Monday, April 14, 2014

My Brother is Back

“I just want to get out to that Owyhee...” My brother, Kris, said in desperation as he just landed in Boise.  He took a job in construction that placed him in Bakersfield, California, and living there has left him with an itch to return to Idaho and fly fish as soon as possible.  The flowers from the Long-Leaved Phlox created a sea of purple out on the Owyhee River, and it was a welcomed sight for my brother. 
“God, it’s good to be back!” He said as we neared the river.  Also accompanying us was, good friend and former Navy Seal, Dedrick Foust, who was also dying to fish the Owyhee.  I knew my brother would be interested in meeting him, and the three of us fishing together would make for some good times. 

We pulled over to look into the river and saw some rising fish! 
“This looks like our spot!” I said, as Dedrick whipped the truck around, parked, and jumped out faster than a Navy Seal...  Kris, aka Feef, was the first to gear up and hit the water. 
“What did you tie on?” I asked, before he headed down. 
“A pico spider, of course!” He said without looking back.  Dedrick and I hadn’t even finished putting our rods together when we heard, “I got one!” 

Sure enough, Feef was fighting his first fish of the day.  
“Well, welcome back, Brother!”  I said before Dedrick and I finished gearing up, and bolted to the river with pico spiders attached to our leaders.  The fish were rising all around as Dedrick flick out his pico.  A fish took it and Dedrick set the hook, snapping his tippet!  
“Whoa!” I said, laughing after Dedrick’s face went from happy to pissed.  
“Just a slight hook set is all you need.” I told Dedrick, as I handed him another pico spider.  As Dedrick tied his fly on, Feef made his way further downstream and said, “I got another one!”  
“Nice!” I yelled over to him, while Dedrick said, “He’s catching all of our fish!” 
“Your fish is right over there.” I pointed, and Dedrick watched as fish after fish rose, just downstream from a big rock. 

Dedrick got into position and presented his fly.  A fish rose, and he set the hook.  His fly flew right towards us, and landed just shy of our feet. 
“I thought that fish took your fly too.” I said, as Dedrick went back to casting.  The fish were still feeding like crazy, and Dedrick presented the perfect cast!  
“Can you see your fly?” I asked quickly. 
“Yeah, I think so...” Dedrick said, as a fish rose, taking in his fly.
“That’s you!” I said, but Dedrick had already lifted his rod tip, and the fish was on! 

The fish struggled to get away: splashing as it shook vigorously to free itself.  Dedrick kept his line taught, and I slipped my net under the fish after it had calmed down a bit.  
“That’s the biggest brown trout I have ever caught!” Dedrick said happily, as he held up the fish for a picture.  

The fish slipped away from Dedrick’s hands after placing it back into the water, and the distant sounds of a fighting fish caught our attention.  I looked downstream to see that Feef had on another fish!  He didn’t see me walking towards him as he netted the fish. 
“Don't let it go; I want to get a picture of you.” I said, as he took the hook out of the fish’s mouth, and placed it into the water to release it.  

“I’m tearing it up today, Brother.” Feef said to me, as he clipped his net to his magnet. 
“I know. Good job, Brother.” I said, adding, “So far, I'm the only one who hasn’t caught a fish!” 
“Well, let's change that!” Feef said enthusiastically. 
I spotted my fish just upstream, and presented a BWO RS2 into it’s feeding lane.  
“That was a nice cast there, Brother.” Feef said, just before my fly was taken by a fish.  I set the hook, and brought the fish in fast because I didn’t want to spook the other rising fish. 

After a quick picture, we met up with Dedrick, who had hooked up with another fish, but lost it in the fight.  Together the three of us stood, just downstream, watching more fish rise.  One fish in particular was rising in a very hard-to-reach spot.  We could see it franticly rising just between a rock and an overhanging bush. 
“I can get em’.” Feef said, readying his fly and moving into a better position to make a precision cast. 
“You better not screw this up, Brother.” I said, adding to the pressure.  Dedrick and I stood back and watched as Feef started to cast. 
One false cast, then two and three... The distance was set, and Feef presented his fly... right into the overhanging brush.
“Nooo!!!” He yelled, as he tugged on his line that was now stuck firmly in the bush.  
“Geez, how embarrassing...” I said, smugly. “Perhaps you should let a pro show you how it’s done.” I said as I took his spot on the river after he broke off his fly.  

The pocket to land the fly was only about a foot big, and the feeding lane of the fish was a much smaller target.  My first few attempts were a bit short, and my brother was right there each time, saying, “Don’t screw it up!”  I kept silent, focused on my target, and on the timing of the fish.  Finally: a perfect cast!  My Helios 2 laid out a beautiful arch in my fly line, causing my leader to fully extend; placing my fly right where it needed to be.  I watched the little CDC puff of my fly as it floated right into the feeding lane of the fish.
“Take it you damn fish.” I said, as my fly sat right where it needed to be... and nothing.  The current drug my fly line, which caused my fly to be lightly swept under the water and away from the rising fish; but just then, an even larger fish I hadn’t seen before reared its big head and took my fly as it swept by.  I set the hook, and the red/copper flashed indicated a nice sized fish. 
“This is a big fish!” I said, keeping my line tight, but not too tight; I did not want to lose this fish.  Feef reacted quick by taking out his net and having it ready, just in case I needed help.  I too unhooked my net and had it stretched out to the fish, but the fish had different plans. As soon as it felt the net touch it bolted out.  I dropped my net, and went back to fighting the fish. 
“He doesn’t want to come in!” I yelled, as Dedrick and Feef stood back and watched.  A second attempt to net the fish failed, and I wasn’t sure how long this 6X tippet would last after being raked across this fish’s teeth.  The fish was starting to significantly lose its fight, and I had made the decision that if my line snapped I would dive for this fish!  Thankfully, that was not necessary.  On my third attempt, the fish came in much easier. I slipped the net under it, and it was landed! 

The colors of this fish were fantastic! The deep red-ish copper colors stood out vibrantly in the cloud cover. 

“That is a nice fish there, Brother!” Feef said, as I handed him the camera.  I held up the fish, and right when he took the picture, the fish kicked, leaving me with this, less than desirable, picture. 

The fish flopped back into the water and I grabbed it and held it in the current.  When the fish was ready, it kicked off slowly, back into it’s hiding spot.  
“That was cool!” I said, shaking the water from my hands. Feef and Dedrick stood, watching where the fish swam, and I looked up at Feef to see that a baetis had clung on to his fresh, new beard. 

We each split up, searching with our favorite terrestrial pattern, as the hatch had significantly tapered off.  And it never fails! As soon as I changed my fly, I found a fish sipping on the fly I had just removed from my line.  I stepped back from the feeding fish to re-tie on my fly. 
“Got one!” I hear Feef say.  He was right upstream from me, bringing in a fish. 
“Don’t let it go, I need a picture of you!” I said, as I forgot about my fish, and headed up to him.  He netted it easily, and held it up for this picture. 

“It really slowed down.” Feef said, as the day went on and we hadn’t seen a fish in a while.  I went back to the fish I had seen rising a little bit ago, and ended up spooking it before I could make a cast.  I watched as it bolted away, and thought, that was stupid, because I had approached the fish all wrong.  

The day was cruising by and the meadowlark’s songs were echoing over the water as it trickled over the rocks.  All that was interrupted by the distant sounds of Dedrick yelling downstream to us.  I was too far away to hear what he was saying, but I did see his rod tip in the air, arched over fighting a fish!  Feef was half way between us, so I yelled over to him, “Dedrick doesn’t have a net!  Get up to him!” Feef started reeling up his line to help, when were heard another call from Dedrick. 
“..Big fish...” Was all I could make out, before I jumped on the bank, and ran upstream.  Feef was making his way up through the river, but couldn’t move as fast as I was on the bank.  To my surprise, Dedrick had already brought in the fish and was holding it under the water.  

“Very nice!” I said, as I got to Dedrick. 
“It just came up and ate my fly.” Dedrick told me excitedly; “I threw it right over there...” He said pointing to the river, “...when it came up, and took my fly!”  
“Well, let's get a picture!” I said, and Dedrick quickly picked up the fish. 

It was indeed a very nice fish to catch on your first day fishing the Owyhee.  I was clicking on the camera, taking a few pictures, when on the third click, the fish kicked to get away and we ended up with a fish-flop picture!

While the morning was hot for fishing, the end of the day petered off significantly.  It had been a while since any of us caught a fish, and it was nearing time to head out.  Feef and I walked upstream, and for a quick second, he had hooked into a fish that spit his fly out. 
“Damn fish!” He yelled, as I looked away to hide my smile.  I had just about made the decision to head back when a small dimple disturbed some water, indicating a feeding fish.  I was closer to it than what I would've wanted to be, so I kneeled down to be more stealthy.  I carefully casted out my pico spider, and with a plop it landed right where it needed to be.  I watched the fish as its tail pushed it forward, eating my fly!  I stood as I set the hook and brought in the last fish of the day. 

We started our walk back to the truck when we found Dedrick standing on a big rock and casting. 
“Well, look at Brad Pit down there! I said, "Are you doing some shadow casting?”  Feef started laughing, and I smiled down at Dedrick, who looked up at me and said, “What?”  
“He dosn’t get it.” Feef said to me and we both chuckled as Dedrick made a few more casts before coming in. 

Soon we were all back at the truck and geared down.  Feef took one more look around.  The springtime offer sa nice scenic view out on the Owyhee, as the red canyon rocks poke though the green foliage, creating a spectacular sight. 

“When is the next time you are headed out?” Dedrick asked. 
“I’m not sure. I don’t want to come out too much; I can get sick of it sometimes.”  I said back. 
“Brother, you have no idea.” Feef said, as he once felt the same way when he lived in Boise.  But now that he is gone, and the great fishing opportunities are no longer present, I know that he wishes he could come here every weekend. 
“Overall, it was a good day.  We all caught fish!” I said, happily. 
“Heck yeah!” Dedrick yelled! 
“Yep, and tomorrow I head back to stupid Bakersfield...” Feef said, “...and I already can’t wait to come back!” 

Friday, April 11, 2014

March 31

Soft pillows of thick snow floated down at the South Fork of the Boise river on the last day open.  Most would be sick of the snow this late in the season; but as an angler, the opportunity to fly fish in the snow offers a serenity that you can only understand if you are there to experience it. 

Steve Kip, a good friend and fellow fly fisherman, was already on his way to the South Fork before I had notified him I was interested in joining.  Needless to say, despite being half way to Mountain Home, he turned around to pick me up. 

While Steve rigged up to do some traditional nymphing, I set up the Shadow 2, Euro style.  Though effective, Euro nymphing comes with its draw-backs, as not everything that hooks up is a fish.  Rocks, sticks, and this bundle of flies, shrubbery, and caddis casings are all things you can dredge up on a hook set. 

Whatever the risk of catching a few sticks are, it’s nothing compared to the success this style of nymphing offers; I had already lost count of the number of fish I had brought to the net in a very short amount of time.  Steve had hooked into some white fish, and his next fish was also fighting like a white fish.  
“Not another white fish!” Steve said bitterly.

“Get off!” Steve said to his fish, adding slack to his line, but the fish was going nowhere. 
“I guess I’ll have to bring it in...” He said, rather unhappily. But as Steve lifted his rod, bring the fish’s head out of the water, I noticed the color of the fish. 
“Steve, that looked like a bull trout!”   

“It IS a bull trout!” Steve said happily, “I have never caught one of these before!” 
Steve did a good job keeping it in the water.  While the fish was in his net, I pointed out the white stripes that mark the face of the fins and the orange spots on the flanks, indicating a bull trout.  Steve took it out for a quick picture before releasing it back into the water.  The bull trout darted away aggressively, and Steve looked up at me with a big smile, saying, “That was cool!” 

Steve remained upstream while I walked downstream, but before we separated, Steve was sure to point out the rarities of catching a bull trout, saying, “I bet you wish you could get a bull trout.” 

White fish after white fish was being caught with no bull trout in sight.  Though my rig was performing well, I wasn't getting the accuracy I wanted. Rumor has it that while nymphing, accuracy is not terribly important.  Perhaps it comes with years of dry fly fishing, but I wanted my nymphs to hit a very specific spot on the run.  Switching up my leader a little bit did the trick, and it paid off because the next fish I caught leaped out of the water, indicating a rainbow trout

When a white fish fights, it tends to stay low in the water and it is extremely rare for one to jump. Perhaps its equilibrium is better than a rainbow trout, but a fish jumping is a sure indication you have a rainbow trout on this river.  

Once more I was picking off white fish when I heard a strange trumpet noise coming from the woods.  Turkey, was the only thing I thought it could be, and curious to see one, I set my rod down and bolted into the woods.  The squawking was so loud as I walked further away from the water, and at a crouch, I saw something that wasn’t a turkey.  The tan body stepped lightly through the shrubs in the distance and disappeared before I could get a better look.  Later, after I played a recording of the trumpet noise to a friend, I discovered that what I saw and heard was a sandhill crane.  

The crane’s call was echoing throughout the river as we continued to fish.  It was white fish central, as I hooked one after another.  I was getting much better at determining my strikes with my slinky, and set the hook on another fish!  The fish bolted, ripping line out of my reel.  It’s putting up a great fight, I thought as I regained control, bringing in this little white fish.  I had already caught white fish that would easily double the size of this guy, but the fight this white fish put up was picture worthy.  

The little white fish darted off, and Steve was hooked into a fish upstream. By his lack of enthusiasm, I knew he had caught another white fish.  My attention had quickly gone back to my fishing, especially after I had hooked into something big.  The fish took off downstream, and in order to stop line from screaming out my reel, I had to follow it.  Waste deep, I let the current help me as I took big strides downstream.  The weight of this fish had my Shadow 2 doubled over, and with a few more steps the fish had eased up.  A quick flash revealed that the fish I had hooked was a sucker fish!   

Getting it into the net was a challenge on its own: the fish was not wanting anything to do with me and would pull away every time I had it an inch from the net.  And when I did get it in my net, the fish had a look, as if it didn’t have a clue what was going on. 

“I didn’t even know these fish were here.” Steve said, joining me on the river's edge.  
“They are definitely here.” I told Steve, “I just have never caught them because I normally don’t nymph the South Fork.”  

The dark figure of the sucker fish swam off lazily.  Both Steve and I looked out onto the water, watching a small baetis hatch take place.  
“Any rainbows?” I asked Steve, who was dying to catch one; and I knew full well he hadn’t caught one yet. 
“Nope...” He said, “Any bull trout?” He asked me, very snobby-like.  I looked over at him, and smiled...
“Well played, Steve... Well played.” 

The baetis had started hatching, and a few fish starting rising to them.  I took off my nymphing leader, and switched my Shadow 2 into a dry fly rod.  I got into position to cast out my RS2 BWO fly to a non-suspecting fish.  The fly floated gingerly over the feeding fish, and it came up and ate my fly.  The fish thrashed as I brought it in, and Steve was there to snap a picture. 

Another rising fish was only a few feet away from the previous one.  I dusted my fly, to get it floating again, and presented it to the new fish.  The water was moving slowly carrying my fly towards the fish.  The fish appeared, right under my fly, taking a careful look before opening its mouth to take in my fly.  I set the hook, and the fish was airborne.  Splash, splash, splash!  This fish was pissed, but despite its jumping abilities, it came in easy.  

“I want to get a rainbow.” Steve said, as I let the fish go. 
“Go for a rising one, then you know it will be a bow.” I suggested, and handed the rod to Steve.  We could see fish rising all over the place, so it was now a matter of choosing a fish to catch.  I suggested to Steve that we get closer to the fish we were going for; that way there was no need to make some fancy, long distance cast when just a simple one would do.  Steve’s fly was a little out of the feeding lane, but the fish came up for it anyway and Steve set the hook! SNAP!

“Whoa, Steve. You are only fishing with 6X tippet.” I said, before I tied on a new fly for him.  More fish were rising, as Steve regained his confidence, and presented his fly to another fish.  The fish willing took his fly, and Steve set the hook!  Splash, splash, gone... 
“What am I doing wrong?” Steve asked, frustrated.  I explained that it would just be a matter of time and experience that would eventually work itself out.  By now most of the fish had stopped rising and we headed back to the truck.  Just as we approached where we would walk out, a fish rose. 
“I want to watch you catch it.” Steve said.  I presented my fly, and the fish came up to take it.  I set the hook, and brought in this nice rainbow. 

“See how easy it is?” I said to Steve with a smile, as I released my fish and looked up just in time to see a second fish rising right behind the spot where I had caught my fish. 
“That’s your fish!” I said to him, handing over my rod. Steve wanted a rainbow so bad he could taste it.  So to ease his anxiety, I said, “You better get this one, because you know I can...”  
“Yeah, thanks...” Steve said as he focused on his cast, and laid out his fly.  With the smallest dimple of a rise, Steve’s fish took his fly, and he set the hook!  The fish felt the pressure of Steve’s line, and immediately started thrashing.  In that split second we both recognized the size of this fish was easily double the size of the fish I had just caught, and in that split second, the fish threw Steve’s hook and it was gone.  
Steve stood there in shock, saying, “Did you see that fish?” 
“That was a big fish!” I confirmed.  There were no more rising fish, so we headed up to the truck.  After the excitement, we geared down and settled in for the ride home. I looked over at Steve and said, “Hey, Steve.  Do you remember that time when you lost that big fish?" Steve didn't miss s beat, "Was that the same time when I caught that bull trout?  Something you have yet to do at the South Fork?"  He glanced over at me, smiling. 
"Well, until next time!" I said.
"Yes Sir!" Steve replied, and we drove home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Curse of the Camera

There are those days when you are on the river and you feel you can do no wrong.  The fish rise all around you and they take the fly presented to them without hesitation.  Days like this can make you feel like you are God’s gift to fly fishing... but today was not that kind of day. 

Nick Watson chose me to be in his short fly fishing documentary for his Intro To Video class project, and today was the day we were to film.  I chose the Owyhee River, as I figured it would be the likely place to capture footage of a fish being caught.  As I wandered up, both Nick and my buddy, Shadow, gathered the video equipment.  

The fish were rising all over, and I stood looking down at the fish pointing out the ones I would catch first.  With all the confidence in the world, I strolled down to the water and got into position to cast.  Both Shadow and Nick had the cameras rolling as I casted to the fish and was refused time and time again. 

Time was flying by, and I could hear Nick at the top of the hill, worrying about his battery life.  Shadow, on the other hand, was paying very close attention to me... 
“There are fish rising all around you!”  He called down to me, as if I hadn’t noticed; but he didn’t stop there. 
“I was hoping you would have caught a fish by now.” He said, as I had yet another refusal.
“Do you think the hatch changed?” He suggested, after a fish didn’t even bother to look at my fly as it passed over top.  I saw another fish feeding and I moved, ever so stealthy, upstream.  I even crouched down to sneak up a little closer to the fish.  I presented my fly, and could see the fish as it moved over to check out the fly.  Its mouth opened and took in my fly.  I gingerly set the hook, and the fly slipped right out of the fish’s mouth. 
Shadow didn’t miss a beat, saying, “Erik... Erik, I don’t think you’re my hero anymore.”  

We found a new spot, and with it came new found confidence.  The guys, once again, stood up on the roadside ready for action.  This time we found a fish feeding like crazy, and I quickly moved into position.  BWO-RS2, suspended midge, conparadun, cripple BWO, Skwalla, and more; nothing was working, and the fish kept feeding.
“THAT’S IT!” I yelled, and clipped off my up-wing BWO.  I pulled out my terrestrial box and opened it.  There, glistening in the sun like an emerald stone, sat the Pico Spider, waiting ever so patiently.   I quickly tied it on, and as I synched the knot I whispered to it, “C-mon baby!”  The Pico hit the water, playing it’s part as a helpless terrestrial perfectly.  Without any hesitation or second thought, the fish darted up, and ate it! 
“The Pico Spider strikes again!” I yelled, as the thrashing of a nice brown trout erupted on the water.  Nick slid down the embankment, faster than a Ninja Turtle, to capture the excitement!

A weight was lifted from me after I caught a fish for the camera.  Shadow geared up and started to fish while Nick kept his place: behind the camera.  Nick found a fish leisurely swimming around, and snuck up on it with a GoPro. 

Just as I climbed up the road to head to a new spot, both Nick and I heard a huge splash.  It was Shadow; while looking for fish and wading through the water, he tripped over a rock that took him down, proving once again that he should not do two things at once.   Once we arrived to our new spot, Shadow hung up his waders to dry. Soaked, he went back to holding the camera.  Nick followed me to the river, and with the Pico Spider I had a fish on in no time. 

Boom! Boom! Boom!  Fish, fish, fish was how it was working out, and we couldn’t have been happier with the results.  After a few more fish, Shadow came marching down to the river. 
“It takes a real man to get back into his waders after they have been soaked!” Shadow said boldly, as he stepped back into the water, fully geared up again.   

After that last run of fish, things started to slow down, and Shadow was not getting any love from the fish.  The once beautiful day was turning cold quickly, so Nick and I headed back up to gear down.  Nick had used all of his battery life in his video cameras and was happy with the results.  From where we stood, we could see that a few fish were still rising, taunting Shadow to stay out for as long as he could see his fly before heading in.  

We all got into the vehicle, and the smell of a wet farm animal fill the inside of my Rav so much that it could gag a mule. 
“Is it me, or does it smell like a wet Shadow in the car?” I said, looking over to Nick who was laughing at the comment.  

“Don’t worry boys!” Shadow said, “I’m sure it’s just my wet feet you smell.” He readjusted himself and rolled down the window to stick his feet out. 
“They just need to dry off a bit.” He said, hanging his feet out to air-dry as I drove.   

The open window was making things cold, and I didn’t dare turn on the heat with the musky smell.  Further out of the canyon, Shadow pulled in his feet, and the smell had subdued.  Even thought it was cold, I did leave one of the back windows cracked to waft out some of the smell.  No one needed to die tonight.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

At a Moment's Notice

Two hours was all the time I was allowed to fish in McCall while my in-laws were ice-skating.  I have never been a good ice skater, so my time on the ice would have been spent clawing the wall for support.  
It was after noon when I texted my buddy, Mike McLean, out of the blue , asking if he could join me to fly fish; little did he know I was already on my way to his house.  After quick a hello to him and his wife, Kerri, we were geared up and off to the North Fork of the Payette River to try our luck.

The water was crystal clear, and both Mike and I were looking at the deeper portions of the water for fish.  We both steadied our eyes, expecting to see the flash of a feeding fish under the water, but there was nothing. 

It was not the first time I have looked for fish without seeing them, so the only way to find fish is to fish for them.  I found a picture perfect shelf under the water where the stream flowed into a deeper hole; perfect for fish!  I dredged the water with my Euro nymphing set up, and high hopes. 

After a while of fishing and not catching a thing, I went and found Mike. 
“Anything?” I asked, when he was in ear shot. 
“Nothing.” He said back to me, yet keeping his eyes on his indicator.  
For me, time was not on my side. 
“Do you remember that stream we cross over when we drive back from Louie Lake?” I asked.  Every time we cross that bridge both Mike and I look over at the small stream, longing to fish it. 
“Yeah!  Want to try that?” Mike asked. 
“Yeah, let's go!” 

When we first arrived, we immediately walked to the bridge to look for fish.  The water was deep, and there was a nice riffle that looked very promising.  With my two fly setup and a slinky attached, I started nymphing.

The undercut bank on the far end of the stream looked fishy.  Mike walked downstream to try out some riffles as I fished closer to the bridge.  Last summer we had seen fish rising here, so we had kept the stream in our minds for a later date.  I slapped my nymphs in the water, and the slinky stayed slightly taught, then it started to straighten.  I set the hook fast, and my Shadow 2 bent forward, bringing up a nice sized stick.  DAMN!  For a split second I thought I had a fish. 
My phone rang, and it was my wife letting me know that they were waiting for me...  The time flew by so fast.  Mike and I gathered back up, and hopped in the vehicle to head to his place to gear down.  On the way, a dear had crossed right in front of us, and I snapped a quick picture.  

“Tell Gracy thank you for letting you go out fishing with me today.” Mike said, as I threw the last of my gear in the back of my Rav.  
“Will do!” I said, and I took off back to the family.   

Fishing was a bust, but it beat falling on ice for a few hours.  The next morning we all went out to breakfast before heading back to Boise, and I found a nice frog family.  As I approached, they had first spotted me and were smiling, so I bought them.  I think they will bring a nice warmth to our home.