Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Small Creek Near Lewiston

I have been looking forward to fly fishing with my sister-in-law, Anne, for quite some time. Both her and her husband, Jeff, are serious whitewater rafters, so much that they seek out the most treacherous white water the Northwest has to offer. Whitewater is their number one hobby leaving fly fishing as a second or third thought while on the river. Their adventures leave little time to meet up for fly fishing, so when I found myself in Lewiston with Anne having a day off, we had to take advantage of it.

Anne and I found the small creek that Jeff pointed out before he went off to work. The creek was not flowing very fast, but I saw a small fish rise, boosting my enthusiasm to get to the water.

“Okay, I haven’t fly fished in over ten years.” Anne confessed before unhooking her fly to make a cast. 
“It’s okay. Fly fishing is easy.” I said with a smile, but Anne looked at me uncertainly. I gave her a quick explanation, and she was casting almost immediately.

Anne’s fly plopped down in a swift little current that pushed it downstream fast, but it was not too fast for the little trout hiding in the shadows. The little fish bolted up and ate her fly in a flash, and Anne instinctively set the hook. 
"What do I do?!" Anne asked while keeping her eyes on the fish. I quickly looked to see if she was controlling her line with her left hand, and she was. As long as she kept the pressure on the fish it should stay on the hook.

"Just keep your rod tip up." I said calmly, because the little fish didn't have the power to rip out line. Anne did just that, and the fish was within reach.

"I would rather not touch it if it's better for the fish." Anne said, after seeing her fish twisting underwater. 
"No problem, I will unhook it with my forceps." I said, and the fish bolted as soon as I did. 

Anne went back to casting, and I started to fish downstream. My fly landed on the surface of the water, and I could see as it bounced up on the skin of the water tiny fish were trying to fit it in their mouths. I could see a small swarm of them biting at the fibers of my fly, unable to eat it.
"Erik, come look at this." Anne said, looking down into the water. I didn't see her catch a fish, so I wondered what she was looking at. 
"These little fish are mouthing my toes." She said with a smile, after I got close to her.
"There's some fish therapy for ya." I said with a smile.

Although the little fish nipping at Anne's toes were cool, they were a mixture of red-sided shiners and pike minnow. I was hoping to see this many trout, but they seemed to be few and far between. We had walked a ways upstream before we got into the second trout of the day. The trout seemed to be the only fish large enough to eat our flies, so it was nice when one took. 

Anne was no longer shying away from casting her fly where a trout could be hiding. She would typically hold off and insist I cast to the spot, but her confidence in her casting was getting better so I held back to offer up the prime water.

Anne shot her fly out right where it needed to be, but there was no trout. Instead, right as she was pulling up her line to make a cast, a small red-sided shiner took her fly, and she hooked it on her back-cast.

"I didn't even see that fish take my fly." She said, as I unhooked it. 
"Sometimes that happens." I said, trying to get my forceps in the small mouth of the fish. 
"I don't even know how this fish got the fly in its mouth." I said, and then got the fly out and released the fish.

"Will that fish be ok?" Anne asked, as she hooked her fly to her rod to get going.
"Yeah, it bolted off fast.  If it were to go upside-down on me, and get sluggish, I would have had to revive it a little more." I said, flicking the water off my hands. 
"That's good." Anne said, and we headed back to the car to go back home.
"I'm glad we finally got to fish together." I said, breaking down the gear. 
"Yeah. Sorry this creek didn't fish better." She added.
"It's better to come out here and discover it to know for sure. And I bet it would fish better if the water was a little higher." I said, as we drove off. 
"Want to stop and get some ice cream on the way back... I know a good place!" Anne suggested.
"You know just what to say to me, Anne." I said with a smile, and, of course, we stopped for ice cream before we went home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fly Fishing Dworshak

Home to Idaho's record small mouth bass, Dworshak Reservoir hints to the opportunity for every angler to possibly get into the big one. With that in mind I had an arsenal of fly fishing gear on board, along with a variety of bass flies, so sparkly and neatly placed you would think they hadn't had the opportunity to tease a bass into submission; but you would be wrong. 

"Looks like a good spot, huh Mase?" I said with promise in my voice, looking right at him. Mason was clutching his Sophie the Giraffe toy, and was mouthing it before I had interrupted. He produced a series of "ba ba bas" after I had gotten his attention, but they were not the cute baby noises everyone was expecting. Instead the small sounds that came from Mason were more raspy and gurgly sounding.
"Oh my God, he sounds like a zombie." My sister-in-law, Anne, said with a laugh. 
"Yeah, it's his new sound. We call it his baby zombie noise." Gracy said, looking at him as he sat on his grandpa's lap. 
At that moment Mason realized all eyes were on him, and stopped making the noise. His little head looked at the faces surrounding him, with his head movements magnified by the little hat he wore. Finally his gaze rested on me...
"You better not scare the fish with your baby zombie noises." I said sternly. Mason just looked at me, seeming more considered about everyone looking away so that he could get back to mouthing his toy. I gave him a quick kiss on the head, and grabbed a fly rod to start fishing.

I had a few fly rods ready for action, while my father-in-law, Dan, sat up front manning the trolling motor. My brother-in-law, Jeff, had a spinning rod rigged up like Dan had, but quickly disregarded it when he saw that I had two fly rods rigged.

My wife, Gracy, along with Anne and Mason, remained under the canopy of the boat to relax as the three of us pounded the banks.

I had tied on rather large flies to our lines with the intention of finding big bass, but the bass that were attacking could not get the fly in their mouths. For a long while we continued with the large flies with the idea that we were looking for the bigger ones, but over time we switched to smaller flies because catching was more important.

"Get the hell away from me!" I yelled at the pesky black and white hornet that buzzed my face, while waving it away. 
"Don't swat at it!" Jeff said quickly. "That is a bald-faced hornet, and they are very aggressive." 
"Well it's pissing me off!" I said, and it was. With over a thousand acres of water and forest surrounding us it chooses to zigzag directly in my face?
"Those things will not only sting you if they are mad, but could possibly attack us as well." Jeff explained, as he fished. I looked over at little Mason playing with another toy of choice, and surely did not want him to be stung. So I gritted my teeth as the bald-faced hornet choreographed synchronized fly-bys inches from my face, as I cast my line. Lucky for me, although small, there was plenty of bass to catch that quickly eased my annoyance with the hornet.

Up at the front of the boat, Dan was doing a fair amount of catching as well. 
"Get off there, get off." He said, allowing slack in his line in hopes that the small bass he had hooked would pop off. 
"Looks like another Dworshak monster." I said, as Dan brought it up to take the little shaker off his line. 
"That may very well be the smallest fish of the day." I said lightheartedly, as he held the fish.

The fish was way too small to lip, so Dan held the fish in his hands. He pressed down on the hook to take it out of the lip of the fish's mouth, then erupted... 
"Yeow! God damn little..." He stopped himself from saying too much as he took the fish, that was now free from the hook, and flung it back into the water. 
"Did it get you?!" I asked, watching him look at his hand. 
"Those back fins are sharp!" He yelled, but went back to fishing after shaking off the pain.

Both Riley and Kiwi got comfortable in the boat as we fished. Even when we celebrated catching a fish over seven inches, the loud noise would merely cause them to open their eyes for a second, then closing them again.

I was fishing barefoot and noticed how hot the back deck was getting. Every time I placed my foot on a new spot it burned, and the lack of conversation, over time, suggested that everyone was getting hot. I looked down at Mason, who was playing with another toy, and he seemed to be fine. He was being kept under the canopy of the boat, so he was out of direct sunlight. Still, it was getting too warm, so we decided it was time to cool off on a boat ride.

 Jeff fired up the boat, and we took off. The sudden rush of air being blown through the boat cooled it off significantly. 

We had suited Mason up with his life jacket before taking off, and since I had been fly fishing most of the day it was my turn to hold him.

"Hey Mason, would you like to pee of the back of the boat?" Gracy asked, after we had found a new cove to fish. She shed his cloths and held him off the back naked, and pointed away from herself. 
"Oh there he goes!" Gracy yelled with excitement, after a small stream flew from Mason and into the reservoir. 
"Yeah!" His Aunt Anne yelled excitedly.
"Good job, Mase" I said, looking down at him as he sat on his mom.
His grandpa was still at the front of the boat, and didn't know what was going on. It wasn't until Dan started yelling at something, when our attention broke away from Mason.

"Oh geez! Oh man! Oh my God!" He yelled hysterically from the front of the boat. We could hear fumbling as he kicked off the trolling motor like he was performing the infamous karate kid crane kick, and then grabbed his fishing pole with two hands. 
"Holy cow!" Jeff yelled, and ran to the front of the boat while grabbing the net in the process. 
Over the hood of the canopy I could see Dan's pole at a serious bend, and the little reel was screaming as fishing line was being ripped from it.
"This is my crappy pole! It only has four pound line on it!" Dan yelled in a panic as he managed to fight a monster fish. Finally the fish showed itself in a sudden flash below the surface of the water, then the water erupted as the fish surfaced. 
"Whoa, look at that!" I yelled in amazement.
"Look at that!" Dan yelled triumphantly after Jeff had scooped up the incredible small-mouth bass in the net.
"Don't let it go yet, I want to get a picture of it." I said, as Dan removed the hook.
"Well I would think so, look at it!" He replied, still shocked at the size of his fish. After the hook was removed, he lifted the bass from the water and held it up for the camera.

"Got it." I said, referring to the picture. With that information, Dan placed the fish back into the water, and it bolted to the deep like a large boulder.
"Well, anything to say?" I asked, after the fish was out of sight.
Dan look over at me, and without hesitation said, "try to follow suite." 

Jeff and I went back to fishing while still getting buzzed by the bald-faced hornets. I was amazed how close they got to Jeff, and how he didn't seem to mind at all. The fish were not biting as often, but we were still bringing some in.

My feet were burning on the back deck, so I took a step while casting. 
"What the hell?!" I yelled in shock, after feeling something stabbing into my foot. I lifted my foot up, and to my horror, saw a bald-faced hornet fly out from under it. 
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!" I yelled, startling everyone in the boat.
"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU! I'M GOING TO KILL YOUR BALD STUPID FACE!" I yelled, cursing the hornet with every combination of colorful English dialect I could think of while hopping on one foot. 
"YOU!" I yelled, whirling towards Jeff who was watching my outburst. My finger was pointed straight at him, and then I started to yell.
"YOU SAID IF I LEFT THEM ALONE I WOULDN'T GET STUNG! WELL LOOK AT ME NOW!" I sat down and look under my foot, that felt like it was on fire.
"Did you get stung?" Jeff asked, stupidly. 
"No, JEFF! It gave me the world's smallest foot massage!" I said scowling. 
"It burns, it BURRRRRRNS!" I howled. Although I was in agony and solely focused on my foot, I was still able to catch Jeff trying to hide as he laughed at my pain. I hobbled over to the back of the boat, and slipped my foot into the water. The cool touch helped, but only for a second. Mason started to cry. 
"Mason is scared for you." Gracy said, holding him. 
"Don't worry, Mason..." I said, turning and crawling towards him as if my leg had been blown off by a land mine. "... I won't let it get you like it got me." I brushed his face ever so gingerly with the front and back of my hand, as if it was the last thing I would ever do.

"You really are milking this bee sting." Gracy said, with a haphazard look on her face. 
"It was a hornet sting." I sternly corrected. 
 She rolled her eyes and continued talking with Anne as we headed back to camp. From the swelling I was forced to walk on the ridge of my foot, which made walking on the uneven ground tough. Although I got insensitive looks from the family, I really couldn't help the hobbling. I sat down with my father-in-law, and he also looked at me like I was being a little over-dramatic. 
"You know, you never came to see if I was okay." I said, looking at him.  
"Hell..." He said, without thinking twice, "... I thought you had just lost a big fish." 
We both started to laugh as Anne brought me some Benadryl to help with the swelling, which was also putting me to sleep. As I laid down for the night I thought of the bald-faced horned. It was still out there and that troubled me, but soon the pill kicked in and helped ease my mind to sleep.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

First Night Camping With Mason

We left Boise and headed up to Dworshak Reservoir for a few days of fishing and camping. With this being our first campout with Mason, you better believe we had practically brought the whole damn house with us, just in case. I knew the first outing with him was going to be nerve-racking, but it had to be done to get the butterflies out of our system. Dworshak has campgrounds that are only accessible by boat, so this would also be Mason's first time on a boat. We had picked him up a tiny little life jacket and after the boat was packed and ready to go, we synched him up nice and tight for his first ride.

Mason didn't take to his new life jacket well at first, but he calmed down after my father-in-law, Dan, fired up the boat and we were on the move.

I love the feel of being on a boat. Jetting across the water, leaving the dull roar of the engine behind us, is a great childhood memory for me, and by the looks of it, Mason was also enjoying the ride. In fact, it wasn't until we were cruising at a steady pace when he forgot about the bulkiness of his new life jacket, and focused on the spray of the water as it jetted from the sides of the boat.

When we picked a camp spot, we unloaded the boat and got camp all set up. By we I mean, Mason's Aunt Anne, Uncle Jeff, Grandpa Williams, Mom, and myself, with our dog, Kiwi, and Jeff and Anne's dog, Riley.

Jeff and Anne's dog, Riley, is a serious outdoor kind of dog. They take her on all kinds of class five rapid rafting trips, so she is low maintenance when it comes to outings. Kiwi, on the other hand, is extremely high maintenance. Though she is great on day hikes to mountain lakes, she seems to be afraid of everything: the starting of the boat engine, the movement of the waves, the sound of the waves hitting the boat, the crackling of the fire, the absence of her toys, bed, and let's face it, the whole house. We were not at camp more than five minutes when she got brave and wandered through some cut up wild rose stems. She stepped on a thorn and yelped. The poor thing came running to me with wide frighten eyes, and favoring her left paw as she wimpered over. 

I picked her up and checked her paw for any stickers that may have been stuck, but nothing was there. Kiwi was shaking as I held her, then took her to the tent that was ready for bedtime. I placed her on the nearest sleeping bag, and she quickly got comfortable. Before I closed the tent back up, Kiwi looked at me and gave two loud air licks, indicating she was good now. I zipped the tent back up and heard something in the bushes right beside me. I flicked on my light and pointed it at whatever was making the noise. 

"A frog! Hey, who wants to see a frog?" I yelled over to the family who were around the camp fire. 
No one responded. 
"No one wants to see a frog?!" I asked in bewilderment. 
"I want to see!" Jeff said, and sprang from his chair to check out the frog. 
"That's not a frog..." Jeff said, in his monotone lector voice, "...It's a toad."
I looked back down at the little amphibious creature. Jeff was, of course, right, but I couldn't just say that. 
"It's a damn frog, Jeff!" I said sternly, which made him laugh. 
"Well, I better grab him." Jeff said, and picked up the toad. 

Jeff placed the frog out of our way so we didn't accidentally step on him as we walked through camp. We returned to the camp fire to find Anne still holding Mason, who was still wide awake looking at the fire.

"So much for his bedtime schedule." Gracy said to me. 
"We will get him back to one as soon as we get home." I reassured, but unaware of how that would work out. 
Mason finally did go to sleep to the popping of the camp fire, and we all soon followed. The next day we would fish the infamous
Dworshak Reservoir, home of the state record small mouth bass in Idaho. Here is hoping we get a shot at one that big.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Middle Fork, Boise Float

"It's going to be a great day." said Mark Grajcar, as he first stepped out of the truck. 
"It's going to be a fantastic day!" I concurred, looking at the clouds. 
"It's going to be a remarkable day, Erik." Mark said back. 
Whether or not we know it, both Mark and I do this just about every time we are about to start fishing. One of us will make a good comment about how the day will fish, and the other will reciprocate in the same fashion; only using a more elaborate word than the previous one spoken.  
"It's going to be a remarkably fantastic day, Mark!" I said with crazy eyes, and a wickedly excited smile. 
Mark laughed because he knew there would be no end to this banter, and we looked over to my father-in-law, Dan, who was in town visiting his grandson. 
"Going to be a good day, huh?" I asked him with a smile.
"I hope so..." Dan said back. I quickly shot Mark a look as if to ask, who brought this guy?

 Mark's raft was ready in record time, and he started to back it down to the river. There is no real launch sight on the Middle Fork of the Boise; we had just lucked out in finding an empty campground we could use.

"I'll row first, Erik." Mark had said, but I was already behind the sticks.
"I've got it, you fish!" I said, and I didn't need to say it twice. I pulled both the oars hard, giving us our first stroke into the current, and said, "If it were me, I would have already caught a fish by now."

The water was gin-clear and the air was crisp as we headed downstream.  Both Dan and Mark slapped their flies down near the bank, and it was Mark's fly that got hit first.

"There's one!" Mark yelled. His excitement got our attenton and as soon as I looked over, his fish was rocketing out of the water. 
"Woah! Wooooah! Wooooooooooooah ha ha !!!"  Both Mark and my yells were in exact unison as we celebrated every bound the fish produced.

My father-in-law laughed at our excitement over one little fish, but soon joined in after the fish launched itself out of the water once more. I handed the net to Mark, and he skillfully landed his fish as if he had done it a hundred times.

Mark's ability to get the fly where it needs to be was exceptional. He had easily brought a few more fish to the boat before I realized that Dan had yet to catch a fish. I had been watching Mark's fly almost the entire time, and had not bothered to see what Dan's fly was doing. I immediately found the reason why he had yet to hook up, and after a quick adjustment his fly was drifting like it should be. 
"There, There, THERE!" I yelled, having seen a take on Dan's fly before he did. He set the hook, and had a fish on!
"That's how it's done boys!" Dan yelled, getting into the spirit of fighting a fish. Both Mark and I cheered for Dan's success, but it was short lived. Dan's fish flopped right as we dipped the net into the water, and it came unbuttoned.

"That was a gentleman's release." Mark said, putting the net back. 
"A gentleman's release?" My father-in-law asked. 
"As fly fishermen, we never make mistakes. By not netting the fish and allowing it to get away, you have performed one of the purest ways of releasing a fish: completely unharmed and untouched." I said. 
My father-in-law looked at me strangely, as he typically does, as if to suggest, I am full of it.  Either way it was now my turn to fish, and I sprang to the front of the boat. 

 Before Mark had pulled on the oars, my fly was already in action. I had tied on a royal chubby, and we soon found out it was indisputably the fly to have. I was hooked into a fish in no time flat, and quickly brought it to the net. 
"Geez, Erik. That was fast!" Mark laughed. 
"Which part? Catching or landing the fish?" I asked. 
"It's a shame, huh?" I said, unhooking my fish. I looked up at Mark to see him smiling, and laughing to himself. I knew that Mark knew I was about to say something snobby. 
"It's just a shame to think how many fish we passed by..." I sighed, letting my fish go, "while I was behind the oars". 

"Oh, Erik..." Mark said, adding hand gestures, as if he were a pastor at a church providing optimum praise, "If only we could be as good... no, as spectacular of a fisherman as you". 
"It's just enough for you to recognize that, Mark." I said, with as serious of a tone as I could muster. 
I looked over at my father-in-law, who had a look on his face as if asking himself, how the hell did I get stuck out here with theses two idiots?
Mark kicked us back out into the current, and Dan sent his fly to the bank of the river. It was a good cast that was rewarded with a fish, only we didn't know if he had lost it or not. The amount of slack in his line ensured he had lost the fish, but as he reeled in, a fish was connected. Out of all the great connections he had with previous fish, it was silly that this was the one he brought to the net.

"How do you manage to get all that line in when you hook a fish?" Dan asked, after he slipped his fish back into the river. 
"I just strip it in, I don't try and get it all in the reel." I said. 
"Well that makes a lot of sense. It was taking me forever to get this line in." He said, then hooked his fly to his rod and got behind the oars. I went ahead and gave up the front of the boat, and took the back to give Mark a fair shot. We were both hooking into fish, but they were flicking off before we could get them to the boat. Finally I got a good hook set in and dragged a fish to the boat.  I could tell by the lazy fight that I had hooked a pike minnow.

"Oh, Erik! I can't believe you are letting that fish touch my boat like that." Mark said with disgust. 
"What is it?" Dan asked. 
"It's a squaw fish. It's basically a trash fish." I said, as I flicked it off my line. 
Dan was still rowing, if that's what you call what he was doing. We went down a few rocky parts in the river, nothing too bad, but I still found it safer to sit than stand. Somehow, through all the turbulence, Mark managed to hook a nice fish and get it to the boat without falling into the river.

Right at the end of the turbulent water was nice diamond water, and diamond water always holds fish. I slapped my fly right where I wanted it, and held my rod tip high as we floated by. My fly sat there undisturbed, then a fish took.
"Oh this is a good one!" I said, as the fish thrashed after the hook set. 
"That one is huge!" Mark yelled, after the fish jumped right beside the boat. Dan quickly handed me the net, and I was doing my best to land the fish. The water was too fast, and the fish was still too hot to bring in. Mark pulled the boat into a big back-eddie where I hopped out and played the fish until it was netted. 

"This fish is for Mason." I said, after a picture. Both Dan and Mark watched as I dipped the fish back into the water, and held it there until it kicked away.

"My turn to row." I said, and got behind the sticks. We were now on our last stretch of water before the take out, but there was still plenty of fish to be caught. Dan had hooked into a nice fish, but as he brought it in he saw plainly that it was squaw fish.

"No, I don't want a picture!" He said, unhooking the fish just off the edge of the boat so no one could see his trash fish.
"Well you know what they say..." Mark said, pausing. "Better squaw then none at all." He finished. 
"Sounds like a country song." I said with a laugh, which brought out the poet in both Mark and I. And as luck would have it, Dan's last five fish of the day were squaw fish. With every squaw brought in a new stanza was created, and the only thing that got us to stop was the first sight of our takeout point.  

We had taken two cars to make the shuttle, and after we had the boat back on the trailer the three of us headed home. The long bumpy road to the Middle Fork seems twice as long heading home, but it's a nice drive after a great day of fishing.