Friday, June 30, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Holding Hands in the Creek

I still enjoy reminiscing about  my childhood fishing experiences -- my dad handing me a five foot fiberglass Shakespeare rod with a Daiwa Closed face reel -- strung with the thickest of monofilament line tied to a lead jig head, heavy enough to knock out Mike Tyson in his prime.  Those were simplest of times don't you know? You could go to a big lake;  take a ride in a motor propelled boat;  park next to a bunch of other boats and then drop your fluorescent mini - bomb jig, baited with a bloody but still frisky shiner minnow to the dark and deep lake bottom. Truthfully, I never did understand why a group of 20 fishing boats would care to congregate around one little rock reef that took up less than one percent of a 300 square mile lake -- so much for solitude! I remember the Walleye, those slimy Jacks (a.k.a. Northern Pike), and the Perch that somehow always ended up as Seagull bait. Most of all, I remember being together with dad in a beautiful lake setting, feeling the gentle breeze against my young skin, listening to the enchanted sounds of small waves lapping against the side of boat and especially experiencing the not so sad but beautiful cries of the Common Loon.

Although we have lived in almost perfect harmony on a fairly reliable trout stream, my son, still in the rock throwing years, tends to beat around the bush when it comes to fishing. Some of you fishing parents can probably relate, as the youngster's fuse tends to burn short while fish are not being caught. Consequently, this situation generally heeds a barrage of large and small stones into the finest of trout holding spots with the harboring thought of the need for my hockey helmet. And yes, my son seems to have a system in place as the stones get larger in size with time. Not to mention, there are also the rock skipping sessions, which generally require a thinner and flatter rock that often requires my help to find. Oddly enough,  I always wonder what the trout may be thinking as various sized stones and boulders, normally set on the stream-bed are now hurling towards them. They're probably saying "damn we just got done fighting six months of spate and now this!" At any rate, I'm just happy he picked up the rod a little bit -- it's better than nothing at all!

One fine summer late afternoon, I received a tug on my shirt and heard a little voice. " Hey Pa, let's go fishing". I was almost is complete dismay, since I usually have to sugar-coat everything before he will even pick up the fishing rod. Nevertheless, I did not want to bore him with another one of our countless bank fishing stints from the property creek, so I thought about other nearby holes that might be productive. The only downfall, is that some of the nearby town's finest, seem to like to inhabit these areas when the weather is especially tepid. And by the way trout, you might think a large sinking stone is scary, but you just wait until 280lb. Mary-Joe flies off that rope swing! Regardless, we hopped into my old, not so run-of-the-mill truck with one rod, a small box of flies and a will to get my boy hooked on fly fishing. Somewhat differently, this time I wanted him to feel the rush of the water against his legs, which seems to instill a sort of connection with the river and the things in-which depend upon it -- that's just my opinion.

The big old V8 with 350 horses softly gulps as we arrive at one of my favorite but popular fishing holes, noticing a late model Blue Astro Van packed to the rafters with the all to common and inclusive savage mutt peaking its scruffy head out the sliding door, which happened to face the creek entrance.  I glanced over at my son, trying not to reveal my disdain, and plainly but quietly murmured " dam bums".  Moving on, we drove up stream about two miles to another spot with good access only to find a parked Durango; the topper window artfully inscribed with the words "Just Got Married". Well then... wouldn't want to bother the newly weds! I kind of wondered why they chose such a spot following such a significant event -- it's nice but not that nice!  Glancing over at my son again, I just shrugged my shoulders and kept driving, thinking of a third option. Finally, there it was: an obscure trail, partly covered with brush, the gnarliest of bramble thickets and the itchiest looking of poison oak.

Slightly embarrassed, I conveyed to my son, who now seemed confused -- that good fishing awaits - once we complete this small trail from hell. To be frank, I didn't  really plan on such an expedition, as we tromped on top of thick bramble with our "spur of the moment" sport sandals to avoid the stabbing thorns. I led the way down the path very Indiana Jones - like, trying my best not to discourage any future trips, until we got to about a three foot drop that would get us to the still slightly submerged rocky stream bank. The plunge into the stream was an awakening for sure;  it was cold but not so cold that it was uncomfortable. I could sense some slight fear and nervousness from the boy, as these were unfamiliar surroundings. The cast shadows from giant fir trees muted any natural colors, turning the stream into a visual parade of black, slow  moving mirrors.  From this vantage point, I pointed out the most popular fishing lies seen in the distance.

Holding hands in the stream, we slowly slipped and stumbled upon thick algae covered boulders. The first fishing hole seemed so close, but so far away. I started to wonder why my sandals were sold as "fishing sandals" instead of ice skates. While exclaiming a WHOOOAA and OHHH SHHHIII... the controversial felt boot bottom ban thing haphazardly seethed into my memory, only wondering if the negative environmental claim justifies all the fishermen cracked skulls, broken bones, gashes and torn ligaments caused by dramatic banana skin - type falls. For those who don't know -- the concern is that an invasive species of sort may adhere to the felt -- taking a free ride to perchance contaminate another stream. Fortunately, here in Oregon, we are still permitted to wear these felt soles, which to provide ample traction to get you where you want to go in the most slipperiest of conditions in the world! Finally, arriving at a series of small but rapid riffle sections, I glanced down and was glad to see that my little one was not the least discouraged.

My favorite way of fishing small creek riffles is to swing a lightly weighted wet fly from upstream. For a beginning child, this method is ideal, since the current of the river takes care of a lot of the work, moving and giving action to the fly. Generally, the "takes" or "hits" happen once the fly line becomes taut and a fish can be hooked without any sort of set. Not to mention, fish will also sometimes take a fly on a slow strip or retrieve. The stream side foliage was thick and overhanging with little to no area to back cast; therefore, I suggested letting some line out and using a little of the rod tip to position the fly. It did not take long until my boy got one hooked on a #16 Hare's Ear wet fly; and watching him standing unattended, rod bent, with such excitement, bestowed upon me the warmest of feelings.  After landing the fish, my sons eyes grew large as saucer plates; we admired a fair sized, deep colored native Cutthroat which are prime but not the only fish in this creek.

As the evening progressed, I made some adjustments due to the decreasing light and increase of bugs on the water.  I changed out the fly to a #12 Stimulator floating pattern, since we had witnessed a number of trout rolling for fluttering Yellow Sally Stoneflies. Ole' Yellow Sally prefers to deposit her eggs in the evening hours by dipping her pointed butt into trout frenzied waters.  Splashes and airborne trout surrounded the drifting and sometimes dragging fly, only mushrooming our excitement. We happily fished below a setting sun, hitting several other similar pieces of stream and landing some frisky but smaller sized trout.  At this point, we had pretty much burned out our chances on the three nearby holes and all I could think about was that trail from hell back to the truck.

Thoughts of the fishing experience with my son flourished inside my head while a few juicy stoneflies splattered upon the trucks windshield, making our way home. Staring at the windy road, I wished my conscience could answer the questions of whether my son really enjoyed fishing that day and if  I would receive another request to share the passion of fly fishing with him. Fishing in general, is a great sport, in that it promotes a greater appreciation for the environment,  it's inhabitants, self well-being and  family togetherness. Just the fishing stories culminated and left to tell another day are far worth more than any amount of gold! I owe it to my dad for taking the time to go fishing; he should be proud that his son has passed on a fishing tradition to live another day - a day wading knee deep and casting a fly while we're holding hands in the creek.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Old Man River

A light creamy white covers the azure of the sky, while we launch the McKenzie drift boat onto a swift flowing and mesmerizing gin. GMan settles into the boat's bow with all excitement and announces "man this looks good!" Floating calmly, tall ever-so-green fir and cedar lean from a heavily wooded bank while an osprey is seen diving for a not so elusive fish. Musical sounds of birds surround us amid the rivers soft whisper. Mainly, the river speaks to us as we study its wonderous surroundings; and we listen like astute sons to a great father.

A McKenzie River Dory or Drift Boat
We ground the boat on a gravel shoal, near a large, wide riffle and cannot help but notice a small river - dancing parade of yellow dun mayflies.  Still gazing, reflections of light bounce off the glassy pockets of water that are mingled in between boulders. I blurt out "there's gotta be some fish in here!"  As cold and pristine white water crashes into naturally painted river stones, we pick our way from bottom to top, pelting the surface with flies. After our brief separation we rejoin, thus conjure and conclude that we ought to move on to a fishier run.

Double D Casting
After little to no success, we approach lunch time, picking at fancy prepared sandwiches and sipping on the finest of Microbrews. Life is good! Not surprisingly, our conversation turns intimate as perhaps our minds are tired from the overall guesswork of landing a fish. We talk about our families, friends and even pets. We catch up on to what's currently happening in our lives. Interestingly enough, at that moment in time, the river seems to take the back seat.

We press on our river journey and remain optimistic regardless an unproductive morning. A vibrant sun temporarily peaking through the clouds is a welcomed sight, candy greening the surrounding mountains and warming my slightly chilled bones. A lingering alcoholic buzz from our lunch time brew encourages some playful talk and senseless jokes. Regardless our tom-foolery, GMan manages to pick up a few average size trout on dry flies off the bow of the boat as we approach the near-end of our day long float.


Approaching the final rapids, I wonder what may have been the facet of our misfortune. And please don't suggest that old adage "a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!" Broken in thought, I advise we ground the boat off the far tip of a nearby island where another channel adjoins the main flow. Glancing over at GMan, I make a look that exemplifies "one more chance?" or a chance to redeem ourselves perhaps?

Flies strung, our initial casts were followed up by heavy takes. A large Redside screams into the fast water, dragging my line and forcing me in pursuit. Looking up for help, I could see that GMan was busy and in the midst of his own trout fight. Fortunately, I was able to steer the broad shouldered fish into calmer water and bring her majesty to the net. Finally, after we both bring more than several nice fish to the net, I exclaim "this is what we have been waiting for!" And I think to myself, "Old Man River's lesson today is about patience".

Native Oregon Redside