Friday, May 30, 2014

Trout Lake Report: They're Here

Back to Trout Lake. Water's up.


You tied up another muddler variation last night. You will wish you had tied up a different pattern.


You have had a feeling. You kick out of the channel and head down the Drake shoreline. You think it's still too early for Drakes. But you want to go look.


The muddler entices a youngster.


On down the shoreline. A fish slashes at the fly and misses. Another leaps clear out of the water--and misses. These are Drake rises. You look more closely all around. There they are. Brown Drakes.


This may not be the earliest they have begun hatching, but it's the earliest you've ever noticed. You look for Drake patterns in your fly boxes. Where are they? Guess you should have tied some up by now.

All you have is one big Hex fly you bought in Michigan in the distant past. You tie it on. It's too big, but it works fine.


The Drakes are coming off all along the shoreline. You kick on down to the little bay where they concentrated last year in a vortex of Brown Drake loveliness.


Fish are working them. But it still feels like just the beginning. Action will intensify in the days ahead.


You catch fish. It feels like you could catch fish steadily for the foreseeable future. But the Hex fly gives out.


You go back to a muddler and kick on around the bend. Drakes down here, too. Looks like it could be a very good hatch this year.


You catch fish on the muddler, too, but the pace is more relaxed. That's OK. You're thinking about the Drake pattern you'll be tying up.


You turn and begin the long kick back. You continue to work the shoreline with the muddler.


You find more fish on the way back. They take the muddler, acting suspiciously like they're high on Drakes.


Back into the channel.


And back into the cozy little take out.


All the way back you've been designing the Brown Drake flies you're going to tie up. Can't wait to get started.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"How to Regain Your Soul" by William Stafford

painting: Thomas Moran, Children of the Mountain, 1867
"Children of the Mountain" by Thomas Moran, 1867

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out. You will see
the white butterflies. Because of the way shadows
come off those vertical rocks in the west, there are
shafts of sunlight hitting the river and a deep
long purple gorge straight ahead. Put down your pack.

Above, air sighs the pines. It was this way
when Rome was clanging, when Troy was being built,
when campfires lighted caves. The white butterflies dance
by the thousands in the still sunshine. Suddenly, anything
could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon
and then shines back through the white wings to be you
again.

"How to Regain Your Soul" by William Stafford from The Darkness Around Us is Deep.
© Harper Perennial, 1994.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fish Lake Report: Memorial Day Gambit

I went out for my Memorial Day outing last Wednesday. Thought I'd get a jump on the crowds. Campgrounds were already filling up fast then, and the safe bet is that lakes are crowded this weekend.

I also went to a different lake, Fish Lake, just up the road from Trout Lake. Trout Lake used to be a well-kept secret, but in recent years it has gotten worked over heavily early in the season, and this year is no exception. Trout Lake is also a special regulations lake--single barbless hook, no bait, and no motors--so it attracts fly fishermen. Fish Lake is just a lake--anything is OK--but it is a trout lake, so I figured I'd show the fish some things maybe they hadn't seen before.

Conditions were great. I was the only fisherman until evening when a couple of boats came out to troll. And I was the only fly fisherman.


I kicked across to a long, beautiful shoreline. My plan was to throw a muddler and cover as much of the shoreline as I could.


I hadn't fished this lake for a long time, so I wasn't sure what I'd find. What I found was trout, many tucked up against the bank, others a few feet to ten feet out, but all more than willing to hit a muddler. Many took before the strip, others chased and hit.


Most fish were pansized, but a select few distinguished themselves by their fight and their color. They earned a close up photo.


The south shoreline is forested, with trees hanging over the water, and I felt something hit my hat and shortly later begin to walk down my neck. I brushed it off and discovered a cicada. I didn't see or hear any others, but it's possible that the trout here are seeing some, and perhaps took my muddler for an acceptable imitation. I like to think that, anyway.


I worked down to a famous rope swing. I've never used it, but my oldest son was here just a few days ago. No one was swinging when I passed, but a group showed up later and made the lake ring with their shouts and screams.


I kicked across to the northern bank and worked back. This is a very different type of shoreline: rock, willows, reeds, and mainly shallow weed beds.


But the fish were there.


Back down near the west end of the lake (Fish Lake stretches west to east, while Trout Lake is situated north to south) I passed near a giant campground. It sits just over that well-worn bank. Big RV's and trailers were rolling in all afternoon, and by the weekend there is a virtual town over there.


Looking toward the campground, you're also looking north up the valley where Trout Lake lies just a few miles away.


I worked around the west end and found fish rising in the early evening calm. They slashed the muddler.


I swung around to the south shoreline again and began working back around to complete the circle. This is an enchanting stretch, with little campsites set in the forest. But, alas, it was already badly littered with piles of beer cans, plastic bags, and even a broken lawn chair.

Idiots. This is why I haven't been back here in so long. Trout Lake--knock on wood--is a pristine wilderness compared to this abused lake.


I put that out of my mind, moved on down past the campsites, and found more eager fish.


Then I came to a spot I knew. This rock was where I brought my boys to fish over seven years ago when we first moved here. There's a road up there in the trees behind the rock, so we'd drive around, hike down, climb up on this rock, and throw out a few lines baited with power bait. We caught fish, too. Sometimes I'd bring my fly rod and cast from up there and pick up a fish or two.


I enjoyed the memories as I kicked on down the shoreline.


I closed the circle and kicked back across to the truck. I was satisfied and ready to head for home.


But I stood and watched fish rise for awhile. It had been a good afternoon, and I really enjoyed the change of pace of a new and very long shoreline.


I'm looking forward to Trout Lake again. But maybe I won't stay away from Fish Lake so long this time.