Uppermost Van Fleet pilgrimage (of sorts)

Objectives of the day were to find some of the uppermost waters listed by Van Fleet, namely Wallace and Stanishaw. According to him, these were fairly popular places to visit during the 1930s and 40s. Today, all this seems to be a ghost of its former self – with both the fish and early autumn angling pilgrims in greatly reduced numbers. There are stories to be told here of festive mornings and evenings, but they seem to have been washed downstream, or are buried deep in the riverbed. Part of this is just to catch a little of the spirit that might still linger along this lonely stretch of river.

I think we struck out on getting down to Wallace – unless the road down is the gated road (open, by the way) that seems to have a private-property look to it. A steep, downhill walk/slide landed on some tough-to-fish water – and a huff-and-puff climb out. Until I can get some maps with older names on them, Wallace will remain accessible only by boat. Van Fleet describes this water as a holdover spot for early run adults – and it fits perfectly. It is neat water, classic long steelhead run, except the bottom is all one meter and larger diameter boulders – with a ledge that drops a careless wader right into the good water and over the waders. Morphologically, the run is interesting and it looks fishy as could be…. further exploration warranted…

Next up is Stanishaw and the access was easy after a false start down a rough slope (will see how bad the poison oak sets in!). Again, long, classic broad run that is perfect swinging water. I’m glad the access turned out to be relatively easy – this is a good one to put into the standard itinerary for this stretch of river.

We also found our way down to lower Rock Creek (after another poison-oak, sliding false start) – again, a relatively easy, though steep descent to classic broad fast water over coarse substrate. The half pounders were really on the grab here and more than once I was able to quickly follow-up on an initial strike with a come-back cast and get the fish. This may be Eyese to some, not to be confused with the Ice Cream riffle above the second bridge (unless I got Ice Cream’s location all mixed up twenty some odd years back).

Working through Eyese in late afternoon ... fish were on the bite...

Amazed that we did not get an adult to hand all day, though AJ thought he had one on in the Hotel run and I had a meaty tug in the tailout at the top of Green and coulda been. And some grabs at lower Rock (Eyese) that I will never know.

Towards the end of the day I handed over my two-handed Skagit set-up to AJ and rigged up another 2-hander with a more classic long belly floating line – WOW! I had to relearn my casting. The Skagit line makes it easy, though requires lots of stripping. The full belly line doesn’t need stripping, but needs timing and authority for proper casting, especially when lifting a weighted wet fly out of the water. Might have to get back to my long lines and put away the skagit crutch until winter sets in and they’re needed to lift small, wet birds out of the water.

The days are getting short! We were off the water in near darkness at 6:45 and the sun was off the water at Eyese around 3:30 or so. Yikes! All-in-all a satisfactory day for half pounders and a day of fishing textbook fly water. We joked that each run we visited was Figure 1, or Figure 3, etc… Couldn’t ask for better water to swing a fly in ….

addendum: I think Wallace could be accessed from the Stanishaw run by walking upstream – might be a bit steep and brushy, but could be very reachable after all.

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