Have you seen the river lately?
Roy Buchanan shreds this....
Here is a another interesting article on single barb-less hooks from Bill's site.
Click on paper below to view the entire thing.
Pardon me while I get on my soapbox here for a little while. I love these fish and I get fired up sometimes. Bare with me as I rant.
I am not trying to push my values on anyone here but I will speak openly and honestly. Many of the values I speak of should be everyone's values when it comes to stewarding our wild fish.It all about The Choice you decide to make. Choose wisely....
So when does really good fishing become irresponsible? Does anyone have a conscience anymore?I will submit to you that there are times when environmental conditions can provide the "perfect storm" so to speak and put fish in an unfavorable position. Is it fair and reasonable to target fish that are stacked and concentrated due to these environmental factors? Is it fair and reasonable to continue to target these fish over long periods of time? Is it fair and reasonable to hook as may fish as you can while these conditions persist? When is enough enough? How many fish do you need to catch in a day to be considered good fishing? I can't answer these questions for you, you must make those choices and decisions yourself.
I have been thinking a lot about it lately in regards to the Main Umpqua that has had unreasonably and unseasonably good fishing the last few weeks. The regulations and fishing practices down there affect both the North and South Umpqua drastically.I will start by saying I do know that there are responsible fisherman out there(fly and gear) that realize a good thing and can limit themselves when they have had a good day and not get greedy.I am not talking to you.
The fishing has been good in large part because the water is at an all time low for this time of year and the fish are not moving.Stacked up and concentrated in a much narrower stretch of water than normal. They are living there. These are fish that usually have the cover of high water to make their ascent in relative obscurity. These are wild winter steelhead and they are getting absolutely hammered. Now don't get me wrong, I like to catch fish as much as the next guy but, at some point you gotta say enough is enough don't ya?Reports of double digit days swinging flies are common. That's cool and fun but after a few days like this doesn't it start to dawn on you that you are literately shooting fish in a barrel? Whats the fun in that. The fish have nowhere to go and are being repeatedly hooked.Those using egg imitations and bait are recording numbers off the charts. A discussion board recently had a post from a guy( a guide I think) that was boasting of boating 186 fish in 11 days.That's to the boat, who knows how many were hooked.That's 186 wild winter fish! And that is just ONE boat people,and he wasn't happy about it either.He was vociferously complaining that only one or two of that almost 200 fish were clipped and could be kept. The locals and others are all up in arms that they can't kill fish, yet they do kill fish on a regular basis. There is no real Law Enforcement presence to deter much of the bad behavior so it continues. Mishandling of fish is at an all time high as wild fish after wild fish is reeled into the boat or bank, netted,to flop around on the bottom of the boat or the sand or rocks,held up by the gills for a few hero shots and then unceremoniously,booted, tossed, or dropped from 4 or 5 feet in the air, or over the shoulder back into the water. People are actually cussing as they wind in another fish to find out it's "just another nate". Sad indeed. Meanwhile, as a testament to the sheer numbers of fish being hooked and mishandled,the back eddies and big pools have dead wild fish littering the bottom. This is a travesty.Most of these fish are heading much higher in the system and many will not survive the mishandling and repeated hooking that they will go through. It's like crack though as people can not stay away or limit the numbers of fish they hook in a day.This will go on for the next 4-5 months as hundreds of boats fish questionable tactics and gear, and repeatedly hook and mishandle fish that are to be released.The fact that ODFW regulations allow for treble hooks and bait on a strictly wild catch and release winter fishery is just ludicrous. Hundreds of boats hooking thousands of fish in a season, and as I mentioned many, many of those beautiful wild fish will never make it up into the upper fly water where they can spawn. A month or two of low water where fish are mercilessly pounded can harm/kill a large portion of the run and have far reaching effects. When an anomaly like what is going on right now with water levels happens, the fish are exploited to unbelievable levels.These low water events have happened in the past and the corresponding return years of the offspring have been poor. Pray for rain for the fishes sake!
I will be controversial here but here goes.I am not saying that we should change the current ruling,which is No Kill, but I do think about these regs in the Main stem a lot. I think that in many ways a catch and release fishery when bait and trebles are allowed can be worse than a kill fishery. Yes you heard me right. Think about it. In a kill fishery they have to stop fishing when they have their limit of fish. In a C&R fishery they can catch and continue to catch fish after fish. Ripping gills with trebles,mishandling in the boat or on the bank, deep hooking of fish swallowing bait etc. One angler could potentially kill or seriously harm a half dozen fish in a day if he hooks 20. Hooking 20 fish on bait or yarn in a day can be rather common at times.I don't know the answer but I do know that there is a serious problem with the way the fishery and regulations pertaining to fishing methods and wild fish are being handled. Something to ponder for sure.
Catch and Release regulations should be enforced(that means give tickets to jackwagons who abuse fish) and fishing should be No Bait and Single Barbless Hook basin wide. These rules should be enforced.
Maybe adopting a "keep the fish in the water policy" would be something that would help.
Life is about choices, lets make good ones.
Off the soapbox,
Merry Christmas......Remember it's about Christ!
Great flies and step by step on these killer winter patterns!
Thanks Dimitri, nicely done!
Purple & Blue Tube Fly from Dimitri Gammer on Vimeo.
Pink Fox Steelhead Fly from Dimitri Gammer on Vimeo.
Pink Marabou Steelhead Fly from Dimitri Gammer on Vimeo.
Black and Purple Tube from Dimitri Gammer on Vimeo.
Several friends and I have been playing a game of sorts on the river for a very long time. It is a game that nobody wins and a game nobody loses. It's a game of the mind and one that takes some practice as well as a good poker face. It's a game that you often don't know you are playing. It's a game where you hope the other guy doesn't know he's playing.It's a game that can agitate and infuriate, it can also make you laugh. The rules are simple, be very vague about where you are catching fish.I won't say we lie per se but we do embellish(bad spots) or down play(good spots)as the case warrants.
On a river like the NU,where runs are so visible it is hard to hide from your buddies that know you and where you like to fish. We all know when something is working for one of us when we see him in XYZ pool off and on for a week straight. But upon further inquiry around the dinner table later when asked what's going on in XYZ pool, the person that has been caught will say something like "Yeah, I've been in there a little but but they don't live in there like they used to, it's really filled in". This could mean one of two things, he's been rippin um in there or they don't live in there like they used to and it's really filled in, it just took a week for him to find out that info. Now you can always go and see what it looks like and make that determination for yourself or believe the person.
Trying to fish the runs you like, trying to keep hush hush about what's working, and keeping an eye on where your buddies are fishing,and fishing consistently becomes a real circus.This is where the game gets fun. We are all mining for info all the time. We all know the river so well that it doesn't really matter what your buddies say, we will all find fish. But,the thing is we all want to high grade and fish the most productive water we can, especially if we have clients.If I can get some reliable info that will keep me over fish I'll listen and take it. It's deciding what is true and what is a bluff to throw you off that is the game.
I could say I have been doing well in ABC pool on dries and in reality haven't gotten a sniff in weeks in that pool. The pool that really works for me on dries every time is DEF pool.But I ain't telling them that, at least not yet. Maybe in a few weeks when it quits working I will use it to draw their attention off another pool that IS working. Meanwhile, your buddies are doing the same exact thing with you. It's a game to throw everyone off the trail.Pools that are fishing really good need to be fished in a hit and run manner. You don't want to be seen by the bro's in a run too often or it may raise their suspicion that you know something they don't. Trying to keep up with and read between the lines when talking to the boys at night is fun. Sometimes and actually fairly often, truly honest information changes hands. Other times it's complete bull. You become skilled at reading the eyes and facial expressions,looking for that tell, just like poker. We play a lot of poker too so the card game gets taken to the river every day.
In the depths of winter sitting around the wood stove, months after the summer season is over we start to let slip where we were actually catching fish. Things like " You know that run that filled in? I found out where they were in there, way down below where we normally fish and river left off that submerged rock". The rest of us will say, " You dirty dog! We knew you were getting them in there we just couldn't find them"
In reality there are few real fishing secrets between my small group of friends. But there are some, as there should and probably always will be. We all have special places that we go to get away from the crowds.There are still secret places on the river. Places where amazing fish have been caught that were never talked about.....to anyone. Fish that were caught in out of the way places, where no studded boot has stood before. Yes, there are still places like that on the river, many seek them out but few will ever find them.
Meanwhile,somewhere on the shores of the North Umpqua is a small band of brothers, endlessly chasing the now almost mythical fish, and playing The Game.
This has been out a little while but I love what Goran has to say about a lot of things in this video. A very well done piece for sure.
I have been fortunate over the last couple of years to meet some talented fly tiers. The beauty of their flies and the grace with which those flies fished has really grabbed hold of me. I was never into the real classic spey and salmon flies, just never thought about them much. Sure, I always thought they were pretty to look at and all,I just never got super jazzed about them. Then last year I fished with Ken and Johnathan and the flies they had really spun my head around.These classic flies are just so amazing! My ideas have changed on what the classics were all about. It's more than a fly or art , it's a feeling, even a lifestyle.I finally got the big idea.Holding some of these classic flies in my hand for the first time was an eye opener for sure. The detail and work involved really is awe inspiring.Fish like them too as Johnathan proved last winter with a nice buck.
You don't always have to throw a 6 inch Intruder in the winter people.
This year I met and fished with another great tier named Scott. He confided that he has only been tying this style for a short time. Well, I can't wait to see what he comes up with in a few years cause the stuff he is putting out now is stellar.
He just sent me an early Christmas present and all I can say is WOW!
Here is a sample of some of the flies that he sent. A few of these are getting wet soon!
Thanks to Jonathan, Ken and Scott for showing me that there is true art in these flies, and that steelhead deserve the best!
Here's to bent rods and singing reels this winter!
The river was deserted.........
I was alone with my thoughts and the unmistakeable beauty that surrounded me. There is no other place on earth like this place. The colors of fall were all around and it was a visual circus for my eyes. Big leaf maple leaves the size of my truck steering wheel were falling all around me like over sized snowflakes on a winters day. It was quiet, eerily quiet. To have this entire river to myself was a treat to be sure. I lazily fished where I wanted. The only goal today was to enjoy this fall wonderland,fish a few runs and head on up the road. I was just passing through on my way home from a work road trip and had a limited window.
I went to high dollar spots and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts. The first money spot I fished looked good. As I watched my fly disappear and start to probe a submerged ledge, it felt fishy. As the line tightened and started to swing out from under the ledge the line stopped. The new mantra that my buddy Tony has been using and beating into my head is "10ft or 10 seconds" Wait till the fish pulls 10 feet off the reel or let him chew on it for 10 seconds then slam the door. It's a good one to remember and it works.The first option was the one the fish decided to employ and 10 feet quickly melted into 75 as the fish tore out of there in a flash. I could see the fish rolling and tussling at 100 feet and there was no doubt this was a Nostril fish. BIG and BRIGHT and fighting like Frazier kicking Ali's butt in their first meeting. I stuck 3 fingers into the spool of my 4 inch Sharpe's Gordon to try and slow this big boy down. He used every inch of the ring and had me on the ropes a couple times. After he hung my line on a midstream boulder I thought I was done. The line pinned in a crack the fish rolling and tumbling and thrashing the surface. Then without any reason whatsoever he comes loose of the rock and swims back around to fight freely once again. More runs and more digits into the Gordon. A seesaw battle ensues. A classic big buck fight. I have a low rod angle and I start to tire the almost 3 ft long fish. The runs are getting shorter but there is still no way to stop him when he goes. Finally I get him in front of me and I can see his entire body just under the surface. This is one of the elusive Nostril fish, I can clearly see the enlarged nostrils and gator mouth of this impressive male. I can't swing him in to me and he fins in the current just out of reach giving me no quarter. I stare into his eyes and connect with him on a level that can't be explained. This wild creature has given me a memorable fight and I don't even care if I land him at this point. Almost on cue, the hook pulls free and he sinks back into the depths of the pool with a flick of his massive tail. "WOW!, that was cool"! I say to no one in particular. I stand stunned at what has just transpired. After hundreds of steelhead over the last 27 years, the fish that I just hooked was as nice as any I have ever encountered. Just an absolutely gorgeous,big and bright fish that did exactly what he was supposed to. It just never gets old.
The second fish was a gem as well and as is always the case in this game, a total surprise.A last pool first cast fish.I get just enough line out to actually turn a fly over and flop it out there. It swings about 15 feet and the line comes tight. Again the 10 foot rule is chosen by the fish and as she tries to leave the park I lift the rod firmly and set the hook in place. Another battle with a beauty of a hen in the 8 lb range. This fight is much quicker but no less spirited. I slow the old Gordon down again with a combination of fingers in the spool and line tensioned against the cork. I love the old reels and this one is definitely not for a beginner. The spring is worn and it has just enough tension to not over run but it is a real free willy kind of reel. I love it. Adds an element of danger if you know what I mean. The fish tires after a quick 2 or so minute battle and I slide her in for a quick picture, leaving this girl in the water. She splashes me with water as she swims strongly away. I feel blessed to have been able to encounter a couple fish on this fall day, each one a gift.
If you haven't visited with Lee Spencer at the Big Bend Pool on Steamboat Creek, you are really missing out on quite a view. During the summer, Lee might have up to 500 fish under his watchful eye. In years past, this pool was dynamited often for the steelhead; however, since Lee has devoted his time from May until the fall rains come it no longer occurs.
Lee's stay is financed by The North Umpqua Foundation and this is the time of year for their annual fundraising drive. Since what Lee does is important to all of us, please consider sending your tax deductible donation, no matter how large or small to:
1224 Walnut St. PMB 310
Roseburg, OR 97470
Or donate online on the Foundation's website: www.northumpqua.org
Someday baby when the river runs free,gonna carry that water of love to me......
While playing one day on the vice
I came up with a fly that was nice
I used some dog hair
it was sparse but had flair
the head was finished not once but twice
So off to the river I went
to see if my spey could get bent
I arrived at the spot,and believe it or not
where I fish was an old English gent.
The gent was quite nice and named Will
cracked his flask and handed me a swill
it went down real fine, he casted his line
I could see he had more than his fill.
His casts were a total train wreck
he could see they were going to heck
his double was in trouble,his poke was a joke
he ended up with line around his neck
He soon realized he was done
a cast he could not make, even one
so he opted out,thus saving the trout
who were dying of laughter and fun
I watched from the side on the sly
still wanting to fish my new fly
I got on the rock and got quite a shock
when the first cast rose a big guy
I knew right away it was steel
It's weight I wanted to feel
so without a doubt I speyed one more out
trying to fool him and seal up the deal
The cast was right on the mark
he approached the fly like a shark
with a head and tail swirl my reel started to twirl
and then the gears they started to bark
I could tell this fish was real big
you might even call it a pig
he stretched out my line my reel started to whine
I don't smoke but I needed a cig
This fight would be easy to botch
I thought "where is Will and his Scotch"
When out from a tree probably taking a pee
stumbled the old man tuned up a notch
He waded out quite expertly
only once did he drop to his knee
he gave me the flask, I didn't have to ask
took a big pull and said whoopee!
The fish was now growing tired
after the shot I was really quite wired
I gave him a ride he rolled on his side
I told Will "tail him right now or your fired"
The old man moved like a cat
grabbed the tail of the fish no time flat
he twisted the fly and we both said bye bye
have you ever heard a story like that?
The moral of the story is clear
Sometimes scotch is better than beer
If you meet an old man, he may have a plan
and you might end up giving him a cheer
This is Tokatee Falls, the historical natural barrier to upstream steelhead migration on the North Umpqua. I was in the area working yesterday and went in to take a peak. It's much nicer to look at than a concrete dam.
I can only hope in my lifetime, that we once again see steelhead in the spawning rich gravels of the upper river and running all the way to this impressive natural barrier.
The surface of the mirror smooth pool is broken without warning. The early dawn shutters and shakes itself to life as the movements that happen under the cover of darkness now become visible and audible.The very real presence of a steelhead is made known with the unmistakeable head and tail roll of a newly arrived, active, and happy fish. We are first into the run and anticipation is high. This fish will most likely eat a swinging fly and after years of fishing this pool and seeing these early morning antics countless times, I can hardly contain myself. The wading out to the casting station is some of the most treacherous anywhere in the world. Trust me on this one. The water is up 4 inches or so making every step that much more difficult.The North Umpqua is particularly hairy wading anyway, but getting out to this run is in a class all by itself. A series of steps and moves that cross deep channels while balancing on precarious bedrock and walking along barely submerged reef. The direction of travel is evident by the path made from thousands that have made their mark on these rocks before.The lighter colored scars showing well worn foot steps from the studded boots that have become our lifeline.This subsurface trail wanders out to mid river like a drunken sailor. This path is not at all straight and takes advantage of any flat or shallower spot to make the journey easier. This is a commitment to be sure but it is part of the challenge that makes this river so fun. There is nothing easy here.But the fish are here and it often rewards the diligent and persistent, and so we go.I manage to get my dude out to the spot without either of us swimming which is always a good way to start. I hate an early morning bath is 45 degree water.
The line from the first cast unfurls and hits the water. Even though the line lands softly, it is almost as if a bomb went off as the line sends concentric rings ever outward, disturbing a once placid surface.Successive casts put the fly into the zone of the usual first fishes lie, and where I believe our early morning riser is calmly laying.The mend is right and the drift is good. As the fly comes through slow and steady and enters the fishes holding lie,a slight tightening of the line and small pluck are all that registers on the line and rod. "That was him" I say quietly. I am answered with "Do they grab it that softly"? "Sometimes even softer" I say. Another few drifts through and the same pluck, almost more of a kiss happens again. We change flies and try to get a solid commitment out of the fish to no avail. This fish would not move aggressively to the fly so we went in search of another. This experience at this run will be saved in the super computer of my mind and will go in with all the other calculations and observations that I am constantly rolling around in my mind. Every one of these experiences is more information complied on the ever elusive and unpredictable quarry we chase.There is more than one way to count success in my book and hooking every fish I go up against is not the measure I use.
Then I got to thinking......Having one of the last really healthy wild fish rivers on the planet to pursue these fish is a gift. Every wild fish encountered here is a gift and this last trip really hammered that point home to me.In fact every part of the fishing experience on this river is a gift. It's a gift to be able to RUN up and down her banks. It's a gift to be able to SEE her in her fall beauty, leaves brilliantly colored in the afternoon sun. It's a gift to be able to HEAR the raven call from on high as he rides the canyon wind. The water ouzel and the otter, the beaver, heron and eagle are just some of the gifts you see on any given day.All of the senses come alive as you ply her waters and the overwhelming feeling of being very small and insignificant take over. It's an amazing place to steward and support, full of gifts to be unwrapped as they show themselves daily. The fish are but a few of the many treasures on this river.
I thank God daily for the gifts He has given me......my wife, my kids, my extended family and friends. I am thankful for health and prosperity and the ability to enjoy what He has created for us.
Wherever you fish.......look for and appreciate the gifts you find and remember who the gift giver is.
Down By The River from the new album Treasure by Neil Young and The International Harvesters.......So good!
The Klamath River, running through the rugged Northern California mountains, used to hold the fourth largest population of salmon and steelhead in the world. Every year millions of fish would surge up stream. Now, over fishing, agriculture, and bad politics have taken their toll, and the once great runs are not only diminished, they are mostly gone. To many fly fisherman, the Klamath might as well be dead. But angler Ryan Peterson has heard rumors that during the winter, a run of massive steelhead creep upstream unnoticed. Is it a good yarn or is it real? This season Ryan wants to find out. The search for the ghost run begins.
The Season Episode 2.8...Lewis and Clarke from Fitz Cahall and Bryan Smith on Vimeo.
A bunch of great contributors on this new blog.....should be a fun one to follow. The wheels are just starting to turn on this, about 10 posts so far. I am fortunate and humbled to be able to post on this new blog from time to time.
Rail Against The Darkness is an exceptional post with outstanding visual imagery by my friend Alexander Grant.
Check it out here-The Long Line Collective
The motor on the sled coughs twice and then fires. It's 7:00 pm on Friday night and after a rather hasty drive down to Macks Canyon, my good buddy Tim and I have committed ourselves to driving the sled down river and finding a camp in the 20 minutes or so of remaining light. We are pushing the limit, but we have done this many times before. We know every rock in this section and where the water flows and exactly where we need to be.....and right now we need to be down river QUICK! Oh yeah, there are about 10 sled trailers in the lot and more floaters rigs and trailers than you can shake a stick at. Right out of the box it doesn't look promising to find a camp anywhere in the first 3-4 miles. We run wide open past camp after camp as the darkness starts to close in.We pass several marginal camps and cash all our chips in and gamble for a lower camp.....it's gonna be tight. We round the corner above our desired location thinking surely we have a winning hand.Slowing slightly in the fading day,we strain to see boats,lights or some color from tents or camps. As the camp comes into view, our worst fears are realized.It's fully loaded up on both sides! Dang, this could get ugly. With scant minutes of safe running conditions the throttle is twisted to the limit with renewed vigor.Tim banks the boat and powers through a class 3 drop at bone jarring speed. Fishermen and rafters, sitting down for their evening meal look up in surprise as we leave a vapor trail down the center of the river. We have an ace in the hole and a card or two up our sleeve but were gonna need a good river card. And we get it. At the last possible minute,the sled slides into the sandy beach of a primo unoccupied camp.We both breathe a silent sigh of relief while still maintaining our poker faces. Comments like "That wasn't too bad' and "I knew we would find a spot" are softly spoken....but we both knew we pushed a big stack of chips and we were All In on this night. And the gamble paid off.
We awake to what I can only describe as pandemonium. Sleds going upriver, sleds going down river, guide boats with 6-8 side planning gear guys,spey guys, hunters... a total zoo. We sit in camp and watch the debacle. We are in no hurry to join the boat races this morning and we calmly sit and map out a plan. When we finally jump in the boat to fish we are in no particular rush. We have no idea where we are even going. We take off up river and then start passing the hordes of early floaters that are moving camp. Really, never seen anything like it down there. It seems as if everyone that lived within a 1000 miles had just bought a new pontoon boat, drift boat, sled or other floating device and all of them decided to come and try them out this weekend. I have never seen so many boats of all kinds that were on their maiden voyage.
Despite the traffic, we found willing fish in almost every run we fished. The fish were happy and real players. I had more than a few fish raise multiple times and never even needed to change flies. I just kept sending the same skater through and eventually they would hammer it. The first fish I hooked was a first time,no messing around, zone in on it with lazer lock precision and kill the fly with a full head and beaver tail slap. No waiting for the weight of the fish, it was a solid eat and instantaneous Hardy paying out kite string like it was going out of style. A perfect wild Deschutes buck of about 8 lbs. Not a mark on him and just barely getting rosey.I rose one 5 times last night that I finally got to go and he ate with an amazing broadside flourish that left me shaking. Watching a fish that you have risen multiple times finally commit and eat is a chess match that never gets old. Each drift into the zone brings an excitement that I will never outgrow.Then seeing the entire body of an almost 30 inch fish pounce on the fly is almost indescribable. Those of you who know, well you just know. I got another beautiful wild hen this morning that again ate with an aggressive, vicious rush at the fly after several rises. She made strong powerful runs and did everything she was supposed to do.
I am a firm believer in showing the fish something different and with all the flies and gear these fish were seeing, the surface presentation just seemed to be the ticket for us. Tim's experience mirrored mine and he hooked and landed a few nice fish as well with multiple players along the way. Not bad fishing for the crowded conditions and the short time we were there. I think we moved 10-12 fish in a couple days and actually hooked 6-7 of those. Landing them all is secondary to me.
It's always an exciting time anytime you can get out on the river. We slept under the stars and waning half moon with no tent. We fished the method we wanted to with single handed rods and long belly steelhead taper lines. We didn't let the crowds get to us and just fished new water when we were forced to. I hooked fish in a couple places I never have, exploring those places we always looked at but never tried. It was a great trip.
Sometimes you gotta push your chips in to the middle and hope your hand develops as those last cards hit the table.This time it paid to gamble.
I just got back from an extended session on the river that included guiding, personal fishing, poker, and some other general tomfoolery that accompanies the Dog Days of August on the river. Overall, fishing was typically tough but consistent and productive if you covered some water. I had action on every session out with some notable risen fish and memorable hookups.I batted a thousand in getting fish for all my clients the days I worked which is always a bonus. It doesn't always work that way.
All of those pale in comparison to the experience my buddy had. Brett has been hanging around the boys on the NU for 5-6 years now and he has definitely been paying attention! His casting and overall fishing prowess has improved dramatically since he first plied these waters. He has been a great student and has gotten a lot of tips from myself as well as a few grizzled veterans that have been fishing here seemingly since time began....you know who you are. Anyway, I want to relate this story because I want to highlight some key elements that make it so awesome.
So, Brett shows up and we fish together the first night. We raise a fish or two( I rose one 8 times that never ate) and have a blast hanging out and fishing together. I then guide for a couple days and don't see him much except at night. He has been hard at it, raising fish but no hookups. He raises a fish in a run at last light and puts it to bed. He tells me later that it was a way above average specimen. He watched as the whole side of the fish slowly came out of the water and missed the fly. It will be rested and ready in the morning and Brett has that fish and only that fish on his mind at dinner.He is present with us but I can tell that he is drifting away to that happy place where big fish hit skating flies and stick. I am right there with him after hearing his story of the first encounter.
Early in the AM he is gone. Gone to do battle with a fish that has captured his mind and full attention. I know the drill. He is rehearsing the whole scenario out in his mind as he drives like Mario Andretti to get to the run before someone blows his chances for a rematch. He arrives at the run to find that at least that part of the battle is won and he is the victor. He makes his way out to the casting station, knowing that now the run is his and he can have first shot at a fish that, if approached properly and carefully will almost certainly eat a fly today. The first time through he fishes a skating fly. As the fly enters into the window where he showed himself the night before, the anticipation,adrenalin and emotion of seeing that fish at any moment are so strong it's almost debilitating. It is hard to explain the feeling of knowing where a big fish is, fishing a surface fly closer and closer to his lie and trying to keep it together and still cast. The sense that something is about to happen is overwhelming.Every drift you are mentally calling the fish to make an appearance. As you get closer, you obsess with cast angle,mending, and swing speed. You wonder if he just may have left the run. Maybe I passed by him already, maybe he's not in the mood today, I'm never gonna get this fish to eat etc etc........and then WHOOSH! There he is! Your knees shake your breath gets shallow and uneven, you start to sweat, your head pounds with the beat of your heart which you are sure is on a PA system blasting over the entire river, announcing to the world that you just rose a fish. But the stillness of the morning is not disturbed in the slightest. You ask yourself," Did I just see what I think I saw?" Was that him?
Brett regains his composure after the fish is raised the first time. OK, he's still in there and he is still BIG! He changes flies to a traditional wet fly and sends it through.He waits like a coiled spring for the tug that never comes.....nothing doing. He changes flies again, a dark muddler of some sort. Same song third verse......nothing happens. A different wet fly nada. Back to a skater.......WHOOOOOOOOSH! but no eat. All told 6 fly changes and back to a purple Muddler.He actually hung up and broke off two flies on the shallow bedrock during this whole scene. He started to loose it, things were falling apart but he got his head back together and kept after it.Now he is pumped with adrenalin,furious that he has to retie a fly,doubting his chances all the more as the minutes tick by. He stays with it.
He shortens up and works his way down to the fish, more or less thinking that this fish just took him to school and it ain't gonna happen. The size 6 Muddler swings lazily across the current going exactly where the rod and the one directing it tell it to. Now this fish has seen an armada of flies come over it's head in the last 15 minutes. Why this fly is any different,who's to say. But it is. With shocking intensity and amazing power and speed, a mid teens buck absolutely hammers the fly going away and it's GAME ON BABY! Brett's 11 ft 7wt switch rod suddenly feels very inadequate as the fish uses every ounce of strength, current and ledge rock to his advantage, leaving little room to counter any of his moves. There is no moving this fish whatsoever in the strong current of this mid river run. If the fish leaves the pool there is no chasing it. They slug it out for a round or two and then with a couple of head shakes and a flip of the tail, the fish does what a fish of this size can and will do. Take you to school. In and out of the ledge rock, a tug of war battle royal ensues. And then just to prove a point and have the last laugh the fish bolts for the back door, wedges the line in the ledge rock, promptly snaps the fly off and leaves Brett a quivering, shaking,hyper-adrenalized shell of his former self.
That's why we fish.
He later told me,that particular fish was easily the most satisfying fish he has ever matched wits with. It all started with a chance encounter.That was then followed by a chess match which was followed by a 15 round tittle fight where only a knock out will win. It's OK if the fish wins
As one of the people that has watched Brett become an amazing caster and fisherman in a very short time I was proud to see that he stuck with this fish. Despite obstacles both mental and physical he played the game that very few can. It was a well planned hunt from start to finish.He kept it together and sealed the deal and got this fish to go. He knew early on in the fight that landing the fish was probably not an option but he still tried.Very admirable buddy, nice job! His success always encourages me.
I never landed a fish in the 3 or 4 days I fished but that fish was in my mind for most of the time I was down there. In fact it still is.
That was a fish we can all share in.....won't you join me?