Planned to leave town early…didn’t leave until way late. Not a great way to start off the season.
I’m a planner. Always have been…always will. I pack gear several days in advance and check it the night before. Sometimes I forget an item. Most of the time it’s minor and in the end it turns out being something I really didn’t need.
Not this time.
As I’m sitting in the truck waiting for Old Guy to arrive, it hits me. I have no license! I quickly give Old Guy a holler on the phone to let him know I’m heading to the 24HR grocery store to pick up my license and to meet me there. The phone rings 4 times and I hear the voice of someone who just woke up.
Shit! There goes leaving early.
That’s how the day started. Disorder, chaos, and just plain bad luck. Not that bad considering I could have been at home asleep and NOT going fishing. Always have to look at the bright side.
This was the first trip of the season for the both of us and about a year since the last time we fished together. Sounds odd I know. We live about 10 minutes away. Hectic schedules made it impossible until now.
At 17 deg you can’t get dressed quick enough and you look forward to marching down the trail just to warm up. For an hour I heard nothing but the sound of crunching snow and the familiar sound of grouse just off the main trail. Somewhere along the way I lose track of time and it’s always a surprise when I see the river for the first time.
Blessed with good weather I was hoping the temperatures would warm enough to avoid the frustration of having to deal with frozen guides. Subzero ambient with a stiff breeze quickly put hope in it’s place. I must have chewed the ice off the guides about every 5 casts.
For hours we walked up and down the river fishing every likely spot several times over. Not a bump, a tap, or a single sign of anything. I fished the slow water at the top where you have to wade out to your twig and berries to hit the sweet spot. The long soft bend that always looks so fishy but never produces. The classic run with good water from tip to tail. The sharp bend with mellow flow from bank to bank that you work from the inside to hit that deep slot on the outside. Even the marginal water that in a million years would never likely produce but you have to try cause it just might be your lucky day.
We hit it all.
And then…like that…it happens. Old guy had worked twice through a piece of water downstream of me and had pulled up to the bank to take a break. I figured I would do the same after working through the run. I made it 3/4 of the way down and was at that point in the swing where you’ve made the mend, dropped the tip to get the fly down, and settled the rod at your side with your free hand in your pocket. That’s when I felt it, a slight tap barely noticeable but I noticed. It telegraphed itself up the line and through the rod to my index finger pinching line against the cork. My gut told me to swing through again.
So I did.
No tap this time. The line came tight and I quickly buried the rod low and to the bank. Rainbow fishing isn’t like steelheading. No need to wait for the fish to turn and pull the loop tight against the reel. Just pull back and hope it sticks. Probably explains why I haven’t hooked into a steelhead. Old habits are hard to overcome.
With the water so cold you’d maybe expect the rainbows to be a bit sluggish. Not the case here. The rainbows are fat and stubborn. No jumps or blistering runs. Just an all out tug-o-war. They like to get broadside and use that big frame to catch the current. Only thing you can do is try to keep the head pointing upstream and apply pressure every step of the way.
First fish of the season and the only one. Felt good to bring one to hand. Felt a little bad picking Old Guy’s pocket like that. Well not that bad. He did take two passes through that particular run before I did.
The sun warmed the air a bit later that day and a bunch of these guys started to show up all over the place. It’s happening folks…summer is on it’s way.
Something I learned on this trip was that you have to fish the water and the fly well if you ever hope to connect. Sure you can just toss it out there and get lucky. It happens a lot I’m sure. But to tilt the odds in your favor you have to be able to make the cast that hits the current just right so you can make the mend and get your fly to swim like so…over and over again.
I felt like for an instant that I was there…the reason why I was able to pull one out of the hat. It felt good to know for that moment I was able to pull it all together.
Hoping to get another chance here real soon.