Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trout Lake Report: Riding the Wind

The day won't stay still. It must rush headlong through its appointed time, longer, sweeter, than the day before. It grips me, it grips the lake, it grips the world, in a fist of wind. It pushes everything along. It shakes me, not with malevolence, but out of sheer exhilaration at the lengthening of the light.

I push back at the wind and cross the lake. Then I turn my back to it and ride it along the willowy shoreline. I cast a large deer hair fly into the place where waves and willows dance. I strip it back, and it cuts through the waves and skips over the troughs. The wind pushes me along, and I cast again, and again.

The first fish of the day shoulders up through the waves just off the willows and takes the fly. It's a heavy fish and comes away from the shoreline and stays deep. I see it glow golden in the depths as it circles, and fights, and circles. In the net, it gives back the light of the sun.

I ride the wind, casting and stripping. More fish chase the fly; some take it.

The fly loses its tail. The gold tinsel rib hangs by a thread. I tie on a big muddler and continue riding the wind. I have no more follows, or takes. But I see a fish come up out of the shadows, quicker than I can tell it, never breaking the surface, but giving the fly a glancing blow and disappearing into shadow again. Like a light being flicked on and off in a dark room. I still see its imprint on my inner eyes.

There is a lull in the wind, and I tie on a new fly. A Carpet Caddis with olive body, but black tail and wing instead of olive, and grizzly hackle instead of brown.

I grease it to float, but it's a false lull, and the wind, with a roaring laugh, comes up strong again. I turn and once more push against it, trailing the fly behind me, lost in the chop. A fish takes it as it churns through the waves.

The day finally begins to settle down into evening, and the wind slowly calms, then shifts to the west and becomes a restless breeze.

I stay by the western shoreline, in the lee of the breeze. I dry off the fly and cast it in toward the willows. A few small fish flip at it, and miss. So I cast it far out onto the smooth slate surface and wait for a rise to begin. But the fish are quiet. Only a few scattered rises dimple the surface, and they are far away. Then, out of nowhere, a fish takes the fly.

I cast out and wait some more, happy to let the calmness of the evening fill me. Out of the corner of my eye I see a fish rise near a single clump of willow. I move quietly to within casting distance. Just as I'm raising the rod to cast it rises again. I drop the fly into the rise ring and he takes it hungrily.

The moon looks down as I cross the lake and climb the bank to the truck. I have ridden the wind to this place of calm. The day is finally at rest. Everything waits quietly for the new day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guest Post: Grand Lake Stream

Good old brother John. He works hard as co-owner of HMH vises but has recently decided that he needs to fish more. He lives in Maine, so has ample wonderful places to wet a line. I have been urging him to send photos of his trips, and this time he came through for us, in spades.

He wrote in an email:
I just got back from a pretty great trip to GLS. Averaged more than a dozen fish per day for five days. (Ed: I'd call that pretty great.)

I inherited the propensity to count fish from Daddy.(Ed: Our Dad, who taught us about trout fishing in Idaho when we lived there as kids in the Fifties.)  He always kept track. I tell myself and others that it's not a competitive thing for me, rather, it's a data thing. It's one measure of how the trip went. But that suggests that quantity is the primary measure of whether a trip was good or not. That's not true, as many of our trips to the Henry's Fork would demonstrate. If it were all about catching lots of fish we would have forsaken the Fork long ago. (Ed: So true.)

I've attached a PDF. If I had a blog it would become a blog post. A reflection of the week. You have my permission, Jim, to use any and all of it as you are able and/or see fit.

(Ed: Wait for it...)

And by the way, the actual number was 70 for the week, biggest just over 18".

I love that last line. Sure, like it's a data thing. I think there's more in there than just an appreciation of data. I think he loves to fish. And having fished with him for years I know he is competitive. But not with other fishermen. He's a modest guy who cares about other people. He didn't even include a photo of himself in the PDF. No, he's not competitive with other fishermen, but he's competitive as hell with the fish.

So I'm happy for you, John. Good one. And thanks for the beautiful post.



First ever. A fish he'll never forget.
C'mon...just a little closer...
In hand.

Break time...
Uh oh...

Everything is good.

Time to find another slot.

 The new stone fly pattern that works. Well.

Rest. Then release. 

 Red biot comparadun Hendrickson showing signs of overwork--a good thing.

One more in the net...

 ...then call it a day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lidia

Lidia, my fourth daughter, just turned nineteen last Friday.

It's amazing to think that she has been our daughter for only nine of those nineteen years. At least in chronological time. In heart time she has always been a part of us.

This is the photo that introduced her to us. My wife Kim was an adoption specialist at an agency in Chicago when she saw this photo in an email among many other photos of "hard to place" children from an orphanage in Guatemala. She came home that night and showed it to me, and said, "I think this is our daughter...." And she was.

She was nine when we went to Guatemala to meet her and bring her home to Chicago, and she had her tenth birthday a month after her arrival.

She came with not a word of English, and had never been in school a day in her life. She was malnourished and had suffered severe abuse. But she had, and still has, an indomitable will and unquenchable spirit, and she had learned one lesson well in her hard life: she knew how to survive.

Now she will graduate from high school in two weeks. She lives with her boyfriend in a nearby town. They have been together for over a year, and they are well-suited and happy. She has a job now, and with Rodrigo's income they're getting by. She has applied to Community College and is exploring options beyond minimum wage. She is no longer just surviving; she is making a life for herself.

Most importantly, she is happy. Of all the things we could give her, that was what we most wanted her to have.

She has also been a valued fishing companion over the past few years. She was more than willing to try out a fly rod, she loves Trout Lake, and, as it does for me, that contest between trout and fisherman sometimes became personal for her. I remember one little trout that kept hitting her dry fly and she kept missing. She refused to leave that spot until she had caught it.

And she has caught some good ones. Way back before I had my own camera she caught a 20 inch Rainbow at Trout Lake on a little Caddis dry fly. She cried out, "Daddy, I have a fish! It's a big one!!" Before I could even begin to try to explain how to carefully play it on a 5X tippet she--very Lidia-like--was reeling away with all her might, and before I could get the net extended she had hoisted that fish out of the water and into the canoe. She wanted to take that fish home with her, and I'm glad we were able to get a photo with Kim's camera.

There have been other trips, all special, and some of my favorite photos of Trout Lake are of her. Beauty on beauty.

So happy birthday, Lid. I couldn't be more proud to be your Dad.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Trout Lake Report: Plan B

Some friends who happen to live up near Cutthroat Lake did their spring branding on Saturday. When it comes to cattle I'm a tenderfoot, so I'm not usually an official crew member--although one year I got to pitch in and hold down the hindquarters of one steer who escaped the branding cage and had to be branded the old-fashioned way, on the ground. I still like to be there and take lots of photos.

I got there at my usual time on Saturday but they were already finished. They had a bigger crew this year--sons and grandsons, a regular family reunion--only 29 steers to do, and they used a new and quicker method for the castrating: rubber bands. Doesn't seem like the Cowboy Way to me.

So all that was left to do was give the kids rides on one of the cow ponies--and eat. They always lay out a big spread, the more the merrier.

My plan was to go do some serious fishing at Cutthroat Lake after the branding, but when I pulled up at lake side it seemed way too crowded: Memorial Day campers, fishermen, boaters, and even swimmers. So I activated Plan B and swung over to Trout Lake.

There were and have been other fishermen there, but this lake, with its restricted gear regulations--no bait, single barbless hook, electric motors only--tends to attract fishermen serious about fishing. There may have been a few more campers there, but I was still able to get in at the channel and fish the upper section of the south lake again.

It was a wonderful afternoon, bright and hot, a real taste of summer. I threw a small muddler for awhile, with no effect; I fished some nymphs under a lightly bobbing indicator, still with no effect, other than complete relaxation.

I decided to try the Carpet Caddis again. So far this season it hasn't quite come into its own. But it did on Saturday. I flipped it out along the shoreline and had an immediate hit.

I leisurely worked my way down the shoreline casting into the endless little nooks and crannies, and found fish of all kinds who couldn't do without it.

I crossed the lake and worked back up the other side into the channel. I caught more fish along the way, and missed a few, too.

The breeze calmed down and I spent a lovely time with a little dry on my line chasing rises in the channel. I hooked more than I netted. One fish instantly wrapped around a log and broke me off.

The sun went down behind the mountain and I took a break to put my jacket on. Then I tied the Carpet Caddis back on.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect afternoon. I lost a very nice fish, then caught this one along the bank under an overhanging branch, and its twin when he rose nearby and I dropped the fly on his nose and he just couldn't resist. And I was done and happy.

I give Plan B an "A."