Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Desert Waters and Trout

I've spent many hours with this river in the desert. I have braved frosty, silent winters and crunched through the ice just to listen to the little river bubble it's song. The rivers speckled inhabitants glide motionless near the bottom, surfing cold quicksilver waters, surviving.  Spring brings birds and buds and ticks. I pause often to admire the spring flowers that paint the banks crisp green, sulfur and pink. My waders disappear into muddy waters that scoured the bank, tearing down cottonwood trees in a rush to the Snake. Summer brings feverish growth but I pout in frustration as demand for water drops the river's flow to a trickle. My chunky speckled trout retreat or die and water become silent and warm. I must wait impatiently for fall and it's fading colors, for it's cool nights, for frost and the rebirth of my favorite river.  Each year I fear my desert trout will not return but with my gratitude..they do!  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Private Property Invasion Stifles Fly Fishing

A tranquil morning begins with fog lifting off the North Fork of the Payette ten river miles downstream from the namesake lake. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to access beautiful places like this as river banks become private property, exclusive use by residents only or private recreation clubs. Gone are the days when you could stop a rancher in the field and ask for permission to fish through his land. Now miles and miles of Idaho river banks are owned or at least bordered by exclusive gated neighborhoods.
I spent 5 days in McCall, ID this summer. My initial excitement and hope of exploring the North Fork from Payette Lake to Cascade lake quickly turned into frustration as I encountered gates, signs, and warnings that made access to the river maddening. I found only two designated access points along the entire river, excluding bridges which provided just a handful more.

I hope the future of fly fishing is not, "Recreational fishing for the few and wealthy" while the masses are crammed into city parks and ponds. I better brush up on my bluegill and carp fishing I guess. Exclusionary trends like this remind me of western Europe where people have to pay private families or clubs for the access to fish. I value my public land. It is as American as apple pie. Should be not protect our right to access it?

Secrets don't make friends!

Someone once told me "secrets don't make friends," but secrets sure are handy when you have a favorite fishing spot, especially if one wants to trade secrets like fishing currency. I admit, I don't appreciate when the shoe is on the the other foot and I am the one being excluded by the good old boys in the know. It seems guarding ones treasure is a necessary evil.

I reached my little river at 2 pm today, leaving me just enough time to fish the short winter hours until sunset and make it home for dinner around 7 pm.

It's an all rainbow show as I crisscross the serpentine banks sight casting to rising fish. It's fall, 45 degrees and a light but continuous mayfly hatch keeps the fish popping the top water for more than 4 hours. On closer insecto-inspection, the mayfly was gray with a brilliant green sheen to the thorax. Honestly, everything I tried, (duns, streamers, stimulator's) worked to some degree but a simple Pink Albert seemed irresistible. I landed 40 fish, lost a few, and tickled some that splashed away. Most of the rainbows ranged from 14-8 inches but all were lovely, stout and great fighters. I did catch one that had a hint of cutthroat judging by the salmon-yellow slashes under the gill.

A special thanks to the rancher that I met last March on my secret stream. He told me to come back in the fall and he guaranteed results. I had a wicked good time flipping the fly on the foam lines and never saw a soul.