Friday, June 25, 2010

0445 hours

Last Friday - alarm set for that particular time. I went back to the well, hoping the water would be up yet. We'd received another solid rain but it wasn't enough. Water low and clear. Kind of funny to think of that as a negative, but IMO it is just that. Days earlier (previous post) this stream fished wonderfully... And on this day it was back to fairly-tough-summer-going. So from 545 AM to 800 AM I caught ~6-7 fish, all of moderate size. No brookies, and no markedly big trout. Knocked two and took them home. Drank coffee on the way back. A backyard stream visit. No pictures of fish. The only real story of this outing was watching the summer sun rise on the stream and examining the dew-laden cobwebs that were everywhere. And coming on a Middle Earth scene at one particular creepy, webby log jam. I wouldn't mind if this stream were to blow out again so I can fish the backside... odd to say it, but it's true.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Receding Limb

Searched out some decent water yesterday. Recent series of rain events has saturated the ground down here. We're not in any sort of flood or high water condition, but we're getting horizontal movement of water over land. We've been fortunate over the past couple years to have very minimal incidence of blown out streams. Last few days though some watersheds were pushed past their tipping points and their respective streams got turbid. Usually though unless things are really bad a guy can find somewhere to fish.

First choice was pretty turbid: clarity 8-10 inches or so. Because I was there, and no one else was there, I fished it anyway, with a streamer that included some flash. Mildly surprised to find a few fish rapped that thing... But then thinking about it - shouldn't be that surprised. I know people catch fish from turbid water. I remember sitting on a ATV bridge back in ~2003 and the stream beneath me was so thick with sediment that it looked like a solid. Eating a sandwich though and looking around... and up jumps a trout - right from the main flow. Mystery. I also recall seeing pics of guys holding trout while standing in pretty brown water. So it can be done and I did a bit of it but it really wasn't too enjoyable. And it was a little dangerous because you can't see where you are placing your feet. Just about fell in over my waders. Put a trout in my creel and moved on.

Second choice was pretty clear but also really small water. Never fished it before yesterday. Got a great look but no strike from a nice fish holding in the bridge hole. Then walked downstream in explore mode. Turned around and walk back. Needed to be done. Now I've walked part of that stream and I know about what it is.

On to third option, which I'd checked the night before. 100% expected people to be there because (1) it was a clear water oasis, and (2) it's a popular stream. Found no cars. Somewhat dumb-struck. Jumped in and did my old routine from days of way back when I used to fish this water all the time. Worked up through a series of holes, jumped out and walked a road back... and then fished a bit below where I'd started.


(1) The receding limb is a really good time to fish, IMO. You get a little higher water, with just a little turbidity, which gives you as the fisherman much needed camoflauge. You can't always time this just right, but on the occasions it's worked for me, the results have been memorable. Yesterday was memorable.

(2) Nymphing can be just sickeningly good. I've been fairly caught up in whining about no hatches and trying to fish dry flies and fishing streamers, etc. I like all that but on this day I wanted to go back to the deadly lethal stinging method of tandem rig nymphing. Felt good and worked like it always does. Two split shot, two nymphs (one of which is always an orange scud) and one strike indicator. Get down deep to where the fish are and watch that indicator twitch.

(3) And speaking of twitching: that action on the nymphs is deadly. Makes a deadly rig deadlier. Scuds don't drift as much as the scoot and scit here and there. When the rig got into the fish zone I would often give a little mend or twitch and I found that to induce strikes in many cases. I picture a little scud maybe unseen or lost in the suspended detritus... and then scooot and then oh, look at that - better eat it...

(4) Some number of years ago at this very stream a guy with a pool cue spinning rod and a slip bobber rig sat in plain sight of me while I was fishing and filled his stringer with a limit of browns in the 12-16" range. Took him maybe half an hour. STuck in my mind because he made me feel stupid. I can still see his mechanics and his face staring at that bobber. Expressionless as fish were removed from hook. Anyway - on this day, it worked the other way. In plain sight of an unidentified fishing person, I walked up, flipped the nymph rig in the current (without allowing too much detail here, I can say that I was not invading his space - I was just in his viewscape) and on first cast caught a trout. Second cast caught a trout. Five minutes later landed a beautiful fish ~16". Minutes later another trout. Minutes later two brook trout, one of which ~11-12". Minutes later connected with another big fish and I figured the guy was going to throw his buzz bait at me. To make it worse his wife was behind him in a chair, reading a book. She may have been smiling, watching this go down. Not sure. So here I was feeling good. ANd that's a commentary on me and also on humanity in general. I'm just an imperfect goon like everybody else who for some unknown reason feels better when he tops somebody else. Not sure why but it's like that. It's not as though that made my day or anything - hell - my day was already made... but it solicited from me a sly grin or two (out of sight) under my ball cap and glasses. Admittedly, part of it goes to the spinning vs fly fishing competition that the spinning guys usually win... and so when the fly rod shines, it kind of feels good. ANd I'll tell you that 2 wt was shinin' like a MF.

(5) Can't say for sure how many trout were caught, but I estimate: 6 fish in the audience situation, 4 others kept, at least 6 dinks and at least 3-4 other fish that were too big too keep. So may have approached 20 now that I think about it.

A number of beautifully spotted, strong fish in the 11-12" range like this one. They really work that 2 wt:

Good water here: nice broken run, a little high, little turbid:

Sweet hole: any woody debris situation parallel to current... solid. This produced fish:

Pretty big trout here. When I first got it to hand I thought it was maybe 17-18". And if I were a guy who guessed and didn't measure that's what I'd say. But I marked it on my rod at measured at home: right around 16". I will say this though: it was a fat 16 - not a snakey trout at all. Beautiful fish. Couldn't easily grab with one hand. Had another one on at least this big... battled for maybe 60 seconds and the fish simply snapped my 5x tippet. Been a while since a trout has done that - felt pretty good. Saw it before it broke off: nice fish. Still a nice fish.

Nice brook trout. Somewhere around 11-12":

Morning harvest:

Afternoon harvest:

Geez - needed that outing. Solid numbers, quality fish, some big fish, some brook trout, and a 4/5 full creel (couldn't get that last fish - in an odd twist I had a run of fish that were either (1) too big to keep, or (2) brook trout).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today's breakfast: provided by backyard - double-yolked egg fried in butter.

Today's dinner: provided by stream, conveyed by me, prepared by Lady of the House.

Sittin pretty good around here lately.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Epic Proportions in 1.5 Days: Done...

Sometimes sitting in a meeting my mind drifts off and whirls up some good memories
of particular takes. To be honest in most every meeting that happens. The memories usually aren’t of the size of the fish or even how valiantly it fought – they are various framed images of a fish or a fish mouth or a fly sinking or sitting on a river bottom or a fish opening its mouth or tilting its body or pouncing like a tabby cat on a set fly. Images of a fish exploding upward to shatter some palpable tension hovering around a yellow piece of foam. Images of a #18 dry fly drifting just right and then being sipped. An image from last September when that battle-torn smallie open its hula hoop mouth and let that little antique white and red and black wooden popper fall gently into it. Some good memories. Like an archive.
Once you get into this imagery-laden fishing, you can’t really go back to anything else. At this point I have very little interest in any fishing that doesn’t allow me to see, to at least some memorable degree, what is happening before me as I stand there with my feet in water. I’m not out just to catch a fish or just to catch a big fish, etc. Out to do a few certain things in certain manners, and all the while gaining some understanding and appreciation. The 20 lb fish that you watch eat will be 20x more memorable than one that saunters up to your offering while you’re sitting on your bottom reading a book. I think that’s because by sight-fishing you uncover a lot of mystery and store it away – mystery that remains mystery if you’re not paying attention. You know exactly what did happen because it all played out before your eyes. You went to the place and you brought the right gear and you waded the right reach and you sneaked the right sneak and you cast the right cast and you waited and watched and then it happened. The fight and the landing are important but only epilogue to that happening. You’ve seen it all and you don’t need the fish on the wall because you’ve got those memories. Maybe some pictures to jog those memories as you slip through years. You’ve seen it all and damn was it fascinating. You probably even remember how it felt to put your boot on the gravel.
This is not the characterization of an elitist, but rather one of an addict. And no better place to get a mind-blowing fix than The Columbia River in all its glory. Funny how after spending relatively little time somewhere, you can feel like you know the place well and you can at will conjure various images and textures and smells. I don’t live near that river and I’ve spent maybe 15 days of my life in its vicinity. But it sure is burned in. Memorable experiences are saved in your brain along with the settings. There are some small places in the BWCA that I could draw right now with a pencil in detail down to the individual tree and red osier dogwood. And so that’s what we’re doing here on this river: making memories with friends and admiring fish and wondering about the water and the flats and stopping now and then to remark on how fascinating something is and occasionally hooking, playing, landing and releasing some carp so we can now and then exit a boring monologue in a meeting and get to a better place and by doing so keep some hope that our lives don’t revolve around the god-forsaken computers and electric wires like those that make up the guts of the very machine I’m manipulating right now.
And one more thing: it’s not enough to just look at something. After some deliberation I’ve come to that conclusion. It’s not enough just to observe. Nature isn’t wallpaper and the person who drives by the river and ooohs at it has gained a little something but has also missed a lot. Now it’s true that I look at a lot of things and I enjoy doing it but the best memories are of experiences and associations. You do need to get your hands in the river and hold up close some of it. In that way you can love it instead of just admiring it. Good Lord it’s not wallpaper. It must be gotten in. It’s not just a tourist attraction but a potential lover for those who will dare it. I can say with certainty that there are a number of rivers and streams that I love and if I think too long about their demise I might be brought to tears and that is no joke.

[well, I walked away from this post and now I look and see the preamble is pretty lenghty so I'll cut it off and leave it there]

Some notes:
(1) This trip is usually 3-4 days. This year it was combined with a longer, family vacation… so whittled down to 1.5 days. We made the hours count.
(2) Conditions were less than optimal: cloudy skies made for very limited visibility. On the second day we were rained on. Water level was good though.
(3) You can’t expect to catch 20-30 carp per day. First off, it’s tough. Second off it’s not like flopping crappies into a boat. They take forever to land and they wear you out. I was fortunate enough to get maybe a dozen to hand (three of which were mirrors) on the first day, and maybe just short of that on the second day. I’m betting John Montana got high teens on first day and maybe mid-teens on second day.
(4) The fish were’t head-down-tail-up feeding, but they would eat when dealt with appropriately and given time to find the flies. I had a little trouble with patience sometimes but when I held my arm in check it worked out. Saw a number of fish eat the flies – just a few made deliberate or aggressive takes. Most just mosied over the fly and sucked it up.
(5) Top five fish totaled 104 lbs. John Montana caught three 20+ lb fish (impressive). One of those he poached from me though and that gave him bad karma on the 20 lb mirror that was landed and thus that one came to me instead of him.
(6) The 20 lb mirror take was exquisite: I was fishing a two-fly rig to a different carp… made the cast and then saw that bigger fish roll in from the side… so I picked up the cast and dragged it in front of that one… let it settle… and while the SJW was hitting the riverbed, the soft hackle trailer was still falling… and the big mirror turned sideways a bit and opened a giant mouth that looked at the time like a big white coffee mug… sucked it up from mid-column. Still crystal in my brain. On hooking she jumped out of the water full body and then dashed away… I could see she was pretty big so I began extra-careful-non-horsing technique and let her chart her own route for her own due time. I remember telling JM that he’d really like this one… Got to hand and we were both floored by this unique fish. Pictures tell it from here.
(7) And speaking of mirrors we caught maybe 5-6 of them over the two days. For sure I landed one 13 lb, one 20 lb and another “average”… and JM landed 2-3 too, of which one was 13.5 or 14 lbs I think. Beautiful fish.
(8) We saw some fish that appeared to be swimming suitcases of cement. Much bigger than anything we landed. Cool to look at but they were not in a positive mood and they would not eat. My guess is JM lands one of them in short order. Man, were they huge fish. Borderline scarey. Quite interesting to look at a big pod of 20 lb fish and then watch the school buses saunter through.
(9) The average size fish was low double digits I think. No joke there. We were routinely looking past 11-12 lb fish because we didn’t want to take the time to play them to hand.
(10) I think that’s about it for now – not sure. Maybe another note later. Here are some pics in mixed-up fashion. Not even chronological. They get various points across though.
(11) Thanks John Montana for yet another good trip (and his report is here). Will be tough to top but I suspect it will happen - maybe next year.
(12) And one more thing about JM: he is a true master of this technique. I don't need to say much on that because it's widely acknowledged and understood but it must be mentioned. Highly enjoyable and educational to fish with him.
(13) And one last thing I snapped my 7 wt while battling a fish... fortunately it was during the wind-down phase and we'd caught plenty of fish. JM took up the half rod and proceeded to catch a few more though.
(14) And one final thing that 20 lb mirror is absolutely mythical.

Whoa! What a sow... man a sow and a half. A ninja battling a sow.

The fish of mystery and/or the mythical beast and/or... a number of other sweet titles: