Monday, March 30, 2015

Sam’s First Fish on a Fly

Sam was waiting with his gear ready to go when I pulled into the driveway to pick him up.  I was happy to hear that my uncle, Jim Englar, was joining us on our hike for redband trout; I have been wanting to fish with my uncle for years, and was happy that the day was finally here.  From their house the drive to Jump Creek Canyon was short, and the hike to the falls was even shorter.  

“Geez, it’s a good thing I have these sunglasses on with that cork being so bright!” I said, as my uncle pulled his new fly rod out of its case. 
Uncle Jim started laughing, then said, “Yeah, it’s a shame. I need to get out more.” 
“Man, it still has that new cork smell and everything.” I said before we started fishing.

Uncle Jim hooked into the first fish almost immediately, and was not shy about making it known. I was standing by Sam, who was remembering how to perform a roll cast

Sam picked up the cast fast, and was presenting his fly in spots that look fishy.  Though his casts were reaching a safe distance to catch fish, nothing was taking... or was it? After a closer observation, I could see Sam’s line twitching ever so slightly, but I knew that meant fish were taking his nymph as he retrieved it. 

“Sam, I can see you are getting bites.” I said, as Sam looked up at me. “You need to keep your rod tip close to the water, so that there is little to no slack in your line as you retrieve your fly.” 
“Okay.” Sam said, following my instruction.  His line twitch again, but this time Sam was on it. 
“Oh, I felt that.” Sam said, raising his rod tip to see the hook, but nothing was on. 
“Flick it back out, that fish is still hungry.” I said quickly, but Sam didn’t need to be told; his line was already in motion to put his fly right where it needed to be.  Before I saw his line twitch, Sam set the hook on a fish.
“There you go!” I yelled, as Sam brought in his first fish on a fly rod. 

I quickly explained to Sam the difference between a regular rainbow trout and a redband rainbow trout, as he held it in his hand.
The brilliant colors and patterns of the redband are unmistakable.  Definitely a fish you need to catch and see for yourself.
“Cool fish, huh?” I asked Sam.
“Yeah.” He said back, as he released his fish.  

After Sam had caught a number of fish, I began to fish with my 2 wt. Superfine touch fly rod: a dream rod for this situation. The little 2 wt. fly rod is so light that even the little two-inch fish were putting a decent bend in the rod.  Uncle Jim had found a nice hole on the other end of the pool, and was producing fish after fish.  

“There’s a nice one.” Uncle Jim said, as he brought in one of the bigger fish of the day. 
“Hey, that is a nice one.” I said, then dropped my fly rod, and ran over to get a picture of him and his fish.  

“Would you guys be interested in checking out the river above the falls?” I asked after fishing below the falls for a while. 
“We would be up for that.” Uncle Jim said, before we put the fly rods away and headed up the steep hill.  The path looked like it had ended, until a seasoned hiker of Jump Creek Canyon showed us that it had not.  
“See that small crack...” The gentleman said, pointing up the steep rock, “... that's the path that leads above the falls.” 
“Let’s try it.” Uncle Jim said, confident we could make the climb. The nice gentleman led the way as Sam, Uncle Jim, and I followed behind. 

Sam had reached the crux of the climb, and it looked a bit intimidating.  After a bit of hanging there, we decided we would need to be more prepared to make that climb. Instead, we found a spot downstream from the falls that had a lot of dry fly activity.  I tied on a pico ant for Sam and he stood on the rock, casting to hungry fish. 

Sam had found the honey hole, ripping fish out left and right. Every fish that took his fly was celebrated with laughter and a “that-a-boy” from his dad, as Sam really got the hang of catching fish on the fly rod.

Unable to take it anymore, Uncle Jim tied on a little may fly and started casting.  His fly hit the water and a small fish came and ate it.  Like a catapult, Uncle Jim set the hook, sending the little fish flying high and behind him... right into the rock wall. 
“Geez, could you set the hook a little harder?” I laughed, as I grabbed the little stunned fish. 

“Try holding it in the current.” Uncle Jim suggested, as I did my best to revive it. The small fish didn’t seem to be doing well, but after a little bit of TLC it started swimming, then turned and darted away.  

A large rock slide that happened hundreds of years ago covers up a portion of the creek that deprives it from light, giving the feeling like you are fishing a small cave.  

The lack of direct sunlight did not hinder the fishes' appetite, Uncle Jim discovered, as he proceeded to catch the fish that were taking refuge under a large rock.  A large smile from Uncle Jim was what every fish he caught saw. 
“If you can’t have a good time catching these little fish, then you just don’t get it.” I said. 
“There is something neat about being out here and enjoying nature... and catching these fish is just fun!” Uncle Jim said, as he admired another nice redband. 

We had fished this creek hard, and after a while the fish were not so willing to take our flies. 
“I think you caught all the fish here, Sam!” I said, after a few unsuccessful attempts. 
“Yeah, they don’t seem as hungry.” He replied. 
“It’s not that.  You just educated them.” I said smiling, as Sam smiled back. 

A good portion of the day had flown by fast, and it was already time to get going. 
“Thanks for taking us out, Erik.” Uncle Jim said, as we packed up our gear. 
“Absolutely. I have been wanting to get you out fishing for a long time. And I definitely wanted to get Sam into his first fish on a fly.” I replied. 
“That was pretty cool.” Sam said. 
“Well, we will have to get out again soon before my gear gets too dusty.” Uncle Jim said.
“Hopefully got some cool video of Sam catching fish with the GoPro.” I said, looking back at Sam.
“I want to see that.” Sam said, excitedly.
“I’ll get it edited fast, and put it on YouTube!” I told Sam, as we drove away from a fun day at Jump Creek. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jump Creek Canyon

“You are not bringing your damn fly fishing stuff!” My friend, Stephanie, AKA Lame-Spice, said to me the day before we went on the hike.  
“Why not?” I asked.  
“That wasn’t meant to be a question, you’re just not!” Lame-Spice snapped. 
“Do you always have to bring your fly fishing stuff everywhere you go?” My buddy Nick, AKA Nagger, chimed in.  Both Nagger and Jason were visiting from Salt Lake City, and like new hikes to venture out on. 
“I don’t care if he brings his fly rod.” Jason said.
“Thanks, Jason.” I said, but was quickly cut off.
“No fishing stuff!” Lame-Spice yelled. 
“Okay.” I said, sounding defeated and thereby ending the conversation.  

The next morning when we threw our packs in the trunk of the car, you better believe I had all my fly gear packed along for the ride!  

We pulled into the parking lot of the Jump Creek Canyon trailhead, and I pulled out my pack. 
“What is that?” Lame-Spice asked. 
“It’s his stupid fly fishing stuff.” Nagger said, before I could answer the question. The two fly rods were in their cases and held on either side of my pack.
“That’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be.” Stephanie said, before we started our hike. 

Jump Creek lined the path, and I kept my eye out for pockets of water that could hold fish.  In no time at all, we had arrived at the waterfall where I took a picture of Stephanie and Nagger.  

I quickly made my way to the far end of the pool below the falls, rigged up a fly rod, and made a cast.
“We’re going to be here forever.” Stephanie said, but just as she finished, I had a fish on!
“There’s my fish!” I said, bringing in the little shaker fast. 
“You're kidding me?” Stephanie said, and got closer to look at the fish and snap a picture.  

Another cast brought in another fish. 
“What kind of fish are these?” Nagger asked. 
“They are redband rainbow trout, and are native to Idaho.” I said. “The only place you can find them are in these small creeks.”  

“Do they get any bigger?” Jason asked. 
“They can get much bigger than these ones,” I said, “but in this creek, a ten-inch fish would be king!”  
Just as I said that, I hooked into another fish. 
“This is a big one!” I said, which brought Nagger, Jason, and Stephanie closer to take a look.  Of course a big one means it’s over four inches long, but what this little redband lacked in size it made up for in heart. The little fish shook with all its might, but came in easy for a picture.

My friends and other hikers around were excited to see the next fish caught.  Everyone walking by was just as excited as me to discover there were fish in this river, and they all wanted to see a fish up close.  A few kids in particular hung out for a little while in hopes of seeing a fish, and I didn’t disappoint. 

A small fish was caught in no time, and I pointed out all the features of a redband rainbow trout. 
“The eyes are the coolest...” I said, “the parr marks go up along the body past the eyes”.  I stopped and pointed at the side of the fish up to its eyes. “See the pupil?” I asked.  “Now look at the dots on either side of the pupil...” I pointed them out, “Cool, huh?”  The boys nodded, and their mom came to have a closer look before I placed the fish back in the water.

By now I had quite the crowd of people watching. The pico ant I had tied on was working its charm.  As soon as the ant hit the water, the little fish would charge at it with such ferocity, causing them to shoot out of the water and completely miss the fly. The little splashes and leaping fish put on quite a show. 

Both Nagger and Stephanie found a trail to continue their hike, while Jason stayed to watch me catch fish. 

“Want to try catching one?” I asked Jason, who looked eager to throw the fly rod. 
“Yeah!” he said, without hesitation. I handed him the fly rod and described how to make a cast.  With a quick explanation, Jason caught on and pitched out a fly to some hungry fish. 

“Can you see your fly?” I asked. 
“Yep.” Jason replied, just as a fish came up and ate it.
“There!” I said, but Jason was already on it, and set the hook to bring in his first fish on a fly rod.

“I think that’s the big one of the day!” I said with a smile. 
“Oh yeah, it’s a monster!” Jason said, sarcastically.  He dipped his hand in the water, and let his fish go.  The little fish sat there for a while, then shot off like a torpedo.  

“We better go find Nick and Stephanie.” Jason suggested, after I hooked and released another fish. 
“I agree... otherwise they will get back to the car and take off without us.” I said. 
“I wish you were kidding.” Jason said, and we both went and found Nick and Stephanie at the summit of the hike, ending a great day of fishing.  

This would be a great place to take my cousin Sam, because he has yet to catch a fish on a fly, I thought as we drove home from the hike. As soon as I got service, I sent a few texts to Sam. It was confirmed, Sam could go and my Uncle Jim was coming too... Looks like I’ll be here tomorrow!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Steelheading Day 2: The Last Cast

“We have to go if we want to get that spot!” Ryan said, as he woke me from my slumber and fashioned the rods in the rod holders. Roger was up too, so I sprang out of bed to gear up.  
“Okay, Erik, slow down. The spot we want is at the corner coming up.” Ryan said as we drove. I lightly applied the brakes, looking for a corner and the turn out, but only saw blackness.  
“We are passing it!” Ryan said. 
“I can’t see anything!” I protested. Ryan pointed, and I took my eyes off the road for a second to see what he was talking about. 
“Crap!  I’ll turn around!” I said, but I had to wait for the car that was approaching.  The headlight passed me, and I started to turn.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!?” Roger said, sounding horror struck.
“They are taking that spot, huh?” Ryan asked, rhetorically.  I had the car turned around by now, and saw it for myself: the car’s brake lights were on and parked at the very pullout I had missed. 
“Damn! Sorry guys.” I said, “I couldn’t see." 
“Welcome to the South Fork of the Clearwater, Erik!” Roger said, not surprised at all over what had just happened.
“Missed our spot by five seconds.” Ryan said, “it’s your typical South Fork moment; but I have another spot in mind”. Lucky for us, Ryan’s next spot was empty, and we were out of the car fast to secure it.

Ryan explained the depth and holding spot of the fish in full detail before we started to fish.  

Roger was in prime location before he shot his flies out into position. The sound of thrashing water broke Ryan’s and my attention from our own lines to look downstream. 
“There’s one!” Roger yelled, and both Ryan and I sprang to life.  Ryan grabbed the net and ran down to help, while I grabbed the Go-Pro.  I was in full spring, headed towards Roger, and got there just in time to see his hook pop out of his steelhead’s mouth. 

No one likes a lost steelhead, but Roger went back to casting as if it didn’t phase him at all. We only had until 12pm before we had to get off the water, so we moved to a new location we wanted to check out.  We knew it would most likely be available, because it required some wading to get there.  I hooked into a steelhead but lost it in the fight; it was a good omen that we were in the right spot. 

I ended up crossing the river to work the other side of the hole. When I arrived, I saw someone was holding a fish.  Could it be Roger?, I asked myself as I ran down, just across the stream from the guys. I looked over at them to see, surprise surprise, Ryan holding a fish. 

After Ryan placed his fish back into the water, I stripped out some line to make a cast.  The amount of slack-water was making it hard to get a good drift without disturbing my indicator, and every time the indicator would become disturbed, it would screw up my flies underwater.  Despite the challenge, I kept fishing and hoping my indicator would dart under. And it did!

I sharply lifted the fly rod as it doubled over. 
“Is that what we hope it is?” Roger asked from across the river.  
“It’s a fish!” I yelled back, and the fight began.  The fish swam deep, and I jumped in the water to keep my line from getting tangled around the large rock just subsurface.  The force of every head shake was like trying to stop a train, but I did my best. 

I brought the fish in, but there was no way I could land it without beaching it.  That’s when I saw Ryan running with the net. He had crossed the stream in record time to help me land my fish.  Without hesitation, Ryan extended the handle of the net and scooped up my fish, as if he had been doing this all his life. 

“I can’t believe it!” I said with a smile, as I looked at the size of the B-run steelhead.  
“This is the big one of the trip, Erik.” Ryan said, before I picked up the fish for a picture.

“I’m done for the day.” I said, after my fish slipped away. "This way I can say I landed a steelhead on my last cast on the Clearwater”. 
By now Roger had crossed the river and was the last one to remain fishing while Ryan and I broke down our fly rods.  

“This trip would have been much better if you would have brought in that fish, Roger.” Ryan said, as we headed home. 
“Don’t let my not catching a fish ruin your idea of a good trip. This was a good trip, and I knew what I was getting myself into. This is steelheading; sometimes you catch a fish and sometimes you stand in a river casting all day. Sure, I would prefer to catch fish, but you have to put in your time. I’m happy you guys caught fish, and to be honest, this is a typical trip for me on the South Fork of the Clearwater. I fish while other people catch.” Roger said, before he finished, “And I would do it all over again if I had the chance.”  

This is what I like about Roger. His philosophy on any experience in the outdoors is reflected as simply an experience that is never a bad time. It says a lot about a person who can walk away from a few days of fishing with no fish caught and still recognize a good time.  These are the kinds of people I like to fish with, because this is the kind of angler I would like to be.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Steelheading day one: The Hero Shot

The heater was at full-blast as we drove to one of Ryan’s favorite spots on the river.  I must admit, I wouldn’t have given this spot a second thought, but that is why we had Ryan with us: there was definitely a lot of learning that needed to take place today.  With our two-handed fly rods, we carefully made our way down the steep rocky embankment to stake out our spot.

The cold, crispy morning slightly faded when the sun started to rise; not because it got warmer, but because we had something else to think about other than how cold it was: it was time to start steelheading! 

Ryan set Roger Philips and me up in a spot to fish, and together the three of us started working the water. 

The two handed rods we were using offered up easy casting with no back cast needed.  Being able to flick out your flies with ease allows you to work the water very efficiently, hopefully increasing your chances of hooking into a large B-run steelhead.  
“There’s one!” Ryan yelled, lifting the eleven foot switch rod high to set the hook.

After an hour or two of casting, someone hooking into a steelhead offers a nice distraction, even if it isn’t me. Roger grabbed the net, while I grabbed the camera and leapt over the rocks to get a shot of Ryan fighting his fish! 

“It’s doing the steelhead-shake!” Roger yelled, watching the fish thrash underwater to spit the hook. Ryan kept the line tight, but the steelhead turned 180 degrees in a flash, causing the hook to pop out of the steelhead's mouth. 
The loll of losing the steelhead quickly faded once I hooked up. It is not uncommon for your indicator to go down due to a rock or stick on the river bed, which is what I thought had happened when I set the hook.  My rod bent over, but as I started pulling back on the line, it was coming in sluggishly as if I had hooked a stick. 
“Guys, something’s weird here!” I said, stripping in my line before the full weight of a B-run steelhead became present.
“Your rod is bending like that because you hooked a fish, Erik!” Roger yelled over to me sarcastically, as if speaking to someone who had never caught a fish. 
“Thanks, Roger!” I said back, with a smile.

The immense weight of the fish was incredible, as I did everything I could to keep the fish at bay.  Roger stood with the net ready as the fish came into view. My hero shot is only moments away, I thought, then the fish turned and started swimming away! 
“No, no!” I said, as I held the reel from spooling out any line and applied all the torque a thirteen-foot eight-weight spey rod had to offer. The steelhead would have none of it; the power of the fish was far more than I could manage, and I had to let it run back across the river where the hook popped out of its mouth.  

The feeling of your line going slack from losing a fish is the worst! At least I got to see it, I thought, before we went back to fishing.  Roger moved downstream while Ryan went up to try out some new water. 
“There’s another one!” Ryan said, and sure enough he was fighting a fish!

“This fish isn’t fighting too bad.” Ryan said, as he applied the pressure.  I had my Go-Pro in one hand while holding the net in the other to land the fish. The weight of the net was making it hard to maintain control while filming. 
“Erik, what are you doing?” Roger scolded, “It’s one or the other!” It was true; it was a bad idea to try to film and net the fish, but with one big heave, Ryan brought the steelhead up enough for me to slip the net under and scoop up his fish!

The first hero shot was out of the way, and that only fueled my determination to get my own. Though the sun was up, Ryan had us in a spot that did not get sun until after 11am.  The warmth of the sun was welcomed, and it wasn’t long after that when Ryan hooked  into another steelhead!

This steelhead was not cooperating like Ryan’s previous fish, as it continued to run further and further downstream.  Roger kept downstream from the steelhead, while Ryan rock-hopped on the bank to remain in control. There was finally a small opportunity to land the fish, and Roger didn’t pass up on it: he jabbed the net underwater fast, bringing it up around Ryan’s steelhead. 

“Nice job, Ryan!” I yelled over, as he and Roger got the fish ready for a picture. 
“I want, Roger in this one with me.” Ryan said, recognizing that without Roger’s help, this fish would not have been landed. 

The steelhead was not happy, and definitely did not want its picture taken.  As soon as Ryan dipped the steelhead underwater, it kicked hard, forcing Ryan to let go!

After spending the first portion of the day fishing one spot, we decided it was time to move on. We found a section on the river that looked good and, surprisingly, no one was there.  That moment alone didn’t last long.  A guy holding a spinning outfit came down the hill right next to me, and started fishing the same spot I was fishing.  At first I was a little taken back by it, and wanted to say something, but he seemed like a nice guy and he was yielding to my cast. It wasn’t long before he was joined by his daughter that had to have been less that eight years old. He began to instruct her how to fish near a fly angler, and she was doing well. I decided I was better off letting the kid have the spot. After all, getting youth into any kind of fishing is good with me! 
“Why don’t you and your daughter fish this spot.” I said to the man. 
“Seriously?” He asked.  
“Yeah, I'm not terribly comfortable casting this spey rod with your kid near by anyway.” I said, adding, “And it’s better that she fish in a spot she is comfortable.” 
Little did I know that the man was a local angler, and knew this river like the back of his hand.  He was so grateful to me, he began to share locations on the river that only a local seasoned angler would know, including information that was new to Ryan. After a quick talk with Ryan and Roger, we moved to the new hole, and Ryan was hooked into a steelhead in just a short amount of time!

“Erik!” Ryan yelled from the distance, and I came running with the net. Another beast of a steelhead was netted for a hero shot!

“It’s your turn, Erik! You need a hero shot.” Ryan said, as he dipped his steelhead into the water, and it kicked hard to return home.  

Ryan offered me the spot he had hooked his steelhead, and I immediately started to fish.  A large circle C cast, and I put my flies where they needed to be.  My indicator sank under and I wrenched back on the spey rod to set the hook! 

Nothing was happening; my rod stayed doubled over for a few seconds until I felt the unmistakable jolt of a steelhead! 
“RYAN, I GOT ONE!” I screamed.
“Eriiiiik!” Ryan yelled, in full sprint. The steelhead was putting up a great fight, but I was not giving the fish an inch. The fish turned to dive, but if you thought I had the torque on the fish before, it was nothing compared to what I was doing now.  The thirteen-foot rod was completely arched over like it was a full flex fly rod, and the fly line was so tight you could pluck a crisp A note! 

The eight-minute fight with a B-run steelhead felt like twenty minutes. My forearm was burning from exhaustion, and the looming fear of losing the fish was ever so present.  

I backed out of the water and got behind Ryan, who was ready with the net. The head of the fish was up, and Ryan made a dash for the fish! The fight was over, I had successfully landed my very first B-run steelhead.

The size and girth of the fish was unreal, and one could easily get lost in the shades of olive that paint the fish. Tons of spots cover its back, but not one touches another. The scarlet stripe running from cheek to tail is unmistakable, and its wild hazel eyes that stare right back into yours command respect.  
The sudden force of the fish kicking to leave your hands is something you need to experience for yourself, and in the end Ryan extended his hand of a job well done; what an awesome accomplishment! 

“This is a typical day on the Clearwater for me, watching other people catch fish.” Roger said, as we finished for the day.  Roger slipped back into this tent, while Ryan zipped himself back in his.  I, on the other hand, fashioned myself a bed in the back of the Rav, where it was comfortably warm.  No longer envious of my dog, I was out before my head hit the pillow, ready for whatever tomorrow would bring.