At 4:30 this morning I woke from a dream. I couldn’t remember it after waking, except that I was wide awake and a couple of attempts to get back sleeping didn’t work. Time to head out and be on the water at first light. I hadn’t planned on fishing today, but it seemed like an opportune time. Halfway over the hill I started feeling sleepy again and really wanted to be able to crawl back to bed. But I was here now, and on the back road to North-South run, I passed the suicide dogs – lying in wait for passing cars to pounce on. I swore I missed one of them by fractions and I cringed as I passed them driving a bit too fast to begin with. But they won their game, escaping unscathed.
I fished upper North-South and was into fish right away. I haven’t been fishing this piece of water much in the last few years, it hasn’t produced like it has for me many years ago when I first started fishing it. I’ve probably spent more time, over more years, at this piece of water – from my first casts some 23 years ago, getting chased out by a bear at dark with a full moon rising, my first large adult steelhead on a swung fly, an epic mid-November day with the water up to the base of the willows and fish after fish in the skinny edge water, and lots of time just sitting on the old half buried culvert along the bank watching the water go by while a friend does a pass through it.
Middle-North-South was quiet this morning. No grabs. I hurried through it to get down to the bucket at lower North-South. Oddly, no grabs there either. I fished it down through to the slow bottom water where a few salmon were rolling along the edge of the back water. I missed one, maybe two grabs. Someday, I am going to hook a large adult steelhead down here. I keep coming back to this slow water every time, year-after-year for that one fish. When I finally do get a good fish out of there, I will be able to proudly boast that the fish took me at least 23 years to land. I thought of all the places I fish regularly where I’ve yet to get a good fish out of, yet still keep trying. There aren’t many places, but I will continue to visit them. Persistence is the name of the game here even if it is measured in decades. I am not the least bit dissuaded. Instead, those places have become even more mysterious, haunting and infectious with the passing of time.
I decide to check out the wade across and down to the holy water of East-West. I turned back on Wednesday, but I push forward today. There is one single path across, down, across and down again pushing the top of waders much of the way. I thank my mother for passing along at least a few of the tall genes to me. An inch shorter and I probably couldn’t have made it at this flow. And, yes, there is the angst of getting back across: replicating the precise path up, across, up again and the last push across – all upstream – all deep.
East-West is another place to reminisce on. It was a natural extension of my early efforts on upper North-South and the need to explore just a little bit further down around the next bend. It, too, holds more than a few memories – a foggy morning with fresh coho rolling in the riffle, hot, late-summer evenings with half pounders in abundance. All of these memories peppered with a few instances of bright, sassy adult steelhead hooked, released, broken off, unbuttoned, and just plain missed. East-West is arguably some of the best steelhead fly water in the valley. Though, I would never call it the best water, in a valley that has a succession of classic water to fit any mood from fast to slow and deep to wide. There are fish there this morning lying far down in the belly of the run in a little slick on the far side of the river, grabbing numerous swings that I can’t hold on to. It takes everything I got to just get a cast over there with enough slack to get a swing to hold for just long enough… They grab on the mend, they grab on the slack, but they don’t grab on the full swing halfway across the river. They just don’t seem to move very far. I do three passes through, finishing up with a chunk of pink and purple meat – just to see. Nothing to hand here, but a fully satisfying time is had as the morning fog parts, a breeze starts to kick up and the decision is made to head home.