Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Fishing Report: There's a Full Moon Risin'

It was back to the river this afternoon. Conditions were identical to yesterday: overcast, 40 degrees and--miraculously--no wind. I have to keep reminding myself that it's still January and not March. The last remnants of the ice are disappearing.
The river is running low, cold, and clear.
With the low water I can once again cover different sections. I hiked upstream from the bridge this afternoon to this stretch. It's a long glide, even now too deep to wade comfortably, although I could get across if I needed to--if I didn't step in one of the Volkswagen-sized potholes along its length. It was the depths of those potholes I was interested in plumbing.
I still had the black bugger on and began covering the glide with long, slow swings. When the fly reached about the center of that picture I felt three heavy pulls. I waited to see what would happen, and the fish let go.
I pondered my options. There are theories--oh, there are theories--about what to do in just such a situation. I chose to change flies and go back for him, although another theory says don't change flies and go right back for him (and yet another says rest the run for ten minutes, then go back for him--with whichever fly you please, I assume.)
I tied on an old Girdle Bug, of all things, because a) I came across it in the box first, 2) it had a red butt, and c) it had a bead head. I figured a little more color and depth couldn't hurt. I tied it so long ago that when I tried to straighten the rubber legs I broke three off. Oh well, go with a three-legged Girdle Bug.
I shortened line a bit and began casting my way back to the magic spot. This time I used the steelhead loop. My theory was that he had felt too much resistance. The steelhead loop is a loop of loose line held in front of the reel that acts as a kind of "shock absorber" allowing the fish to take line before the hook is set, and preventing jumpy fishers--excitable people, every one--from yanking the fly out of their mouths with a premature hookset.
The belief is--or the empirical data states--that a steelhead takes the fly in its mouth and carries it for a short distance--sometimes laterally, sometimes right toward you--before turning back down to its lie. If you try a hookset too soon you pull the fly out of its mouth. If you let him take it (with the loop) and turn with it, he'll hook himself.
I got another heavy pull. This fish never hit the fly; he just took hold of it and slowly but heavily pulled on it. What a cold water fish does, I presume. I found it every bit as electrifying as the smashing hit of a "hot" fish. So I just stood there and let the loop run out and--what the hell--I set the hook. I must have panicked. Pulled the hook right out of his mouth. I felt it scrape out. Add that to the proof data.
So I went right back, same fly. (See how much fun theories are?) Another long, heavy pull. I let him go...the loop was gone...he was taking line off the reel...and he turned, I raised the rod, and had him on. No more theory; real fish, real time, real good.
Then for awhile it was just me and him, the river and the sky.
I knew the heavy tippet would hold, but there's always the question of knots, and especially of where and how firmly the hook is set. But the Three-Legged Girdle Bug did itself proud, biting deep and hanging on like a three-legged bulldog.
It was a beautiful hatchery buck. I fervently hope that our rivers will be full of wild steelhead again some day, and I fervently hope to catch some of them still in the rivers. But today I was more than happy with this one. The whole day had been sepia-toned, and suddenly in the middle of it a little eruption of technicolor.
I worked over that glide again without moving anything. I hiked back down under the bridge as daylight was fading and worked that run without moving anything either. Now, there's a good chance that there were other fish there. But it feels to me that the one fisher and the one steelhead on the river today converged in some miraculous cosmic coincidence.
That's not a theory, by the way. It's something much more. Yesterday I wrote, after finally getting back on the water but not catching anything, that I felt like the moon when it's almost full. Well, there's a full moon risin' tonight.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Fishing Report: Almost Full

The river was low and my expectations were high.
Those expectations remain--no fish today. But they remain high. It was nothing but good to get on the water after a two month hiatus. I left my rod, vest, and jacket behind the truck seat, and my boots and waders are drying in the bed. I hope to get out again tomorrow.
I was glad that my waders still fit after a holiday season of plenty of good eating. That's important now when you wear three layers under the waders. I could tell that it had been awhile since I had rock-hopped, waded, and climbed slippery banks, but muscle memory is a wonderful thing.
Here's my favorite run, and it is a run now, well-defined once again by the low water. I usually don't show the lime plant in the background in my pictures. It can detract a bit from the illusion that one is far away in the pristine wilderness, especially when the crusher is operating.
I was able to start at the top and work my way down, just like the old days. This is my favorite run because it's where I've hooked and lost and landed steelhead before. The slack water is convenient for getting enough control to beach them, if you can get them into the slack water.
I started out with a sinking tip and a brown krystal flash stonefly, then took the tip off and switched to a black bugger. I covered a lot of water and had to take a break to warm up the extremities a bit.
Two eagles soared past on their way downriver. I was able to get a quick shot of the second one. "Where eagles fly the steelhead lie," as the old saying goes. (OK, I made it up.)
I got a few bumps on one of my passes, maybe little smallies, or trout. It was good to make even that much connection with the piscine underworld.
I even explored a little and waded around to the other side of the run to fish where it deepens and then tails out. That is a very difficult stretch to reach from the bank--no backcast--and even from the other side I had to wade up to my crotch and cast a long line to fish it. I got cold.
I finally called it quits, sat down on the bank, and poured myself another cup of coffee. There's an old song about a lumberjack who stirs his coffee with his thumb. My thumbs were especially cold for some reason, and I was tempted to stick them in. Instead, I headed home and built a big fire. It still seemed to take longer than usual to warm up the room.
The full moon rose this evening, but unseen behind the overcast. Luckily I had seen it rise last evening when it was almost full. It's the way I feel tonight: almost full.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feeling Down...

And it feels so good.
The river is going down--way down.

I saw two guys out in the river north of town, and a suspicious car parked along the river south of town. Weather calls for continued overcast, highs around 40 degrees, and rain moving in on the weekend.
Seems like time to get down.

Monday, January 25, 2010

From My Own Backyard

I generally keep my camera within reach. Today I kept it in my pocket all afternoon for easy access.
It was one of those days when the clouds and the light change so rapidly that if you took a picture every minute on the minute each photo would be different.
This series was taken over a space of about 45 minutes as the sun was settling in the west.
Need I say it? I'm profoundly grateful to have this view from my own backyard.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My New Fly Fishing Library

I'm indebted to for this heads up. He alerts his readers to the existence of, an amazing site which, as its name declares, is archiving vast amounts of every conceivable kind of media.
I'm an old book lover. That is, I love old books (although both statements are true.) This site has a treasure trove of old books on every topic imaginable.
I searched "fly fishing" and found the library of my dreams. It includes many classics but also little known and overlooked volumes that, for me, are the real gems.
For example, there's Fly Fishing in Wonderland, from 1858, by Orange Perry Barnes, who calls himself Klahowya.
These pictures don't come close to doing it justice, but you can get a taste of the wonderful old graphics and illustrations.
This book reveals the Yellowstone/Teton country before the internal combustion engine and breathable waders. It also reveals that some things stay the same: he touts his own fly, The Pitcher Fly, and even includes testimonials to its killing power.
I know what I'll be doing on some of these long, cold nights. I'll open up an old book and read, read, read.

One Hundred

This is the one hundredth post on this version of my blog. To celebrate I decided to indulge myself by posting some of my favorite fishing photos from past posts.
So many good days...and many more to come.