Tag Archives: rainbow trout

THERE’S NO WAY THEY COULD’VE KNOWN

10, 9 and 7 years ago. Swaddled and warm in their loving mother’s arms, just hours after their respective births. Brand new in this great big world. Awash in soft, far-away dreams as their dad cradled and paced and crooned stories of the great adventures they’d have someday. There’s no way they could’ve known what life had in store.

But now. Now they know.
Poor kids never stood a chance.

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, On the water

GOING DUTCH – THE BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL

Ben Smith from Arizona Wanderings recently launched an online literary venture that’s dedicated to the outdoorsman and committed to excellence in writing– The Backcountry Journal. Since it’s inception, the site has already featured stories from Andy Wayment (contributor to Upland Equations), Erin Block (Mysteries Internal) and Ben as well. I’m pleased to say that I’m now included on that list.

When you have a minute, head over to The Backcountry Journal and check out my contribution – GOING DUTCH.

I bought a train ticket and boarded at Den Haag Centrum at 6:21 a.m. for a twenty-two minute ride to Rotterdam, catching a subway at Rotterdam Centrum bound for Spijkenisse. In my journal I scratched notes in hopes of capturing small knots I could untangle in poems at some later point…

Walking out of the train station doors at Spijkenisse, I spotted Harry leaning on his matchbox-sized red Opel in the short-term parking area across the street. Given the fact that I was the only passenger in the tiny, rural terminal, arriving or departing, there was no scanning the crowd to figure out who each other might be. My gear bag and rod tube might have been a giveaway as well. He met me half way with a handshake. The rainbows, they should be hungry today.

Read on…

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, On the water, The road

THE IDAHO TRIP: SOUTH FORK OF THE SNAKE

DAY 1

By 9:30 we had packed the truck, eaten some breakfast, gassed and coffee’d up and were on the road for our four hour haul to Idaho Falls. When we cleared the 30-some miles of construction east of Boise, I leveled out at 85 mph and and settled into the left lane. Highway 84 through wide prairie, fields of grain and farmsteads set back miles off the road. Past Mountain Home, Twin Falls and Rupert to highway 86 and on through American Falls and Pocatello. Then north on 15 through Blackfoot finally easing into Idaho Falls around 1:00.

About 45 minutes after we checked into the hotel, and a half-dozen phone calls to clarify directions, we met Colby Hackbarth from Kast Extreme Fishing Gear at a church parking lot off the Yellowstone Highway. After a couple handshakes, we threw our gear into the back of his truck and hit the road for the South Fork of the Snake with his jet boat in tow.

Colby was a guide in Alaska for around 10 years and has been fishing the South Fork since he was 8 when he used to drift with his granddad, so when he reported that the water and weather should be stellar and that we should be into some toads on streamers come dusk, I could feel the first twinges of adrenaline tighten my chest and raise the hair on my arms and the back of my neck.

I don’t know whether it was me settling into some sort of 6th-day-on-the-road groove or the aura of a potential X-games-esque afternoon of fishing, but at that moment I was feeling somewhere between Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine. I was ready to take the mic and the mosh pit.

After a stop at South Fork Outfitters to pick up some bite-intel, a half-dozen sex dungeons and a decent hoodie so I wouldn’t freeze after the sun left the river, we drove another ten minutes to the Spring Creek boat launch. Rods rigged, gear stowed, Colby fired up the 90-horse Johnson, eased us out into the current, and lit out down-river for the first of his money spots– a heavy hatch of drift boats coming off in every direction.

It took less than 100 yards of drifting past perfect, trophy trout-holding river bank while I flailed my 8 wt. into half-assed streamer cast after half-assed streamer cast for that whole Beastie/Rage feeling to completely die. Another 200 yards and some brilliant line tangles and I started making up new cuss words, since none of the old ones seemed strong enough. Grant was gracious enough to hold the heckling for another time.

I was gutted. Bleeding out. Wasting world-class water and great drift position. Colby could see it, so he jumped from the oars to the engine and nosed us up onto a gravel bar. We switched to nymphing rigs and fished the riffles for a half hour or so. No bites, but the break got my head back in the game. As some weather began to rumble to the south of us, we piled back into the boat and moved on.

Maybe a half-mile down-river we had pulled up on another gravel bar and I was drifting a heavy point/dropper nymph rig through a deep chute. Two, three, four casts. Near seam, far seam, down the middle. A few steps with the current, another cast. The indicator dropped and I came tight against what I thought was the bottom, until the bottom flexed and took the shape of a strong cutbow–a rainbow/cutthroat hybrid. When Colby netted that fish, I could feel the High Plains Drifter making his way back.

After I let the fish slip back into the current, Colby told us that Idaho Fish and Game put a bounty on the head of several hundred (possibly thousand) hybrids to help promote the reduction of this source of pure cutthroat genetic dilution. They actually embedded tags in the heads of these fish and are offering up to $1,000 for the return of said heads. I’m not always the smartest dude in the room, but it seemed odd that they would spend the time and money to tag that many fish, only to spend more money rewarding other people to decapitate and turn in. Interesting.

Back on the drift, and back on my 8 wt. slinging a tan sex dungeon at the bank, my cast were on. Finally. I was dropping that fly on their front porch. Fish would appear from deep behind boulders, swing and miss, swing and miss again. Big fish. Then a cutty hit the fly and dove for the bottom. It wasn’t a long fight, but it was a damn fine fish.

Colby had a couple stretches back toward where we launched that he wanted to hit before it got too dark, so I got down from the back deck, sat down and we turned into the current for the ride back up-river. Every spot we drifted was money. Giant, hook-jawed browns, football-fat ‘bows and shadow-like cutties appearing from nooks and crannies all along the rock walls and brush-filled banks. But with dozens of swings, strikes, flashes and how’d that fish not get hooked?! I turned only one fish that promptly took my line into the engine and made off with my streamer. It was nuts.

As dusk went from a hint to last-call, we drifted one last stretch above the launch. I laid the streamer into a trough across a gravel bar that was under a couple feet of water. One strip and the water exploded. An immense brown peaked three feet out of the water, came tight in mid-air, crashed back into the water and shook the hook.

It’s all good. We’ll be back tomorrow.
Welcome to the South Fork.

 

 

 

 

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ON THE HORIZON

Father’s day is this weekend. I honestly had no idea. I’ve got to get out from under this rock…

Now that I’m cognizant of the fact that it’s Dad’s weekend…I’m going to do some fishing.

Saturday will find me and another friend in our kayaks at the south end of Canandaigua Lake and on up into the West River. We’ll be chasing bass and pickerel with fly rods, primarily. Who knows, a few rogue browns and bows might still be lurking around.

Sunday I’ll be taking the kids out to the bass ponds out at my in-law’s place. You’ve heard of shootin’ fish in a barrel…doesn’t get more target rich than this. They never get bored. Neither do the fish.

We’re also heading down to Hendersonville, NC next weekend to visit some family…aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandma. Need to get the kids down there to spend some time with great-grandma Nora while we have some time to get away… and while she’s still with us. I think it’s going to be a difficult reality for my oldest to wrestle with, but she’s blessed with “old-soul” insight– she’s got an uncanny knack for understanding.

Usually there’s a golf outing with my Dad and uncles on trips like this. Probably will be again. But I’m going to take one morning and cast small flies to big trout on the Davidson River. I mean, it’s only a half hour drive from Hendersonville… of course I’m going to escape for a morning. I’ve been in touch with Cameron Mortenson from The Fiberglass Manifesto, whose home territory includes the Davidson, and he’s been generous enough to pass on some river intel. I’m psyched.

So, stay tuned for pics, possibly another video or two. And in case I don’t get a chance to holler again before…
Happy Father’s Day.

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STREAMSIDE HOSPITALITY

Stan had pulled up a sunny patch of shoreline at the base of a massive ponderosa pine, fly rod laid on the ground next to him. Blue jeans and jean shirt, panama hat and a white beard. I had no idea how long he’d been there before I noticed him, but he looked like he was perfectly happy to stay until the day was over watching the afternoon pass. It was our second day on the Metolius and I had been standing on a gravel bar in waist-deep water, 35 yards out into the river for the better part of an hour, fishing down into a big pool and eddy below me. We we’re on the stretch from Bridge 99 to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

Downstream from Bridge 99

Downstream from Bridge 99

Earlier, I was looking at the same pool from a spot on the shore downstream. Casting with the pines and brush in my back pocket wasn’t too promising a scenario…it was 40 yards to the head of the pool anyway. A little further upstream, I noticed a color change above the pool. A section of copper beneath the surface about 15 yards wide that slid neatly along the edge of the main current and stopped short of the deep aqua-teal. I walked 50 yards back upstream and weaseled my way out into a secondary run, closer to shore and about 4 feet deep. One deliberate step after another I made my way toward the gravel bar.

Oh yea, goood current, I say out loud, about halfway there.
The voice in my head adds, you are so screwed.

cheese

Cheese

Josh on the gravel bar

Josh on the gravel bar

I took two more steps and felt the bottom start to incline. Once settled in on my nice little peninsula, a took to drifting the same gold stone and batman combo from the afternoon before through the pool – first close then deeper into the meat of it. I cast right, toward the shore, for a longer, slower swing. Left into the main current to tumble the flies out into the pool at varying intervals. Not 10 minutes had passed before a nice strike reminded me that I should probably double check my footing. The next cast, bingo. I managed to keep the rainbow in the pool and out of the main current. Josh was close enough this time to hear me holler. He jogged up to get as good a picture as you can take from 35 yards. You’ll have to take my word on this one…the pic is still on Josh’s camera.

As Josh walked back down to where he ran from, I clipped and retied the batman, just to put a good knot back on it before I cast again. I cast again. The flies reached the end of their swing and I let them hang for a second or two. As my mind’s eye pictured them starting to rise against the current, a big brown stopped them cold.

HELL yea!

Josh hollered something too, but I couldn’t quite make it out. Probably better I didn’t.

The fish went for the main current. I managed to turn him back into the pool and worked him toward me. He stayed deep and heavy, with big head-swings like browns do. As I got him up next to me and lowered my net, he gave me one last swing. The fly let loose, and in one slow, deliberate flex he was gone, gone, gone. God I love fishing. Josh moved into a run upstream from me. Between the sun, sound and pace of the river and the last electric twinges in my chest from the fish, my mind went on a distant walk for a while.

A strange voice from over on the shore, Stan brought my daydream to a halt, asking Josh if we’d got anything. The two of them proceeded to shout their conversation back and forth over the water.

Yea, I’m up helping my daughter find a place in Corvalis, hollers Stan.

My girlfriend is moving out of a place in Corvalis, Josh hollers back.

What?

My GIRLFRIEND is MOVING OUT of a place in CORVALIS.

And so it went for about 15 minutes, until Stan walked off to, presumably, get a pen and paper from his truck so he could scratch down Josh’s number. Stan returned about ten minutes later with pen and paper, and two longneck Budweisers, which he held up and motioned us over with. A grizzly would’ve been impressed with how quickly I navigated those 35 yards to the shore.

Josh and I pulled up some ground next to Stan, a long-haul trucker out of Nevada, shaking hands and accepting his gracious streamside hospitality. We sat for a while talking about traveling, places he’s lived, great fishing rivers and all the flies he lost in trees and bushes downstream. If you can get at ’em, they’re yours. He must’ve packed three or four dips of Copenhagen in about a twenty minute period.

After Stan left, we continued fishing, exploring a bunch of miles further downstream. There were sections that stayed 15 feet deep, fast and gin clear for a quarter mile. Rapids and runs that looked like the sun itself flowing through the canyon. Huge bends with giant deadfalls and hungry, bottomless, swirling undercuts. We saw two bald eagles gliding on up-currents above the canyon walls, not far from their immense nest. I was even fortunate enough to see an elk run a ridge on the opposite bank above us, loop down to within 40 yards and bolt off to where she came from.

Sun

Sun on the water

Getting a good look

Getting a good look

Now, I’m not sure if it’s because of Stan, but there’s something in the graciousness of others that opens the eyes to the bigger picture. I can tell you this, if he hadn’t been there, and we hadn’t taken the time to stop thinking about nothing but the next bite, those miles we explored downstream would’ve looked entirely different. Thanks Stan.

Thumbs up

Thumbs up

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