful Rainbow lazily came up, back and dorsal, and sucked in Lidia's Caddis. I was able to set the hook, and began to play him in. I got him close enough to see that he was the biggest trout of the season so far.
Then the hook came out. I must have set too early--or too late, I don't know. But it was inevitable, of course. Fishing Karma, some call it.
While I did a little soul searching there were many diversions to soothe my mind. This family of geese crossed my path--or I theirs--several times during the afternoon. I saw a Bald Eagle perch in a pine and then drop, two Redwinged Blackbirds on his tail. I thought he was simply escaping the Redwingeds, but then I heard a splash and he rose up over the willows and flew right over me with a nice fish in his talons, the Redwingeds still in hot pursuit. Later I watched a Redwinged Blackbird chase a Yellow Warbler in and out of the willows.And there were the Loons. We are fortunate to have a nesting pair here; they are endangered in this part of the state, and in other places, I'm sure. They were my constant companions this afternoon, it seemed. When I didn't see them, I heard them.
I fished into evening with the caddis, and caught another Rainbow.
But I also hooked and lost two more. That old Fishing Karma.
Then the wind picked up from the north and the clouds thickened and began to spit rain, so I performed the technically difficult maneuver of removing the vest, putting on the rainjacket, and replacing the vest, all while seated in the float tube. It looked like there would simply be a light rain, and I planned to fish through it until near dark.
Then the real front hit, and the wind slammed in from the south and quickly churned the lake into high rolling waves and whitecaps. There was a flash of lightning far away to the south, and I considered running into shore to wait things out. But my truck was way over on the other side of the lake, it wasn't long now before dark, I didn't know what was coming and how long it would last.
So I made a run for it. Or, rather, I paddled like hell, quartering across the gale, bobbing like a cork, and getting water down my neck from the waves breaking against the float tube. But I made it; the front rolled on through and the wind weakened, and the storms were still far away to the south, and there was just enough light left to make loading up easy. Some nights, though, it just feels real good to get back to the truck.
And some fishing days just feel real good. Not because you caught the most fish, or did everything right; but because everything was as it should be, and you were there.