Tuesday, February 28, 2012

River Report: The Right Stuff

I finally returned this afternoon to the realm of the Eagle--and the Swan, and the Trout. It was a day of high overcast, temperatures above freezing, and, I presume, a dropping barometer as a result of a big storm rolling in off the Pacific.

I waded up to the Glide, and never was the name more appropriate than today. A juvenile Trumpeter Swan was gliding over its smooth flow. We get a few Trumpeters every Spring, and it's always a cheering sight. I've never seen a solitary bird, though, and my guess is that this teenager somehow got separated from the flock. Or, based on my experience with teenagers, managed to get separated from the flock.

I took a long, slow pass through the Glide. The river is low, lower than it appeared to me as I drove over the bridge last weekend. I went deep and small, but found no fish. The surface was covered with tiny midges--what I've seen called Snowflies--and every once in awhile I heard a little splash, and once, turning quickly at the sound, saw the rapidly dissipating ripples of a rise.

By then--I admit it--I was a bit chilled, and had little to no feeling in my thumbs. The temperature was at a good place, but a persistent wind and the icy water did their work. I waded downstream and across and climbed up under the bridge out of the wind. My thermos was in the truck nearby so I got it and took a little warmup time with some hot coffee. You know, sitting by a river having a cup of coffee is one of the things I hope I get to do in heaven.

I had been wondering how the Bridge Run might fish with the lower flows, and especially where the run dumps into a deep, slow pool and backwater. So I climbed down on the downstream side of the bridge to check things out. As always, others had been there before me.

I found that the big tree that had been lying in the middle of the run since last June's high water had somehow shifted over against the bank. That's good news. It opens up the run again. With the low water I was able to wade through the silty backwater and out to a higher and firmer gravel bar. It was like old times; this is where I used to stand to fish this stretch.

I went at it for a good long time. On one swing I felt a good bump, then another, and another. I knew it wasn't a Steelhead, and at first decided to let the fly keep swinging. Then it whacked the fly again, and I lifted and hooked up with a nice trout. I worked it in close enough to see its flash and color before it came undone.

I fished on and snagged the bottom twice, breaking the fly off each time. Then I hooked another trout and it was deja vu all over again. I lost it just as I could see it flashing in the darkening current. I thought sure I was going to have some fish photos tonight. But what I have is that sensory memory of those bright, pulsing lives at the end of the line. That's high pay for an afternoon's work.

I had been standing in the river for a long time, and I was cold again. I waded out--those first steps over the cobble on numb feet make me feel like a baby learning to walk--and climbed back up to my sanctuary under the bridge. One more cup of coffee, and some time to reflect on the day.

I was happy. Steelhead or no Steelhead, this was a day with all the right stuff.


  1. Great photos.
    Steel colors for sure.

    1. Thanks. I like "steel colors." For awhile yet.

  2. Fish or not....great story! A hot cup of coffee by a river in heaven...I like the image and the values it represents!

    1. Thanks. Of course I'd also want a rod in my hand, and big heavenly trout swimming in the river...