Monday, November 21, 2016

Feeling Lucky- Hello Again

Wow! It has been a long time since I posted anything here but not for a lack of adventure or happenings. It has been more a lack of time and probably just as much, if not more a lack of motivation.
A Fine Ending to a Week on the South Platte

September was a stellar month for fishing. Sharon and I pulled into Woodland Park, CO on September 15. A few days later Besnik “Nick” Haxhijaj (hi-gee-eye) flew into Denver and met me on the Dream Stream. The next day we hiked into Cheesman Canyon with Jon Easdon and Justin Brenner from Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs. Cheesman is one of the places I've had on my radar for a couple decades but for one reason or another never made it in there. It was well worth the wait and I'm thrilled that I got to share it with a great friend and two new friends that I hope to spend much more time on the water with in the future. I can't really give a play by play at the moment. Look for that to happen next spring in Southwest Fly Fishing magazine.

The next couple days Nick and I hit the Deckers section of the South Platte just downstream of Cheesman. Wednesday evening Nick was able to land his first Colorado dry fly trout. Appropriately enough it was a cutthroat! The next day we got an early start and hit it hard but the fishing was tough due to the brutal winds. It was still a great day shared by great friends.

We finished out the week back at the Dream Stream with a really rough start to the day but a stellar end to the week......another story that you can read about in Southwest Fly Fishing this spring.

Since Colorado things have been hit and miss as far as fishing. Sharon and I met my brother Mark at Lake Texoma for one of the warmest Octobers in decades. The plan was to try for stripers on the fly but a long hot spell just prior to our arrival had the stripers clinging to the deep water edges out of reasonable reach for fly fishing. Instead Mark worked me like a minimum wage laborer running noodle lines for catfish. It wasn't what I had in mind for fun but we did catch a few brutes and hauled in a few dozen in 5 hard days of running lines. On the last day we hauled in one we estimated at easily 40+ pounds and another around 20. Not a bad day especially considering between runs we got into some schooling sandbass -whitebass- and I was able to take a few on the fly. They weren't exactly the 20+ pound striper I was hoping for but it was a great way to end the week.

From there we went through D/FW on our way to meet friends from the Austin area at Lake Catherine State Park in Arkansas. There was no fishing but there may have been a few beers consumed among the group. ALWAYS a great time with these folks!!

The next week we found ourselves in a campground outside of Mountain Home Arkansas.........way outside of Mountain Home Arkansas. We were there to meet new friends that we met at our favorite campground in southwest Colorado. Between the looooooong drive back into town, recuperating from Colorado and Texoma, trying to work and the relentless midge hatches I didn't get much fishing time in there. We were camped next to the White River and believe or not except for the day I went out with Nick (Arkansas Nick not Houston Nick) I found I had little motivation to fish.

From Arkansas we headed east through Tennessee to North Carolina where I had set up some days on the water to research articles for Eastern Fly Fishing magazine. It's a tough job but someone has to do it for your reading pleasure. I got to see a lot of new water, catch some smallmouth and trout including a couple of native Southern Appalachian brook tout and meet some great new friends. Thanks a million to Ken Hardwick of Headwaters Outfitters who guided me on the French Broad Rive and Matt Canter of Brookings Cashiers Anglers who introduced me to the tailwater on the Tuckasegee River.

We showed up in Panama City Beach, FL a little over 2 weeks ago. Though I have been chomping at the bit I still don't even have a fishing license yet but I did get to help 3 of the grandkids catch some bluegills. Between kids, grandkids, trying to catch up on writing and sifting through a few thousand photos it's no surprise. It's been what seems like forever since kids rushed over and called me grandpa. That's almost enough to make an old guy forget all about fishing..........almost. It's also a great reminder that there are far more important things in life than fishing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Good For the Soul

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after"          - Henry David Thoreau

All my adult life people have frequently asked why I fish so much. The short answer is it’s good for my soul but the complete answer goes much deeper. Over the years fishing has occupied different places in my life and has taken on many incarnations. As a boy fishing simply got my brothers and me outside and in touch with nature through the summer months. During the winter months carrying a fishing rod from farm ponds, to creeks to lakes was replaced by carrying a shotgun or.22 rifle about the countryside of North Texas. Our big outings in those days were out to the east side of Lake Lewisville with our dad after work and on the weekends. During those years I never envisioned that fishing would become such a part of my life nor did I think of it that way or as anything other than just fishing. I felt much the same way about hunting though that feeling has changed drastically over the years. These days I just find it hard to take the life of a wild mammal, bird or fish given their world is shrinking so fast.
Up until the time when our family moved into the city I wasn’t even aware that people lived so disconnected from nature as those who dwell in big cities. Everything we caught or killed during those years living out in the rural countryside went onto the table. After our move into the city we stopped harvesting from the land. Our fishing excursions became rare and I can only recall a handful of hunting excursions. I lost my connection to the land but never lost the yearning for it. For lack of a better description I became somewhat of a hoodlum without that connection. During that time I wasn’t even aware of the chasm that existed between me and the natural world. I just knew I wasn’t happy with the world.
After several years I went back to the countryside that shaped my original view of the world to find it transformed into another city. The tiny community was well on its way to becoming just another example of urban sprawl. The farm ponds and cattle pastures were covered with houses, shops and restaurants. The few gravel roads had been widened to four lane paved streets dissected by a typical pattern of cross streets and cul-de-sacs. Where we used to gather sustenance from the land people now gathered there food in pre-packaged form. There is little description for the kind of loss that comes from the destruction of nature in the name of progress. To lose something as precious as the very thing that shaped a boy’s soul is tantamount to taking his life. Though I didn’t fully know it at the time the loss was incalculable on a personal level. That was the day I found myself encircled by a concrete jungle. Only now do I realize that it was the first great loss I ever suffered.
When I went back to our home in the city and reported what I had seen to my dad he simply acknowledged that he already knew. His words were calm but I know now on the inside he was as unhappy about it as I was. It didn’t dawn on me until many years later that it was only a short time after that day we started fishing more frequently again. We still lived in the midst of the concrete jungle but got out of it or at least onto the fringes more and more often. Many of those outings were spent drifting across Lake Worth snacking on Vienna sausages and cheese on crackers while catfishing. During one of those outings he confided in me his deepest desire to return to a life far away from the city. It was only the need to make enough money to support a family of six that had driven him away from Wyoming where his early view of the world had come with a rod or gun in his hands. His long term plan was to retire early and return to Wyoming and live out his later years. When we were younger he tried to keep us as close as he could to the countryside but the needs of the family had to outweigh his personal desires. He had hoped that by keeping us in or near the countryside as long as possible my brothers and I would bond with the land as he had. I am happy to report his plan worked but at the same time saddened he didn’t get to see how deeply the impression took.
On December 26, 1980 I spent the day with my dad as we shopped like champions at an after Christmas/going-out-of-business sale at Olsen’s Sporting Goods in Hurst, TX. I had married a few months earlier and had not spent much time with him during those months. We had not fish together at all during that time. The one time he came to my house during those months he invited me to join him and my uncle to drift for catfish on Lake Proctor. I declined the offer and took a raincheck. During our shopping we loaded up three full shopping carts with fishing gear of every manner for every member of the family making sure we had what we needed for the raincheck day of catfishing. We went back to my parents’ house and divided up all that tackle into big piles for him, myself and my brothers. When we were done we noted that his pile seemed to be the smallest of the bunch. We laughed and decided to rearrange the piles when he and Mom returned from a visit to Grandma’s a few days later because they were already late getting away. I stood in the driveway and waved as they pulled away. A few hours later I received a phone call telling me of the accident that had ended their lives.

It has taken a few decades to understand completely what fishing means to me or maybe it has just taken this long for me to be able to admit it. I like to think for the moment that fishing has come full circle in my life. The days of having something to prove have passed at least for the time being but I hope forever. These days I just want to fish because it is in my blood, it is in my heart, it soothes my soul. It’s where I find my dad.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Creek With No Name

For days I’ve been patiently sitting around our campsite at times when I would normally be on the Upper Dolores River fishing. Since we got to Dolores, CO last week it has been raining on and off putting a serious damper on my river time. Today I couldn’t be patient any longer. I may have reached a point in life where I feel good about foregoing fishing now and then just to sit but sitting makes an old guy fat…..well that and all the snacking that goes on while being patient.

We woke up this morning to cloudy skies and a light drizzle but there was that feeling in the air. It was that feeling anglers know as a good day to fish, we feel it in our bones. It got stronger as the morning wore on and the skies cleared. During our morning walk along the river through the campground it was obvious that there wouldn’t be any fishing the Dolores today. It has been raining upstream for days in the headwater canyon which turns the 50 miles of river upstream of McPhee Reservoir to a chocolatey-milky mess. In fishing you should always have a plan-B. Fortunately there is no shortage of plan-B options around here. Today’s plan-B is a creek with no name.

This creek is the perfect spot to air out a Winston Retro 3 weight I’ve had stuck in its tube for over a year. It is 6 ½ feet of pure fiberglass perfection with an action so slow you can almost take a nap between the backcast and presentation. A 14” trout can put a bend in it all the way to the cork but I can still lay out 40 feet of line if the situation calls for it but not today. I scarcely had more than 15 feet of line out of the guides. I strung it up with the smallest reel I have along the other day hoping I could get on some small water. When I first put the Lamson Liquid 1.5 on the reel seat it felt out of balance but when I put the rod together today it felt near perfect with the weight of the line in the guides. The other day I contemplated acquiring a smaller reel but after fishing it that idea has been put to rest. It turns out to be a near perfect combination. If Lamson would just make the Liquid in a size 1 it would make a perfect match.

Although I love fishing this creek and other creeks like it I haven’t hit it in several years even though we’ve made many stops here since I discovered it. For me creeks like this are best experienced on special occasions like fine gourmet dining because something like this can spoil you and eventually nothing seems to satisfy. It’s one of the first creeks I fished in this drainage back in 2003 which is still one of the highlights of my fishing life, today was another. I think the penchant for this type of fishing came from fishing a small creek in New Mexico just like this one. I hope to visit the nameless creek in New Mexico again next year. Until then I’ll just savor today.

I won't go into a blow by blow it's best to just let the pictures do the talking.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Sitting near the campfire near one of America’s 100 top trout streams I can hear the river bubbling in the quiet of dusk, at least when the fire isn’t crackling. It’s been days since I have been able to hit the water and oddly enough I’m quite content with that. There was a time when it would have driven me nuts to be so close to a wonderful trout stream day after day and not be standing in it fishing.

Admittedly the weather has been an issue with torrential rains a couple of days that turned the river to something resembling chocolate milk. But there have been more days when it’s been just enough to sit and watch and listen. Bird watching has never been much of an amusement for me but the Mountain Jays, Common Sparrows, Northern Flickers, occasional hawks and other assorted unnamed birds have kept me quite occupied lately.

Until this morning we were setup in a campsite not 20 feet from the river but had to relocate due to booking our stay too late. From there I was able to sit at any time and watch the tiny brown trout parr feeding constantly. It makes me wonder how they ever collect enough calories to grow with the energy they expend jumping clear of the water to feed on the minute insects that inhabit this section of the river. However they do it seeing the number of parr in the river gives me hope for the future of the fishery here.

A couple of evenings I have donned my Vedavoo slingpack and walked a short section of the bank just downstream from the bridge that divides the campground. The rocks stacked along the banks to prevent erosion are pretty easy to walk even for a gimp like me. When the water is clear I can cast small dry flies along the current seams or around the larger rocks on the river bed and watch the trout rise to my fly. The trout here get fished over constantly and even the tiniest of them become very discerning- if you can say that about a trout –about what they take for food. Just as often as not they rise, follow and refuse my offerings. Other campers watch from the bridge or the walking path behind me and always politely inquire as to “how I’m doing”.

“Delightful” is my standard reply. How else could I be standing on the banks of a beautiful Rocky Mountain stream less than 100 yards from where our rolling house is parked? Some of the more serious inquirers, invariably men, request fish counts, and want to know what fly I’m using. I never give too many details and try to keep my answers simple, not because I enjoy being coy it’s just that at times like these it just really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of times when the size, fish count and size of the catch matters this however is not one of those times. In all the years we have been coming here I’ve never hooked anything over 10” in this little stretch of river. The times for specific flies, intense concentration and fish counts I save for the stretches of river that have been discovered over the years.

I did get out to one of those places last Friday. I won’t say where it is because some things are far better left unknown to the masses even on well-known rivers. I few years back I made the mistake of posting a photo that showed a location on a certain “Gold Medal” water. Along with the photo I told of the trout I had landed, the flies used and of a very large rainbow that took me for all I had. When I returned a few days later I couldn’t even find a place to park near that section of the river. My lesson has been learned. I did write an article on this river for SW Fly Fishing magazine but as anyone who does that sort of thing knows you tell the readers how to get here. What flies to bring and let them sniff out the secrets for themselves. It has to be that way or every good hole on every river ever featured would be over-fished. But I digress…..

The point is that in over a week of being next to this beautiful river I’ve been out for one afternoon in serious fishing mode, something that has seldom come natural in the past. That state does seem to come more often these days though. Sharon has even mentioned how calm I have been without having to be on the water every minute the weather is cooperating. I would like to think that it’s a state that comes with age, countless hours on the water and who knows how many fish landed or lost. I count the fish that have openly refused my offerings in that number also. They “refusers” used to be the one that haunted me the most. Now I think of them as the ones that have taught me the most. I have to admit that not being quite as steady on the rocks as I used to be may have something to do with it to some extent.

I guess the progress of my fishing life is no different than so many others, not surprisingly all of a certain age I have met or read about. Those first few times out with a fly rod we’re just happy to be outside with a rod in hand experiencing nature in a manner where just catching a fish is a bonus. Later on, once a few fish have been landed we just want to catch more than the time before. Then the search for big fish, then many big fish consumes our attention until eventually the urge to catch every big fish in a lake or river is something akin to insatiable. Somewhere in there we forget to look up at the Osprey soaring overhead or the deer walking the bank. The colors of the trees don’t even register and the bankside flowers go completely unnoticed. Damn the weather, damn the chores and at some point work be damned I’m going fishing. Jobs and families have been forfeited by some just to catch more fish. I once quit one and took another job 2,500+ miles away just so I could fish a famous lake. It’s not something I’m proud of now although I was at the time.

Eventually most of us fanatical anglers learn that it’s okay just to be an angler. I like to think that with age and experience I have acquired a sense of patience, something like coming full circle. An afternoon watching the parr feed with total abandon is satisfying in a different way but still completely satisfying. I don’t think there will ever come a time when I won’t long to be near the water yet for today it is more than enough.

I almost forgot to mention that last Friday went pretty well. I landed quite a few trout on a fly I’ve been tinkering with for a few years now just for this river. There was even a pair of fairly good sized cutthroats. Satisfaction!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Deschutes Part 1- Preparations

All good things, as the saying goes must come to an end. As sad as that may be it is something that can’t be avoided.

This morning we pulled into Bend Oregon. Like most of the rest of this year has been my timing is slightly off. When I stopped into one of the many fly shops here in town to pick their brains the first response I got was “You’re a couple weeks too early”. It seems like I’ve been a couple weeks too early or too late to catch anything exactly as it appears in the magazines and story books all year. Such is the life of a traveling angler that you rarely read about in the glossy pages found on newsstand shelves. But somehow I do seem to snoop out something suitable to keep my interests up and my boots wet. What I snooped out here at Fly & Field Outfitters is a 3 hour drive first thing in the morning to get to a spot that may or may not be loaded up with other anglers. What it will have for sure is a catchable amount of early season steelhead.

The best part about this scenario is that the locals have been catching quite a few fish on small flies and floating lines. This excites me because the time I recently spent on the Rogue had me throwing a 30 foot high-density shooting head. Although I really enjoy fishing that way it is quite a bit of work that can wear a casting arm out in short order. The other exciting aspect is that, albeit with a one-hand rod I will be able to try out some spey casting techniques. Then maybe I can get Michael to build me that spey rod we talked about last winter.

As soon as I found out that I am in range of a good number of catchable fish I headed back to our camp to get set up. I use the word camp loosely in this sense because this place, Crown Villa RV Resort is more like a resort than any other we have stayed at in 15 months of traveling. It’s more like “glamping”.  Most places we pull into that are called resorts end up to be something completely different. Sharon and I have found ourselves wondering if maybe the word “resort” has a secret meaning we are unaware of.

During preparations I decided it was time to finally retire the Orvis WF8F line I have been using since 1996. I just hope that the new line lasts half as long but on that front only time will tell. From what I hear new flylines are like too many other things; they just don’t make them like they used to. Then again I do take care of my flylines like they are made of gold for all I know they may be for what they cost. I’ve been asked many times how I get that much time out of a flyline. The answer is not exactly a secret it’s regular cleaning and maintenance. Keep it simple. Mild soap like Dawn in lukewarm water, rinse, wipe it down, rinse again and apply a light coat of fly line dressing.

I stripped all the old line off and went to attach the new one to the backing on my reel. I carefully wound the nail knot into place and snugged it up. Just as I do as part of every cleaning I gave a solid pull and it snapped. Yikes! The 20 pound Dacron is not supposed to do that with 10 pounds of pressure!!! It seems the time I have spent in the saltwater over the last year has not been kind to the backing. I’m pretty sure I may have to start going all the way to the spool with the cleaning.

Knowing it wouldn’t do any good I retied the backing onto the new flyline anyway and gave it a pull. The same thing happened. That’s when the sinking feeling set in. It was a sinking feeling of knowing we are only going to be here for a few short days and I was not going to go out in the morning well before the crack of dawn and the operating hours of any of the local fly shops. With only 3 days on the ground here I have allotted 2 days of fishing leaving our last day here, as always devoted to battening down the hatches so to speak.

I had already learned on the Rogue that having one’s equipment in tiptop shape is of the utmost importance when going after these big boys. I briefly contemplated going out with the inferior backing and letting luck take its course but the thought of having a good size steelhead run downriver with an expensive new flyline just doesn’t appeal to me these days. I suppose if all I wanted was a hookup that might be as good a way as any to all but guarantee an encounter with a trophy fish but I’m just not as stupid as I used to be when it comes to these things. Murphy’s Law has reared its ugly head too many times to tempt fate once more.

So here I sit typing out this post instead of lying in bed sleeping before heading out in the middle of the night to fish at the crack of dawn. Tomorrow I’ll go back to one of the other local fly shops and maybe pick their brains a little, buy a couple more flies and ask “Can you guys put some backing on this old reel?” Hopefully in the process I can acquire a bit more useful information. I’m going to need it since I just lost half my time on the water.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Experimenting on the Rogue

It hasn’t occurred often in 15 months of traveling that I am sad to leave a place for the next destination. For the most part when move day comes along I’m ready for the next location and whatever it holds in store. But this last two weeks has been a real thrill and most relaxing all at the same time. Sitting outside our travel trailer typing this I’m about four long casts from the banks of the Rogue River. Staying here has been fun and frustrating all at the same time. Most evenings I head out around 6:30 p.m. and fish until around 9:00 when the light finally fades to a point I can’t see my fly hit the water.

The frustrating part is that of all the months of the year to be here July is the absolute worst for chasing salmon and/or steelhead. I’m not sure how many hours exactly I have spent on the river casting and swinging large flies but it’s been quite a few. Between almost every evening, a few mornings and a pair of afternoons my estimate is around 50 hours on the water fishing. In all that time I have turned 4 fish with 2 solid hits, one fish that just rolled at my fly and one that took solidly. For all that not a single fish has been landed in the river. I’ve done some surf fishing but that’s another story. The owner of Four Seasons RV Resort where we’re staying keeps telling me he feels bad that for all my efforts I haven’t caught a salmon. The truth is that for all my efforts it’s my own fault that I haven’t landed a salmon.

Being an obsessive tinkerer I am always trying different things; some work out quite well others do not. My latest brilliant idea was to apply a handshake, loop-to-loop connection to the end of my leader. The thought process is based on the leader system my good friend Nick Haxhijaj of Nick FlyFishing. Nick is a nymphing fan like few I have ever met and religiously uses a Czech nymphing system that employs loop –to-pool connections to the final tippet sections at the flies. Here is where I say to you that it works great for trout nymphing but does NOT work when dragging an Emotion Detector across the bottom of a big river. Here’s where the reason I haven’t landed or at least had a chance to land a salmon is my own damned fault. About the third day here on the Rogue I hung up on a log after having dragged my leader through the rocks at the edge of the run many times. When I applied pressure to the log my tippet snapped at the loops. In a hurry to get back at it I attached another tippet via the same loop-to-loop connection and kept on fishing.

A few days later I went out feeling jolly about life and being able to fish on a big river with a chance at a big salmon. It was one of those days that just feel right in every way. It had been cloudy all day. Reports were that guides were catching good numbers of salmon at the mouth of the river. The wind was at the perfect direction and speed for the casting angle I needed. Most days I was having trouble feeling any confidence in what I was doing which translated into questionable casts which led to questionable swings which led to a heightened lack of confidence; this day though I was in the zone immediately. Writing about it now brings to mind other days when being in that same zone brought memorable trophies: an 11 pound largemouth, a 22 inch rainbow and my first and only steelhead. On my very first cast I could feel the swing and visualize the fly dropping behind the high-density line with the tail moving tantalizingly in the current. With a classic cast, swing and step approach I felt every inch of the run being covered successfully.

Less than 15 minutes into that glorious rhythm I felt the take. My line stopped in a way that indicated the fly had been interrupted by a living creature. It was the sensation of life that brings an instant adrenaline rush to an angler. I locked onto the line, raised my rod and came felt the other sensation that only anglers know but this one brings immediate disappointment. It was that little tick that tells us our line has parted but this one was the part of a 4 pound line not that of the 12 pound tippet I had attached to my fly. With my line now swing free in the current. All I could do was watch as the fish boiled twice at the surface heading back toward the ocean 7 miles away. Though I couldn’t see the fish I could tell it was exactly what I was after. Having spent nearly 50 years watching fish from every vantage point an angler ever does I could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt it was a BIG fish. The rest of the evening’s fishing was done halfheartedly. My rhythm was shot to hell, my confidence broken in a way it’s taken a week to repair.

Tonight is my last chance to try for one last shot at a salmon on the Rogue River. It has been a week and a day since my tippet parted with my leader. I’m using my old tried and true leader to tippet connection again. No more experimenting. Whether I actually hook into another salmon and do or do not land it remains to be seen and for the first time since we got here it doesn't even matter. This evening I'll just live in the moment, try not to think about what could have been and enjoy being skunked on one of the most beautiful rivers in the country.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hubris Bites on the Lower Sac

When we pulled into Redding at the end of June the temperatures were soaring to well over 100 every afternoon. Though this is not unusual for the area it was a bit of a shock to us given that we have been traveling around trying to avoid such weather.

We had come to this part of the country so I could fish some of the famous rivers in the area. As it turns out they are all suffering from the heat. Crack of dawn fishing I was told has been okay but late evening is when the action really gets going with caddis and PMD hatches being pretty reliable.

Best Laid Plans

With maps in hand and flies in my boxes Sharon and I set out for some visual recon of the Upper Sacramento in the afternoon. The plan was to look at some of the parking areas and the river to determine which ones I can get my gimpy self into alone and still be able to climb out in the evening. Driving north on I-5 from Mountain Gate we were enjoying the scenery and views of Shasta Lake.

You know how you go to a fly shop in the area before heading out to acquire information that keeps you out of trouble? Well I did that. As a traveling angler I find it best to pop in and see what the locals have to say ask a few questions and go from there. Maybe I didn't ask the right questions but then again if you're from out of town you may not know what question to ask because as a doctor I used to see like to say "You don't know what you don't know until you know it".

Here's what we now know. The last big bridge along I-5 over Lake Shasta is being rebuilt necessitating all traffic to be funneled into a single lane. Here's what we didn't think about. On Thursday evening before the Fourth of July weekend everybody in central California seems to be heading north out of the Sacramento Valley on I-5 So much for quick recon and fishing the Upper Sacramento through the holiday weekend. This is our third time to pass through Redding and every one has been around July 4th; it's never planned but somehow has worked out that way. In some instances timing is everything and this is one of them. What should have been a 20 minute drive turned out to be 2 1/2 hours and we never even saw a single fishing location. Back to the old drawing board.

Well as it turns out the drawing board looked pretty much the same for all the other locations I had hoped to get to except one. Where do you go to fly fish in peace when the masses are flocking out of the cities? Back into the city. By process of elimination and a bit of somewhat reliable information I ended up less than 100 yards downstream from the CA-44 bridge on the Lower Sacramento.

The guys at The Fly Shop, really that's what it's called, had told me there was a caddis hatch here every evening so that's what I came prepared for. I'm not sure if the guys I talked to didn't fully explain the situation or I was daydreaming while they spoke; most likely it was a combination of both. Anyway the first evening out I tried to fish a really good looking riffle but couldn't get into a position to get good drifts with nymphs or dries. The water was flowing pretty powerfully and I wasn't going to risk having my body turn up somewhere around San Francisco just to catch a trout.

After picking around the edges of the riffle I almost gave up and called it in for the day but the little voice in my head said to keep going. I picked my way along an overgrown path beating back bushes and spider webs until I came out onto a big wide groomed and heavily used path. This is where I realized I may have been daydreaming back at the fly shop when the one guy was explaining where I should go to fish. For those who don't believe it ADHD is real I mean it! Now where was I? Oh yes.......I found out when I left later that the path leading straight out from the parking lot leads to a beautiful, easily waded long run.

I worked the current seam nymphing waiting for the surface action to start but other than a few stray feeders out in the fast current nothing materialized. It was getting dark and I wanted to make sure I made it out not yet knowing of the easy path out and I forgotten to grab my headlamp before leaving the truck. I did spot one surface feeder close in but wrote it off as a straggler and decided to come back the next evening for another try.

Gotcha Suckers

The next evening I showed up with a new game plan which was to do a little nymphing and wait until the action started right at dusk. It's a glorious thing when a game plan actually comes together.

With an hour until the magic moment when I thought things would start I worked the current edge with nymphs hard. I tried high sticking, indicator nymphing and free-line nymphing with not a single touch that I detected. By the time I thought the surface action should be happening I had only seen the feeders out in the heavy current 50 feet away. A 50 foot cast is no big deal but a drift at 50 feet with multiple current speeds in between is a different story. I was starting to believe that the surface action wasn't going to happen, There were caddis and BWOs everywhere in the air and on the water. I was casting a good imitation of the adult caddis but no takers nor were there any surface feeders close enough in to cast to. Then it happened. The plan came together.

A fish rose upstream and right on the current line I was stalking with nymphs earlier. As I moved up to cover that spot I was casting to feel out the seam hydraulics and get my eyes in focus in the fading light. As my upstream cast drifted parallel to my position a head poked out of the surface and the silhouette of my fly disappeared in a swirl. I lifted the rod and came up tight on what felt like a small trout....until I applied some pressure. The next thing I knew all the slack line was off the water and it was on the reel and taking drag. The problem with carrying a net big enough for a steelhead is that it makes a 20" trout look like a dink when you photograph it in the net. It doesn't diminish the experience though.

A few minutes later I slid the trout back into the water and watched it swim away, dressed my Elk Hair Caddis and got back to it. A few casts later I was tight on another big rainbow that made a long run, a heroic jump and released itself 60 feet away. I made my way up the seam squinting at the surface following my fly as it drifted on the silvery reflection. Twice more a head broke the surface and I came up tight on hefty rainbows, one I landed and the other pulled lose when I applied too much pressure. There were more refusals than takes and it occurred to me they trout were actually keying on the emergers. The splashy rises and all out leaps were the giveaway. But light was too far gone and I had again forgotten my headlamp. A few more casts and another head popped up from the river and I was tight on another fish. This one fought like a champ from the instant it felt the hook. It took a couple minutes of what was left of the fading light to land it and get a good photo.

With little time left I made two more casts before I was hooked into yet another strong fish but this one I knew wasn't coming in soon and I needed to go. I pressured it until the hook pulled lose. With a big smile and a feel of "Gotcha" I called it a night.

Hubris Bites

The next evening was July 4th so I left the park, the river and the fish alone for the evening to enjoy the fireworks in peace, But the evening after I showed up with a half dozen freshly tied Elk Hair Caddis dries and another half dozen LaFontaine Sparkle Emergers. This time I arrived with little time before the surface action would start. I got some funny looks in the parking lot heading out in fading light. This time I set up to in a position just to see if I could time a heroic 60 foot cast to one of the early fast current feeders. I stood with 60 feet of line and 12 feet of leader dangling in the current waiting for a riser to target. The first three shots failed. The fly would travel a few feet then drag horribly. On the fourth shot I sailed the fly out and executed a flawless upstream mend with the line in midair. The fly landed, I spotted immediately and the riser porpoised on it as if in a dream.

"These trout don't have a chance." That was my last positive thought for the evening. I raised my rod and the small amount of slack line I had off the reel wrapped itself around my left wrist and immediately came tight around my wristwatch. All I could do was struggle for the two seconds it took for my freshly tied Elk Hair Caddis to snap from the tippet.

The hatch came off just like the night before but instead of poetry in motion my casting was something more akin to sex on a hammock. The few rises I did get I over-struck and either pulled the fly away or snapped off two more freshly tied flies. There were wind knots without any wind, Sparkle Emerger in my neck and bushes behind me that didn't exist the night before.

I left without ever coming tight on a trout without breaking off immediately. My confidence was crushed leaving me wondering why I wanted to fish in the first place. It was just one of those nights. Before I turned and waded out I counted over a dozen actively feeding trout. I tipped my hat and reminded myself once more that hubris bites.

Don't get cocky, the trout don't like it.