Friday, February 19, 2016

Out of Service

My wife would be full term in a few days, which meant this trip would be the last one outside of cell phone service for a while. The desire to hit one of the main streams in our area was tempting, but I decided to take a different road today. 

I received a tip from my fellow colleague, Ryan Spillers, that this favorable river was fishing well. Being a touchy river, I knew I had to take advantage of this opportunity, and who better to do it with than by brother, Kris? 

“These flies get deep fast!” Feef said with excitement, after he made a quick flick to send his flies into the water. 
“That’s key when you are euro nymphing, Brother!” I said, happily.   
“Stand right there...” I said, pointing to a particular spot, “... That’s the first place I hooked into a fish when Pete Erickson taught Phil and I how to euro nymph.” 
“K.” Feef said, taking a few steps to position himself before making a cast.   

Feef had his arm casually to his side as he kept his fly rod tip high to lead his flies downstream. The infamous stance of a tight line nympher shows a guy with his arm stretched out over his head. Not only is that not necessary, but it will tire out your arms and neck pretty quickly. Without knowing it, Feef had the stance of someone who knew what he was doing. And let me tell ya, it’s about time. 
“There’s one!” Feef said, setting the hook. 
The fish sprang into action as soon as it felt the pressure of Feef’s hook set, and started flying out of the water. Watching the first fish of the day fighting is always the best, and this one did not disappoint.

Feef spun around because the fish had bolted behind him, and was able to land it quickly after. 
“Let’s see it!” I said, after the hook was removed from the fish’s mouth.
Feef held up the fish, but the fish was camera shy. It started flopping in his hands and got away before we could get a decent picture. It didn’t matter, because there would be plenty more.

“Okay, Brother, it’s my turn to get after this.” I said, stepping a bit downstream from him and flicking my flies into action. 

Tight-line nymphing with a ten foot fly rod makes all the difference in the world. My leader is rigged up with a 9'0X leader with a slinky at the end, and another ten feet of tippet that is split between 3 and 4X. I always use the heavier of the two as my tag in-between tippets for my lighter fly, and the fly at the end of the leader - the point fly - is the heavier of the two. If you are having a hard time picturing the euro leader in your mind, then you are not alone... But the rig has proven itself over the test of time, and it was three casts in before the slinky extended and I set the hook.

“There it is!” Feef yelled, as I skated my fish right into my net to land it fast. 

“Want a picture?” Feef asked me. 
“Nope!” I said, unhooking my fish and dipping it back into the water. I made another cast, and hooked another fish.
“No sense wasting time with pictures!” I yelled happily. 

“Ok, calm down...” I said to the fish, who was still trying to swim away through my net. 
“No pictures, huh?” Feef asked, as I pulled out my camera.
“Well, it’s a good looking fish!” I said, and snapped a shot of it before I let it go.   

“Take this spot; there must be a pocket here.” I said to Feef, who had not caught a fish since his first one. 
“Okay.” He said, and we switched spots. 
He slapped his flies down and was leading them downstream at the same flow of the current. When he reached the end of his drift, Feef made a small hook-set, which is a technique I passed on from Pete Erickson, and it was just what he needed to nail a fish.

“I’m in the pocket!” He yelled happily fighting his fish. 
The fish here were are not big by any means, but it didn’t matter. Feef and I hadn’t been fishing for more than five minutes when we had already brought in two fish each.  
“Brother, if the fishing keeps up like this, then we are in for a day of catching!” I said happily.
“I need a day like this!” Feef said, as he unhooked his fish and dipped it back into the water. His fish held itself suspended in the water for a second, allowing me to take a picture, before it shot off.

Feef and I were a force to be reckoned with as we leapfrogged each other from spot to spot. The day was flying by, and the cold day had no affect on us.

“God, Brother ,we can do no wrong!” Feef said, landing another fish. 
“That’s because you are getting better at your technique.” I said. 
“Someone told me that I wouldn’t catch any fish because of my bright new Simms jacket.” He said.
“Well, you are shooting that theory to hell.” 
“There’s another one!” Feef said, with his rod at a bend.
“It’s a double up!” I said, setting the hook on a fish to fight it alongside my brother. 

“I think I got the big fish of the day!” I said, holding up my fish for a picture. 
“Well, it’s getting late. Are you ready to get out of here?” Feef asked.
“Let’s each get one more fish.” I said, to stretch out the day a little longer; however, it didn't take long. 
“We should come back here next time.” Feef said, as he slipped the truck into gear to take off. 
“I can’t. Gracy could go into labor any time after this weekend, so I need to stay in cell phone range.” 
“Oh yeah!” Feef said.
“And you will be an uncle!” I said. 
“Uncle Feef!!!” Feef said with pride.    
“God help us!” I said with a laugh, and we drove home leaving behind a great day on the river.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Baby Moon

It was Gracy’s idea to make our last trip before the baby comes to Bend, OR. To make sure we spent plenty of time together, I pushed fly fishing off until the last morning of the trip. Preparation started the day before at the Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters, OR. After one quick stop, I purchased my license for the next day, and set my alarm for 5:45 am to ensure I had plenty of time to get to the river.

I woke up with a jolt and saw the light piercing through the curtains of our hotel room. My alarm had not gone off! I glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand and it read 8:30 a.m. How could this happen, I thought to myself, and tried to get up but couldn’t.  I was somehow pinned in the covers and couldn’t move. I tried again, but still could not budge. Knowing I had no time for this struggle, I conjured up my morning strength and bolted, to sit up, on the bed. 
The room was now pitch-black, with the low green glow of the digital clock on the nightstand. What the heck, I thought, struggling to see. I shielded my eyes from the green light of the clock, as I looked directly at it... 3:53 a.m.. I plopped back down on my pillow, remembering how difficult it was to go to sleep in the first place. I laid there for a while, feeling like I hadn’t gotten a wink, and the only thing to suggest I did was a nightmare about waking up too late to fish. Screw it, I said to myself, and got up to head off to the river. 

I had prepped my fly rod and gear the night before, and pinned the location on google maps to my destination so there would be no getting lost. 

When I had arrived to the spot it was far too dark to start fishing, so I slapped my waders on and waited until sunrise...or what I would argue was a sunrise. 

The air was cold, but not freezing. The sound of my studs clicking on the plowed road was fading as I stepped closer to the river. I stepped off the road and noticed a sign nailed to a tree...

Call me elitist, but I love seeing signs like this. To me it means that an incredible amount effort and time were dedicated to the protection of this river. Fellow anglers lead the charge to see that changes were made to maintain its integrity for future anglers like myself. I took a deep breath, taking in my surroundings, before I continued walking. This is a river that can’t be judged because no matter what I think, it is loved by its local anglers, and for that this river deserved my respect.

I had my Polish nymphing rig set up because I knew nymphing was going to be the game for today, and started fishing a promising looking riffle. My flies hit the water and I was leading them through the stream, hoping for a strike. Nothing, not even a stick, grabbed hold of my flies. Normally I would have worked the riffle a little longer before finding a new one, but there was so much water to fish and so little time.

There has got to be at least one fish in here, I thought to myself as I stepped into some new water downstream of a fallen tree. I quickly put my flies to work, and was moving through the riffle fast. My slinky jolted out, and I quickly set the hook on something that was not a stick. It was glorious. The first fish of the year was hooked, and it wasn’t long before I had slipped it into the net. Not a bad little brown trout, I thought, and dipped it back into the water to continue fishing.

I reached behind me to reconnect my net to the magnet, when I saw a rising fish out of the corner of my eye and a chill went up my spine. Before I got too excited, I stopped and watched for another rise, and saw one, two, three... The fish were porpoising like crazy, and they were huge. I started to panic. How am I going to get to those fish without spooking them? What are they eating?? There is no hatch, and I still have to rebuild a dry fly leader! I had my nymphs clipped off so fast, you would think I performed the task with a machete. I pulled out my 6X tippet to extend my leader, and when I glanced back downstream my heart dropped. Three river otters poked their heads up, chomping away at what they had found to eat, then went back to porpoising to get another mouth full of food.

“Damn it!” I said as I slipped my 6X tippet back into my vest. I looked at my leader that now had no flies attached and got even more upset. I wanted to dry fly fish so bad, that I had believed the backs of river otters were the world's biggest rising rainbow trout... How stupid! 
I reluctantly tied my nymphs back onto my leader, and look at the time. I had thirty minutes left to fish, so I walked back upstream to the bridge to finish off the day, but there was someone already fishing there.

I sparked up a small conversation with the man before I asked if it was okay if I fished upstream of the bridge from him. 
“Actually...” The man said, after I had asked, “no, it’s not okay. The river is closed upstream from the bridge. But, you are welcome to fish right there if you wish.” 
The man was pointing to the water just opposite of him, which was a very nice gesture.   
“Seriously?” I asked. 
“Yeah, go ahead!” He said happily, so I shimmied my way into the water.
“There are a lot of white fish here, but every once in a while you will get into a red-side.” He told me, referring to a native type of rainbow trout that are found in this river. 
“That would be nice.” I said, and flicked my flies into the river. My slinky stretched to signify a take, and I set the hook, bringing in a little white fish.

The gentleman across the river from me was also tight line nymphing, but I could tell that he may have been new at the technique. Given the small amount of room we had with a very deep hole just in front of us, I switched my approach to a French style of nymphing shown to me by my friend, Eric, from France. With this technique, I was easily bringing in a fish every minute I had left on the water, sometimes having two fish on at a time. 

My alarm chimed on my phone, letting me know it was time to get going.  Before I left, I let my fellow angler know about my French approach to nymphing and thanked him again for sharing his spot on the river. As I crossed the bridge to where I was parked I wished the man well, and left at the sight of him hooking into a fish.  

“How was fishing? Did you get your first fish of the year?” Gracy asked, after I had returned to the hotel room.  
“Fishing was fantastic, and my first fish of the year was a brown trout.” I said with a smile.  
“Good.” She said, and smiled back. 
I could tell by her smile that she, along with I, really enjoyed our last weekend vacation before becoming parents. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

First Stick of the Year

“Oh my God, look at that guy!” Phil said with amazement looking out the window of my car as we headed out to fish. I glanced out the passenger window and saw what Phil was talking about. There was a guy with his shirt off, carrying a 45 lb circle-weight down Simplot Hill for exercise. 
“Doesn’t he know he can just roll that weight down the hill?” Phil chuckled.
“This is the North End, Phil...” I said, while Phil kept watching the guy’s face straining as he mechanically walked downhill with the weight. “... People that live in this part of Boise think that is fun.”  
“Geez...” Phil mumbled.
“What do you say we get the hell out of this part of town?” I said, and Phil concurred. We stopped to grab a fishing license before gunning it to the nearest section of river to start fishing.  

Phil and I were rigging our fly rods for euro nymphing when his phone chimed with a text message.
“I won’t be able to fish with you guys today. Can you get some shots of the Shadow II for me please?” Phil said, reading his text message from Pete Erickson. 
“Do you have a Shadow II on you?” Phil asked. 
“No... I’m fishing with my ten-foot-five Helios.”   
“Neither Erik or I have our Shadow II fly rods.” Phil said, reading the text message as he wrote it back to Pete. 
Phil's phone chimed gain, and Phil let me know that Pete was not happy we were not going to get any picture of his Shadow II for him. 
“Hold on, Phil.” I said, as we started our walk to the river. I took out my camera and took a picture of both of our shadows.
“There! Send that picture to Pete.” I said, smiling over at Phil, who loved the solution.  

Even though it was a beautiful 44 degrees outside, I was still wishing I had worn my gloves. The slight breeze was biting at my little fingers, but there was no time to run back to the car.

Phil was just upstream from me, and we were both fishing the water hard. Finally, my slinky sprang out to indicating a strike. I set the hook fast, and a two foot stick shot back in my direction. 
“Whoa, Phil!  This one’s a jumper!” I yelled, getting Phil’s attention.
“Nice! You caught the first stick of the year!” He yelled, then went back to fishing.

Yes, catching sticks is one of the drawbacks to European nymphing: the nymphs we use are heavier than normal, and go straight to the bottom of the river; therefore, something like a stick that is stuck in-between a rock will catch onto the hook and trigger the slinky as if a fish had hit your fly. It’s really no big deal, except... for a split second... there is a little give to the stick, and with the water pushing it downstream, it can react like a fish pulling on your line. It’s the disappointment a second after you recognize you don’t have a fish, and having to deal with a yucky stick that tricked you.

It was a few sticks later when Phil and I decided to try a different spot in the river. I already had five sticks under my belt for the evening, while Phil had none... But who keeps track of these sorts of things? 

The new spot looked promising, and Phil started fishing the nice diamond-water producing a shallow riffle that I have had great luck with in the past. Phil was doing everything right: his flies were flicked right above the drop-off in the run, his rod was held at a perfect 45 degree angle, and his lead on the flies was a touch faster than the current to ensure an immediate hook set if needed. 
“There it is!” I yelled, after Phil set the hook and his fly rod bobbed with a fish. 
“Oh, no!” Phil laughed, after lifting his rod higher to reveal he had a rather large stick. 
“Man, that felt good too.” Phil said, unhooking his stick and releasing it back into the water.    
“It looked like you had a fish on.” I said.
“Well...You know what our problem is?” Phil asked. “We should have been targeting sticks if we wanted to catch trout.” He laughed, as he made his last cast of the day.   

“Well, it’s still worth getting out.” Phil said, as he packed his gear in the back of my car. 
“Yes it was...” I concurred. 
“It really felt nice to get that stick in.” He laughed. 
“Well, not that I was keeping score, but I did pull in a few more than you today.” I said.
“True, but I did get the big stick of the day.” Phil said, seriously. We got in the car and I put it in gear to drive off.
“Wait!” Phil yelled... “Is there a reel sitting on the back of your car?” He asked. 
I got out, and sure enough, Phil’s reel was sitting, cold and alone, on the back of the car. The poor thing was cold to the touch, and still wet from fishing. I got back into the car and handed Phil his reel... “The poor thing probably feels neglected.”
“Shut up and hand it here.” Phil laughed, as we pulled away... An expert in fly fishing, Phil Rowley started the first fly fishing day of 2016...SKUNKED!