#4. We were out on a weekend camping trip with some friends around the hydro canals I had mentioned previously, infamous for producing grotesquely large trout that get fat off salmon feed. Well, that aspect of it didn't exactly pan out, but we did do some other fishing. Again with the nor'west; it was blowing like a banshee making prospects challenging as we headed out after a late breakfast. My mate and I drove towards some lakes looking for shelter along the trees but ran into a couple of gents skulking along the canals in pursuit of cruising trout before we got there. Just as we pulled up for a chat and put the van in park one of them hooked up. It wasn't a big brownie, but it gave us hope.
Long story short our attention was as fickle as the weather, but eventually we ended up at this large pond, which at first glance appeared to have more children swimming in it than fish. Our first inclination was to move on, just as fickle as before. Then we saw a fish cruising in the shallows. Unbeknownst to us he was anorexic, but it was enough to keep us mildly interested for the time being. A little more effort led to a follow from the deep, which piqued our interest further and led to a walk around the pond. A rise was spied. Then another. Then more. The fish were rising one after another on the lee side of a small island with reckless abandon, frequently clearing the water. It took a moment or two until we realized we should probably do something about this, and a plan was hatched. Twenty minutes later we were on the island after inflating the pack raft and swimming across with our gear aboard. We discovered the culprits: red damselflies. Too bad we only had blue ones. We tried in earnest with the two blue damsels I had, I even missed one take, but clearly they weren't into blue like they were red. Fish were still rising in front of us, and I watched in frustration as numerous fish rushed up to my fly, some sizable enough, only to disappear in a flash of rejection back to the deep. Finally one mistakenly ate a spider that I didn't miss. It was a fatal mistake on his part as we'd promised our women we'd bring dinner back. Then the action died off and an hour later when we realized the fish had stopped rising we went home.
#5. Another late start. We were on the water by about 2:30 after our first prospect proved too high and off color to fish. It wasn't a spot-and-stalk river so we were going to leap frog our way back to the car blind fishing the likely looking water. Shannon spotted a fish right off, so nix that plan. I sidled up next to him as we watched this rainbow feast left and right, top and bottom. He tried a few flies. He tried a few more. It was fast down the middle and I think it kept dragging his fly, quelling any interest the fish exhibited as it would come up to inspect his offerings. Despite the errant casts, dragging flies, and otherwise unappealing presentations this fish just kept happily feeding away. I have immense difficulty walking away from a fish that hasn't spooked or been put down, especially one that is still actively feeding, even if I can't figure out what the hell it's feeding on. So we remained, then he tried some other stuff. Then some different other stuff.
After about two hours Shannon finally offered me to step up to the plate. It was a left-handed run and I was perfectly in line behind the fish from where I stood. I thought I had this in the bag no sweat. One cast up the gut and the fish wouldn't even think twice. Not so. Sooo not so. I tried some stuff. I tried some other stuff. I missed a take on a nymph, but that didn't even seem to slow the fish down. Honestly if he had spooked then it would've just saved us the trouble. At more than one point we even witnessed the fish come up to the surface and swallow whole what appeared be yellow willow leaves floating down. I shit you not. No hesitation, just sheer confidence as it sauntered up and sucked down leaves right in front of us. So I tried a big yellow stonefly. Nothing. I tried it later after it happened again. Still nothing. I went from 8# to 6# down to 4.
I put on a blowfly. It wasn't the first time I'd tried one. It might not have even been the second time, I think there were a several different blowfly patterns in there that had been attempted. I cast. It was a good cast, straight down the line. The drift looked good, great even. It didn't drag, it just drifted dead like a good lil blowfly in the current should. Right. Over. His head. Nose up; sip. The perfect amount of hesitation and... SET!
Another long story short, but it was Ariel's first time netting a fish, and this one took us for a run about 100 yards downstream before he finally succumb and was safely within the confines of the net. Props to her on her first NJ. She was nervous at first, and we both felt better after all was said and done than during, but these things usually do the first time. A real dandy at 4.5lbs. I reckon it was about a pound an hour we earned while casting to it. Seriously. It took about 50 different flies (my best, honest guess) and a solid four hours.
That makes five fish to hand, but not a whole lot of serious time on the water. I was itching for a solid outing. I needed a binge. We decided to spend some time in the backcountry, and a west coast river with a solid rapport was selected. It's an earnest tramp in on a track that sounded tough as nails. With any luck that means it doesn't get that much attention that regularly.
Day 1: I miss the first eat while blind fishing with a cicada-style Stimulator. Ariel spots every other fish that was to be spotted that day for me. Whatta treat.
#6: First fish spotted. Ariel does a mediocre job describing where it was but I deduced as much as I could and sent one. Right on the money, as was her play-by-play as he came up to eat it. 1 for 2.
The next fish was spotted no more than ten minutes later in a big, slow pool. First cast was a little shy, the second one good. GULP. This fish was Ariel's first lesson in not to grab the leader when netting a fish. 'nuff said. 1 for 3.
#7. One more fish then lunch. I think I spy one and send a fly over to investigate and when it rises to inspect is confirmed as such. It took a few more casts and one fly change before he comes up again. Gotcha!
I hook another blind casting after lunch. It felt good and must have been half decent as it dove under a log and busted my 8# tippet in less than a minute. That run was a minefield of large woody debris anyway. Next fish spotted was working a circuit in a slow side pool. He eats a nymph that I didn't seem him take, but somehow hooked on blind luck alone. The hook bent almost immediately and off went the fish. The next bend holds three fish. One eats but I pulled it out too early and blew it. No more success on the day. Two landed, five hooked, seven ate, eleven spotted.
Day 2. We head up the northern-most branch of the three. Ariel spots the first fish again and after a few casts he eats a drowned cicada. It wasn't supposed to be drowned, and it was another dumb luck hook set because I didn't see the eat. I try landing it as Ariel is on the far side and I have the net anyway. Mind you, I'm fishing with an 18' leader... Guess how that went?? About as you would expect, until I looked down and saw that the prematurely freed fish had buried his head in a log split in half lengthwise on the bottom of the river right below me, about four feet down. It was the last fly of that pattern I had, and it seemed to work pretty well yesterday, so I shucked off my shirt, hat and sunnies, and dove in. Since the fish's head was in the log and his tail was limp in the current (belly upstream, mind you) I don't think he saw me coming. I clamped the net down over the log, snatched his tail through the bag, and hoisted him up to the surface. #8 was in the bag!
#9. We proceed upriver. As we head up the tributary I see it's a long, slow glide. I tell Ariel, "With this kinda water fish are gonna be cruising a circuit, so they can pop up at any time, heading any direction, so keep an extra sharp eye out." No more than five minutes later a small dimple and the corner of a caudal fin ruffle the surface. He's headed our way. I fire a quick cast off in the direction he's cruising, and... GULP. He went 5.5lbs and 26". We spotted more but that was the last taker of the day.
#10. I cleanly miss the set on the first fish of the day that eats a nymph. The next one too insisted on nymphs despite my reluctance to feed him one. Fine. He was in rough shape, and appears to have been caught once or twice before.
#12. The first #12 took me around a rock where the tippet parted before I could feed any slack. The next one bared down on my cicada like a fat kid on cake. He also took me around a rock where I thought the game had ended when my line went slack and I watched him swim under the stump on which I stood. As I took up the slack by hand I got to the leader and was surprised to learn there was still tension on it, and not only that, but also that it lead down to below my feet. I teased him out with my rod in one hand and a pile of slack in the other, regained my composure, and sealed the deal.
P.S. I apologize for being a bit long-winded. It's hard to be brief when every success has it's own story to tell. I do, however, extend an open invite to anyone willing to join me down here in chasing some big backcountry browns, and maybe the occasional rainbow too. Go ahead, give it some thought, I implore you. We'll be around...