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Yesterday I went to Trout Lake. The weather report called for a welcome break in the rain and cool temperatures. It was going to be sunny and warm--June, in other words, instead of March. And that's exactly what it was when I left home about Noon.
I had decided to take the canoe so I wouldn't have to wear leaky waders and get wet. Again. It would be a day of basking in the sun, maybe--finally--baking the winter chill out of my bones. Beginning with the frigid trip to the Grande Ronde in early October and running through Fall and Winter fishing in the river, it has been a full eight months of cold-weather fishing. Enough is enough.
I got the canoe launched by 1 PM. That may seem late, but at this time of year that leaves almost nine hours of fishing before dark. By the time of the Summer Solstice full dark won't come until almost 11 PM, and the eastern sky will begin to glow with the first light of dawn around 3 AM. Those of you in the east, think of me as you slumber in your beds; I'll be fishing the last long rise of the long, long day.
It was warm, and there were clouds tumbling over the ridges. Fair weather clouds, I thought.
I had brought everything with me in the canoe. I was wearing my rain jacket--for warmth; it was still cool in the breeze when the sun ducked behind the drifting clouds--and I had brought an inner shell for later in the evening. I had my canvas field bag, full of extra fly boxes and various and sundry other items. I had an insulated lunch bag with cheese and bread. I was not wearing waders. My billfold was in my back pocket.
All this, because it was going to be a warm, dry day.
The fishing was slow, just as it has been. The lake was still high and murky, and littered with cottonwood fluff and willow catkins. There were a few rises here and there, but no discernible patterns of cruising, feeding fish. I went through the drill of presenting various flies at various depths with various techniques and got the same non-varying result. Nothing.
That was OK. Nine hours is a long time. Anything can happen.
When the first drops began to fall I wasn't concerned. There was blue sky to the south, and blue sky to the north. I could weather a brief passing shower.
I put the canvas bag under my seat, and held the jacket shell on my lap. I figured by leaning forward I could keep it and my jeans reasonably dry.
When the first hail began to depth charge around me and rattle around in the canoe I wasn't too concerned. Some hail can be expected in these brief mountain showers.
Then I heard a roar approaching from the north, and the sky opened up. Now I was concerned. It rained and hailed, and hailed and rained. And rained. And hailed.
I sat there and slowly got soaked, from head to toe, except under my rain jacket. Everything I was holding, and everything in the canoe got soaked, too. It was still sunny in the south, and in the north, but a big band of clouds seemed to have gotten snagged on the ridges, and hung right over me, giving me everything they'd got.
It must have poured for half an hour. I could finally see the sun creeping closer, but even as the sun hit the ridge to the west the rain continued to pour.
At last it tapered off, and as it waned around me the roar continued on to the south. Then the wind shifted and blew the tail of the rain back over me for awhile. Then it was over, and the sun flooded the lake.
I spread out to dry. Not the basking I had in mind. Finally I decided to head for shore and do a proper job of wringing out. I don't know how much rain fell; my rain guage isn't graduated. But it was pretty full, and it took some muscle to turn it over and empty it out.
I took everything off that I could and still be decent, and hung it up to dry. I also took my billfold out of my back pocket and spread it out to dry.
Then I stood in the sun, holding my sodden hat, bowed but not beaten, and hoped that my jeans would dry out just a little bit.
I had some lunch--that stayed dry--and drank a cup of coffee. Then I stashed the field bag and the jacket shell in the truck, put my rain jacket back on, put my damp billfold in one of its pockets, loaded up the canoe, sat my damp behind down on the damp canoe seat and headed out again.
I fished hard, but without a single sign of any trout. Once again I had to be content with the intense beauty all around me as the day turned to evening.
I went back in and put the shell on under my rain jacket and prepared for what I still hoped would be an evening rise. You can almost always expect to see fish working through the dusk, even if you can't always catch them.
Things looked promising when I paddled out into the channel: the wind had calmed, the water was still. Too still. Not a single rise.
There were a few other boats nearby. Everyone was sitting and fishing and watching and waiting. I heard one guy comment on the lack of action. His partner said, "Yeah, but it's dead calm!" Ah, calm, that elusive state, so much hoped for with its promise of rising fish. But how doubly bitter to receive the calm and find it dead.
A little lost duckling was swimming up and down the channel peeping pathetically for its mother and brood mates.
A big old drift boat was working its way along (one of its inhabitants asked me, in a pathetic tone, "Have you ever seen it so dead?") and the duckling, maybe seeing something duck-like in the boat's shape and movement, began following it around. The last I saw of him he was paddling hard to keep up, peeping as if his heart would break.