Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thanks, Laura

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Laura and Warren and I made a day of it on Wednesday. When I started out my prime goal was to get Laura into a fish. There's a parental imperative that compels us to want to share with our children the things that give us joy. So we got up early and drove over hill and dale to Trout Lake.

Laura and I launched the canoe. Warren launched the float tube. Without a rod. It never occurred to me that it would be fun just to paddle around the lake for the sheer joy of it. Not only that, while Laura and I fished on Warren paddled back in, took a refreshing dip in the icy water, and then lay in the sun. Nice. Thanks for the lesson, Warren.

I had hoped that we'd beat the wind by getting to the lake early, but it turned out to be one of those fresh, windy days when the fish stay down. So I had Laura troll a series of flies. We covered a lot of water, but she got only three good bumps. Well, as I've said many times before, such is fishing.

But--I was starting to get it--what a fresh, beautiful day to be out on the lake in a canoe with your daughter. She didn't seem to think I had failed her in any significant way by not putting her onto a fish.

We packed up and headed on down the road.

We passed some Bighorn Sheep who had come down the mountain for a mid day graze, but we drove up the mountain and wound around on a gravel road to Split Rock, a local landmark, and made the ritual climb.

We made one more stop to see what the creek looked like--and to see whether Laura might not be able to catch one of those little mountain trout. But the creek, of course, was flowing high and strong, and we didn't find any trout willing to snap up our fly.

But by then it really didn't matter. What mattered was that we had shared a wonderful day in a beautiful place. The parental imperative was met after all. Fish will come and go, but this day, a mutual gift between father and daughter, will be ours forever.

Thanks, Laura. It was a great day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Father and Daughter, Together Again

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My daughter Laura and her husband Warren are with us this week. Of my three grown daughters, Laura was the one who most liked to fish. She and I had some great trips together when she was a little girl, but we haven't been able to fish with each other for a long time. I was pleased when she told me that was one of the things she really wanted to do on this trip.

Our first chance came on Monday evening. The whole crew of us had gone to Cutthroat Lake to swim. Everybody except Laura and I headed for home, and we stayed around to see if the big cutts were hungry.

The conditions were perfect: no wind, calm lake, and a good hatch of Callibaetis. But the fish didn't cooperate. There were a few rises but no concerted rise. We had a good shot at one cruiser, and were close enough to see it come up under the fly...and refuse it. Such is fishing.

But what a good time we had talking and fishing, father and daughter together again. The plan we made while we fished on Monday is to load up the canoe and make for Trout Lake on Tuesday.

I can hardly wait. And I predict fish photos before the week is out.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cutthroat Lake Report: Pot of Gold

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I introduced Mark to another lake on Friday evening. As we wound our way toward Cutthroat Lake a rainbow bloomed out of a heavy plume of rain. "It looks like we're going to drive right to the end of the rainbow," I said.

That's just what we did, and the end of the rainbow was right in the middle of Cutthroat Lake. Not a bad omen.

The rain had passed, and the lake's surface was smooth. Mark went down and saw three rises, and began casting his Muddler.

That first rainbow gradually faded away.

It started to rain again, and the wind shifted from the north, so we sat in the truck for awhile. I had seen Callibaetis coming off in pretty good numbers--the swallows plucking them out of the air as they lifted off the water--so we both tied on an Adams.

Then a second rainbow seemed to rise up out of the ground and quickly went double. Yet another good omen.

The rain quit, and we waited for the wind to settle. True to the omens, it gradually did. I went down and began casting, and Mark stayed in the truck.

It wasn't long before he came down and walked on down the bank from me. He had been watching a steady riser from the truck--the only one; I certainly hadn't seen any--and he was now intent on his prey.

I watched him as he cast, then crouched low watching the little Adams, then twitched it slowly in to cast again. He may have done that three times when I heard him call me. I looked up from my own fly to see that he'd found the pot of gold.

He had 5X tippet on, so he played the fish carefully. Meanwhile, the fish wasn't playing, and took long, deep, head-shaking runs, at one point taking Mark to his backing.

But finally Mark had her. This is him being cool about everything.

This is how he was really feeling.

This is his first trout in Washington, and his best fish in a long, long time. He couldn't stop talking about it on the way home. "And it wasn't a Rainbow, or a Brown," he said, "it was a Cutthroat!"

We took it home and showed Jeremiah. I think this might get him to Cutthroat Lake with us.

Mark cleaned it, as carefully and precisely as someone counting gold coins. The head, he informs me, is going up on the shed door. The rest of it is going to a friend's smoker.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jokes of the Day: Fishing Jokes

Fly Fishing Tip # Whatever

Take your stinking, soiled waders and clip to your truck. Make sure nothing holds them down. Drive real fast. Watch them inflate with a pop and flail wildly in the air. Be strangely entertained. Drive fast for awhile. Large, sweaty, flatulent men, drive much, much longer. Stop vehicle, remove waders. Stick head in opening, breathe deep. Ah! Fishing fresh!

Trout Lake Report: All Too Quickly

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The wind pushed against the earth as though to tip the balance as it shifted on its axis to begin the tilt away from the sun. The water shifted with the earth, and fish stayed deep in the slow current.

A dark shape on the water; a cicada struggling to stay in the light.

I have a cicada pattern, and cast it out among the riffles. It bobs and drifts. Time flows with the current. A riffle breaks, bends, comes together again, as a fish rises. I lift the fly, give it to the wind. It dimples the water then bobs and drifts.

The wind persists; its breath is cold. I don a jacket, the unattended fly slowly following the arc of the line as I spin in the wind. I hear the take, look up to see the line straightening, lift the rod, and a fish breaks into the light.

The net gathers it in, and an ancient, timeless circle is formed, linking observation and application, hunter and prey, hope and fulfillment. The fish twists in the net, twists off the hook, uses the fulcrum of my grip to lever itself free. And the circle is complete.

The night shades in behind the wind, and the wind steps back, and darkness slowly fills its place. It settles on the water and smoothes it to a sheen. Fish trace circles on its ebony surface. I cast out a caddis, and a fish scribbles at the fly and is hooked. I draw it out and the last light runs down its sides.

I trace my own circle and then straighten out for home. Behind me the darkness presses close, but before me the western sky still casts its glow, silvering the ripples of my passing. Time passes with every swelling note of every frog, with each tick of a bat's tiny teeth on my trailing line, and the light slips away.

All too soon the day is ended; all too quickly the longest evening of the year has passed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Summer Solstice," by Donna Kane

                                        The light stretched and tangy, up on its horse
                                        and riding through the ripening meadows,
                                        buzzing the leaves and the
                                        birds who've been at it for hours.
                                        Light that in its excess has become something else.
                                        The way Cranberry Falls is so frothed with runoff
                                        it doesn't look like water anymore. The way you look
                                        from a hill's highest point, your head full of chlorophyll,
                                        heart shucking winter like a clayload of guilt,
                                        like pollen with its open fire policy
                                        compensating loss. You exceed yourself,
                                        tanked on the light and the birds
                                        who've been singing forever.
                                         "Summer Solstice," Donna Kane,  published in The Walrus, June 2007.