4AM is turning into the official meeting time and my house the official meeting spot. It’s convenient for me but for T. who lives clear across on the other side of town I know his mental alarm clock is set much earlier than my modest 3:30AM. Knowing T. I don’t see this as a problem. His alarm doesn’t know it but on fishing days it’s services just aren’t needed. Same thing for J. but he lives a lot closer. He is a solid 5 minutes away but I know before I am sitting inside my truck at 3:45AM that he is climbing into T.’s car and heading my way. The sacrifices we make to be the first on the water.
It’s mid-September and the morning temperatures are dropping fast. Much to the dismay of my wife, frost is becoming a familiar sight once again in the wee hours of the morning. It’s 3:45AM and I’ve pulled the truck and the driftboat (Thanks F. for your generous donation) out of the driveway into the middle of the cul-de-sac. Sitting their illuminated by the dashboard lights I quietly play out the day in my head. Before I get too far ahead of myself a set of headlights makes their way down the street towards me. It’s the rest of the crew.
We quickly pull waders, rod cases, and packs out of T.’s car and load them up into my truck. Not much is said…we’ve been here before…we know the routine.
It’s 4AM and a sharp left has us on the highway and the fading of city lights tells us we’re headed in the right direction. Our conversation centers around which runs we are going to work and which ones we are going to bypass. We know we won’t be the only ones on the water so surgical precision is in order. There are specific stretches on the river we will not bypass…rather we will pull up above the occupied run and wait patiently for our turn. Hooking a dozen or so to pass the time as we wait always helps.
A little before 6AM we pull into the boat launch and notice only a large van parked to the right of the ramp. They are unpacking a raft and building it on site. I feel for them but the moment passes quickly. With stereo blaring and headlamps lighting the way we take to task pulling gear from the truck and loading it into the driftboat. Rods are assembled and reels attached. Leaders looped and flies attached we drop the boat into the water. A thick layer of fog has taken up residence just above the flowing river. It’s cold outside but everyone is too focused to really pay it much attention.
In the water | Photo by J. Kim
The first stop has us on the island just across from the boat launch. The “Warm-Up” run. I’m behind the sticks which naturally makes me the last one in the water. As I’m climbing out of the boat I hear T. upstream of me. He’s just lost one. We work each side of the island without much luck and decide to move onto greener pastures.
Our second stop has us only going a few hundred yards downstream and pulling up river right. This is one of the runs we planned to target today. T. swears by this run and even though it isn’t known to hold 30″ behemoths it has made up for it in other ways. The run is a large bend and we are fishing the inside. The further you move downstream from the head of the run the closer the seam gets to the shoreline. We are fishing the transition between the shallow and the deep.
The Seam | Photo by J. Kim
The run produces a good number of average size rainbows and dollies for each of us. We work the seam methodically casting in tight and progressively lengthening our cast until we are confident we’ve hooked every fish within reach. Take a step downstream and repeat. I’ve mentioned before it isn’t about numbers but the tally is building and it isn’t even 9AM!
One of many | Photo by J. Kim
By 9AM the fog has burned off and the day is turning out weather wise to be better than anyone could have imagined. T. has volunteered to man the sticks for awhile while J. and I work the drift. J. is somewhat of a drift fishing aficionado and is known to hook into some beasts on the drift. Today is no exception. As we casually bypass the guardrail which is crawling with clients, J. sticks a fat bow right in front of the paying customers. It doesn’t take us long to hook into two more fish and the decision is made to go ashore and work the run.
T. is the first to hook up and the second and the third. As we drifted through T. took notice of where we hooked into the double and worked his way back up to the run. Funny thing is the sweet spot was a wade and a half and a cast and a half to reach. Risking an early morning dunking we all made our way out and put our casting arm to task. The further we waded and the further we cast the bigger the fish we hooked.
Going long | Photo by J. Kim
The hook-up | Photo by J. Kim
Easy does it | Photo by J. Kim
The reward | Photo by J. Kim
Worth the risk | Photo by D. Yi
For over an hour the action is constant with only short stretches where neither one of us had a fish on. Eventually all good things must come to an end. In our exuberance to work the run we managed to land the driftboat a little past our intended stop. Unless we walked the boat upstream 100 yards, we had no shot of working our favorite side channel. Easy decision if you ask us.
You push and I’ll pull | Photo by J. Kim
We continue to work our way downstream…T. and I taking turns on the sticks while J. continues to hook one fish after another on the drift. At one point we all split up and fished a good shout away from each other. J. worked between T. and I taking pictures here and there. Every time I looked around to see where everyone went I caught glimpses of them into another fish or taking a quick picture.
Assume the pose | Photo by J. Kim
This was typical for the rest of the float as we fished late into the day. At one point we stopped to fish a tight cutbank by anchoring the driftboat 10 feet from the bank in some questionable water. J. assured us the driftboat would hold and quickly hopped out to work the cutbank. The water was just below waist high where he jumped out and running rather quickly. T. and I elected to stay in the driftboat and as I sat in the captain’s chair T. proceeded to hook into a nice fat rainbow from the front of the driftboat. As I reached for the net the driftboat made a sudden slip downstream. The anchor wasn’t holding. I hollered to J. to get his ass back quickly or he would have to swim for it. J. hustled back to the driftboat not before it decided to slip further downstream. At this point the gunwale is about chin high and is going to take a good heave ho to get J. back inside. He grabs a hold and proceeds to elephant seal his way onto the boat from the upstream side. Let’s just say we all almost had to swim for it. As J. was so gracefully hoisting his ass into the boat Newton’s Third Law decided to pay us a visit. As J. went up the boat went down. We missed capsizing by a mere inch.
We decided this was a good way to end the day. The rainbow T. had on during this ordeal…we landed shortly after our breathing returned to normal. One of the best days this year for sure.
Never gets old | Photo by J. Kim