Saturday’s steelie outing with Mikefishestoomuch and his fishing buddy Papa Joe was the most adventurous day I have had in years! The weather was overcast and a little chilly, the wind was cool, and the water was awesome! Levels had gone down a good three feet from last Sunday.
The clarity started out at probably 18″ and ended up at a good three feet by the end! Stained, yes, and the flow rate had settled down some more, as well. We met Joe at the downstream bridge just as the last pink flush of daybreak leached away, and drove back to our starting point, leaving Joe’s car there as our final destination. Joe is a float fisherman. And an amazingly accurate caster! He was using spawn bags, and had flies as backup, and Mike and I were fly-fishing. Mike used mostly nymphs and copper johns, and I started with egg patterns and went the gamut of everything but dries. We geared up and headed to the pools just past our parking space bridge. Some lovely pools there with some casting room.
The boys found a spot to fish and I got my tools out to get my rod ready to use my new reel. And the first of the day’s problems - the reel seat on my rod came off. I tightened the retaining ring, and it just kept going as the seat slipped down, down, and off. BTW, the Krazy Glue I had did not bond to wood…sigh.
So I fiddled while the boys fished. Since my equipment was fubared, I voted myself to be camera person! Broke down my rod, put it in my pack, and we headed off downstream. Mike offered the use of his car to go into town to get the right fixative, but I think it needs to be sanded down and redone, and besides, I probably would have gotten lost….grin We wended our way downstream pool by pool, had a couple of hits, enjoying the day. We came to a particular bend that Mike liked, and stopped there for a bit. We spread out, Joe at the bend and Mike and I further downstream. I was about to start snapping pix when Joe started yelling fish on!!! Mike and I raced back upstream, Mike to assist with the tailing, and I to snap pix! I cut through the bush instead of along the water, got there first, and there it was! In and out of the water, rolling, thrashing, the most amazingly bright silvery metallic chrome fish I have ever seen! Whipping around on the end of Joe’s line! Just as I get my camera angled right…PING! Off the fish went, into the wild, peaty-yellow-stained yonder! Unbelievable! And Mike missed it all! We stood around for a bit, doing the usual blow-by-blow commentary on what we’d seen, commiserating with Joe on the loss of such a beauty. She had to be 8lbs, Joe said. I don’t have enough experience with steelies to know, but I swear the fish must have been well over 23” long and big!!! Joe had on a chartreuse color, which had me hunting up every fly I had with that color on it.
I snapped a picture of him casting back into the pool in a vain hope of hooking up again, when he turned to me and said “Hey! We can get you fishing! I have tape!” And there my friends, a definite recommendation of an indispensable piece of equipment to add to the list – a roll of black electricians tape! He handed it to me, and I settled myself in behind him on the bank out of the way to gear up again…and the second of the day’s problems – I couldn’t find my reel! I went though all my pockets and rummaged through my packs – nothing, nada, zip! Panic began to settle into a hard knot in the pit of my stomach, and nausea close behind. Brand new reel and line, never cast, and what do I do? LEAVE IT BEHIND ON THE RIVER!!!!! Dammit! I must have also left my brain back home in bed! Joe volunteered to run back upstream to where we’d been (thankfully only four or five pools back) because he could move faster than me. I waited, throat closed, heart hammering, kicking myself for being so, so, dumb!!! A long wait and Joe comes trotting back, holding the reel! And he had a story to tell!
On the way back upstream, he comes across an older ‘gentleman’ fishing, and asks if he’d seen a reel lying on the banks, and the man said no. Joe kept going, and bumped into a younger guy, maybe thirty-five, and asked him the same question. “Well, I didn’t but my dad did! He’s just a bit downstream of me….” Joe said thanks, and went back to the older man. “Your son said you HAD found a reel!” And the man looked sheepish, hemmed and hawed, “Well, I did, and it is back over behind that tree…” Joe went to the tree indicated, and indeed found the reel behind it – amongst rocks and under leaves, well-hidden! I was extremely grateful the son was an honest man! After thanking Joe profusely from the depths of my soul, heart back in normal rhythm and stomach in place, I proceeded to tape the reel into place, using a figure eight post wrap – fly-tying technique to the rescue!
It was wonderful to fish my own rod, and the reel was utterly wonderful! I had some sparkly egg patterns with soft white hackle to try out!
We fished on downstream, leapfrogging for the most part, and sometimes hooking up on the same stretch for a bit, till we went past the spots we’d fished last weekend.
The sun started to peep thought the clouds occasionally, and wind would gust a little stronger to let us know it was still there after quiescent blocks.
There was the occasional hit, but no more lovely silver denizens were hooked.
But Joe caught fish. Joe landed, with Mike’s assistance – HE had the chest waders – a lovely resident brown, lots of color and very feisty.
The only other fish caught was a baby – admired, fussed over, and gently released to grow big and strong to come back and reproduce! We kept heading downstream.
The day was half-over and we had not yet reached the halfway mark.
Another problem crops up. The river overflowed so high that the banks were weakened and had collapsed in places, washed down due to the softness of structure, most of the banks being sand or mixed sand and clay. In some places with very high undercuts of 15 to 20 foot banks, the trail itself was gone, leaving behind rather treacherous footing. We twice had to clamber over three and four foot humps of roots on steep slippery banks edged with slick, deep, foot-sucking silty mud, interspersed with NASTY thorn canes that must have had vampiric DNA – drew a lot of blood from all three of us. I wasn’t able to make it through that stretch without boosts from the guys – am I ever glad they didn’t pull out cameras, or, horrors! A video camera. You would have died laughing! As it was, we had a pretty good chuckle over it, at least I did after! But they swore that was the last one, and it was good from here on. They lied!!!!!! First, we had a couple of good pools to try. I had to tie on a leader after catching yet another tree…sigh. I found a fallen log situated over a depression, a great seat where I could stretch my back out a bit and rest after that clamber. I sat down, rested my rod against an adjoining tree, breathed a sigh of contentment, and CRACK! The punky log broke and I tumbled over backwards and lay like an overturned turtle – in a mud bog! I started laughing, and all I could think of was the poor cars I had to ride back in. I attempted to roll over in slippery mud and rotted leaves with my backpack getting slathered in the slop, hampered by the hole I was in and crippled by laughter. I was a wet, smelly mess! Mike came over and helped me right myself, pull me up so I could get my knees under me. Still laughing at that point, I put away my rod and decided to just enjoy the hike and dry out. BRRRRR, cold wet mud all over. We started leap-frogging again and I took some more pictures.
And then, the bank from hell! This one was clay/sand mix that had collapsed and slumped over on itself, looking like badly made discolored dough. A lot of it had run down to mix in with the sand that ran along the water edge, and the water itself dropped drastically after a foot-width shelf. Mike went first. His fist step into the ooze sunk about two inches, the second five inches, the third six inches, and he was across. Water seeped a little into his prints.
My turn. First step four inches, second step, six inches….and I sank further. I get a little off balance; my left foot wavers in the air and comes down slightly ahead of my right and below me. Sinks a good eight inches, and by now my left foot is sinking further and further, until I am sunk to the knee on one side, and mid-calf on the right. On the bank beside me on the left is more of the same doughy-looking ooze in lumpy folds – no recourse there. I can twist a little to the side and see some firmer ground. I try to wiggle my boot and lift, and my foot starts to come right out of my wader, leaving it behind. I am beginning to get a bit worried… Mike comes back to assist me – he starts to sink. He is able to quickly twist free and backs up. Joe is behind me trying not to laugh.
Mike goes up the bank a bit and is able to get his footing on more solid ground. I grasp his arm and we manage to get me twisted around to face uphill, still mired. I fall to my knees, trying to free my feet. I slip and fall with my face kissing the mud. It tastes REALLY bad! With Mike’s help, I crawl up the bank and slowly get to my feet with pounds of mud on my boots, in my waders, and all over the front of me. By this time I am utterly exhausted, physically and mentally. With the help of Mike and Joe, I carefully and slowly cross the rest of that part. I want to collapse but I make it to the next pool, and there I sit. Totally covered in mud.
There are two more nasty banks, a bog, and after that Mike made me sit down and eat half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some Pepsi. Another recommendation to add to the list – great energy food to give you a quick boost! I felt like crap, sounded like crap, and wanted out of there RIGHT NOW! We still had a ways to go. By this time Mike has put his fishing gear away and is leading me, weaving with exhaustion, to the Trout Bridge. Both of them worried about me crossing this, and I understood when I saw it. The crossing was a fallen log that had been there long enough to start rotting….sigh Mike went over and cleared off the rotting bark shards, exposing some slick wood…sigh He went into the water to guide me across. I thought about crawling on my hands and knees, but I decided f*** it, I can do this! I started across, testing the footing and touching Mike’s finger tips for a point of balance. I had to stop after each step because his fingertips kept getting further down as the creek got deeper….grin. The last bit I made on my own. And THAT was a good feeling! Combined with the food energy, I was feeling up to the next bit. Joe would go ahead and find a pool to fish and Mike and I would go on to the next point. The walking bridge was not as bad as the log, but I tell you, it is in desperate need of upgrading! The ends of some of the very thin planks were rotted and nails had worked loose. Sigh
Mike was going to walk me across that one, but it swayed…I felt I would much rather it be only me on this one…and I did that one fine too!!!! A hike, OK a stagger, down a grassy verge, back on the trail, and then another decision to make – up a 70 degree hill, or take the path to a worse one…. We examined the hill, and decided to take the 70 degree route instead…after starting up, an easier route appeared like magic…the fishing gods were finally being kind!!!
All in all, this day was a life experience, one that taught me just how stubborn I could be. I am very grateful to both Mike and Joe for their patience, and I apologize profusely for cutting into their fishing time. But I swear I have a new goal! I will make that trip again, from the same starting to ending point, and I will catch a fish, too!
By Tina, AKA fishin_mom