Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rocky Ford Creek Report: Right With the World

There's a giant bubble of high pressure over Alaska, and another giant bubble of high pressure over Nova Scotia, and between them is the dreaded polar vortex sucking arctic air into the mid-section of the country. I feel for you. I really do.

Having said that, however, I need to confess that as the giant bubble of high pressure was settling over Alaska it created in Washington State south-south westerly winds, sunny skies, a rise in temperatures, and a big window of opportunity to get out and fish for the first time this year--and I jumped at it.

The sun reflected brightly off the wet pavement the whole way down to Rocky Ford Creek...

And it shone brightly off the water once I was there. It felt warm, even if it was only a psychological effect.

Rocky Ford is a non-wading fishery, and it's lined with broad cattail sloughs, so you wend your way carefully down narrow paths through the cattails, which are sometimes over your head, being careful not to step in a hole or slip off the path into a black pool as big as a bathtub, until you find a more or less open spot along the bank. I was not the only one taking advantage of the day, so I had to walk past my usual spot and find another. It was a fine location, though, with plenty of room for a back cast, and big trout lazily finning by now and again in plain sight ten feet off the bank.

I started with a leech pattern, but after stripping it right past the noses of a couple of those cruising fish, and watching them completely ignore it, I changed tactics.

I hung a scud pattern under an indicator and tried a few long, slow passes down the stately-flowing stream. On one of my casts the wind helped me snag the fly somewhere just out of reach on the back of my vest or jacket, so I impatiently snapped it off and looked for another. I didn't have another. So I searched until I found a small bead head pattern with a green body that could, in a pinch, pass for a scud. I tied it on.

I can't say whether this fish took that nymph for a scud, but he liked it. The indicator dipped and kept dipping, and even with a long line out I managed to get a hookup. It had been awhile since I played a fish in open water, but it all came back to me like it was yesterday. I had remembered to bring everything except my net, so I worked him up onto the bank where I could admire him. The first trout of 2014.

When I took the fly out I realized I had been fortunate. I had caught him just by the skin of his teeth.

I felt good. The trip was successful. The new year was properly christened. I relaxed and continued to fish.

I stayed with the indicator for awhile, since it had brought me a fish. But having caught that fish I was now free to fish any way I wanted to. I went back to a bead head leech--smaller and darker than the first one--and began to cast and strip as the sun sank lower. It was good to be running and gunning again.

It seemed that I was seeing more fish rising and jumping here and there. I was thinking seriously about going up top when my leech stopped in mid-strip just a few feet off shore. I set on a good fish and carefully brought him up onto the bank.

I released him and watched the creek for awhile. There was definitely more visible fish activity. I pulled out the fly box that held some of my small muddlers from last summer, veterans all, broke in and blooded.

I tied one on, and from then until almost dark had a fine old time messing about with muddlers on a river. I started getting follows almost immediately as I cast quartering downstream and waked a muddler back against the slow-moving current. Then I started getting swirls just as the muddler came out of the channel into the shallows.

On one big swirl I saw the flash of deep red as the fish rolled and missed the fly. I quickly flipped it back out, and a big head came up and deliberately took it. I waited a beat, and set. When he felt the hook he was off like a shot and before I knew what had happened he had snapped the tippet and was gone. A fine, fine fish.

I tied on another muddler, telling myself that I would make just a few more casts.... You know that old story. But each time I figured it was the last cast there would be another swirl, or another big head would come up. Finally, though, the sun was gone and the cold was rising up from the ground. I gathered everything together, found the right path, and carefully made my way back to the truck under a newborn crescent moon.

And for those moments on a winter's evening early in a new year, as I climbed, tired and cold and hungry, into the truck for the long drive home, all was right with the world.


  1. mercy. nice fish. nice day. that all looks really good as i gaze out over the ice and snow here in the frigid east.

  2. Great start to 2014!! That sunset shot is beautiful , even if you hadn't caught those nice bows just the chance to witness that would have been worth the price of admission.

  3. One of the best ways to start the new season. Beautiful fish, beautiful pictures, lots of adventure.