Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fishin' the Ferry

It had been a while since Ol' Barefoot Schoen and I had been on the water together.  So with help and encouragement from his beautiful bride-to-be, we made our plans.  The destination would be a new one for both of us:  Lees Ferry on the mighty Colorado River; start of the Grand Canyon. 
As is often the case, we arrived late at night, in the dark and wound up.  Having a general idea of the magnitude of the locale, great excitement for the adventures to come and also lots of catching up to do, we got started on the beers in the cooler and then soon found ourselves staring at 4 am.  Sleep would come, but not for long as we both rose early, eager to get our first look at the area and the river.  The scenery did not disappoint.

Rooms with a view.

Vermillion Cliffs.
Our home base was Lees Ferry Anglers and the Cliff Dwellers Lodge, a perfect compound for visiting anglers and adventurers.  On site is the fly shop, guide service, lodge, restaurant and convenience store.  Given the store sells flies, fishing licenses, snacks, cold beer, gasoline and bitch trinkets (gifts for your lady) what else would one need?  Coffees and breakfast burritos helped us get over the lack of sleep and we made our way to the fly shop for some info.  We were booked with a guide the following day, so we had a day to get our bearings with the area and try to figure some things out on the river.  We elected for a short hike down a wash, which would lead us to the river.  The hike alone was worth it and at the end, we could finally lay our eyes on the Colorado.
Follow the wash to the river.
Keep your eyes on the trail, if you can, and watch your step.
This looks like a good place to start.
We had instructions from the fly shop to fish midges on 6X and strict instructions NOT TO MOVE the indicator in the drift.  This all seemed well enough, so we rigged up and got started.  It had been a while since I had played around with size 20's and 6X.  My fingers seemed to be in slow-motion and my knots didn't always hold on the first tie.  Eventually we got the rigs looking good and started fishing.

We did not catch a lot of fish that day, but we caught a few, most of which came on methods not discussed at the shop.  There are always a host of emotions when fishing new water.  And while I certainly let my mind ramble to wonder about this or that, in the end, it was just plain fun.  Again, the scenery was incredible.  It was easy to lose yourself in the river, the seam, the drift and your indicator, but eventually something on the bank would catch your eye and then your eyes would wander all the way up the canyon walls to the top and into the sky, so that you were looking almost straight up, not focused at all on your fishing. 
Oughta' be a couple down there too.

There's a bird in there, James.
We fished, looked around, moved around, chatted, laughed, snacked and when we had our fill, we made our way back up the wash to the lodge, where the cool, cooler contents awaited us.  The sun went down as the beers did and with a hearty meal in our bellies, the lack of sleep from the previous night caught up to us and we were down a good 7 hours earlier than the night before.

The extra early bedtime had us up early - an hour earlier than our already-early alarm.  Again, excitement had us up and at 'em quickly.  We met our man at the dock at the Ferry at 7 and we were soon off, heading up river via jet boat.  Sweet.

Not surprisingly, we were much more effective in our catching this day.  Our guide Tyson had us dialed in with the appropriate techniques and once we got good at that, the fish came.  It was what I would call busy fishing.  Each cast would go something like this:  roll cast or false cast 20 - 40 feet; shake out ten feet of line; huge upstream mend, small upstream mend; shake out some more line, mend; shake out more line, mend, mend; shake out more line, mend, mend; shake out more line, mend; pull some line off the reel, mend, mend; walk the dog a few steps; extend arm for the last few feet of the drift; strip in 60 feet of line, recast.  Fluctuating water flows resulted in waves of action - at times, you'd expect a bite every cast, others you'd go 15 minutes before a take.  As before, any break in the action allowed for sight-seeing.

The scale of everything was pretty wild.  Here, Schoen-boy works a 300 yard riffle.
Given the nature of our presentations and the size of our flies and tippet, we missed a lot of fish.  Turns out, it's hard to sink a size 20 hook into a 12" trout's mouth with 20 feet of slack in your system.  No worries, while our average may not have been great, our attempts were, so we stuck quite a few.

80-foot hook set.
Eventually the shadows grew long and it was time to retire to the front porch to watch the sun go down over vermillion cliffs. 
River ride in style.

The next day we had a few hours to fish before we had to roll out.  We caught exactly one fish apiece.  Deuces, Lees.  We'll be back.

The mighty Colorado, as seen from the Navajo Bridge.
Cliff dweller, Chi Bo.


Keith said...

That there is some beautiful scenery... And I don't just mean the last picture...

Clark Winchell said...

Well done gents. A fine piece of county indeed.