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.   

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ice Off

Both Terri Kowallas and I took off, southbound before the sun rose, toward the Duck Valley Reservoirs.  This was our first float tube trip and everything was packed... or so I thought.  When the sun started to shine I reached up to grab my sunglasses from the top of my hat, and found nothing. 
“Oh no...” I said, checking my pockets franticly in hopes I had them stuffed in another pocket, but I knew better.
“What did you forget?” Terri asked, keeping his eyes on the road. 
“On top of my security flipper strap, float tube pump, and extra stillwater fly box, now it’s my sunglasses.” I said. 
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was your first time fly fishing.” Terri said with a smile.  Truth of the matter is, I can still fish without all that stuff, but I hate not having my sunglasses.  Eye protection is my main concern, and the polarization of the sun glasses helps me spot fish in the water.  I was having my own little sunglass-pity-party on the 147-mile drive to Duck Valley.

Terri drove to his favorite spot on Mountain View Reservoir, and we were in the water in no time.  Both of us were fishing with intermediate sinking lines and a two-fly set up.  Fishing started off slow for me, and after a while I thought to myself, what would stillwater guru Phil Rowley do?  I rigged up my leader, Phil Rowley style, maintaining the ability to throw streamers.  I did keep it sturdy by only dropping down to 3X tippet, and I added a few tag ends for a three fly set up that extended my leader to 18 feet.  I also did one more thing Phil suggested, which is really the BIG secret...  I paddled my happy self over to Terri, who had already caught three fish and asked, “What are you using?” 

"I’ve been getting them on a California Leech.” Terri said, adding, “I did tie a few up, making up my own recipe.  It only took me a few HOURS to tie up six.”  
“Six huh?”  
“I take it you want one?” Terri said, as he took one out and handed it to me.  It was no more than a few casts later when a fish hit my fly!  As the fight went on, the fear of losing the fish started to overwhelmed me.  The fish was running deep and was putting up a great fight.  It swam under my feet and I did my best to keep my line from tangling up in my flippers.  One last pull with my ten foot five weight, and the fish was landed.  I quickly turned on my camera, held up my fish, and snapped a picture just before it flopped away; and this is what I have to show for my achievement. 

Turns out, during the fight, the fish managed to tangle my sinking line around my flippers, despite my efforts to keep that from happening.  I ended up retying my leader, and I was back to fishing. 

I counted to 15 after my fly line hit the water, and then started my slow retrieve.  I kept my fly rod tip in the water, pointing it at the flies; this allowed me to feel every hit I encountered.  Sure enough, at mid-strip, I felt some resistance and quickly set the hook!  

A snag, damn!  I kept my line taught as I paddled over to my snagged flies, hoping they would come loose.  I reached out with my fly rod and felt my flies come loose, but only for a second.  I felt another snag and wrenched on my fly, frustrated.  And that’s when it started to fight back.  
“A FISH!” I yelled as my line started racing away.  Lucky duck, I thought as I brought in another fish relatively quickly, because the fish was so close to begin with. 

I was unaware that the wind had picked up and blown me further away from my previous spot while I was snapping pictures of my fish.  It always amazes me how unaware I become of everything else when there’s a fish in my hands.   

When I looked up, I noticed that I was close to Terri.  
“How are you doing?” I yelled over to him. 
“I’ve caught about eight so far! How about you?” 
“Two for me.” I said back to him, adding, “Are you still using the California leech?” 
Terri couldn’t reply, because just when I asked a fish took his fly!

“Get ‘em Terri!” I yelled out with enthusiasm as Terri fought the fish.  The jolts from his fly rod indicated that the fish was not going to give up easily.  Terri kept pressure on the fish while he got his net out.  The fish made another run, only this time instead of swimming away it swam around Terri, so that the fish ended up behind him.  

Terri made some quick adjustments, and he was back to facing the fish.  The fish was done.  I watched as the head of the fish was pulled out of the water towards Terri’s net. 

“Was your GoPro on?” I asked as he released his fish. 
“Nope.  Every time I turn it on, I don’t get a fish... So I just leave it off.” he said, matter-of-factly. 
“Good choice.” I said, as I was retrieving my line, and felt it pull away from me.  I locked the line down with my finger, and set the hook on a fish.  Splash!  Splash!  The fish leapt out of the water over and over.  It made a run towards Terri, who just watched as the fish jumped out of the water, inches from his face. 
“I should have had my GoPro on!” Terri yelled as I brought the fish into my net. 

“I almost thought that fish was going to land in your float tube!” I said to Terri. 
“So did I.” Terri said, adding, “I could have caught it in the air... if I was fast enough.”  
Terri kicked away as I went back to fishing.  The wind had picked up hard enough that if I was to stop paddling, I would end up blowing away.  

Casting in between wind gusts, I was stripping my line in slowly when I felt the hit of a fish!  The wind whistled through my taught fly line as the weight of the fish tugged at my rod.  I pulled in some line, but the fish ripped it back out.  My reel screamed as the fish ran, but I was fighting back, keeping the fish from having the leverage.  It’s a nice fish, it has to be... I thought as I brought it in closer; or it’s snagged... this dreaded thought always crosses my mind.  The fish was close, but running deep.  My fly rod looked like a horseshoe as I applied the torque to raise the fish from the depths.  The large flash of chrome I saw as the fish got closer to the surface confirmed I had the fish in the mouth, and that it was a nice sized fish.  My net slipped under the fish, and it was now apparent that I had a football for a fish! 

"You’re a nice fish!” I said, as I looked up to see if Terri was around to take a picture.  I spotted him in the distance, too far to call over for a picture.  I looked down at my fish to enjoy it one last time, took a few pictures, then slipped it back in the water.  

White caps lapped over the water as I worked my way back to Terri’s truck.  Terri was working a cove, trying to keep out of the wind.  With the roar of the wind, I could hardly hear him yelling at me. 
“Have you had enough fun for one day?!” 
“I think so!” I yelled back.  Terri paddled his way back, and we both got out and walked back to the truck a little sore.  
“You’re getting old!” Terri said, as he also hobbled back to the truck.  
“You really nailed them today, Terri.” I said to him, as we got into the truck.  The day treated us okay, as far as fish are concerned, but it really slowed down at the end of the day.  
“I think I caught six more fish that you did today!” He said, smiling at me. 
“Not that anyone is counting...” I said back to Terri.  We drove home exhausted from paddling in the wind, and with sunburnt faces.  Having a sunburn that covers only the middle portion of your face is an all-to-familiar sign of a serious neglect of sunscreen; still, we wore them proudly. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I’ve Got Mail

A card came in the mail for me the other day and, when I opened it, money fell out!  The card read: Keep on fishing! We love your stories (Fishing Gas Money).  -DAD-
“YEAH!” I yelled, and tucked the money away before my wife could see what I'd received.  
The South Fork of the Boise was the destination, and after three years, I was finally able to go with my friend, Jason Shepherdson. Jason has been fly fishing the South Fork since before I was knew what fly fishing was, so I was eager to learn something new about the river. 

Jason is a big believer in stonefly nymphs, so we were sure to have plenty.  Before I stepped in the water, I was Euro-nymphing the small channels in between the big rocks and caught a few white fish.  I was already doing better in the first ten minutes of fishing than I had during the last two trips to the South Fork.  Jason had yet to catch a fish, but that all ended when he crossed the stream and set the hook on a wild rainbow

I watched from across the river as Jason ran to keep up with his fish.  
“Get 'em, Jason, get 'em!” I yelled as I gathered all my line and started to cross the river.  Jason stayed silent as he fought his fish; I reached him right as he almost had the fish to shore.  

With a scoop of the net, the first rainbow of the day was landed.  I grabbed my camera for a picture and, as I snapped a shot, the fished flopped for a less-than-desirable photo.  It almost looks as if Jason is performing a balancing act with a stout rainbow trout. 

“Okay, you’re next.” Jason said as he pointed out to the water.  I didn’t waste any time getting into position, and flicked out my fly. My slinky was in full view as I led my flies.  The coils straightened and I quickly set the hook on a nice fat trout!  
“Nice!” Jason said, as the trout thrashed, trying to escape.  This was how the first few hours of the day went: Jason and I took turns as we each brought in fish after fish.  Let’s just say smiles were plentiful on our stretch of the river!

It was like we could do no wrong.  We had already caught bow after bow and, I must say, it was long over due.  Fishing the first stretch with Jason had already made up for the last two trips.  As I hooked into another fish, there was no jumping or thrashing on top of the water.
“It’s a white fish.” I yelled over to Jason. 
“That's a big white fish then.” He said, taking notice on how it was putting up a good fight.  My rod tip shot above my head as I brought the fish into my net. 
“Look at the beak on this thing!” I yelled over to Jason, “It looks like Dumbo!”  

Jason laughed as I dipped the net into the water to release the fish, but when I did the fish would thrash, getting its snout stuck in the netting. 

After a few attempts I simply flipped my net over, dumping out the fish.  SPLASH!  We both laughed at the situation, and moved on to the next spot.  As we arrived, Jason explained, by pointing with his rod tip, the best way to approach the water and how to fish this specific riffle.  Once again, he was right on the money!   

It was no surprise to see Jason’s rod doubled over with another lunker.  
“Wow!  This is a nice fish!” He said as he brought it into his net.  From where I was it looked as if the fish was filling up most of the net, so I quickly snapped a picture. 

While walking upstream, some movement caught my eye.  An otter was perched up on a rock checking me out. 

"Hey...” I said to the otter as it slipped behind the rock into the water.  It disappeared, then popped its head up as it drifted by me. 
“You eye-balling me?” I said to it as it drifted on downstream, looking at me.

With the otter out of the way, I stood on the very rock where it was perched and went back to fishing.  The next fish was one I would call a South Fork fish.  They usually have an olive back and a sun fire yellow body with a red stripe that could stop traffic.  Dashes of orange line the throat while spots completely cover the body of the fish, including in its eyes.  In the short amount of time I have been fishing, I have yet to find another fish that has the same specific characteristics of this South Fork Fish.  I have even thought of showing a picture to by buddy, Jeff, so that he can paint it.

I met back up with Jason, and he pointed to an overhanging branch in the water. 
“I saw a fish right behind there.” he said.  The limbs of the branch created a soft spot in the water that normal indicator fishing couldn't reach without getting snagged.  
“Well, let me see if I can lead my fly in there.” I said as I waded across a swift current.  
"Whoa...” I said, as the current threatened to wash me downstream. 
“Hold on.  I’m going to get downstream from you...” Jason said, adding, “Just in case.” 
I smiled over at him, fully knowing that me falling in and getting swept away, was his "just in case"
“It’s always in these situations when I feel I should have a wading staff.” I say, as I stepped further in where the water is at its strongest. I quickly got behind a big rock that offered a nice break in the current, gathered my flies, and made a sharp cast.  As my flies drifted down, I reached out with the ten and a half foot Shadow 2, leading my flies behind the downed branched.  I watched my slinky, and it sprain to life! The little bit of line out of the rod tip tore off the water as I set the hook. 
“You got it!” Jason yelled with excitement. The fish thrashed as I brought it in towards me as fast as possible.  I had to get it in the break water if I wanted a chance of landing it.  Sure enough, the fish cooperated, and I quickly got it to the net.  Jason was nice enough to snap a picture. 

Every once in a while the South Fork treats you like you are God’s gift to fly fishing, and if it happens to be your day, take full advantage, because you never know when it’s going to happen again.  We left the South Fork with the feeling the day could not have been any better, and I am anxiously waiting my next trip over.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blown Out

With two very large gear bags, fly rod cases, three other miscellaneous bags, and more, I looked at Mark Grajcar and asked, “Did you forget anything?”  Mark has one of those laughs that when you hear him, it makes you laugh.  
“I don’t want to forget my streamers.” Mark said, packing in another box before we took off. 
“I tied up some Kelly Galloup sex dungeons and barley legals streamers for today.”  Mark said, “And I showed them to Carolyn.” Carolyn is Mark's wife. 
“She was disgusted with the names, and hopes I won’t catch a fish on them.” Mark said, with a laugh. 
“That means we have to catch a fish on them!” I added, with enthusiasm. 
We were nearing our turn to Anderson Ranch Dam when a large animal galloped out into the road.
“That’s and el... Those are moose!” Mark said, correcting himself mid-sentence.  Sure enough three moose went trotting off into the open hills.  

We reached the river, and the further we drove downstream the worse the river got.  The heavy rain was washing mud into the river, causing a lack of visibility in the water.  Before the fires the rain was not a problem, but now it was only a matter of time before the river was completely silted with mud.

I started Euro nymphing while, Mark chucked his enormous streamers in search of a hungry fish.  As far as I could tell I was doing everything right, but with no success.  Upstream, Billie, Mark's lab, was running around the bank while Mark worked his streamer.  Earlier Billie had flushed a chukar, and I’m sure she was looking for another one.  During all the time spent fishing this spot, the only thing I managed to bring up was this mid-sized white fish

Since the fires, people have been coming into the shop and telling us that no fish had survived.  That is 100% untrue, but it seemed to be the running joke of the day.  
“All the fish are dead here, Mark.” I said as we exited the stream.  Mark laughed at the comment, adding, “Well, the water has gotten more and more muddy, that could be a factor.” 
“It’s certainly not looking good.” I added. 

Mark took us to a new spot but, just like the last spot, we caught nothing (unless you want to count my white fish).  I snapped a picture of Mark fishing the run, and after a second glance, I could see that Billie was displaying her thoughts of Mark’s fly fishing abilities...    

The South Fork had turned into a river of mud with no visibility.  Up and up we drove, looking for another spot to fish.  It wasn’t until we approached the dam when we started to see clearer water.

Just downstream from the dam was the only place where the water was clear.  We both had streamers on, working our way upstream.  Like true sportsmen, we were blaming everything but ourselves for not getting into fish today; we even went so far as to blame Mark’s wife, Carolyn, for cursing the flies before we had even started fishing.

On the river’s edge, Billie was watching as Mark and I rocketed our streamers out as far as we could.  It was beginning to feel like a lost cause. 
“Whoa!” Mark said faintly. I looked over and saw his rod was bent.  For a second I thought he was snagged, because there was no play in his rod.  I watched as his line started cutting through the water, which does not happen if you are snagged.
“A FISH!” I yelled to Mark.

Mark played it cool, not over reacting to the fight of the fish, and keeping his line taught as the fish went for another run.  I raced over to help land the fish, and as he brought it in close enough for us to take a look, it turned and bolted off. 
“It’s a bull trout, Mark!” I said over the screams of his reel. 
“Well it doesn’t want to come in!” Mark said with a strain, as he managed to keep his rod from slapping the water.  Another attempt to bring in the fish failed.  Our excitement must have gotten Billie riled up enough to jump in and swim over to us.  Mark’s rod was doubled over as he lifted the fish’s head out of the water; I slipped the net under it, landing the fish.  

“My wife is not going to be happy!” Mark said, with a smile, “I caught it on the sex dungeon!” We both got a kick out of that, and it was also the first time we had seen Billie swimming around us. 
“Billie? What are you doing here?” Mark said, as he took out the seven-inch streamer from the trout’s mouth, and held up his bull trout for a picture. 

Mark placed the fish back into the water, and it kicked away.  His seven-inch sex dungeon, with a size two octopus stinger hook, casually drifted a few feet away downstream, attached to heavy leader.  I looked up just in time to see Billie swimming right over to the streamer, and in a second, bit down on it...

"MARK!” I yelled, simultaneously reaching over and dropping his rod tip. “Billie just ate your streamer!”  
Mark took control of his fly line, adding slack, as Billie casually swam up to Mark, and placed the streamer in his hand. 
“Awww, thank you, Billie.” Mark said, adding, “Stupid dog!” 
“Well that ended better than I thought it was going to.” I said, as we both laughed with relief.  Billie had started for the shore line, and we followed, ending a tough day at the South Fork of the Boise.