Friday, May 20, 2016

Moving Water

Visited an old friend with a good friend today. Kirk and I revisited a section of scabland creek that was too low to fish last fall, now recharged over the winter and running at a good level. We hiked through the sagebrush to the edge of the wide coulee through which the creek runs. What a view!
Hoping that springs and the little flow that remains through the summer keep it habitable for trout, we made our way down a break in the cliffs to the edge of a tall bank overlooking a deep hole. Peering into the water for several minutes, we saw nothing. The angle of the sun was perfect and the wind was light, so the view to the bottom was very clear. There were a few weeds that looked like fish with their side to side motion in the current, but no fish of any size were seen. Then, movement, a shadow over a lighter section of the bottom. Yes, definitely a fish. Very good size, maybe 16" plus. There was at least one in the stream. We found a break in the bank well upstream, crossed, then carefully approached from below and tossed our flies up towards where we had seen the fish. No response despite out best attempts. But there would have to be more, and we had confidence we would find some fish today.

A short distance upstream in a likely looking stretch of fast, deep water, Kirk got the first fish to hand, about 4" long. It was a long hike to catch a baby! The next run up, Kirk spotted a nice looking fish in a wide, spring creek like section flowing through weeds. He directed me from his position on the high bank, and I drifted a small black micro leech and psycho trailer several times near where the fish way laying, but it showed no interest. While Kirk moved upstream to find more fish, I switched to a cone head bunny leach without an indicator, tossed across onto the grass on the far bank, pulled it off and started stripping slowly. As the leech came into view, a good-sized fish was following, darting towards the fly, then turning away several times. I stopped the strip and the fish turned towards and away from the fly again, once, twice, and on the third approach the fish stopped right next to the fly. Then I saw the fly disappear. Fish on! After a good fight, he wiggled off while I was bringing him over the weeds to the bank. It was a really nice rainbow, maybe 16" or 17". Continuing upstream, we started finding smaller fish and more numbers. One run would be silly full of fish, the next none or only a couple. Beautiful water, fish in the running water, only an occasional one seen in the spring-creek like flat water.
Kirk manhandling the fish across the top of the water in a beautiful run. There were a ton of fish in this run.
Typical fish from typical water
My big one of the day, 13" or 14" on the leech. The last and biggest of about 10 fish out of this run.
Kirk and a pretty trout
Kirk's monster; can't see it? Here, let me zoom in for you...
About a mile up, we came to a section that was actively grazed. The creek spreads, flat, not so deep. A few small trout in sections where it is moving, but this would get hot in the summer. No banks, no trees. Dang cows!
The token brook trout. Don't know how they reproduce, I never catch more than one.
But there were a few sections where it moved and deepened a bit more. In one of these spring creek like sections, Kirk got this beautiful 15" bow to come up to his elk hair caddis. Just above in moving water, I caught a nice little guy on an irresistible. Then, the creek started shrinking dramatically. We could see greenery on the cliff side, indicating incoming springs. It was time to turn around, find our way to the top of the cliffs, and head for the car.
Kirk's big rainbow
Nice one on the dry
Two and a half miles back through rough sagebrush, dry grass, and.....snakes! Kirk exploded into the funniest, high-stepping dance after nearly stepping on this little guy, who turned out to be without rattles, just a friendly bull snake.
A rattler look-a-like
Shortly thereafter, we came across another bull snake stretched out on the rocks. Luckily, that was the end of the snakes. Back at the car, with not enough time to stop anywhere else on the way home (we had our float tubes), we headed back to the creek at the bridge, and found it silly full of fish. The channel had returned to the normal entrance on the left side, and we fished side by side catching way more fish than should be in this hole.
Typical bridge fish
In the midst of the abundance of small fish, Kirk was surprised by this monster that slowly rose in full view and took his dry. Great restraint on Kirk's part to keep from yanking it out of the mouth of this guy!
Beautiful fish!
Another pic of the same fish
We finally decided to move up when several casts didn't bring a hit, but really, we were just looking to fish more water. We could have caught a lot more. In the next run up, we found only a couple, until I put a sinker on and pulled ten out of the very top of the run, the largest being this 13-incher.
First of ten out of the next little hole up, after putting on a sinker to get down in the fast water
Nice 13-inch rainbow
Trying to long-arm him, I realized the fatal flaw of long-arming is always the fact that your hand looks so big when you do it. So I came up with an invention idea that every fisherman will need to have - the long-arm stick. It will have a scaled down, lifelike prosthetic hand, made from grippy silicone rubber, that you screw onto the long-arm stick and clamp gently onto the fish before you stretch it out in front of you for the larger-than-life (literally) shot. The hand would be available in multiple sizes, depending on how much help the fisherman needed to get decent sized fish. The half-size hand makes your fish look twice as big; the quarter size hand can turn a 6-inch minnow into a 24-inch beast (make sure to take the hook out first). Time for a Kickstarter campaign...
The long-arm
Well, all good things must come to an end, and so did this day. We continued up to the riffle above the flat water and only found a fish or two, surprisingly, given all the fish below. I just had to drop in below the bridge before we left, and quickly had 20 to hand, mostly 6 to 9 inches, but a couple 11 to 12 inches, while Kirk returned to the bridge hole and continued catching where we had left off. Kirk motioned that it was time to go, but I just had to make a few more casts into the run directly under the bridge. Casting over the barbed wire that spans the stream there, I landed three more, then hooked number 24, a nice one about 13". Instead of running down under the barbed wire like the few before him, the acrobatic fish jumped up and through the barbed wire, ran back upstream, wedged the line in a barb, then ran to the side and broke off. I guess it was a sign from the fishing gods that Kirk was going to leave me if I made another cast. That was OK. Ten hours of hiking and fishing beautiful moving water, new and old, makes for a pretty awesome day!
The acrobatic fish jumped between the two wires!

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