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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Football Final Report: Season's Over

It's all over. Basketball looms.
To tell the truth, I lost track of things. I missed a couple of games, and the schedules kept changing. Isaiah's seventh graders played a couple of games as the backup squad for the eighth graders. All of us forgot the scores of the lopsided losses, and there were precious few lopsided wins.
It was a season of learning, and both boys had their frustrations and griefs, and their shining moments.
These photos and videos sum up the season.
The seventh graders follow the action as the eighth graders battle a tough opponent, hanging close to the coach and hoping for a chance to go in that never came.
Halftime, in a game the eighth graders had well in hand; the seventh graders got to play and scored a touchdown.
Jeremiah's last game, another tough loss.
As Jeremiah waits to go back out on offense, Isaiah helps man the chains on the far sideline.
One of Jeremiah's many tackles.

And one of Jeremiah's many frustrating moments as a wide receiver. The life of a wide receiver in little league football is a hard life.

One of Isaiah's many tackles.

And a signature run by Isaiah, gaining the first down on fourth and long. This was also the first game in which his name was called out over the loudspeakers.

Isaiah and his friends walk into the sunset at the beginning of their last game.
And another season comes to a close.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday Fishing Report: The Last Dance

It took a few days to get back to the local river after returning from the Grande Ronde. Things had changed while I was gone. The river was up, so far up that I could no longer wade with impunity wherever I wanted to go.
It was essentially a new river, full of the unknown--and of possibility.
And it was still full of Chinooks, some whose journey had ended...
And many more still giving their all in that last wild dance of life and death.
I had come for Steelhead, and waded in as deep as I dared and began swinging flies. I tried to search the areas around and behind the redds that I could see, and the roiling water that told me redds lay under it.
But the salmon were everywhere. I snagged one. When I had winched it close enough to see I saw the red and hot-pink fly clearly hooked under its pectoral fin. I broke it off.
I rigged lighter and smaller, a 6 pound tippet and a little scrambled egg fly. I figured it might interest a Steelhead foraging for salmon eggs, and would be easy to break off if I snagged another salmon.
I was letting the fly dangle in the current on a long line when I felt a bump, and then a take. I tightened, not sure what I had hooked.
The deep, heavy pull said salmon. I began working it in to see whether it was snagged. It was soon clear that he was hooked in the side of the mouth under his gnarled kype. So I slowly and carefully brought him in.
He wasn't a "hot" fish, but he used all his weight and power to stay in the deep current. There were no explosive runs, but long surges that slowly and surely took line off the reel. It was a workout for my 5/6 weight rod, my little reel, and that 6 pound tippet.
I finally got him shallow enough to tail. He wasn't pretty, but he was all salmon.
It was a workout for him, too, I know. So I carefully revived him, and then watched him swim back into the deep to rejoin his last dance.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fishing Report: The Grande Ronde

On October 9 my brother John, from Maine, my brother Pete, from San Francisco, and I converged on the Grande Ronde in southeast Washington for a few days of steelhead fishing.

Home base was Tamarack cabin in Fields Spring State Park.

Early planning had us in a tent, but John booked the cabin, for which we are eternally grateful. Turns out an arctic air mass settled into the area just when we did. It was cold.

The cold temperatures broke hundred-year-old records. Most reports had low temps in the high teens, so this little thermometer might not be the most precise of instruments. But then again, who's to say it wasn't really 10 degrees ouside the cabin?

But along with the cold and frost came high, clear skies.

And we had come to fish, so fish we did.

After each day on the water, with feet like half-thawed steaks, we looked forward to a fire in the evening. The park provided plenty of wood and a maul for our use.

Turns out Pete, the city boy, is a pretty mean fire builder.

My kids wanted to know if we had anything to eat way down there in the wilds. Yep. Pete and I had stocked up on a few basics at a grocery store in Spokane when we passed a Costco, one of Pete's favorite places. So we stopped and Pete warmed up his Costco card and got the good stuff.

So between shore lunches and cooking over the propane stove or on the fire we ate plenty good.

We even went out to eat--breakfast at Boggan's on the river. The boys tucked in while I was still waiting for my order.

Mainly, though, we fished. We covered a lot of water and used a lot of different flies.

We went down into the canyon via Shumaker Road and explored it to its end.

All too soon Pete had to catch his flight, so we took a morning and drove him back to the airport in Spokane.

John and I were back on the river in early afternoon. By then the weather was moderating; it was still chilly, but clouds and rain moved in.

We fished that afternoon and most of the next day, our last day, in rain.

In late afternoon on that last day the sun began breaking through the clouds.

John geared up to fish one last run and then took off for the airport.

I stayed a little longer and watched the day close with one more display of beauty, then climbed out of the gorge and started for home.

And what about the fish, you ask? Well, we caught a few of these...

And lots more of these.

They were beautiful little trout, cold and hard and lively, like holding a squirming popsicle in your hand.

But the steelhead eluded us. The cold had dropped the water temperature 10 degrees in a day, and the river was running at 40 degrees. The steelhead were deep and off the bite. A few guys were catching some on bait, but we couldn't get any to come to a fly--any fly, fished in every conceivable way.

Such is steelheading.

But was it a great trip anyway?