Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Fishing Report: A Shot and a Miss

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Tomorrow is the last day for Steelhead fishing on the river. I'll be working most of the day, but I could probably get on the water for a couple of hours before dark if I wanted to.
I don't know. Seems I had a good shot today and missed.
The sky was beautiful, as a strong, cold wind blew rain showers around the area. It's March going out like a lion. We've had some good rains the past couple of days and the river was perceptibly higher.
I fished the bridge run, as I usually do first, but the highway department was working on the bridge and traffic was down to one lane. Seemed crowded. I could smell exhaust. So I moved down to the glide.
I worked hard, having decided to make it or break it as far as Steelhead went today. At first the wind was from the south--my left--so I could cast in spite of its power. Then it shifted from the north--my right--so casting became a whole different matter. The several times my weighted fly bounced off my hat today reminded me to be grateful that I have not hooked an ear or my neck or cast my hat or my glasses all this season. I have had to remove a fly from the back of my vest a couple of times.
While I fought the wind, the swallows became one with it.
I had nothing, no bumps, no nothing. I was tired and cold. The bridge work was finished, so I tied on a small beadhead and went back to the bridge run to see if I could catch a trout before heading home. Nothing.
I was ready to climb the bank when I got an impulse to take just a minute and go downstream a ways to check out a gravel bar that gives access to the middle of the river. It has been shallow there this year, but I have found fish there in other years. I thought maybe the slight rise in water level could have made a difference.
I tied on a black wooly bugger and had made two casts when I heard a big fish jump back upstream at the bridge. I looked and saw it jump again, not in the run I usually fish, but across the river just downstream from the far bridge pylon.
So I headed up there. I was still tired and cold, but you do that when you actually know there's a fish in there.
That far pylon is accessible, but it takes wading knee-high through big jumbled cobbles while a very strong current keeps pulling your feet out from under you all the way across the river. I fished that pylon every way I could think of from both sides, but got nothing. And it was getting dark, and I was really cold and tired now. I bailed.
So, as I said, I had a good shot and missed. Seems like one more trip would be anticlimactic in the extreme. Pure hubris. Pathetically desperate.
Unless I caught one, right at the wire. That would be so great....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Fishing Report: A Search for Fish, After All

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Some days you feel the earth tilting ever farther over on its axis, and your eyes tilt with it until the hard monochromatic edges of winter slip out of your peripheral vision and you suddenly see the infinite lightness that is Spring.
And you get a little giddy.
You step into the water, and it looks like the same place you've been before, but you know you can't step into the same river twice, or the same moment twice for that matter. So you just feel good to be in this river in this moment.
And you let it go at that.
And every time you step into the water on a new day your hopes are as high and fresh as the Spring sky, and they're all riding on that one beautiful, magical fly you just tied on your line.
Even if you get beat down, you aren't so far down to fail to gaze with fascination into the green depths of the ever new river, and wonder where the hell the fish are in there. And even if you get beat down some more you aren't so far down to fail to notice the fragile caddis flies, twice as thick as two days ago, and twice as sparse as two days from now, and you think ahead to the next time even while up to your ass in this time.
After awhile you just go somewhere you've never been before, clean across the river on that shifting gravel bar. The fish aren't there, but you are, and you look back and think maybe after all you walked on water to get there.
Then you wade, loud and fast, having let go of unreasonable expectations and embraced reasonable hopes, all the way back to where you started and watch the sunset splash the river with the colors of trout.
You fish and fish, rejoicing at that one little trouty bump, and then contracting like a muscle cramp when the line stops dead and the rod jumps in your hand. And then everything just freezes for an eternity, until you finally realize waterlogged branches aren't going to run and leap and fight.
But you like the picture of you frozen there in full fight mode.
Finally you stay too long and happily come to realize it's not out of desperation but because you don't want it to end, and you wonder how many rivers you've stepped in so far.
And you hike home over the hill in the dark, holding a light in your hand, the center of a tiny blur of light blinking on the dark face of Earth. You feel like Diogenes of old, and you muse that your search for fish is after all a search for Truth.
Then you realize; no, it's a search for fish.

Season Opener--For Lidia

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Lidia is playing softball this Spring. Today was opening day.
She warmed the bench for awhile, something she didn't seem to mind. At least it kept her out of the cold wind.
Then she went into left field. She never had a ball hit to her, but she kept busy backing up plays on the infield. She got one at bat. She looked like a pro in the on deck circle.
And she did alright in the batter's box, earning a walk.

They lost the game, but they're still game. Plenty of season left.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Fishing Report: Into It

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Another free afternoon, so I hiked it to the river.
Spring is bustin' out everywhere. There's new green and tiny blossoms all over the field.
The river, too, is greening.
You can't see them in this photo, but there are a few caddis popping, forerunners of blizzard hatches soon to come. And the swallows are a welcome addition to the river. I started at the bridge run and was going to take another pass there when I saw swallows thick over the glide.
So I followed the birds to the glide's rocky beach.
I worked it over again today, wading deeper than usual (up to what Isaiah and his friends call "the crotchal area") to get closer to the bank.
Then, right there at the very tail of the glide where the gravel bar drops off into turbulent rapids, I saw a big fish jump. Twice. A big fish. Steelhead big.
I have on occasion swung a fly over the lip of that bar, but I usually ignore it and go back to the head of the glide. After that, I worked it very carefully, both the water ahead of the bar, and way down into the rapids.
I was really into it. Then, for no apparent reason except maybe the full force of the current concentrated in six inches of water blowing the gravel out from under my boots as I eagerly and heedlessly waded that bar, I found myself really into it.
It wasn't a bad dunking, just sitting back into chest-high water. And I didn't get soaked, though the front of my shirt and my shirt sleeves were excessively damp.
I took a break to assess the situation and found all essentials--billfold, cell phone--dry. My camera was wet, but it's waterproof.
I went back and worked that section again with a different fly. I was unlucky in that I didn't raise a fish, but I was lucky in that I stayed on my feet.
But it was chilling down, and the wind which had been blowing all afternoon, and was still blowing, managed to find every wet area on me.
So I called it a day, though I fished a good distance downstream on my way to the wadeout. It's fast and relatively shallow, but it seemed like a good time to give up former assumptions about where the fish are.
So, where are they? Why did that one jump? Was he holding in the fast water or moving up into the glide? Much to think about.
But I've already figured out that I won't ignore that current coming over the bar anymore.

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Trip

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I swung by the lake yesterday, taking the long loop home after a busy day. It's always good to get out there after winter and see how things are going.
There were at least two of us checking things out.
Water's low, but they'll bring the level up when the rivers rise in May and June. It will be interesting to see if a low snowpack this winter will have any ramifications here.
Opening day is just one month from now.
Meanwhile, where are those Steelhead?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Fishing Report: Actual Fishing

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After the dog fiasco I made sure Rocky was securely in his kennel and hiked back down to the river for another go. I got my exercise today.
When the boys and I were in Spokane on Wednesday we stopped at three different sporting goods stores. We got Jeremiah's new baseball cleats and rod and reel at The Sports Authority. Then we stopped at Big Five to look at laser scopes for air soft rifles--something Isaiah is very interested in right now. Then I took them to The White Elephant.
The White Elephant is a funky old gun and tackle shop. It's where I went with Pete when he needed a license for the Grande Ronde, and it turned out that John ended up there on his way down for the same reason. So we looked at lures and knives and bait and guns and ammo and camping gear and talked about fishing with Uncle Pete and Uncle John.
And I bought some hooks and stayed up last night tying up some flies. After my last river outing I wanted some medium sized, weighted flies to fish with the sinking tip. I ended up with these.
I hiked a little farther to my old access point this afternoon, maybe subconsciously trying to go where Rocky wouldn't have a chance to find me.
It was another beautiful day, and the BWO's were hatching more heavily than I've seen them, glimmering in the sun. I also saw Swallows for the first time this season, something I look forward to every spring.
And this is a beautiful stretch. It puts you upstream of the glide. In summer it is deeply shaded and cool under these trees. It's actually the tailout of a long, slow, deep part of the river, so deep and slow that there's hardly any discernible current. I tried nymphing that section the other day, but it seemed like more than the proverbial shot in the dark.
The river is still running low and clear and cold. The low and clear part of the equation is the reason I'm fishing with a lighter six pound tippet. The cold part is why I still think small and deep is the way to go. I tied on one of the krystal flash stones.
I worked my way down to where the tailout forms this V as the current converges and picks up speed between shallower rocky bars. Seems I heard somewhere that "fishing the V" is a good thing.
I took a break and contemplated the glide. My top half was still hot from the sun, but my bottom half needed to warm up.
I tried the stones and the little streamer on several passes through the glide and got exactly one little bump. By then the sun had gone behind the ridge and all of me needed to warm up.
I had just decided to call it a day when Rocky found me again. This time, though, he brought Jeremiah and his friend Adrian along. I waded across and joined them.
Jeremiah had brought his rod along, though it didn't have anything tied on the line, and he didn't bring anything to tie on. That's a good sign; it was just natural to bring it, just in case.
By the way, this is in as deep as Rocky got on this trip. While the boys climbed around under the bridge I tied on a small beadhead wooly bugger that I tied up a couple of weeks ago and went ahead and fished that run.
I promptly hooked a little trout. Jeremiah saw it and said, "It looks like it was just born!" I don't think he was rubbing in the fact that it was of an exceedingly small size.
It was dusk and soon the boys were cold, so they took off and headed back to the ranch. I made sure they took Rocky with them. I was shivering but finished fishing the run. I caught two more trout, these very nice--over 12 inches, the last maybe pushing 15.
You'll have to take my word for it; it was too dark for good photographic evidence.
It always feel good to catch trout, but I'd like to have another go with a Steelhead before the season ends at the end of the month. That's not very far away.
Must make it a priority.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Hard To Fish When...

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...your stupid dog is drowning.
I was ready to hike down to the river. I had gotten work out of the way and had been looking forward to a stretch of time this afternoon for uninterrupted fishing.
Lidia, home sick, was supposed to keep Rocky in the house until I was out of sight. (Koko is sick too, and wasn't going anywhere.) Lidia hates to have the dogs in the house. I had barely gotten a good start when the door opened and Rocky flew out, saw me, and ran right over like he was invited. So, against my better judgment, I let him come.
Things were fine--at first. He had a great time playing with the water and exploring the shoreline. Lord of his domain...
I let him mess around and got ready to fish.
Then, when he seemed to be under control, and to have figured out the obvious boundary issues, I waded out into the current. It would have been great if he had stayed right there and waited loyally for his Master to return.
But no, he wanted to go. He'd wade in, feel the current, and wade out. Then wade back in, wade out.... Then he got in too deep--me trying to fish all this time--and got swept a ways downstream. I was encouraged to see that he turned and paddled toward shore; but I was dismayed to see him, when he came to my line in the water, pick it up in his teeth and drag it to shore with him.
When we got that sorted out I was hoping he'd learned some kind of lesson and would let me fish some more. I actually got a series of casts in and gradually worked my way under the bridge.
Then I heard a big splash and Rocky was in the water. I was amazed to see him start swimming purposefully for the opposite shore. Got to give him points for ambition. He actually made it two-thirds of the way across.
Then, unaware that he was acting out an old joke, he decided he couldn't make it and turned around to swim back.
I was already reeling in my line and wading toward him as fast as I could on the slick rocks when he got into some trouble. The current there is fast, and the river is deeper than he is, and I think he sensed he was in trouble and instinctively--I guess--turned and began swimming into the current.
So there he was, paddling for all he was worth and staying in one spot. So I began calling and encouraging and he turned toward me, quartering on the current, and made it to a shallow area where his feet could touch.
Good dog! But did he stay there until I could get to him? Nah. He tried to get to shore which put him right into the strongest and deepest part of the run.
Here he is going down for the second time. I wouldn't have taken time for a quick shot if it was the third.
I managed to reach him and drag him to shore. He promptly shook himself and took off up the bank to explore some more. Now my concern was that he'd stay away from the river and wander up to the very busy highway that runs across that bridge.
So...I aborted the mission and took him home.