Thursday, January 26, 2017

North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River

Jason Sackman drove into the parking lot right off of I-90 where my brother-in-law, Jeff, and I were waiting for him. An impromptu business trip brought us up to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and when Gracy gave me the okay to fly fish, Jason was the first person I called. After some quick goodbyes to our wives, Jeff and I loaded our gear into Jason's truck and off we drove.

"Dude, this is one of my favorite rivers." Jason said as we geared up. "The fall colors, jin-clear water, beautiful cutthroat trout... that are not leader-shy!" He continued adding emphasis on that last fact.
"My kind of place." I added with a smile, as the three of us scampered down the rocks and into the river.  
I had taken the time to rig-up my leader to do some Spanish nymphing, but as I approached a nice run I saw a rising fish. One little rising fish was all it took for me to change my Spanish nymphing outfit to a dry fly rig. That is one of the benefits of using a longer fly rod: you can get the best of both worlds and be ready for anything. The purple haze was Jason's favorite fly for this river, so it was the first one I tied on. 
Isn't it always the case? It did take me a few minutes to switch up, and now when I was ready, purple haze in hand, the fish stopped rising. 
"Damn, it!" I said under my breath, while scanning the foam-line like a hungry hawk. Nothing was breaking the surface, so I just decided to start searching that same foam-line with my purple haze. 
The little white indicator was clearly visible as it floated down the mirrored surface of the water where I had seen that fish rise, but the fly never made it down there. A small mouth broke the surface and the little white fluff of fuzz disappeared inside it.
"There you are..." I said, lifting the rod to set the hook.

There was no whooping or hollering necessary, because the little fish was thrashing the still water to the point where the sound easily projected down to Jason. Jason looked my way after hearing the splashing, and gave me a thumbs up as I brought in my fish.

The little fish darted from my hands, and because the water was so clear I got to watch it swim away for a long distance before it disappeared. 
That is my favorite part. Watching the fish swim home. I smiled as I stood there watching the fish, but the enjoyment was short lived; another fish rose in that same soft foam-line that the previous fish came from, and I snapped out of my daze and made another cast. 
"There's another one!" I yelled, getting Jason's attention, but as I did so the fish threw my hook, leaving me with this picture of it flipping me the fin.

"You should come up here!" I yelled downstream to Jason, who was fishing just within earshot.
"There's a fish rising right here!" He said back. His voice was almost incomprehensible, but I was sure I heard "rising" and "here" so my mind filled in the rest. 
Suit yourself, I thought as I looked over and saw three fish rising happily in my section of water. I didn't hold back. I picked off each fish starting with the fish furthest downstream, and just as I was releasing the third fish I heard a disturbance from downstream. It was, Jason. He had reeled in his line as was moving towards me... "Okay.  I'm coming!" He yelled upstream to me, after I had caught the three fish I would have saved for him.

"What the hell took you so long?" I asked, after having let my fish go. 
"Dude. There was this fish rising..." Jason paused, and sighed, "...and it just wouldn't take my fly. But you seem to be doing just fine." 
"Well it could just be my water column." I said, and Jason looked at me, ready to hear my theory. So I began.
"Look at the water I am fishing versus the water you were fishing. I am fishing water that is choppy with a definite current, while down where you were fishing the water had time to become smooth and calm. Smooth and calm water, especially this clear, can easily equate to snobby fish. And it's not that the fish are smarter, it's that the elements are on the side of the fish. The water is just as clear here, but I have a definite current along with a chop that offers less visibility to the fish and less time to be selective."
"Huh..." Jason said, taking in my thoughts.
"So it's not that I'm a better angler, its just that I'm fishing easier water." I said, modestly. 
"That makes sense, because we both have the same fly on." Jason added, before I pointed out two fish rising just upstream from us. 
"All yours." I said to Jason, as he made his approach.

Jason made his approach by walking back toward the bank, away from the fish, walked upstream from them, and got into position by walking downstream towards the fish. 
After a bit of casting, I waded over to Jason after noticing the fish had stopped rising during his approach. 
"Do you mind me asking why you approached the fish that way?" I asked Jason, in case he knew something I didn't. 
"What do you mean?" He asked.
"Those fish that were rising there..." I said pointing to the spot, "...that is where they live. The current in this section of water would suggest that the fish are facing upstream. You walked away and above where the fish were feeding, and approached them face-on." 
I saw the light clicking on over Jason's head, but I kept explaining. 
"Fish do two things very well, spook and feed, and they will spook before feeding. With water this clear, regardless of the current-speed and surface-chop, I would recommend approaching these fish from the rear. That would give you the best opportunity to catch them, because, above anything, we want to be invisible to the fish."  
Jason stood there looking at me before saying, "Dude, that makes so much sense." 
Jason stopped and looked at the path he took to approach the fish, and laughed at himself. 
"The funny thing is that I knew the fish would be facing forward... what was I thinking?!" Jason asked...but I believe he was talking to himself. 
"There's the fish that I was going for earlier." Jason said, as we walked back downstream to drive to a new spot. 
"Go for it!" I said. "Just adjust your cast so that your drift to the fish is three times longer than necessary." 
Jason got into a good downstream casting position, and let his fly land way ahead of the fish.
"Perfect!" I said, "Now just let it float down." 
Jason didn't respond, but I knew he was on it. He was so locked onto the placement of his fly that he reminded me of a lynx about to strike. His patience payed off. The fish that had snubbed him before took his fly this time around, and Jason wasn't about to let it get away.

"Man, I hope you don't think I'm being too authoritative by telling you what to do." I said, having realized that I'd been lecturing Jason all morning. 
"Dude, NO!" Jason said quickly. "I want you to tell me all this stuff. I learned so much from you when we fished the South Fork together. I wouldn't have even considered fishing the slicks, I would be only fishing the riffles."
"Okay, cool. I just wanted to make sure." I said, as Jason rounded up his fish.
"Mind if I take a picture?" I asked. 
"Sure!" Jason said, trying to keep his fish from wiggling around too much for me to get a shot.

"How did you do further downstream?" I asked Jeff, as Jason and I approached him heading to the truck. 
"Nothing down here. How was up there?" He asked.
"We got into a few upstream, but it's time for a new spot." I said. 
We drove down the road until we caught glimpses of rising fish. The bad thing was that we had to walk in on them from upstream, because the water got too deep further down.

Jason started fishing for some of the fish further down, while Jeff went after the ones upstream from me. And maybe it was our upstream approach, but these fish were awfully picky. We spent a fair amount of time on these fish, and only Jeff was able to fool one into taking his fly. Either way we were now getting short on time. We were told to meet back up with our wives at 5:00pm, which meant we would have to be off the water at 3:45pm to get back in time.

Although I was granted the time to fish today, a four hour day on the water is short to me, but if I wanted these small opportunities to fish during business trips then I had better not push it. 
We ended the day on a beautiful stretch of river that looked promising, but was producing no fish. It was 3:30pm and Jason had long since headed to the truck to gear down, along with Jeff. Thinking that I better head back too, I started on my way back to the truck, but then something caught my eye. Was that a rise, I thought to myself, and stopped to look more contently. 
Just up the bank from where I was standing was Jeff and Jason. Jason was already out of his waders and had fired up a small grill he had brought with him to cook up some Brawts. 
"Hey, Erik! It's about time for us to get going!" Jason yelled down to me, but I didn't reply. Maybe if I kept silent he would think that I couldn't hear him, and would go away... 
After a minute of looking, I had confirmed it was a rising fish and started to walk towards it.
"HEY! Don't act like you can't hear me!" Jason scowled from the bank. I was so focused on the rising fish that only now did I recognize Jason was standing on the soft shoulder of the road looking directly at me. 
"Oh, hey..." I said, nonchalantly. 
"Dude it's time to get going." Jason said, holding a pair of tongs.
"I still have fifteen minutes. Just yell at me when its time, and I'll come in." I lied. 
"Okay." Jason said, and walked back to the truck.

With my purple haze secure to my line I made a cast to the fish. It was steadily feeding, so my confidence was high. 
Isn't it always the case? When you feel the most confident on the river is when the river Gods decide to play. I quickly burnt up those fifteen minutes switching out flies to entice this damn fish that was still constantly feeding. I knew any second I was going to hear Jason's voice echoing up the stream to summon me back, but not before I caught this fish... But what did it want? All the little stuff didn't seem to be getting its attention, so perhaps something a little bigger? 
"HEY!" I heard from where I was standing, and knew it was Jason.
Maybe the water is too rough where I am standing, and I can't hear him... I convinced myself. I opened the little pocket on my vest where all my barb-less flies go to dry, and like a little shimmer of hope propped on top of a pile of feathers and fur glittered my pico spider. 
I snatched it out of the pocket, and threaded the eye in my first attempt.
"Eriiiiiiiiik!" I heard Jason yelling at me. His voice loomed over me like the chime of twelve midnight at Cinderella's ball, but I had my tippet twisted around itself five times. All I needed to do was push the tag in through the open loop to secure the knot, and I could cast. I pulled to secure the knot, and the tag end of the tippet slipped through the bulk of the failing knot like a kid sipping up spaghetti.
"God damn it!" I yelled, looking at the tippet that was kinked up like a slinky that was stretched too far by a toddler.
"Erik, I see you, and I know you can hear me!" Jason yelled with confidence, getting my attention.
"The grill is still too hot to store in the back of your truck!" I yelled back... it had to be.
My second knot didn't fail me. I cast out the pico spider so fast and accurately you would think I was on fly fishing Team USA. I held my breath as the pico drifted right in the feeding lane of the hungry cutthroat.
"YEAH!" I yelled, lifting the rod tip to set the hook on this troublesome trout.

It was a fun fight, but after I had it near me, I unhooked the pico to let it go. I definitely needed to get going now, but as I watched the fish swim away my jaw dropped.  Near the edges, in the riffle, and in the center of the river, heads were coming up everywhere. At that moment it dawned on me... I wasn't meant to leave right now...
I slowly stood being careful not to spook the fish that was right in front of me. Where did it come from? The reason we didn't hit this stretch of water first was because there were anglers here, and they had just taken off no more than fifteen minutes ago. I watched them leave before I walked over to target that first fish. I didn't dwell on this fact for too long before making another cast with the pico spider. Just like it's buddy, it didn't let the pico pass by without a taste. 

Two fish in the net and so many more still feeding. Another mouth broke the surface of the water, and it was easily within casting range. I stood there for a moment timing its feeding rhythm before making a cast. Jason and Jeff came to mind, and not because I was worried they would call. This, right now, was the most opportune moment for them to catch a fish, and on large flies no less. Yes, I did think about them, even if it was for a millisecond. Jeff setting the hook after seeing a cutthroat inhale his fly, Jason's smiling face fighting a fish... But they were not here, and there were fish to catch... And catch I did.

I heard the echo of Jason shutting the tailgate of his truck, and new the grill was now put away.  The grill was the last card I had in my hand, and I had already laid it on the table. Still, it had bought me enough time to hook into three more fish before the end of the day. I reeled in my line, hooked the pico spider on the built in hook latch, and started to wade back to the truck. Any angler knows that if you perform this task of "putting away" your fly by attaching it to the hook holder, it clearly means you are not done fishing. As I waded back I kept my eyes on the far side of the river, and saw exactly what I was looking for. The circular ripple of a rise had not even begun to dissipate before I had ripped enough line out of my rod tip to perform a cast. Of course, the last fish had to give me trouble, but after making a casting adjustment that included a longer drift the fish finally ate. 

This time I clipped off my fly, and stored it back into the very pocket I had pulled it from earlier to ensure I made it back to the truck. 
"Dude... it's 4:45..." Jason said, as I walked up to the truck still dripping. 
"Seriously?! Why didn't you tell me?" I asked, knowing full well we were not going to make an hour drive in fifteen minutes..
"No! You are not going to put this on me. We are late because of you." He laughed. 
"And let's face it..." Jason continued, "... I could have told you it was 6:00 and you wouldn't have come in."
"That's... not... true..." I lied with a straight face, while kicking off my boots.
"Whatever dude, your wife is going to be pissed, and I have no problem pitching you right under the bus." Jason said. 
"It's going to be okay, my wife is a bad-ass. I won't be in trouble, right, Jeff?!" I said looking at Jeff, who looked back at me with the kind of smile that would suggest otherwise. 
"Well, since we are late you could fire up the grill and warm up my Brawts?" I said, stuffing my waders away. 
"Dude, no!" Jason said, in a tone of voice that would suggest he couldn't believe that I had just asked that. 
"But I did stuff two of them into some foil for you." He finished, seeing that I was laughing. 
To my delight, the Brawts were still hot. Jason, being a gracious host, fished me up some buns to put them in. 
They were the best Brawts I had ever had, and it made the drive go by quickly. It was nice to have something to talk about, other than how much trouble I was going to be in when we got back; but as we pulled in to where we were to meet up with our wives, they were nowhere to be found.  After a quick call I discovered that they had a late lunch that kept them in town longer than expected, and after I hung up the phone I looked at both Jeff and Jason...
"Gentleman... There's a God in heaven!"

Thursday, December 15, 2016

L'Home De La France

"ERIC BACON! Bonjour!" I said with about the widest grin I could muster up at 5:00 a.m.
"Bonjour my friend. It is so good to see you!" Eric happily replied, and then gestured to the man standing to his left.
"This is John Paul." 
"Yes, John Paul!" I said, recognizing him from pictures Eric had sent me of them fly fishing in France. I shook his hand like he was a long lost friend before we made our way to the SUV. After my gear was loaded I headed for the back seat.
"No no." John Paul said quickly stopping me, "You go..." He said, and pointed to the front seat. 
I was about to protest before John Paul spoke again. 
"Eric's driving..." 
John Paul had the same shocked look of a cat that was being held over water, and he quickly turned to Eric to explain in French. I picked up a few words in their conversation, but not enough to know the full context. 
"He said..." Eric began to say, but I stopped his translation by raising my palm at him.
"All he had to say was Eric's driving, and I understood." I said. Both Eric and John Paul started to laugh, but it was right at the Mountain Home exit when I was reminded why John Paul chose the back seat. 
We came to a stop behind a train of ten to fifteen cars off the single lane exit into Mountain Home. This exit is just like every other exit: you either turn right, left, or go straight back on the freeway when it's your turn at the intersection. I sank bank into my seat, figuring we would have to wait a while before turning like everyone else, but Eric had other ideas. Bobbing his head around like a caged emu looking for food, Eric cranked the wheel left and stepped on the gas. I snapped up to attention, not anticipating his move ,as Eric proceeded to cut ahead of every car.
"Uhhhh." Was all that came out of me as a car ahead of us breaked just before we clipped his driver-side fender. Eric kept going despite my attempt to slam down on the imaginary break at my feet. I looked over to see the driver flailing his arms while signalling hand gestures one could only learn outside of the classroom.  
"That guy's pissed." I said, as we rolled by.
"Ah yes." Eric said, about as casual as warm socks, "Next time I come I should put a sticker on the car that says 'Sorry, I am French'."  Eric smiled as I looked back to John Paul who patted the backseat with a warm smile, casually leaning back and feeling safe.

"Ahhhh! It is so nice to be back here!" Eric said, after we had gone a few miles back on the dirt road heading to the South Fork.  Eric slowed the SUV to a stop and opened the door.
"I have to take a picture." He said, and hopped out.
As he did I felt the SUV slipping forward as if we were heading down a slight incline.
"Oh my God!" I said to John Paul, and pointed to the driveshaft... "He left the car in drive!"

Eric got back in and took in a deep breath before closing the door. "It smells so good out here." He said, and stepped on the gas, fully aware he had left the SUV in drive.

As soon as we caught glimpses of the river all the worry of Eric's driving washed away. I smiled at the river like I hadn't seen it in over a year, because the absolute joy it brought to Eric's face was as contagious as a case of the chickenpox.

Once on the water, Eric was keen to show me the new style of nymphing he had learned. He rigged his rod up for a quick demonstration, and had hooked into three fish before I couldn't take it anymore: I had to fish. 

I walked a little further downstream, leaving Eric and John Paul to their run of choice, and by the looks of it it was a good spot. Eric was already on his fifth fish before my fly had even touched the water, and it looked like John Paul wasn't doing too bad either. I started a French nymphing technique when I heard a familiar voice shout at me from the trees. 
"Uh, excuse me. Something I should know about?" 
A smile crept on my face, recognizing the voice and the line from Top Gun. 
"Brooooootherrrrr!!!" I yelled in response and turned to see him wading towards me, also brandishing a smile.

"That guy has caught three or four fish since I have seen him." Feef said, gesturing upstream. 
"That's Eric Bacon, Brother." 
"It is?!"
"Yep, and he is one of the most strategic anglers I have ever met." 
"Everything he does: casting, line management, fly, length of tippet... It all has a purpose." I said in earnest, adding, "He doesn't just slap on a nine foot 6-X leader and call it good."  
"Eeeeee..." Feef said through gritted teeth... 
"What?" I asked.
"I have a nine foot 6-X leader on and said screw it, that's good enough."
"Eeeeeeee..." I said back with a laugh, but was quickly distracted when a fish rose.
"Get it brother!" I said, knowing he was ready with his dry fly. Feef didn't disappoint. In the small amount of time it took me to switch my leader to a dry fly outfit, he had hooked and landed his first fish of the day.

Together we worked our way upstream, picking off fish as we ascended. Both Eric and John Paul had also started moving upstream, and by the looks of it they were doing just fine.

By the time we caught up with Eric and John Paul the pink mayflies were hatching, and my brother and I had just the pattern they were looking for.

Both Eric and John Paul had a pink pattern that was tied by one of the best, if not thee best, fly tyer in France, Christian Guimonnet. In all my involvements in fly fishing/tying, I have not seen a more appetizing fly than one Christian could produce. So it was no surprise that both Eric and John Paul were doubled-up onto some fish when Feef and I caught up.

Feef had never met Eric or John Paul, so a quick introduction across the river was all they got before Feef had to get going. He was able to hit the best part of the pink hatch before taking off, which is what he had hoped for. As we headed out, Eric had seen a fish rise while John Paul and I fixed up a sandwich. 

We watched as Eric caught a second glimpse of the rising fish, and made a cast so that his fly landed like a feather on the surface of the water. 
"Look at that!" I said to John Paul, whom was standing right beside me, also watching. I pointed down to the fly, but it wasn't the fly I was looking at. A shadow rose from the depth until it clearly became the outline of a trout, and it was pointed at Eric's fly. 
Boom! The fish took, and Eric set the hook!
"These fish love French food!" Eric yelled up to us, as he fought his fish. I patted John Paul on the back as I ran off, shimming my way down the embankment in time to see Eric land his fish.

"That is a beautiful fish." Eric said, as he slipped it back into the water. 
"Still, the dry fly fishing has really slowed down. Would you like to find a good spot to learn how to Spanish Nymph?" Eric asked me, as he stood back up from releasing the fish. 
"Absolutely!" I said back, so we drove until we found a nice spot to practice. Eric explained the specific techniques used with Spanish Nymphing, from how to cast flies with a forty foot leader, to the specifics on how to properly allow your flies to hit first on the water, and finally how to keep constant tension on those flies. 

"Wow, you catch on very quick." Eric said to me, after I had released a few fish. 
"Go ahead and take my rod, if you want, and nymph with it." He suggested. 
"Yes, if that's ok?" I said. 
"Of course.  I will watch you and let you know if you do something wrong." He said, quickly adding, "If that's ok?" 
"Yes, of course." I replied, and took his fly rod to fish on my own. 
There are so many subtle techniques to Spanish Nymphing, so I was a little worried I would completely screw it up without Eric's immediate council. Still, I walked along practicing the cast, and could really feel when I had performed the cast correctly. A correct presentation and technique allows your flies to drift through the water with you feeling every bump of a rock or, hopefully, tug of a fish. After a while of nymphing with not so much as a bump, I was starting to wonder if I was doing something wrong. Just then, in the middle of a drift, something jolted my fly to a stop. I quickly set the hook and looked back to see if Eric was looking as a fish flew out of the water again and again. 
"Yes!" Eric yelled. He had been watching after all... 

"You look French." Eric said with a smile, and with a Frenchman having just won first place during the world's fly fishing competition with Spanish Nymphing, I accepted the compliment. 
"Thanks for teaching me. I have a lot of practicing to do." I admitted, recognizing some of the mistakes I had made. 
"It's okay, you will only get better." Eric encouraged. 
"It's getting late, do you want to look for some flatter water for the evening hatch?" I asked. 
"Yes!" Eric replied, so we all piled into the SUV to find our final spot for the remainder of the day.

Being that is was passed 5:00 p.m., about 75% of the anglers had gone home for the day, leaving many of the well know flats on the river vacant. 
"This spot!" I blurted out as we came to the turning point into a campsite. I had seen that it was uninhabited at the last second, but Eric had slammed on the breaks and practically drifted into the spot, so there was no need to safely slowdown and turn around. 
"There is one!" Eric said, pointing out into the river where he had just seen a fish rise. 
"There." John Paul chimed in, also pointing, seeing another fish rise. 
"Looks like we have our spot." I said, queuing us all to turn away from the river and grab our gear. 
The three of us stepped into the river together and watched for a rising fish we could each chase down.

A ways downstream I saw a fish rising ever so delicately, and wondered if it was worth wading all the way over to it. I had seen a fish rising in half the distance, and waited a while to see if it would rise again. When it hadn't I decided it was worth chasing down the further fish, so I started towards it. I froze mid-step, as the fish that was closer had risen again, only now it was so close I could have touched it with my rod tip.  I could see the red stripe of it as it fed on the surface like it was starving, picking off small flies. I quickly readied my fly and thought about how to cast my fly to this fish. The leader I had my fly attached to was twenty feet in length, so I held the fly in my hand to perform a bow-and-arrow cast. I launched my fly out while simultaneously lifting my fly rod to make sure I didn't overshoot my fly. The fly hit the water a little more aggressively than I would have liked, but that didn't matter. The fish was mindlessly feeding, and lucky for me, it didn't let my fly pass by unnoticed. 

After I had released the fish, I looked out to see if the further fish was still rising... it was. Of course, this fish not only pulled me much further away than I wanted to wade, but it was feeding in the middle of two seams that were making it very difficult to get a drift to this fish; and when I did get a nice drift, the fish would blatantly refused my fly. I easily worked this fish for an hour, changing flies over and over and over again. I was at a complete loss as to which fly to choose next, and then it dawned on me... I reached inside my vest to pull out a little, special, fly box I keep tucked away in the secret pocket of my vest. To any angler this little fly box would be quite the irrational panoply of flies, but each fly has over twenty years of technical fish-catching history passed down to only a select fraternity of French anglers. Amongst the fellowship, this fly is called the Jasques Dauty, named after the man who created and discovered its value over decades of fishing the USA. But to the people outside of the French brotherhood, this fly is simply known as the magic fly
"Okay, Jasques. I know you are with me on this one." I whispered holding the fly in my fingers, and waiting for the right moment to present the fly. 
The fly whirled overhead as I calculated the landing and let it fall to the water. The fly approached the fish with no flaw in the presentation, and passed over its head like it wasn't there. 
"What the hell?" I said, and was about to pull up my line for a second cast when the fish did a 180 turn, and ate the magic fly! 
"For, Jasques Dauty!" I yelled upstream to Eric and John Paul, as the fish bolted downstream. When the fish finally tired, I could see that the magic fly was safely secure in the fish's upper lip.

"You were going for that fish for a long time." Eric said to me after I had regrouped with him and John Paul. 
"Yep, but I got it with the magic fly!" I said with a smile.
"Yes! That's why you said it was for Jasques?"
"Yep." I replied, and shot over a smile. 
"The fish are starting to rise." John Paul said, looking at the water. 
"Oh!" Was all Eric said, before darting away at the nearest rising fish. John Paul made a cast to a nearby fish when his line jolted to a stop. He looked back to see his fly stuck in a tree and said something in French, that I am sure meant, darn...

"It's just out of reach." Said John Paul as he strained to grab his fly. 
"Is it one of Christian's flies?" I asked, as I stepped over to help.
"Yes." He said, and we both worked together to get his fly out of the tree.
"Grab that..." I said, after reaching with the butt section of John Paul's fly rod so that it hooked over the branch the fly was connected to. The long branch bent down as I pulled on it, and John Paul was able to pinch and hold a small twig that was connected to the main branch. I let go of his fly rod to get a better hold on the branch, because his fly was almost in reach. John Paul held onto his fly rod that was still hooked over the branch, as I went to grab a bigger part a few steps away when the small twig John Paul was holding snapped
The branch sprang up launching his fly into obscurity, leaving me shielding my face and John Paul holding the tip of his fly rod; the rest of his fly rod had come apart and was hooked on the original branch above our heads.
Both John Paul and I looked at each other after the sudden commotion stilled, only to realize we were worse off than when we started. A yell off to our left grabbed our attention. It was Eric, and he has hooked into a fish.  John Paul untangled the rest of his fly rod out of the shrubbery before we waded over to assist Eric.

"Oh my goodness, this is a nice fish." Eric said, palming his reel as the fish made for a run. I placed my fly rod on the bank and waded downstream to help land his fish. I waited for the right time to approach his fish, because right now it was just too fired up.  A premature landing may cause the fish to bolt and snap the line, and we definitely didn't want that. As suspected, the fish started to tire, and I could see the head coming out of the water. I took a few long steps out and slipped my net under the fish to land it. 

Eric didn't spend too much time admiring his fish, because there were now rising fish in every direction we looked.  In fact, as Eric was fighting that last fish, John Paul had hooked and landed a fish on his own. We were definitely in the right spot because soon after I was in a fish too.

"Me too, me too!" Eric yelled back at me, after I had made my hooked fish known. Both of our fish were all kinds of fired up, and were making us wade downstream almost side by side. Eric's fish came in first, and because he was just downstream from me, he landed my fish in the same net as his.
"I think my fish is the bigger one." He said with a smile as he approached me. 
"I bet you do." I said back, as we slipped both of our fish back into the water.

"I think I better stop with that fish." Eric said, as he gathered his fly line back together. 
"Are you kidding? There are still so many fish rising out there." 
"But I cannot see." Eric said. 
"One more fish!" I chanted about three times before Eric stood back up, smiled, and said... "Okay, one more!" 
"Yeaaaaaah!" I said, standing along side Eric and wading out into the darkness. 
"THERE!" Eric yelled.
"Geez, already?" I said, as it had to have been his first cast to a fish. Either way, he was done for the night, and stopped to make his last cast at the South Fork one with a fish attached to it.  

Eric took a quick picture of Christian's fly in the fish's mouth before letting it go.

"Come on, Erik, you have to stay out here until you catch a fish!" Eric yelled at me from the bank. 
I was beginning to regret my decision to go for one more as I waded deeper and deeper out in the river. If before we could hardly see, now it was impossible. I stood with my fly in my hand listening for a rise. 
The sound of a rising fish is subtle, but the slight disturbance in a riffle makes it unmistakable. Blind to its exact location, I cast slightly upstream from where I hear the noise and didn't hear it again. After a few casts I was starting to lose hope, but in the middle of a drift I heard it.... Blop!
"BLAM!  I GOT YOU!" I yelled, as I felt the weight of a fish.
"YES!" Eric yelled from the bank, as I slowly started wading backwards towards him. Splashes and the thrashing of water was the only indication I had hooked a fish. It was too dark to see the fish in action, as it fought to get away. Eric didn't wait to be asked for help. As I brought in the fish I saw his silhouette out in the water, and he was already in position to land the fish. He stood there not moving a muscle, and therefore the fish had no idea he was there. I angled my fly rod around to bring the fish right at Eric, who scooped up the fish as soon as it was in reach.
"Last cast!" I said smiling, and held the fish up for a picture.

"It is always good to fish with you." Eric said to me, as we put our gear together. 
"It is never long enough." I said back, and meant it. 
"You were right, one more fish." He said smiling. 
"It took me a little longer to get my fish." I said.
"I was starting to worry, but then I remembered... I am fishing with Erik Moncada. Of course he will catch a fish." Eric said, matter-of-factly.
"Now you're making me blush." I said back with a smug smile.

"Very good fishing with you." John Paul said, and shook my hand to authenticate his words. 
"Yes, and very nice to meet you."
"Now you know three people in France, so you have to come and visit!" Eric said. 
"I will do my best to get over there." I said, as we drove away from the South Fork.

Wingers was our final stop of the night, and we all ordered their gourmet salads which passed the taste test of both Eric and John Paul. We ate as they shared memories from fishing their home waters in France. The time flew by as we spoke about French rivers and how they differ from the US, French flies, and the Spanish nymphing technique... Indeed, the night lasted hours, but with three trout bums reminiscing around the table...we never noticed. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An Old Friend

"Oh no! Dude... Don't tell me!" Said a worried Jason Sackmann. Jason had come from Spokane, Washington, to Boise for work, and was able to squeeze in a day of fishing with me, something we had been trying to accomplish ever since I discovered that Jason fly fished. I stood over my fly gear on the South Fork of the Boise, just about to piece together my fly rod, when I set it back down to go see what Jason didn't want me to tell him.
"What's up?" I asked, peeking around the trunk of the car. Jason was rummaging through the trunk of the car, which was empty except for one fishing pack that he kept shifting around as if something was purposefully hiding behind it.
"Dude... I think I left my vest." He said, turning over the fishing pack for a fifth time before coming to the realization his vest was not playing hide and seek.
"Don't worry about it, I have plenty of flies for us." I said, and walked back to my fly rod without a worry. 
"Oh no! Oh you've got to be KIDDING ME!" 
I hadn't even put together the first section of my fly rod before Jason erupted for a second time. 
"What now?" I asked, speaking a bit louder this time, so that I could continue gearing up.
"My reel was in my vest pocket..." Jason said, sounding like his excitement bubble had just been deflated. 
"Geez, when it rains it pours." I said, peering around the trunk to look at Jason.

The look on his face made me erupt in laughter, but Jason was not following suite. I know exactly how he felt. I too had once forgot my reel on a fishing trip, and it was like running smack-dab in the face of a dementor: worry, panic, denial, and an ice cold chill that floods your mind to the point where you feel like you can never be cheerful again. Those of you who have experienced this dread know that not even a good piece of chocolate can help. Still laughing, I strolled over to my gear bag and pulled out an extra Lamson reel that I quickly handed to Jason. As soon as the reel hit his hands I could tell a small weight had been lifted.

 With our, I mean my, gear secured to our fly rods, we headed downstream to find a nice place to start fishing. 

 Other than chatting via Facebook, Jason and I hadn't seen each other in over sixteen years. Our friendship had been rekindled through fly fishing, and as we walked he told stories about old friends that I haven't thought about in a long time. I could tell his mood had greatly improved in a matter of minutes as we walked and talked, and after a funny story he turned towards me. 
"So how about you, man, what have you been up to?" He asked, happily.
"Me?" I said with cheer. "Well lately I have been wondering how the hell someone could have forgotten their fly fishing vest and fly reel when they knew they were going to fish the South Fork of the Boise River today." 
Jason's smile faded faster than Jimmy John's delivery.
"Dude...?" He said, with a pleading note in his voice. 
I again started laughing, then pointed to the water. 
"Come on. We're here, let's fish." 

"So how would you approach this?" Jason asked, standing in the water and unhooking his fly.
"I like to cast my fly upstream around those rocks. Almost like I'm searching for fish on a small creek." I said, pointing to the riffles created by the rocks where I thought fish may be holding. Jason nodded and started fishing a great looking run just downstream from us. 
"Would you like to hit that first?" I asked, pointing my rod tip at a small pocket of water just behind a snag.
"No, go ahead." Jason said, and started to fish a small pocket just downstream.
I cast my fly to the small pocket of water and lost sight of it, then it fell to the surface. I still kept my eye on the pocket, because I knew my fly would eventually drift over it. I saw a small flash just at the surface of the water, and decided to set the hook.

"Hey, Jason!" I said looking over to him while my fly rod danced with a fish.
"Already? Seriously... I hate you!" He said back, and watched me bring in my fish.

"Okay, seriously... teach me me how you are fishing." Jason said, abandoning his spot to join me. 
"You bet." I said, and I quickly explained my tactic and why I think it works. Jason caught on to the approach quickly and began to fish.

"Let me see what fly you are using" I said after hooking into another fish. I saw it was not the same fly I was using. 
"Want to switch your fly? The one I have on is working." I asked.
"Yeah, if that's okay." Jason said, and I started pulling out my fly box. As I looked for the right fly, I noticed some fuzz attached to my fishing vest. I looked up at Jason and saw he was looking at the river while I scanned my box for a fly. Without him noticing I plucked off the fuzz from my vest and quickly rolled it in between my fingers. After a quick second I looked at the fuzz and saw it looked like it could pass for a small mayfly, which is exactly what I was hoping for. 
"Here you go." I said, and handed over the fly/fuzz so that only a small part was sticking out of my fingers. For all Jason knew, that was the wing of the fly sticking out. Jason pulled out his forceps and opened the jaws to grasp the fly, but just as the jaws of his forceps clamped down, I dropped it.  
"WHOA!" Jason yelped, as he saw the object hit the river. His fingers jabbed at the piece of fuzz like a frantic feeding chicken as it drifted downstream. In a last desperate attempt to catch what he thought was a fly, Jason started clawing at the river and was just about to bolt downstream until he looked up at me. I was watching him with my hand covering my mouth, visibly shaking with laughter.
"Uhhh" Jason grunted, and started to smile and laugh at himself. 
"All I was thinking was, 'how could you be so careless with your flies?'" He said with a laugh as I handed him the real fly and he started fishing.

Jason didn't disappoint. A rising fish caught his eye and he presented a most scrumptious fly. The fish took and Jason played the fish like a pro.

Sadly we were near the end of our day, because Jason had to get back to Boise for a dinner arrangement. 
"I'm staying at their house, so it would be quite rude of me blow them off."  He explained, as I tried to talk him into staying until the evening hatch. 
"I understand." I finally said, and we geared down to head out.
"I had fun, and you taught me a lot of new stuff I am going to try on my home rivers." Jason said, as we drove away from the river.
"I need to get up their to fish." I said.
"If you come up, let me know." He said back.
"You will be the first person I call." I said. Jason nodded with some encouragement, and my mind started working on how I could get up to visit Jason this season.