Monday, August 17, 2015

Coffee Cup Lake

Bug spray is usually a necessity up in the high country, but this year, unless you count my encounter with the yellow jacket, it has been a low pest year. Having mosquitoes buzzing in your ears can be an annoying distraction when fly fishing, and not having them around has inspired us to walk a bit further into the woods.

The nice thing about this hike was that we had the opportunity to hit three lakes, time permitting. The two Grassy Meadow Lakes would be the first lakes we would pass on the way to Coffee Cup Lake, and a large percent of people never go passed those two lakes. With Mike and Kerry McLean, Gracy, and I, hiking a bit further away from people and into the steep backcountry would be the cat’s meow. 

The overcast day shaded us from the sun, and as we headed up the steeper part of the trail just past the Grassy Mountain Lakes, both became visible near the summit. 

“Can you get a picture of Kerry and I?” Mike asked, as they stood with their back to the lakes. 
“Yeah.” I said, as he handed me his camera. After the picture, Gracy went and stood with her back to the lakes. I handed Mike his camera back and looked over at Gracy.
“I guess we want a picture too!” I said dismally. 
“Shut up and get over here!” Gracy snapped, and Kerry giggled as Mike took my camera for our photo.   

“Now get out of here, I’m done with ya!” Gracy said, giving me a push.  
“If only you were joking.” I said back, then quickly stepped away before I got hit. Before too long we were looking down onto Coffee Cup lake, and a smile grew on my face. 
“I like when you can see the lake at the top of the summit.” I told Mike, as we viewed the lake. 
“I think I saw a rise!” Mike said back with a smile, knowing full well that we were too far away to see anything of the sort; but that kind of stuff is funny to us fly fishers.   

The hike down to the lake got seriously steep with a narrow trail that could give the most experienced hiker vertigo, but once that was past us we found ourselves in a sea of little berries. 
“What are you picking over there?” I asked Gracy, who was doing her best to not squish the little berries as she picked them.
“Grouse Whortleberries.” She said, showing me the small handful she was collecting.

The little berries are the best, but are so small that it would take us an hour to collect a cup full. That is more time than any of us wanted to put into berry picking, so we pushed on to the lake that was just around the next tree.

I didn’t see many rising fish, but that didn’t stop me from setting up my fly rod at the speed of light. Mike, Kerry, and Gracy had all found seats on the large granite rocks that spilt off the mountain. 
“Hey, it’s a chipmunk.” Gracy said, looking at the small animal behind her. 
“Actually, I think that’s a ground squirrel.” Kerry said, as it came closer and closer to where we were sitting. 
“It must be used to people.” Gracy said, as I pulled out my camera to take a picture of Gracy and the ground squirrel just behind her. 

“Aren’t you hungry?” Kerry asked, as I started to walk away with my rod and reel all rigged up to fish. 
“No! He ate his sandwich on the way down here so he could have his rod rigged up and be the first one to catch a fish, while the rest of us had our lunch!” Mike explained.  
“You know me too well, Mike.” I smiled, then headed around the lake to do some fishing. 

The lake seemed placid, with a few ripples caused by rising fish out in the center, which was too far away for me to cast. I rolled out my fly as far as I could, and as soon as it hit the water a fish rose just off to my left. The rising fish was too far away to be attracted to my fly, so I swept my rod up quickly to bring all my line off the water and into a large circling loop in front of me. Every bit of my fly line was in the air, and as soon as the tip of the line brushed the water it was time to fling it forward. The tip of the line has to hit the water first to create drag, and I would use that drag to load the fly rod and shoot the line in a different direction. This is called a single handed spey cast, and in this situation it was the perfect cast, because the fish nailed my fly as soon as it hit the water.  

The fish was bigger than I thought it was going to be, which is always a nice surprise in a mountain lake. I let the fish go, and stood back up to cast out again. It’s hard for me to stay in one spot when nothing is hitting, and with a slight opening for a back cast up ahead, I decided it was time to move on. 

Another rise in casting distance quickly got my attention. I peeled line off my reel and made a fast cast, only to discover that my line had knotted up in my haste to get it out of the reel. My fly line jolted to a stop as the knot hit the first ferrel, and my fly slapped the water unpleasantly and way off its mark.  When gunning your fly at a fish every second counts, and there was no way I was going to get a second chance at this fish with the knot I had to deal with. 
“Come on, come on!” I murmured under my breath. It seemed with every tug of my fly line the knot got worse, and I didn’t have time for this. Finally the last loop was untangled, and I looked up to see where my fly was. A slight breeze blew my fly further to shore as I fooled around with the line, and it took me a second to realize that it was only five feet out. I picked up my fly rod to cast again, and in the process of doing that, I drug the fly across the surface of the water. SPLASH! The wake of my fly had gotten the attention of a hungry fish.

The fight was short. The cutthroat trout was thrashing like mad, and it shook free just when I had it in arm's length. I should have played the fish a little longer to get the fight out of his system before I tried to grab it. I stood up to see that Mike was standing just on the other side of the lake from me, and had found a nice spot to make a longer cast.

Fish were taking Mike’s fly, but they looked too small to actually eat the fly. I looked over to the lily pads near me and wondered if a fish could be hiding under them... I made a cast that tipped the edge of one of the large floating leaves. A small commotion disrupted the lily pad and something grabbed my fly. I lifted the rod tip fast, and kicking like mad was a small frog, still clawing to hold on to my fly.

“Heeeeey...” I said happily to the frog, “what are you doing eating my fly?” The frog was kicking all over the place, and wouldn’t stop so I could free him. It kept doing little flips on the line like a trapeze artist, so I plopped him in the water and he stopped moving. 

The little frog stayed motionless while it was suspended underwater. Now that it wasn’t moving I was able to get a good look at the frog. Now I’m no herpetologist, but judging by the funky pattern and course skin, I would say this little guy was a Columbian Spotted Frog.

With the hook out of its mouth, the frog kicked away like a toddler on a boogie-board and I went back to fishing. On the other side of the lake, Mike started on his way back to Kerry and Gracy, and I was ready to head back; that was until I saw a fish rise where I had once been. The motivation to head back wasn’t so bad anymore, and it was worth a shot. As soon as I flicked out to the rising fish, it came up and gently sipped in my fly like a late-harvest merlot. I set the hook and could see the bronze flashes of a cutthroat trout just under the water as it struggled to get away. I kept my cool this time, and brought in the fish a bit slower so I could grab it for a picture.

The fish slipped out of my hands, and I watched it as it disappeared deep into the crystal clear water. I pressed on and was just about half way back, when I felt the need to catch one more fish before ending the day. That kind of mentality can get you into a lot of trouble. One more fish can mean three more hours, depending on the day. And today had not been a great catching kind of day. I was fortunate though. A fish rose right near the bank, and the disturbance caught my eye. A quick flick sent my fly in the fish’s general direction, and in a second the fish came up and smacked my fly. What the fish lacked in size, it made up for in heart. The little thing fought with all its might, but it was landed quickly and let go after a quick picture. 

With my last fish caught, I was ready to head back.  When I arrived to where everyone was sitting, all the attention was on the little ground squirrel from before.
“Should we get going?” I asked, getting everyone's attention. 
“Check out my friend!” Gracy said, with a smile then turned back to the ground squirrel. Gracy picked out a small piece of cheese from her snacks, and held it out in front of her.
“It will take it from her hand.” Kerry said to me, but didn’t take her eyes of the little squirrel as it approached. 

Everyone remained silent as the squirrel scampered around the large rock, disappearing only to reappear on a closer rock. Gracy didn’t move.

If the squirrel made one more jump it would be on the same rock Gracy was sitting on...and it jumped. 

You could now hear its tiny nails on the rock as it cautiously stepped forward, then opened his arms to snatch the piece of cheese from Gracy’s fingers. 

As soon as it had the cheese, it turned and jumped away to a nearby rock and started eating.  Gracy turned to me beaming with happiness, as her friend, which she name Peter, started eating the cheese.
“With our luck it has the plague.” I said, as the squirrel stuffed its cheeks. Gracy frowned at me for even suggesting that. 
“I didn’t think of that.” Kerry said. 
“I think we are okay out here.” Mike added. 
“Still...” I said, “ can’t keep it.”  
“I’m not going to keep it!” Gracy told me, “But I was thinking that Kiwi needed a pet.” Kerry laughed at the thought of our little dog needing a pet, and we all continued watching as young Peter finished his cheese.

Peter watched from a distance, on the tallest rock, as we packed up and started heading out. 
“Bye, Peter.” Gracy waved, as we lost sight of the squirrel. 
Passing a sea of Grouse Whortleberries is a hard thing to do without stopping to pick a few, but if we wanted to hit the other lakes we didn’t have time to stop. I could tell Gracy really wanted more of the little berries, so I pulled up a chunk of the plant and handed it to her so she could pick off the berries as we walked.     

We arrived to the first Grassy Meadow Lake, and the fishing was slow. I caught one little brook trout and that was it. We didn’t fish long, because it was really time to get going if we wanted to make it home at a decent hour.

The best part of the day, for me, was catching the frog. Friends of mine tell me about catching frogs on a fly all the time, and I have always wanted to get one.  The day came, and now I can be apart of the club; it is, after all, the little things that make this sport pleasant for me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Hewlett-Packard Fly Fishing Event

Prior to the Hewlett-Packard team building event, John was running around like a house-elf trying to put together the last minute details for the evening.  Are we having 30 or 50 people wanting to fly fish; what prizes should we put together, if any; what time is the event going to start? 
“Is this going to work, Erik? Tell me this is going to work!” John asked me, after his contact at HP had changed the time of the event again.
“We have everything we need to make this event successful, now it’s up to the participants to take advantage of the opportunity they have.” I reassured, and what an opportunity it was. Ron Sali was kind enough to allow HP to host their event at his private Three Rivers Ranch off of Linder Rd: a 100 acre pond loaded with largemouth bass and rainbow trout that, if hooked, you could waterski behind. The agreement with Ron was that HP could use his place only if they donated to the Idaho 2 Fly Organization for men with cancer. With both sides in agreement, we, a collection of experienced anglers, showed up a few hours early to set up rods and reels for the attendees.

HP is in the process of dividing sections of their company, and the team of people responsible for all that work had been cooped up in offices and meeting rooms for a good part of the week. This team building/fly fishing event was HP’s way of thanking them for their work, and it offered a nice break from being inside. The employees of HP come from all over, from the other side of the country to the other side of the world, with 90% of them having never touched a fly rod.  
John has his first encounter from a urban gentleman who, as soon as he stepped off the bus, asked, “Can I still get [cell phone] service out here?”.  John handled the situation well by saying, “I think you are going to be ok, buddy” and sent him over to grab a fly rod for the crash-course casting instruction.  

Attendees were lining up with their fly rods in hand, and you could tell they were happy to be out. A few of them were looking at their fly rods and murmuring to each other. 
“I got a green one, that’s the good color to catch fish with!” One joked.
“Should I have gotten a green one?” Another asked sarcastically.
“Mine is reddish, do you think that will be okay?” A third guy asked.
I walked over to Darren Strong, one of the helpers, who was smiling as he heard the conversations. 
“Sounds like everyone is ready for a good time.” I said. 
“Let’s hope no one hooks themselves in the process.” He said with a laugh. 
“Okay, I want everyone’s eyes up here!” John yelled, getting everyone’s attention so he could start the instruction.   

John was doing his best to project his voice above the crowd, but it was difficult with over 30 people trying to cast. I walked over to the very end where three ladies held their fly rods and were practicing their cast. One woman, whose name was Maureen, had a puzzled look on her face.
“I’m having trouble hearing him.” Maureen said, and the other two ladies standing to her left, Patty and Lachelle, agreed. I quickly started to get them up to speed, but realized it was pointless. 
“Okay ladies, I’m going to tell you something and don’t take it the wrong way. There is no way you are going to learn to cast a fly rod in 15 minutes. It took me quite some time to get it down and we don’t have that much time this evening.” 
“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.” Lachelle said. 
“So what do you say we skip this introduction, head that way...” I pointed to the far side of the beach, “... and start fishing?” 
“Oh, we like you already!” Patty said, and together the four of us headed further down the beach.

I quickly tied flies with de-barbed hooks onto their lines before I set my focus on one person at a time. Maureen was the first of the three in line to help, and after casting out her crawdad fly with no luck, I quickly switched over to a popper.
“How will I know when a fish hits it?” She asked, as I handed her the rod back. 
“Oh...” I chuckled, “ will know.” A few pops was all she needed before a bass took like a submarine breaking the surface. 
“Whoa!” Maureen yelled, after the bass had completely leapt out of the water.
“Pull back! Pull back!” I yelled, “it ate your fly”.  Maureen brought her rod tip up, but the fish had shaken the fly off by then. 
“Don’t worry, we will get another one.” I reassured her, and casted her fly back out. Boom! A bass took and Maureen’s rod shot to the sky. I showed her how to strip in her line, but with the fear of losing another fish Maureen did the one thing she knew would work: she ran backwards.

Her fly rod was doubled over with the weight of the fish, but Maureen didn’t let go.  She continued backwards until her fish was completely landed screaming, “I got one! I got one!”  

“Well, that’s one way to do it.” I laughed, running over to grab the fish. Maureen was right beside me and ready for a picture.
“Okay, this thing is going to kick, but hold it tight so it doesn’t flop out of your grasp.” I said, handing her the fish.
“Okay.” She said, and held up her fish for a hero shot.

“Okay, keep fishing. I’m going to help Patty.” I said, and ran over to Patty before she could hook herself in the face with her wild casting.  
“Mind if I cast it out for you?” I asked, after replacing her fly with a popper. 
“Not at all.” Patty said, handing me the fly rod. With a quick flick, I sent the popper flying out into untouched water. 
“Okay, give it a few pops.” I instructed. 
“What kind of fly is this?” She asked, 
“A popper.”
“Well, it’s named perfect.” She said, after bringing her fly back in. 
“Let’s go over here.” I said, walking a bit further away from the main crowd and casting her fly out again. Patty had good popping technique, and the commotion her fly was producing looked delicious. KA-BLAM!       

“Ahhh!” Patty screamed, setting the hook fast, and running backwards. 
“You have a huge bass on!” I yelled excitedly, getting the attention of her colleagues. We all watched as Patty brought in her bass. Patty was beaming with the kind of smile seen in toothpaste commercials.    

The bass was landed, and it took two hands for me to grab it and keep it under control. 
“Ready for a picture?” I asked. 
“Hell yeah.” She said, grabbing the fish without hesitation.    

Patty placed her fish back in the water, and with one huge kick the fish took off, leaving us shielding our faces from the splash of water. 
“Okay, keep on fishing, I’m going get Lachelle into a fish.” I said, then ran over to Lachelle and quickly tied on a popper. 
“How have you been doing over here?” I asked. 
“I think there is something wrong with this line, it’s not going out very far.” She said, as I clipped my forceps back on my lanyard and gave her a smile. 
“You’re going to tell me it’s not my line, huh?” She asked. 
“Casting fly line takes more practice than what we have provided for you today. How about I cast it out for you?” I asked. 
Lachelle handed over the fly rod to me, but reluctantly. I could sense that she was not ok with me casting for her... She wanted to cast and catch a fish on a cast that she, and only she, performed. It takes one to know one, I thought. The look in her eyes, the hesitation to hand over the fly rod, the drive or need to do it yourself... She is the real thing, whether she knows it or not, Lachelle is a angler. 

“Okay...” Lachelle said, realizing that it was not me wanting to take away her experience, but simply the cards that we were dealt today. “... okay, as long as I catch a fish and Richard doesn’t!” 
“Who is Richard?” I asked. 
“He is our leader, and everything is a competition to him.” She explained.  
“Well let’s get your fish then!”
“Hell yeah!” She said, and I casted and handed her the rod. 
“Set! Set!” I yelled, after a fish grabbed her popper from the surface. 
“Whoa, whoa, you’re gettin' all technical on me. I don’t know what ‘set’ means.” She said.
“Sorry, it means pull back and set the hook.” I said, casting her fly out again.  She took the rod back, and this time she nailed it. 
“Aaaah, I got a fish!  I got one!” She yelled, as her fish grappled to free itself. 

Lachelle’s rod was dancing like a night out at the club, but she had everything under control. I got down to the water as fast as I could, and lipped her bass as soon as I could reach it.
“Yeaaa!” She yelled, as I held it up for her to take. 
“Oh... I’m not sure about this part...” She said, reluctantly extending her hand and grabbing the fish.
“It’s not so bad.” She said, referring to the experience holding the fish. 
“Naaa. Ready for a picture?” I asked. 
“Yeah, this one is for you, Richard.” She laughed.     

“Ok, you can throw it back.” I said, wanting a pleasant shot of her releasing her fish.  That is not what I got. She took the word “throw” a little more serious and flung her fish out as far as she could.

“NO!” I yelled, as her fish violently splashed down. I watched as the bass hesitated for half a second, then darted out of sight. 
“You said, 'throw it'.” She reminded me. 
“I meant, throw...” I gestured gently towards the water, “... it back.” I said, laughing. 
“Ohhhh!” Lachelle laughed. 

It was time to head in for dinner, and despite John’s initial fear that no one would want to fish... it was quite the contrary.  Members of the team had to be dragged off the shore line, with the last one being, you guessed it, Richard.   

Richard ended up not catching a fish that evening, and I could hear Lachelle casually saying, “Hey Richard, it’s okay... Sure I got one, but it’s not a competition.”   

“How did you guys do?” I asked, as I sat with the rest of the volunteers. 
“One lady hooked herself.” Darren said. 
“Yep. John had to come over and get the hook out.” 
“Tell him what John did!” Trent, Darren’s buddy, said. 
“Well.” Darren smiled, “John came over to do the push the eye down and pull from the bend of the hook thing, and when he went to pull the hook out, the line slipped from his hand, driving the barb deeper.” 
“Oh, God!” I said, covering my eyes. 
“Yep, her eyes got huge, and we had to get her a full glass of wine to help calm her down. John did it again and this time got the hook out. ” Trent said, to finish the story.           
It was getting dark, and the HP team was heading towards the bus. Maureen, Patty, and Lachelle thanked me before they took off, and the volunteers and I broke down all the fly rods to end the day.  We all stood around as we shared success stories of the evening that were filled with smiles and laughter. I can only hope the HP team is doing the same thing right this moment. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Stair-Master 10,000

There is always a further step to take when it comes to alpine lake fishing, and it was only a matter of time before taking that step. Hiking to a lake that has no trail means you need to be savvy when it comes to the outdoors, or in my case, know someone who is. Mike McLean's knowledge of the backcountry in the McCall area is impeccable, and I have a long way to go before achieving Mike’s supernatural septentrion abilities. Before we started, Mike pointed to the blue blob on the map, and drew his finger down to point out our best way to the lake.

“I hope you brought your lungs.” Mike said with a smile, as he clipped on his pack. 
“I did...” I said, “...and after studying the map, I also came mentally prepared.”
“That’s actually really important.” Mike said seriously. “If you came up here thinking this was going to be an easy hike, you are about to have a miserable day.” He chuckled. 
“I know what I’m in for.” I said.
“Well, are we all ready?” Mike asked, turning to Alan and his son, Logan. 
Both Alan and Logan were hiking up to the same lake, and asked if they could tag along. Mike and I have the same philosophy when it comes to the outdoors, so we were happy to have them with us on this journey.
“We’re ready.” Alan said. He looked to his son, who gave him a nod to go ahead, and together we headed up the mountain.            

There was no warming up to it. The path we had charted went straight up the mountain, and showed no sign of leveling out. The once sturdy dirt embankment turned into crumbling rocks the further up we went, making it that much more fun. 

Every step we took was carefully planned out to ensure we didn’t slip, but even the most sturdy rocks were full of surprises. The trail was getting steeper, so I grabbed nearby branches to help pull myself up when a large stone broke away like a rug being pulled from my feet. 
“ROCK!” I yelled, as my arm jolted up and I hung onto the branch. I looked back to see the watermelon-sized rock gaining speed as it tumbled down. Both Alan and Logan were just off to the right of where I had slipped, and were also watching the large rock crash through everything in its path.

“Don’t go this way.” I said, getting back to my feet. 
“Good idea.” Alan said, as he and Logan took a different route up. 
The burn in my thighs was becoming more apparent with every step I took up the mountain, and when a breeze blew by, I would take off my hat to cool down a bit.  Mike was still leading the charge and was moving upward with such a brisk pace that he failed to see the berries on the bush he had just passed.   

“Mike, huckleberries!” I yelled up to him. 
“I must have missed them...” he said on his way down, “...all I’m thinking of is going up”. 
Together the four of us started picking huckleberries, and I didn’t waste any time popping them in my mouth.  The little berries offered a punch of tart flavor that could wake you up from a daze, and it took the plastic water taste out of my mouth. Picking the huckleberries gave us all a much needed break from climbing and an extra rush of energy to continue up the mountain. 

The surge from the huckleberries wore out quick, and so did our path up. A large granite wall stopped us from going up any further, but after a quick look at the map, our ascent was just about over. Now we just needed to shoot across to the lake.

If only it had been that easy. As we skirted the mountain, we came to a large draw that opened up into more trees.
“Well, I think the lake is just beyond that other ridge there.” Mike pointed across the draw. Meaning, we had to walk down about 100 feet to get to the bottom of the draw, and then hike up another steep embankment where the lake was... hopefully. And blocking our way was a dense field of ten-foot bushes that offered no sign of going around them; which meant only one thing...

“All for a fish!” I said, with a laugh, as we started to make our descent. The phrase came from my grandpa’s girlfriend, Lois Klatt. She can’t believe the mentality of anglers that will hike up mountains, walk through the toughest terrain, and travel the world... all for a fish. And here I was, swinging like a monkey down another plunge-of-a-hillside with no footing, just to get to a fish. At one point the smaller branches were so thick on top of the bushes, we found it easier to hunker down and simply go under them.   

The thought of running into a spider had crossed my mind, as I blindly reached for branch after branch, but I forcefully shoved the idea out of my head. We had finally reached the bottom, and had cleared the bush field. 
“Didn’t you have two fly rods, Erik?” Mike looked at me with concern. 
His bluff would have worked if I hadn’t just checked to see if my rods were still securely intact to each side of my pack. 
“Nice one, Mike.” I said with a laugh. Although I would be lying if I said I didn’t check again...even though I knew he was joking.  Everyone was accounted for, gear and all, before we started up our final ascent.

On our way up, I spotted the ankle high plant covered in little red berries. 
“Grouse whortleberries, Mike. And they are perfectly ripe.” I said, picking a few. 

The blast of flavor from such a small berry is incredible. If you ever come across them, it’s worth picking ten or so, then popping them in your mouth all at once for a tart twang on your taste buds. Like the huckleberries, the grouse whortleberries had provided a blast of energy to send me up the mountain. 
“A cairn!” Mike said, pointing to the small stack of rocks to mark the correct way.  

The sight of the cairn made us all smile; it was the first real sign we were actually going the right way. And after walking straight up a mountain, tripping over rocks, skinning up knees, and sliding down through big bushes like a monkey, we had finally arrived to our destination.

I was finally looking at it: the very lake Mike and I had spent almost two years talking about.

Both Alan and Logan walked to the right of the lake, while Mike and I took the left side. We sat back and unclipped our packs to take a small breather before we started fishing. We were past due for a sandwich, and as we ate up, we could see a small fish leaping out of the water, eating every bug that hit the surface. 

My sandwich was gone in record time, and my fly rod was put together just as fast. I tied on a pico spider, and found a spot where I could make a cast to a fish.

I looked over and saw the shadow of a fish before I actually saw the fish itself, and it was cruising the bank looking for food. Well let’s give you what you want, I thought as I slapped down my pico spider, and it was love at first splat.  The fish reacted just as it was suppose to, and bolted for my spider. 
“Gotcha!” I yelled, and the fish detonated into action. 
“Whoa! You're bigger than I thought!” I said to the fish, as it started peeling line from my reel. I quickly reacted to get control, and brought in my first fish of the day.

A nice fish indeed, especially for an alpine lake. I stood looking into the water, and saw no more shadows of fish, so I pressed on.

I found a spot on a rock that would allow me to cast further into the lake without snagging a tree behind me, which is rare at an alpine lake. Despite the ability to perform a long cast, I first had to slap my fly down next to the edge of the rock. BLAM! A fish came out from under it and took my fly.

Fishing around the rock was certainly paying off. Another cast landed me another fish right next to the shore, and the fish seemed to be getting bigger. Once the fish around the rock had been caught, it was time to launch a cast further out into the lake. The pico spider glistened in the sunlight as it sat on top of the water, and after a single twitch to bring the spider to life, a fish rocked out of the water to eat it. I looked over at Mike, who was too far away to have witnessed the explosive attack, as I brought in the fish.

The fish was landed, and I dipped my camera underwater to capture a picture. The fish was cooperating nicely by not moving around too much, but it was the damn yellow jacket buzzing around my head that made things tough.

Nothing can ruin fishing like a lurking yellow jacket.
“Get away from me!” I scolded the pest, but it wasn’t listening. I was in the process of taking my fly out of the fish's mouth, when the yellow jacket buzzed my face. With my hands unhooking the fish, all I could do was spit at it as it buzzed around me. The yellow jacket flew away so I stood to cast again. A BZZZZZZZ right in my ear screwed up my cast, and I was pissed. 
“Alright damn it, you want a piece of me?” I yelled, putting down my fly rod and taking off my hat. I stood there in the ready position, hand open like I was ready to wrestle, with my hat in my right hand. The yellow jacket came from behind and buzzed my head. The nerve! I took a swig with my hat, but missed: the yellow jacket had anticipated the move, and counteracted with a series of fly-bys that ended up behind me. I parried the pest as it buzzed by, while turning 180 degrees to follow it, but the yellow jacket was already turned back around and buzzing me again at full speed. A blind swipe with my hat just missed it as I turned again to face my enemy. 
“Come on!” I yelled, when the yellow jacket flew out of sight. I stood ready, and there it was. Back in my face again, the yellow jacket buzzed left, then right, back to left, then right... I had its movement timed by now. I took one step back while simultaneously backhanding with my hat. The sound was unmistakable, a solid connection with the yellow jacket sent it soaring into the water.  SPLAT!   

“It didn’t have to end this way!” I yelled down to it, as it buzzed in the water, trying to get out. 
I slipped my hat back on my head. 
“I told you, you didn’t want to mess with me, and now look at you.” I said, then turned my back to pick up my fly rod.  
I looked back quickly to see a large ripple in the water, and the yellow jacket was no more. It will not have died in vain, I thought as I slapped my pico spider down where the pest had once laid. Boom! The fish came back up and nailed my fly. 
“Thank you, yellow jacket...thank you.” 

The rainbow trout kicked away fast, and I stood up to gather my line back into the reel. I fastened my fly back to the holder and walked over to see how Mike was doing. 

“Catching some fish?” I asked. 
“Yeah, but I switched to a bugger.”
“How has that been working?” 
“I have one following it now.” Mike said, stripping in his line. 
“Come on, take it.” Mike said, watching the fish get closer.
“THERE!” He yelled, setting the hook.       

Mike brought in a nice-sized rainbow trout, then quickly let it go to continue fishing. 
“What time do you want to get going?” I asked, as he made another cast. 
“Probably in the next thirty minutes.”
“Well, I’ll fish my way over to Alan and Logan to see if they want to join us back down.”
“Good idea.” Mike said, and I took off around the lake.     

I stopped a few times to fish as I made my way around the lake, but nothing was to be seen. The water was shallow enough to see a cruising fish, but none came.

“Hey guys, how has the fishing been for you?” I asked both Alan and Logan as I approached. 
“It’s been good.” Logan said. 
“We have both done well.” Alan chimed in. 
“Good to hear.” I said back, “Mike and I are going to head back down in a bit. You guys certainly do not have to come with us, but you are welcome to.”    
“I think we will, if you don’t mind.” Alan said, and started to put together his pack.  They both followed me over to where Mike was now waiting, before we started to walk back down the mountain. 

On the way out, Mike was following the cairns down the mountainside, where an unmanaged path was present. 
“Watch for these dingle berries.” Mike said, referring to the small marble-sized rocks on the steep path. 
“They can take you down faster than you can recover, if you are not careful.” He said. 

Baby steps all the way down was the key, with a bit of slippage here and there. The real danger came a little further down the path, and Mike stopped to point it out. 
“Erik, be extra careful here. That is a cliff right there.” 
I looked over, and sure enough, the steep gradient sloped right towards a cliff only thirty feet away.  
“Well that looks fun.” I said to Alan, who was standing right next to me.
“Yeah.” He said, then we both watched as Logan walked down the path with no worry at all of the consequences.
“I was that young once.” Alan said, as we both carefully took our time through that particular section.  

Walking up the mountain, you know it’s steep, but walking down is when it becomes most apparent.  Getting lost here was not a worry at all, because we would just need to walk downhill and we would eventually run into the road; getting hurt is another worry that was far more concerning as we made our way down.

Hiking down was a nice change from climbing up, but it requires good knees to support the high impact steps that it takes to walk down. Most people who hike say they will take an uphill trail to a downhill one, simply because it is so hard on your knees. I was beginning to understand what they were talking about, but to me, at my age, I would still take the downhill trail. But whether you would pick up or down, there is nothing like a flat trail. We had made it down the mountain with no casualties, and the flat trail leading the rest of the way out was welcoming.

“We did it!” Mike said with a smile, as we put our packs in the car. 
“It was good stuff, but I am tired.” I said back.
“Me too...” Mike said, “...and you still have to drive back to Boise.” He said. 
Both Alan and Logan were camping here one more night before heading back to Nampa.  We quickly said goodbye, before Mike and I hopped in the car to head back.  Getting off my legs after a good hike is like a breath of fresh air. 
“Want to hit another lake next week?” I asked. 
“I think we can make that happen.” He said. 
“Gracy will want to join us, so check to see if Kerry would be up for the hike.” 
“I will.” He said, and we drove home, looking forward to the next weekend.