The dogs lie in waiting during the dawn hours. A truck zipping by at 50 miles per hour constitutes fair game apparently. Twice they seemed to just miss the front tire. Maybe that was their version of success – game won. Crossing and walking down to the bottom of the north-south run at the corner another pack of dogs wandered by, sniffing the morning air -making the rounds of their turf. They were gone, my fingers were already turning numb by the time I worked out a first cast – fish on! A feisty half pounder landed. The sun had not begun to clear the ridge yet, the river was steaming off its accumulated heat, and the fish were right were they were supposed to be. Everything was working.
A couple of missed grabs (that coulda been the ONE) here and there, a few more half pounders to hand, and I decided to try the wade across to the East-West Run: Steelhead Shangri-La. In some years the wade isn’t doable. At the crossing point the river crosses back to the near side cutting a slot along the willows with some sunken wood tangles thrown in to roughen things up a bit. My first try was denied – the slot was too deep. Moving farther up, I found I could cross by wading straight across past the slot, then straight downstream, then angle down and across to complete the mostly deep wade. I’d have to remember the precise path coming back – and a long push of water wading upcurrent – else I’d catch the slot and get swept into the woody tangles and add to the growing pile of human carcasses that accumulates underneath the willows each year.
This was a source of some concern. However, arriving at the top of the run I could only notice that it was better than ever. What was nearly the perfect piece of steelhead fly water has subtly shifted to become, well, nearly perfect steelhead fly water. That’s the thing with steelhead fishing and defining “good” water. There’s all types of good water out there, and better yet, many variations on “perfect” water. Just when you think you’ve found mecca, a better place likely lies just around the next bend.
Some things were still the same here, though. Near the top, there is a rough line of boulders or bedrock along the far bank that creates a wonderful fast water lie. And it was along the face of these boulders that my ruminations and reminscings came to a halt. A big halt. The swing just stopped and I came fast into a cartwheeling adult. It all happens so hard and fast that describing the sequence of actions that happen from cast to hook set would just be guesses.
I finally managed to work a hatchery adult to the bank, snap a quick picture and send it on its way – hopefully to feed a hungry anglers family. I’m not a big fan of the large numbers of steelhead and salmon that the hatchery cranks out – a whole host of issues. Not the least of which are the thousands of anglers who travel to fish the upper reaches below the hatchery. Up there the river is small, narrow and, in my mind, one long extension of the hatchery holding tank. Steelhead fishing at its finest. Oh boy. But here I am, happy to be swinging flies and hooking a hatchery steelhead.
Somewhere around ten, just as the river was starting to turn into an aquarium and the first gentle breeze was rustling the leaves, the off switch was hit and I left with the one adult and a dozen or so half pounders. I need to get to work on some flies for this fast, shallow and clear water – my fly wallet has a few voids that need filling.