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.

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