Wednesday, July 14, 2010

high country opener

Well I'm back now in the throws of civilization, somewhat bruised, battered, initially sore as hell, yet still grinning like the Cheshire cat.  This season's inaugural high country trip proved a total bender of the fly fishing sort: three backcountry streams, 8 river miles prospected, 20 hours on the hunt to match the 20 miles of backcountry trekking.  When crammed into 48 hours Sat-Sun, looking back it's no wonder I called the game with time still on the clock. 

First up was my favorite venue, most often my first choice to open the season, and its close.  It offers a yin-yang mix of snaky meadow water inhabited by big-headed browns, and a bit higher- canyon pocket water hiding some brilliant 'bows.

While I consider this stream my home water, fishing it more often than anywhere else, I am constantly amazed at the heady blend of crystal water; cobbled bottom; lush riparian mix of willows, pines, aspens; willing fish.  And bugs!  My lord the bug diversity alone leaves the jaw agape, you'd best breathe through your teeth early in the season unless you like your protein served six-legged in a size #12-20.

Taking a breather Saturday am, I stand midstream awhile, allowing the cold water to rush around my legs while I attempt to categorize the morning's smorgasbord.  There's a smattering of Yellow Sallies #18,  some of those ubiquitous (smallish) brown stones #16, enough big rusty-brown stones #10 flying around, gangs of brown drake spinners #12, I think grey drake adults #12, trickling stream of tan caddis #20, even an occasional orangey pine moth #10 added to the mix.  

Those brown drake spinners seemed to be the ticket, tempting fish 2-1 over the root beer float guide saver.  Before the morning waned, I went through my meager supply of rusty spinners (left over from our last Yellowstone trip), leaving me wishing I had brought the vise this go-round.  Thinking future installment of In the Fly Box: quill body wrapped AK Best style, bi-plane antron wings, moose tail in triplicate- cause fish can count ya know!

Two most memorable takes:
  1. Segue to shallow gravel riffle sparkling bank to bank, where there's absolutely no cover for like 30 yards- oh except that one breadbox depression at the roots of that old bankside stump.  Might as well hit it, as there's nothing else within casting distance for the moment.    Spinner's drift ending, just about ready to turn away, one eye already on the next pool upstream....slurp!  Big brown spools line on downstream in 8 inches of water.  The net proves he's pushing 18", the biggest fish of the trip, noice!
  2. Deadfall ponderosa retaining the bank, the slight scouring of gravel underneath creating the perfect feeding station plus refuge right at hand.  Yep, ghost form fins close to the surface, rising steadily between branches.  First cast of the spinner prompts a mad rush at the fly, fish on!, leader instantly parts at the tippet knot as the brute rushes under cover, our hero left breathless.  Whew, big bow!  And taking my last spinner to boot!

Like greeting an old friend to pick up again right where you left off, I prospected familiar bends, pools, runs admiring each fish brought to hand.  And thanking Providence places such as this still exist on the face of this good earth- Big Oil, atv's, forest fires, backcountry cattle notwithstanding. 

I'm left wondering, as many do, if it's the fishing I love most, or the fish, or the places fly fishing takes me.  It's becoming more clear with each season, I could almost just as easily hike, sans rod, maybe toting a camera instead, into those remote places I call my own, and be equally in bliss.  

Almost...just not quite this day.


  1. Mike, Nice! Very nice! Some great pics to accompany the fine storyline too. Don't you just love returning to someplace familiar? Way to stick with the drift for the big brown! I'm constantly amazed that I can't learn to be patient on those drifts where I think I've fished a spot, so I'm ready to pull the line off the water and a big fish is chasing my fly.

    -scott c

  2. thx Scott- luv that country, surely do. If I had a dollar for every time I've pulled up short on a big fish, I'd be a rich man indeed. Not this time! mike