Fires are burning all around. North to northeast winds have kept the smoke south and west of you. But the winds have shifted, and smoke from the Wenatchee Complex Fire a hundred miles away has drifted up the valley.
Photo: Wenatchee Rapellers
It swathes the lake in a pungent haze. Colors are muted, edges are softened. But your anticipation is keen.
You've made it back to the lake after an almost two week hiatus. You launch at the channel and kick out into the south lake to see what the evening will bring.
You feel oddly disconnected from the place, like a stranger in your own home. The subtle daily changes have gone on without you, and now the lake seems vaguely unfamiliar. The water level has dropped some more, and the weeds have begun their die off. There are no fish working, and you wonder where they are.
But there's a nice riffle, and you tie on the darker version of your new stimulators, go where the fish were the last time you were here, and begin waking it through the low rollers. A little brown takes it, and twists out of your hand and off the hook before you can get a photo. You begin to feel more at home.
Fish begin to work. They're out in open water, and they're in a hurry to feed. You miss a few splashy hits. Then you hook up with a beauty. Welcome home.
You relax and take your time drifting down the lake.
The wind begins to calm.
There are more fish coming up to feed. They're keyed on midges, and the stimulator gets less attention. But you still manage to entice a few, all strong fighters, quick to revive.
You're working the open water when you hear a good rise up along the bank. You locate the ripples and slip quietly in. You put the fly right on the waterline, wait, then begin a seductive strip. He takes it hard. Another good fish.
All is calm, you and the lake. There's a brief lull in the feeding.
Then, with the coming of dusk, the fall feast resumes in earnest. There are fish everywhere, all podded up and constantly on the move. The drone of crickets is punctuated by pops and slurps and splashes. The still surface is broken by a multitude of heads and dorsals and tails. You sit in the middle of it and wait for a pod to come by close enough to cast to.
You figure they're mostly smaller fish, and you're debating changing to a smaller fly. Then you see two or three big heads and dorsals, all together, working back and forth. These are very good fish, the ones you haven't seen all summer long, now up and working with the rest. They're too far away for a cast, but you decide to stick with the stimulator just in case. At least this time.
You keep the fly out there, and drift around and wait. You decide it's the best kind of waiting, the anticipation itself intensely pleasurable, and the outcome anticipated endlessly exciting. But suddenly it's almost dark, and bats are the only things plucking at your line. So you kick in, drifting the stimulator behind you. Just a few yards from the take out the last fish of the day fights all the way into the net.
It's good to be home.