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:


Blogger John Montana said...

As usual, outstanding perspective. I agree with 95% of the commentary here, but I'm not sure about that "poaching" crack. To my recollection, you flubbed the cast and wrapped your two fly rig around a nearby bush...granted, the tangle wasn't bad and I was AWFULLY quick on the trigger...but them's the breaks.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll vouch for the poaching crack, but when you'v e got mad ninja skills, you can get away with it most times. Karma is a bitch sometimes... Sweet mirror J.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

You know you poached it, just like you poached that 22 lber a few years ago. I don't mind though - I take what comes to me man, and in this case karma brought around that mirror which is cool. Poaching aside though you have a knack for those 20 lbers.

Thanks JP - glad we both got a taste of the Columbia this year.

12:43 PM  
Blogger John Montana said...'ve got me on that 22 from a few years ago. That was a massive poach job. Nice fish though.

I still say I am easier to fish with than my old man though!

7:16 PM  
Blogger darklake said...

Nice preamble WB. I've copied, pasted, and sent it on to friends. Really enjoy your writing. And the fish pics ain't too bad either!

11:19 PM  
Blogger Royce Gracie said...

The mirror is sick.

U guys look like ur from the Shinobi arcade game.

Pencil another guy in for next year.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Thanks darklake - appreciate the note.

RG is in for next year. I made that Shinobi link too.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Tyler Holm said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the preamble, stories, and pictures. Your writing really describes a passion in clarity. Distinguished and momentous.

2:06 PM  
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