A friend of mine is part of a large family that owns a ridiculous amount
of land. That land is host to some water that produces decent fish.
Unfortunately in recent times they have had a spike in trespassing and poaching. For the first time ever you can find the occasional piece of trash in what has previously been untouched territory. The combination of increased family use, illegal pressure, and some lontra joining the local ecology has resulted in a decline of the fishing experience.
We made the most of a recent run to these waters. The weather didn't help...inside
of an hour we had blue skies, torrential downpour, snow, and vicious
hail. In between flurries it was obvious that the trout were slurping
something off the surface. Without a good supply of dries I had to stick with my chironomids and stuck a few fish.
much as I love urban fishing, there will never be any substitute for
silent solitude on the water, miles from structures and pavement.
Wild flowers covered in melting hailstones.
Tale of a tail.
Getting a lifetime lure tosser to switch to the fly-rod is a war of attrition.
Without completely kicking the hornet's nest...I've
been having repeated conversations wrapped around the harm in drawing
too much attention to waters that are currently not trashed or already "overcrowded".
Most can respect the fact that they have convictions different that your own, others not so much. Some say that the increase in human presence is inevitable so get over it, or even monetize it. Others blacklist you for posting a picture anywhere other than your own fridge. Most of us land somewhere in the middle.
I completely understand that we humans have a proven track record to
abuse and misuse whatever we touch, I also know that I wouldn't enjoy
fly fishing today if everyone I encountered had taken the, "I'm not
going to let you in on the secret someone else let me in on". I've made some great actual friends (as in real people you enjoy and spend time with) through various social media "friends" (a cheap and trite digital bit of nothingness) and a shared love for the sport.
In the ten years I've been fishing the river, pressure is up. I have also gained an education in proper etiquette and conservation on the river because of those
that weren't afraid to spill the beans. Not sure how it all fits
together. I'm going to modify my approach slightly moving forward. For
Trash the treble hooks. Get a good net. Stash your trash. Catch and release. Over and out.
I recently got out on the river with an out-of-towner I admire and respect a great deal. Bruce hails from Houston and is a class act. He was certainly more skilled than he let on in our preparatory conversations. Jan Nemec joined us and helped Tex get into a handful of fish even though it was Bruce's first time on the water in Nevada.
The picture does not do this fish's gut justice.
Bruce releases a healthy brown.
Take a deep breath and scram.
If you fish freestone streams with any regularity you're bound to shake hands with a serious fish from time to time. These run-ins usually end all too quickly. The pressure locally continues to climb and fish don't simply waltz into the trophy class but have to work hard and smart to get there. You can eventually guesstimate the pull of a two foot bruiser, but even with experience you rarely see the beast that breaks you off. You're left to estimate and imagine what could have been.
Pause. Fishing can't be a pissing contest. You can gut the soul of this sport in a flash. This is why in part a fraction of my catches get photographed, and a fraction of those end up here. That said...
On rare occasion you hook, sight and then lose an absolute monster; an animal of maturity and instinct. It's akin to taking a brutal test you crammed for, getting a 98% and having the professor explain that your score is 2% below the failing mark. It only takes one bad knot, one nicked line, one half-second lapsing on the hook-set, one run of fury you can't pace, and the list goes on. You can write the perfect novel and forget to dot an "i" and it all burns up.
I understand that it is a gift to be on the river at all. I understand there is almost always "another day" to try again. I also understand that when you lose the fish of your life, because I am still a man, it feels like you had an organ stolen in your sleep.
What kind of friend takes a picture of you from the bank the exact moment after watching the gnarliest brown of your life spit the hook?
At this moment, there is a fish in the waters near you that could recalibrate everything you know/love/believe about fishing. Feeling the pull of what could be that fish and losing it is hard. Seeing that fish...his silhouette and scale...moments before he outwits you? Devastating. Uncool but true.
Executive summary: I'm trying new tactics in new water and it's working. I'm not as frustrated with spring as I once was. March browns, BWO's and the most gargantuan carpenter ants I have ever seen are on the water. Micro-mays and San Juans are also moving fish. Full report: Each of the four seasons present specific challenges locally. A couple of weeks ago, I would have told you that I was the least confident in my tactics in the spring. Spring has looked so differently the last few years based on snow-pack. It's hard to nail down pages for the playbook when things are so inconsistent.
I've found a little bit of a groove recently, which I realize sounds trite but I can forget easily that I've been at this fly fishing thing two years now and there's a lot to learn.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
Defend the queen! Nasty lil' guys.
A project unfinished.
Doug O. and I connected this week. Two things you need to know about Doug, other than being a stand-up and knowledgeable guy: #1. He has superhuman vision on the river. I consider myself pretty adept at reading the water, but where I see runs, riffles, and boulders...Doug sees pebbles. #2. He genuinely enjoys others catching fish as much as catching them himself.
The bows this day were unreal. Most of them took to the air and they would run downstream with a vengeance. The action was so consistent, at one point I literally cramped up in my forearm rendering my right arm useless. Hurt so good.
Tried to fly away three times. Almost worked.
Put some butter on your breakfast toast.
20-25 fish days are rare, but a blast when they happen.
One handa pose and don't forget the hat. Doug doesn't want you to forget the hat.
I'm about to revisit my favorite still-water location, so you'll get a full update on that soon. I don't have the reps under my belt to understand that game yet, so we'll see what happens.
I was recently offered a free trip to fish the Clark Fork in Montana on the condition I provided a little evening fireside music. This was an arrangement most agreeable. Our host was enthusiastic, the food was everything you'd expect from six men in the woods, and the scenery was simply stunning.
Quick stop in Seattle.
The front porch of the cabin.
My friend Par doing his best impression of Mickey Mantle doing an impression of Paul Bunyan doing an impression of Captain Morgan.
Once on the river, the 6 of us split up: 4 men in 1-man pontoon rafts, and the 2 least
experienced guys in the drift-boat with a guide. Though my experience is limited, and the sample size
is small, based on philosophy and approach I wouldn't recommend this particular chap, though he had fascinating views on Bigfoot and the human capacity to see other dimensions.
As I suspected, some Truckee River patterns I trust ended up doing the heavy lifting. Once I figured out how to read such a enormous amount of moving water, I figured out what kind of water they were holding in and then the fun started. At some point on the trip, I was given the nickname "Truckee" which I didn't mind at all.
The diversity of coloring on the cutties was remarkable.
Hares ear for the win. Orange color for the stare.
My friend Gilligan thankfully set the expectations for
Montana for me before I left, and he was spot on. Lots of fish, but
none as big as the brutes I'm privy to on my home water. The weather
would have shut down any other outdoor event, but between the deep
greens of the untouched forests, the occasional rapids, the bald
eagles overhead keeping watch, and the action in the water below
you, you didn't have time or space to mumble about the water above
One of the better fish of the trip.
It was my first time drifting a section of river like that, and two days
and 24 miles later I could feel it in my back, shoulders, and most of all, my quads.
Staying hydrated helped, but it was honestly more physical than what I
was prepared for. Still, it was the trip of a lifetime. I came home
with a clearer understanding of why Montana paints itself in every
fishing magazine, and why what I have at home is truly a world class
fishery. The beauty here in the high desert is a very different kind of beauty, and I'm fine with it not making any magazine covers. That said, scenes like this below from Montana were enough to physically stop you in your tracks. Hope to return to this part of the country again soon, and in the mean time I'll gratefully make do with what I have in my backyard.