Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter Dry Fly

It had been a while since I had dedicated an entire day to dry fly fishing.  With all the streamer and euro nymphing techniques to learn, I had put aside my dry fly-only days to expand my knowledge in becoming a well-rounded angler.
"I'm only going to dry fly fish today, because I don't nymph!" Travis Swartz said, as we pulled in to gas up. 
"I don't want to hear it!" I said quickly.
"Oh geez, here we go!" Travis said, rolling his eyes.
"The last time we fished the South Fork, you threw on a nymph before you hit the water." I said, matter-of-factly.
"OKAY! I'm sorry, I didn't know you were going to take every word I said so literal." Travis said with a sigh, before he continued. "I guess, for YOU, I need to say that I would rather dry fly fish, but will nymph if I have to."
I sat and stared at him after he finished.
"What?" He asked.
"I didn't know you were so sensitive." I said, calmly.
"What?! NO!  I'm, just... I don't have time for this." Travis said, and stepped out of his car to fill his tank.
"Hey!" I yelled out to him, "Want me to chip in?"
"No, that's ok..." Travis said, unhooking the nozzle and sticking it in his car.  "Besides, I wouldn't offer to help you."
"Fair enough!" I said, and after filling up we took off to the South Fork.   
We geared up quickly and made our way to the river.
"Tell you what..." I said, "I'm going to cross the river here so that you can have this side all to yourself."
"OH! So you're saying that you will cross the river and hog the honey-hole, while I stay on this side to scrounge for a fish?" Travis said, adding, "Yeah... I have fished here before too!"  
It was true, I was about to hog all the glory while Travis watched with envy from the bad side of the river as I caught fish.
"Let's both cross the river and take turns picking off fish." I said, back-peddling. 
"No, no, no... I would hate to crowd you." Travis said, and when I hooked into a fish almost immediately on the other side, he considered my offer.  
"Come on, Trav!" I yelled over to him, "There are fish rising all over the place here." 
Travis ignored me, so I pitched out another cast, and WHAM, another fish! 
"TRAVIS!!!" I yelled out, so Travis could watch me bring in my fish.  
Before I could re-fluff the CDC on my suspended midge, Travis had made his way across the river to share the honey-hole.
"Did you see that?" I said, as another fish rose within easy casting distance.
"Yep!" Travis replied, and laid out his fly in striking distance from the fish; for Travis, that was pretty good...
"Come on, you." Travis said in a hushed tone to the fish, just before it ate his fly!  Travis lifted his rod, and the weight of the fish was imminent.   
"OH!  This is a nice fish!" Travis yelled, "At least 28 inches." The fish ran a few time before Travis was able to get its head out of the water for me to scoop up with the net.
"That is a nice fish!" I agreed, but it was no 28-incher. 
"You're getting a picture of me." Travis demanded, as he admired his fish.
"Oh can I, please?" I asked, sarcastically.
"Yes you may." Travis replied, as he fumbled to grab his fish.
"Don't lose it." I suggested. 
Travis just looked up at me with dead eyes, and said, "Really?!". 
Just as Travis lifted his fish out of the net, he lost grip of it and, luckily, dropped the fish back into the net.
"Give me your fly rod." I offered, and Travis handed it to me to free up total mobility. Though his hands were free, he was still unable to handle his fish.
"You want this picture so bad that you are going to screw it all up." I said.
"No I'm not!  It's just this fish, it won't settle down." Travis complained.
"Oh, sure...blame the fish." I added.
"Would you just be ready?!" Travis said, raising his voice.
"Yeah! Go!" I said, with the camera ready, and Travis picked up the fish.  

"Got it!" I said, before Travis gently slid his fish back into the water, and watched it swim away; his attention on the released fish was short due to another rise just in front of him.
"They are everywhere!" Travis said happily.
"Go ahead and get it. You need to catch up." I said, and Travis didn't waste any time.  He presented a fly to the rising fish, but the fly fell short of its target. Travis pulled more line out of his reel and went to make another cast, and a tree snagged the fly on his back cast.
"Aw hell..." Travis said, looking back at his fly.

"Stay there, I'll get it." I said, as Travis started to walk towards the snag. The tangle was not bad, and Travis was back to casting in no time. With a quick readjustment in his casting lane, Travis presented his fly perfectly, and the fish didn't disappoint. After a quick fight, and more fumbling around with the fish, Travis managed to hold up what he called a 31-inch fish for the camera.

"Okay, my turn." I said, casting to more rising fish.  The blue winged olives were starting to hatch, so I quickly switched flies after a few refusals.
"Gotcha!" I said, setting the hook on a fish.
"I'll show you how to handle a fish!" I said to Travis, who was watching with a camera ready.  My fish got close, then made another run, tearing line from my reel.
"WHOA!" I yelled, as my reel screamed to life.
"Here we go!" Travis chimed in.  The fish was putting up a great fight, but my 4wt fly rod was holding its own.  Finally the fish came in, and I scooped it up into my net.

"This is how you hold a fish for the camera!" I yelled at Travis, whom had fumbled with both of his fish before we could get a picture of them.  I held the fish and brought it up, but the fish kicked hard and out of my hands.  SPLASH!  The fish hit the water and there was no net for it to fall in.
"NO! NO!" I yelled, as Travis laughed at my blunder.  The fish started swimming away, but I knew I still had it hooked.
"Get over here!" I yelled, and raised my rod to bring the fish back to scoop up.
"Okay, I'm ready." I said, this time having a better hold on my fish as Travis snapped a picture.

I let my fish go and  looked up to see fish boiling all around me. Travis was already timing a fish, and presenting a cast before I had dried my fly.   

It was an absolute dream: together Travis and I took turns hooking into fish.  Laughing like a couple of kids, we casted to fish after fish, hooking a few in the process.  An incredibly large fish rose in the middle of the river, and both Travis and I stopped casting.
"Tell me you saw that!" Travis said in awe.
"I saw it. That was a huge fish." I replied.  The sad thing was, the large fish that just rose was too far out in the river.  The cast wasn't impossible, but it would require us wading out and possibly blowing out the line of feeding fish we were casting to. Also, even if we did wade out, there wasn't enough room for a nice back cast and the fish may not rise again. We both watched to see if the fish would surface again, and when it didn't we went back to fishing.  Though many fish were caught by the both of us, in the middle of the hatch neither one of us was willing to snap a picture of each other's fish.  Regrettably, this picture I snapped of Travis bringing in a fish was the only time I stopped to capture the moment.

"I think we caught all the fish here, Trav." I said, after a while had past without a fish.
"Happens to me every time..." Travis said, pulling up his line. We both made our way back to the car, and to another spot on the river that Travis had had luck in the passed.

Travis hit the water first. I was only a minute behind, and called out to Travis.
"Any rising fish?" I asked.
"Only one!" Travis yelled back, fighting a fish.
"Well, look at you!" I said with a smile, and brought out my camera to snap a picture.

"This one's over 20!" Travis yelled.
"Let's get a picture!" I yelled back, but as I approached Travis dropped his net into the water, allowing enough space for the fish to swim out.
"Darn!  It got away." Travis said, "It's too bad you missed it; it was huge."
"I'm sure it was..." I replied.
Just then I saw a fish rise, and it stole my attention.  I got into position and waited for it to rise, but nothing was happening. Surly I didn't spook it, I thought as I stood still, watching the spot like a hawk.  It rose again, then again before I pitched out my fly.  The fish was not interested in my fly, even after a few more attempts with several different patterns.  With time running out I decided to break the hatch with a Pico ant, and I didn't wait for the fish to rise before I threw it out.  The Pico ant hit the water, and the fish pounced on it! My arm shot up, setting the hook, before I knew what was going on, and the hooked fish thrashed to get away! 
"Well, it's about time." Travis hollered, while wading quickly towards me for a possible picture. But it didn't happen.  As I chased the fish downstream I gained control and brought it up to my net.  A big rock offered a nice backflow which presented an opportunity to land this crazy fish. With my arm reaching up as far as it could, I slipped the net towards the fish, which spit my fly at that exact moment.  The fish, not knowing it was not hooked, sat on the rock for a second, then shot into life, jetting up and over the rock! 
"No!" I yelled, as I slapped my net in the path of the fish. But it was useless: the fish was gone.

"What happened?" Travis asked, now standing right behind me.
"It got away..." I said, sounding pitiful.
"By the looks of it, that's a good thing.  I thought you were trying to club the poor fish to death with your net." Travis said with a laugh, adding, "You just need to learn patience."
"Patience?" I asked.
"Yes!" He said, as we walked back to the car.
"If you had patience you would be holding a trout right now for a picture." Travis finished.
"I don't think you know what you're talking about." I replied.

"Can you see the deer?" I asked, after I finished gearing down.
"Well look at that... magnificent creature." Travis said in awe.
"You like deer?" I asked.
"Yes! They are so peaceful. The way they walk and look around." Travis said, as we both watched the deer make its way up the hill.
"What if someone shot it right now?" Travis asked, plainly.
"What? Why would you say that?" I asked sharply.
"I'm just saying... Wouldn't that suck?  I mean, here we are enjoying this peaceful creature, then BLAM!" Travis said, adding some arm gestures to emphasize his point while not looking away from the deer.
"You ruined it. You ruined the moment." I said.
"ME?" Travis asked loudly. "You are the one that needs to learn patience!"
What those two instances had in common was beyond me, so I chose not to respond.  Instead, we both watched as the deer went out of eye shot, before getting into the car and ending a good dry fly day on the South Fork. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Poop Pipe

For weeks now the 7th grade students of Anser Charter School have been meeting up to fly fish the Boise River, and the success rate of the students that fish in my section of water had spread like wildfire.  Small talk amongst the students before every outing was about who was going to be the lucky ones to fish the pipe!  Yes it was true, in my section there is a pipe that is clearly visible under the water, and it creates a nice break for fish to pile up behind.  
What the students don't know is that directly across the river from the pipe is a sewer plant, and to many anglers this particular landmark is known as the poop pipe. 

The snow was falling thick with a few inches already on the ground, which made for a great day to take pictures. As the students crossed the river, I noticed that every kid was bundled up as if they were going to spend the night at the North Pole. 

Before fishing today, Shawn, the brains behind the class, lined up the students to receive a gift.  The Women's Fly Fishers of Idaho spent a few evenings creating designer fly fishing lanyards for each student, and when each received their lanyard, the smiles that spread across their faces could warm the coldest winter day.

After the quick ceremony, it was time to fish.  John and I had a quick conversation about the recent steelhead planted in the Boise River by Idaho Fish and Game. 
"Wouldn't that be cool if one of the kids got into a steelhead?" I asked John, as we walked to our section of river. 
"That would be cool." John said before we split up and started fishing.

Audrey fished with me first, and after a quick tutorial on how to set a hook she was ready.  Her first fish got away, but the second fish was not so fortunate. Audrey's indicator went under, and she pulled back on her fly rod to set the hook!
"I got one!" She yelled, as the fish leapt from the water. Normally a jumping fish is a fun thing to watch: the leap from underwater as it breaks the surface, and the splash down that quickly follows. Only Audrey didn't give the fish time to splash back down.  At first sight of the fish, as it leapt from the water, Audrey set the hook again bringing the fish straight at my face! I felt like Neo from The Matrix as I bent back to avoid the fish hurling towards my face. Though others may say I looked like a seagull that couldn't fly, as the fish soared by me...
I quickly regained my composure and saw that Audrey was still fighting the fish.  I unhooked my net and scooped up Audrey's fish, making this the first fish she had ever caught!  

After a few photos, Audrey dipped her trout back into the water and let it go.

"I can't believe I actually caught a fish!" Audrey said excitedly. Her dad beamed as he watched his daughter from a short distance. 
"Give me a thumbs up." I said, lifting my camera, and Audrey was happy to oblige. 

Next to fish with me was Samson, and he wanted a fish so bad he could taste it.  Getting Samson to focus on fishing was a bit of a challenge; I had to lie and tell him that the fish would spook if he talked too much. It worked, but when his indicator went under he didn't set the hook. 
"Samson!" I said, and noticed he was looking away from his indicator. "You had a take!" 
"Oh man!" Samson moaned. 
"The fish know, Samson... They know when you are not paying attention, so you always have to pay attention." I explained, and he went back to fishing. 

Just downstream from us, Luke hooked into a fish.  I walked down to help, just as Connie netted his catch. 

The little white fish Luke caught would not stop flopping. I had my camera ready for a picture as Luke grabbed his fish and held it up.  Just as I snapped a picture, Luke's fish flopped again, right out of his hand. 

Luke quickly grabbed ahold of his fish for a better picture. 

The day was nearly over, and I had walked back to Samson to see how he was doing when I heard a yell echoing from upstream. 
It was John, and Brennan, the student he was fishing with, was hooked into a nice fish. 
"Beach it!" John yelled, and I saw the fish splash as it neared the shallow water. 
"He got a steelhead!" I whispered to myself in disbelief. 
"Can we go see?" Samson asked, and we both ran up to see Brennan's fish.   
As I got near, Brennan was doing his best to wrangle his fish. 
"Is it a steelhead?" I asked John.  John shook his head no with a huge smile on his face. I looked over to see the fish, and Brennan was holding up a large-scale suckerfish. 

The smile on Brennan's face was unmistakable.  Sure it was an ugly fish, but it was also the biggest fish caught out of any of the students during this class. Both Kai and Samson gathered around for one last picture with the sucker fish. 

We all stood and watched as Brennan set his fish back into the water, and it slowly swam away.  We walked back to join the rest of the class, and Brennan was reliving his suckerfish experience while the other students listened closely.  I, along with the other volunteers, were laughing about the memories of the class: fish being caught, kids falling in the river, fish being flung in our faces. We laughed and said our goodbyes as the kids filed out and handed in their fly rods for the last time.