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Well, another year has passed and I'm back on vacation getting MY opportunity to catch a few fish ... as usual, the steelhead variety ... on a stream in the middle of nowhere (nowhere, of course, doesn't mean nowhere if you recognize where I'm fishing). This year's journal should cover about a month or so, a little shorter than last season. Although, this year, you should see updates sometimes daily, or every other day; unlike the every five or six days of last year ... laptops are a marvelous thing ... sometimes, that now means I have to answer my emails too (except for those meeting the description below)!
Please note that the page contains lots of pix and will take some time to download ...
Thursday, September 2, 1999 ... Got into camp in the late afternoon. As usual for this early in the season, things are pretty quiet around here with only Keith & Alice and Jim R. already here (you all remember them from last year, right?). Even the camp host, the "Phone Nazi" ... oops, sorry, Jim S., is yet to arrive. Jim's relatives are covering in the meantime. Got my first look at the river ... a little high, but the color is okay. Not much in the way of fish yet according to reports (far different from last year) ... but I'm itching to find out myself. It sounds as if all the runs have been a little behind schedule so far, so perhaps this will be the case with the steelies ... as testament to this lateness of the runs, I have about a dozen kings spawning less than fifty feet from my cabin (never seen this many of them this late)... last year, that would have been about 55 feet from my cabin ... lost a little more of the bank last winter, guess it is just about time to think about moving what has become "Bob's cabin". Planning on unpacking and setting the cabin up tomorrow, but I have a feeling that that fishing urge might just overpower those weak domestic qualities that most males possess ... myself included!
Friday, September 3, 1999 ... early update today ... I guess those 'fishing urges' will just have to wait! Spent most of the day organizing some more and getting groceries for camp. Also took the initiative to make a camp water gauge that I constructed out of a five foot length of rebar, a yardstick, and bailing wire ... hopefully it will withstand any high water that we may see ... and it may come, the rain is staring as I type this. Oh, and by the way ... the official beginning measurement for the Zipperlip is 20.5 inches. Above is a pic of the spawning kings near the spot that became the official measuring station. Jim R. and myself drove into "Cable Crossing" this afternoon - the water height appears to be fishable here, especially with gear vs. fly rod, I will likely give it a whirl at first light if the river doesn't come up any. Despite rumors to the contrary that were circulating yesterday, it sounds as if that my in-camp fishing partner, Art, will be making it up after all. Expecting lots of the regulars to show over the next week, including the onslaught of Fishgal a week from today!
Saturday, September 4, 1999 ... Awoke to find the river up just a tad at 22 inches. Jim R. and I decided to venture down to Cable Crossing to see just what the river had to offer. Seeing that our standard height measurement rocks were still in place, we deemed that our best option was to rig with 400's and pound the tail ... Jim did just that while I opted to work the meat of the pool, although a little high, with gear ... specifically a contraption that I have dubbed the "pink conehead" that worked quite well for me during the winter season last year at home. After about an hour of working the lower half the drift, I decided to venture up to Corey's Corner at the very head of the hole ... although the main river flow was very fast, a soft seam still existed as the river made a corner ... two casts was all it took to coax the Corner into ceding a fish. A smallish hen of around nine or ten pounds, it wasn't a very active fish, but it broke the ice for me and it felt good to have one on my own rod as I have watched many hundreds of fish played by those under my guiding over the last 11 months and perhaps maybe what I could count on one hand on the end of my rod for the duration. Jim continued to work the lower third of the hole, and I then picked up my fly rod and opted to join him ... for nearly two hours, we flogged and flogged, with our efforts only rewarded with the dreaded brown-and-purple pancake ... a quite mature male humpy, YUK! Despite my begging, I couldn't get Jim to release the fish for me, so I had to do it by myself ... my hand still stinks tonight! Around noon, I grew restless with the lower half of the hole, and grabbed the gear rod, this one armed with a 5/8 ounce silver plated spoon, and went back up to the corner. Two became my lucky number for the day as I set into another hen on my second cast. This was a much nicer fish, both in size, and in spirit ... she spent nearly as much time out of the water as in it! Hoping for more, I continued to work the entire upper half of the hole ... primarily in the transitional water, but sneaking a few casts into the heavy stuff too, just to make sure ... but it was no use ... there just didn't seem to be too many fish in here. To make matters worse, in the prime water down below, Jim had failed to even connect with any sort of fish. With the sun beating down on us, and the male nap urge becoming overpowering, we opted to head back to camp ... succumbing to the sleepiness that drove us off the river. Speaking to the others in camp tonight, I was the only angler to find a fish today ... and still the only one to have landed one. It appears the poor reports were true and I'm now paying homage to the fish gods for their kindness they bestowed on me today!
Sunday, September 5, 1999 ... with the poor fishing yesterday not stirring up a lot of enthusiasm in camp, nearly everybody slept in and didn't wander over to "the stick" (measuring gauge" until 8 or so ... the rain of night before last was getting down to us from the headwaters as we saw the river was up to 22 inches now ... and starting to carry a little more color. Everybody kind of agreed that today was going to be a day off as we wait for more fish to show (surely they will!! or is that ???). Jim R. and myself decided to try out the new addition to camp ... Looneytoon Links ... a pitch and putt golf course made in the mowed field around camp, that we soon learned was a pitch and pitch some more with the complete absence of greens ... the grass wasn't even cut any shorter ... but we did have five pound coffee cans as the cups so we learned how to airmail our pitches (that should have been putts) directly into these cans. We made it around the nine hole "course" before some heavy afternoon showers drove us inside. The only fishing activity we heard of took place at camp today as some Swede fly anglers decided that they were going to harass the kings near my cabin ... they started out hooking a few pinks which seemed to entertain them plenty for a while, but then they found just where the kings were spawning and that's when things got ugly ... hooking the kings on the beds and chasing them hundreds of yards downstream before snapping them off. I only could watch this go on for so long before I went out to try to explain to them that these fish were spawning and should be left alone ... as so often happens here when the Europeans are taught some local etiquette ... or basic fishing etiquette in general in this case, their response was " No speak English" ... figures! It never ceases to amaze me how the snobby fly anglers that look at those of us who only fish or both rods like myself will try to tell us how sacrilegious it is to fish for the steelies with bait or the like, and then turn around and look for the nearest redd to fish over! That old saying ... there oughtta be a law!! Well, 'nuf said!
Monday, September 6, 1999 ... We're all kicking ourselves in the rear today as it poured all night last night and the river is rising fast ... 32 inches this morning and still coming. No fishing at all today! Not the end of the world, anyhow, as the laptop I'm using up here suffered a major meltdown last night and I've spent much of the day trying to repair it. Drove into the "big city" today and feasted on McDonald's ... beats the doors off of camp food! As of tonight, things are really bad, with the river as high as I've ever seen it myself ... the long-time regulars in camp are now beginning to talk about just how high they've ever seen it ... discouraging, I don't want to think about the prospect of losing the whole month ... but the river now sits at nearly the top of the five-foot piece of rebar I used for the gauge, approximately 44 to 46 inches, and is solid mud! Did manage to tie up about two dozen bunny leeches today ... but I don't know if I'll get to use them anytime soon!
Tuesday, September 7, 1999 ... Made another trip into the big city today, but this time our destination wasn't McDonald's, but rather a golf course that I've been eyeing for a few years but have still never played. Can't say that I played very well, but there were a few glimmers of hope in all the darkness, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the course ... certainly not a match for a TPC course, but not bad for being in the middle of nowhere! The river finally crested overnight, and is dropping, but still has a long way to go ... I'm hoping that maybe on Thursday, it'll be low enough to try with gear ... but the rain is starting up again tonight ... it looks like my fishing trip may soon become a golfing trip!
Wednesday, September 8, 1999 ... Rain didn't help matters much last night with the river yo-yoing around 32 - 34 inches today. Looks like Friday before fishing will be a possibility here ... may have to do a little exploring on some of the tiny rivers of the area if things don't improve soon. Fishgal is leaving Seattle area this afternoon, so we should see her soon. Managed to tie a few more flies tied up today, and got the laptop repairs pretty much finished, so I'm up and running with the Journal reports on a regular basis again, but I'm starting to think I might not have much to write about in the way of fishing ... we'll hope for sunny skies, but they're not clearing yet, still gray with some occasional showers.
Thursday, September 9, 1999 ... Well, the gray skies turned black overnight (yes, I know it was dark out) ... but the rain really came down and the river is rising hard ... Fishgal made it into camp today as did Art. Everybody is still playing the waiting game with frequent checks of the stick to see if it has crested yet, which it appears to have done late tonight. A few people in camp are venturing out to other areas to fish, but most of us are still sitting around twiddling our thumbs ... except for Fishgal, who is out learning how to cast the flyrod to perhaps go harass some cutthroat in a local lake later this week ...
Friday, September 10, 1999 ... Okay, this is getting really old now ... the river is still at about 40 inches, and this picture of Fishgal in the Puma is about as close as we've gotten to the water. We even went over to check a little river that we fish from time to time and it is completely blown and flowing at Mach 9, although the big river it feeds is still in decent shape color-wise, but carrying huge amounts of volume. We're hoping things will drop enough by tomorrow that we might feel okay about going out and gear fishing, but it will all depend upon just how much things drop overnight.
Saturday, September 11, 1999 ... The waiting continues ... after looking at the river this morning and seeing it still around 35 inches, we decided not to fish today. Although it was awfully productive as Art, Fishgal, and I decided to rebuild the nasty little dip getting into Cable Crossing that got so torn up over the winter ... the bottom of the dip was nearly a bottomless pit of mud and we spent several hours carrying rocks, limbs, and filling it with dirt armed with a pair of garden shovels and a pick that we scrounged up ... even if things get wet again, we should be able to get in and out of here without too much trouble ... that is, if the water ever drops low enough to make this the hole to be at. Big group dinner tonight at a restaurant in the valley taken over by some Hungarians ... we hope we'll survive!!
Sunday, September 12, 1999 ... Well, we finally got back on the water today ... although our success was very limited, it was very nice just to be out there ... lots of sunshine and blue skies! The gauge this morning read 32 inches, with about two feet of vis in the river. Art and Jim S. (yes, he made it back too while the river was puked) took off early to Cable Crossing while Fishgal and I slept in a little too long ... and we paid the price, as Art landed the only steelie of the day on the pink conehead before we even got there. There wasn't much water to fish here at this height, we knew that going in, but the inside edge of the top end of the hole looked quite good yesterday when we checked on it while road-building, so we thought we'd give it a whirl anyhow. Today was Jim's first experience with a gear rod ... a 1025 and a Calcutta that I loaned him ... "aw, what the heck", he said as he (a devoted fly angler) couldn't sit around any longer and knew the odds were very slim with the flyrod given the current height of the river. Although, he never touched any fish, we got him going with the in's and out's of driftfishing and we was doing quite well with the baitcaster by day's end. Around 11 or so, we ventured up to the "High Pea Garden" and slung worms and rags at any steelies that might have been inhabiting the bottom end of the run ... we never found any steelies, but just as it was early season last year, the run was full of pinks. Cast after cast, the half-rotten humpies would grab our offering and wiggle ... they really didn't have the "oomph" to do any more than that. This grew old really quickly and we decided to continue our tour of the river by venturing up the "Timbers" hole ... not a hole that I fish very often, I have taken a few out of it the times that I have worked it ... and nearly did today ... rolling two fish, one on the pink conehead and another on a spoon ... but it just wasn't meant to be my day, and both were gone almost as soon as I knew they were there. Oh well ... it was nice to have a little piscatorial pleasure, considering the amount of absolutely nothing that most have us have done over the past week. Now, Fishgal is standing over my shoulder reading this, wondering out loud when she'll catch her thirty pounder that she has set her sights on ... maybe if this nice weather keeps up ... she might have her chance! River is now at 29 inches and still dropping!
Monday, September 13, 1999 ... We're finally back in business! Although the water was still running at 28 inches this morning (still pretty high), the color wasn't bad and Art, Jim S., Fishgal and I floated from Mickey's down to camp. Walking up about 50 yards from where I parked the car, I hadn't even worked my way back down to it before I beached my first fish ... a hen of around nine pounds ... on a spoon right in the tongue of water feeding into the top end of the hole. The silver 5/8 ounce spoon was the ticket here ... no flyfishing at all today, for the first time that I can remember, we all left the flyrods at home and decided to make this a gear-only day with the water still not in the best of shape ... even Jim S. decided he was going to learn how to cope with one of the baitcasters today. We didn't get to fish Mickey's much as one of the guide boats rolled in and we decided to run down to the Upper Yoda, as it is traditionally an excellent high water area ... and we were right ... we hooked six, landing five in a couple of hours of pounding it. Fishgal started us off in here with a hen of around ten or eleven and then followed up shortly thereafter with a nice buck of 19 or so ... both enticed by the pink conehead ... I landed a nice hen of about 16 a little while later ... and then Jim S. got to feel his first ever fish on the end of a gear rod, again suckered by our group's new favorite gear lure (that even inspired a cry of "What the hell are you fishing with??" by the clients of the guide we left behind at Mickey's. Jim prompted landed a twin of my second hen his very next cast ... "Hey, this gear fishin' is okay!" he said. I managed to hook my third fish of the day in the break ... but, alas it never made it to hand ... oh well! It was a good thing we got the activity while we could, because our next two planned stops already were occupied, so we fiddled around most of the remainder of the day trying this hole and that, finding out what fished, what still needed a few days. Art did manage to hit two fish right above camp in another secondary spot ... again, the spot we had hoped for was full, but both of these fish only suffered the minorist (is that a word?? Nope, make that tiniest) of a sore mouth as they both quickly escaped without their pride even being damaged. Art swears he'll take vengeance on Tuesday ...
Tuesday, September 14, 1999 ... Five feet of vis and a 26 inch river height promised some better fishing for us today ... and for the most part, it happened ... although at times, we would have sworn today was Friday the 13th rather than Tuesday the 14th. Same crew as yesterday ventured back up to Mickey's at first light. Jim S. opened his mouth about how we never seem to do any good starting this early ... well, he stuck his foot in it ... all the way down his throat, as he landed our first fish on the very first cast of the day ... it was darn near still dark out, but the hen managed to find the pink conehead anyhow. That was the only fish we did manage to land in the first hole, although Jim did hook another steelie in the tail and I found a nice dolly up high. Although not facing competition from another boat this morning, we chose to run down around the corner to the Upper Yoda rather quickly as it had treated us so well yesterday. Art had ventured down first with no luck at all before we got there ... we might as well get it out now ... Art had no luck at all again today ... he had one of those days that all anglers fear ... everything that could go wrong, went wrong ... from a badly twisted line that wrecked havoc with his old trusty Winona reel to several lost fish and so on ... but we won't dwell on his day too long, it's one that he wants to soon forget, and we'll just let it rest. I chose to start about mid-pool with the flyrod, the water was a little high, but I figured the 400 would get me down okay ... and after a few ugly casts, I finally got my timing and laid a nice cast up along the far bank and the very same bunny leech pictured above hit its mark ... with an absolutely spectacular fighting hen being the target. Leap after leap, most at eye level, got all of us hooting and hollering as she cartwheeled down the hole. A little bit later, my first flyrod fish of the trip came to hand ... thanks pretty lady, you provided a brilliant battle that I won't soon forget! I walked back up to the spot where I hooked the fish and sure enough, the very next cast, another hen fell victim to the bunny leech. Not bad ... two casts, two fish ... not a bad start! Jim S., our new-found gear fanatic, continued his assault with the pink conehead, landing another fish just minutes after mine. I went back up to the head end of the hole with the gear rod after completing my pass with the flyrod (with no more luck) ... and it took me nearly the full length of the hole to hit my next fish, right at the break ... it hit the spoon once and missed, and then hit it a second time and the fight was ... over ... it spit the spoon right back at me. My streak of bad luck started. We then ventured downstream a little ways to a spot that I have always done well in and pulled over to fish. Jim, not familiar with this particular spot asked for a little guidance, and sure enough, I suggested he start right where a fish was ... two casts and whamo! The conehead strikes again (Boy, now he's really hooked on gear ... he never even made a move for the flyrod, even after landing two just below him earlier). Meanwhile, Fishgal started working a new fishing spot ... a little logjam that has always been swirly in past years, but looked good this season ... it didn't take her long to hook a fish in here. As Jim was putting the finishing touches on his fish, I walked down to where Fishgal had been fishing and promptly found a willing taker on my conehead that I rigged up on my first cast ... doubleheader! Well, for a minute anyhow ... landing room was tight and as I tried to go around Fishgal (playing hers) with mine, it got into some heavy water that I tried to force the fish back out of ... nope, bad luck continuing ... it threw that hook too. We continued to fish this little pocket for a little while and Fishgal and I both managed to hook one more apiece ... she landing hers, and mine making me look like a fool ... three strikes Bob, you're out! As was the case with the fishing yesterday, we found a serious mid-day lull, with only myself landing another fish (finally breaking my mini-slump) a little ways up from camp in a spot that we've seen people fish, but never spent much time in ourselves ... and probably still won't ... it's just one of those spots that doesn't seem to give us "the vibes". More recon today ... we did to fish a few spots today that looked okay yesterday and some of our traditional spots that we found had changed a lot, but with no takers to be found. Funny, local residents say the river never got really high during our absence, but we have found quite a few changes in the depth and structure of the holes ... we'll keep learning these new twists in the game and hopefully will have it figured out soon. And more about this Friday the 13th thing ... Jim R. lost two flylines and got zero fish in return on the Mississippi today, Keith went for an unexpected swim and busted off a fish when a loop of line grabbed his reel handle ... and Fishgal got stung by a bee, twice! Oh, and Art ... he's over at his trailer on his knees in front of a picture of a steelhead and a circle of candles ... chanting "Tomorrow!"
Wednesday, September 15, 1999 ... Well, I opened my big mouth and made fun of all the other people that had bad days yesterday and it came back to haunt me. Same crew, same starting point as the last few days, but no float today ... just a 'pound the heck outta the first few spots and go from there game plan'. Art's chant must have worked because he caught and landed his first fish before I was barely even in my waders. I also noticed that he passed the curse along to me ... as I managed to make my 10 foot GLX into an eight footer about three casts into the day landing a humpy of all things! Fishgal and Jim didn't waste much time either, both landing fish before it was even daylight ... all on pink coneheads. While their first-light barrage continued, I sulked on the tailgate of my truck, as the rod I snapped was the only one I had with me that I felt comfortable casting the 400 with. I sat and watched as they caught fish after fish ... eight steelies in all and an assortment of coho, dollies, and even a chum thrown in for good measure. By the time I got back in above them with a gear rod, either the fish chose to stop biting, or they had all been sore-lipped ... figures! We hoofed it down to the Upper Yoda about 9 or so and started working this drift ... Art was into a fish immediately on the flyrod about mid-pool, this one got off right away, but he quickly hooked another and landed this one, a hen of about 11 pounds. I followed on through with the bugrod and hit a fish right a the break ... after a quick boil, it ran, and ran, and ran ... several hundred yards downstream with myself in hot pursuit. After finally catching up to it, I saw why it ran so hard at first ... it bit with its tail ... I pointed the rod at the fish and popped it off ... so went my day, the only steelie I hit, and I got it by the wrong end! Just as I got back up to where we were fishing, Fishgal, disappointed with her lack of activity in the upper end of the hole, decided she wanted to go down to the little spot where we had hooked all the fish in quick succession yesterday ... I obliged as I wanted to fish the pocket just above the spot we will now dub "Fishgal's Funnel" ... great, this is where the fish I snagged just drug me too ... I could've stayed here to begin with instead of spending 20 minutes tromping up and down a gravel bar littered with rotting humpies! We both went to work, myself with another flyrod that I was fortunate to have brought along, and Corey with the conehead ... she struck silver ... I ate fungus! She did land one nice steelie in the funnel and found another hard-tugging chum ... I got mauled by rotting humpies ... about a dozen or so in all, hitting everything I offered, a fly on the first pass, a conehead on the next. We then decided to go try the lower end of the river, just to see what we may have been missing .. as it turned out, we committed the cardinal sin of steelheading ... we left fish to find fish. And we also found a big surprise / dilemma getting out of Mickey's: (we later learned) a beaver dam on a pretty good-sized lake had burst, creating a pretty major flow of water through the normally dry field and into Zipperlip ... the problem was we were now stranded on an island, and we had no choice but to cross the "new creek" to be able to get back to camp ... as a fence runs through the field with the river at one end, and a heavily wooded area on the other, we only had one option as to where to cross: at the gate opening, where the water was so deep that it flowed over my hood as I plowed my way to dry land! After parting ways with Jim S. at camp, Art, Fishgal, and I decided to go into Cable Crossing ... the river here had maybe two feet of vis, instead of the five feet we had just left - due to the burst dam upstream. The water was still pretty high and with the combo of the two limiting factors, we opted to head back to camp ... but I had to try my luck just one more time at the "Timbers" hole. Art led the way with a flyrod, in the limited vis, Fishgal and I opted for the coneheads. Not a third of the way through the hole, Fishgal yanked a nice buck out from right under my nose ... and my next three casts ended up as a permanent part of the riverbed ... I had had enough ... time to hang it up for the day and start over tomorrow. Just wait fisheys ... I will have my revenge tomorrow!
Thursday, September 16, 1999 ... And revenge I took today. Almost had it right out of the chute this morning ... losing a nice buck on a black and purple bunny leech on my second cast at Mickey's. Since the water was still flowing through the field that we access the river through, we (just Art, Fishgal and myself today) couldn't drive any closer than about 3/4 of a mile from where we wanted to fish, so we got to hoof it into the area today. I got my first taste of revenge a little while after losing that first one ... a small fish of around six pounds ... it still broke my hex that plagued me all of yesterday. The highlight of the morning though was a little episode with Art and a huge fish. Art hooked a big fish just below me about an hour into the day ... the fish barely moved, just ever so slowly pulling line out from Art's old Winona and inching away, shaking it's head every so often. Art sat and held on to this fish for over ten minutes ... and as I passed him working my way carefully around his fish, I decided that his shoulder ... which hadn't moved at all in this entire ten minutes ... looked like a nice place to take a nap. Amused by the combination of Corey's chants of "You've got a thirty pounder!" ... or "Maybe it's just a stick!", and my joshing ... Art asked for some help as he, taking a couple of steps downstream to see if he could move the fish, noticed a big humpy carcass sliding up his line ... I slowly worked my way out, reminding Art to be ready if I spooked his fish to try to keep his line clear of me. I was barley able to reach the carcass as the water was nearly spilling over my waders' top ... Fishgal tossed me a stick and I freed the decaying carcass from Art's line. I walked back towards Art and he started shaking his head ... he was snagged!! Sure enough, his line wasn't moving ... heartbreak!! But then we realized that the pumping of the rod stopped when I took the humpy off the line ... and Art had been able to reel in a bunch when I did ... sure as $@#!, Art had been snagged the whole time ... there was no fish ... he'd really been playing a stick! Best we could figure, Art set into the snag at the very moment the humpy carcass hit his line in the depths of the river and folded over ... the pressure of the dead fish sideways on his line was enough to pull line out, and the flapping of the carcass provided the headshakes ... and the give in the limb that Art finally pulled from the bottom of the river when we realized what was going on was just enough to feel like he was gaining now and again. We were all fooled ... just the right combination of factors put us right in the position of the people in stories that we joke about! After laughing about the whole fiasco over coffee, we went back to fishing. Corey seemed to have the bad luck this morning ... rolling a couple of fish but she was never able to even fully put the hooks in them ... I went back to my ways of yesterday, rolling two more myself. As I was the only one to have landed a fish in this hole, the pressure was on to move to the Upper Yoda ... and I'm glad we did ... because my revenge session was just beginning. Fishgal fished the head end and the little pockets down round the corner ... and through the course of the remainder of the day, she landed four steelies tossing aeropuffs and coneheads. Meanwhile, as the sun came out and warmed things up nicely, Art and I enjoyed steady, but not super fast-paced fishing on the flyrods in the middle and tail of the pool. We each managed to hook a fish nearly every pass through the several hundred yard long run ... with some nice, but not huge, fish in the mix ... 18, maybe 19 pounds on the biggest ones. And although I was extremely pleased with my 3 for 5 (plus a few more grabs that I just flat missed) action on the flyrod and 1 for 3 action on the gear rod up to this point (compared to the misery I dealt with yesterday) ... the fun was just about to begin. We wanted to quit a little early today to walk out and make it back to camp in plenty of time for "Happy Hour" (more eating than drinking) ... so about 2, Art and decide that we should go through the run with gear. Although we were fish the middle and near section of the drift effectively, we knew that the far bank dropped off into some very deep water with some nice rocks in there ... holding water than we just passed over the top of with our flies ... and we were sure that it was holding fish. So Art led the way with a red aerofly ... and found a few willing biters with it. But here came Bob on a mission with a 3/8 ounce silver spoon. First cast, ten pound hen ... second cast, nine pound coho that fought just as well as a steelie of that size ... and it seemed to just continue as I made my pass through ... when I got to the end of the run ... I had hooked five steelies, landing four, and the coho to boot. Sweet revenge was mine ... take that, fish! I hated to leave as the flurry had just started, but I knew we had to walk out and it was getting late ... so what we didn't hit that last pass, will just have to wait until tomorrow!
Friday, September 17, 1999 ... Whole crew back up to Mickey's this morning. Art started off at mid-pool with the flyrod and Fishgal, Jim S., and I followed through with gear. I landed a nice coho first cast of the day, but no one landed a fish until Jim made it to mid-pool and drilled our first of the day on the conehead. As we made our way into the tail, I hooked a very nice fish that I guess was in the mid-20's ... but after about two leaps ... it broke me off ... major disappointment on my part. Not sure what had happened as I had just checked the line and re-tied a few casts earlier ... Jim followed suit a few minutes later, breaking off one of his own as he tried to undo a backlash as the fish bit ... I wish I could say I've never been there and done that, but I think anyone who's been chasing steelies long enough has probably done it at one time or another. Art left the group early to go to the Upper Yoda ... as we walked in, he was just landing his second fish in here on a bunny leech. Jim, Art, and I worked the slower and shallower section of the pool all morning and into the early afternoon ... with mediocre, but consistent action throughout the day. I was the bad luck boy again today ... only landing one steelhead (and a coho) on the bugrod .... having two others come unpinned and suffering an even bigger disappointment than the fish I lost early in the day when I chased a huge buck several hundred yards downstream and having him dive under a nasty logjam ... not wanting to sacrifice my 300 ... I pointed the rod at him at clamped down on the reel and hoped he would stop ... nothing doing he said as my fly and tippet parted ways and I hung my head and walked back ... that fish plain and simple kicked my butt! We did see several biggies today ... Fishgal landed a nice fish in the low 20's ... but the darn thing bit with its dorsal!! Jim also landed a pair of fish near or just above 20 pounds ... the first (smaller of the two, near twenty) on the conehead on our mop-up run through the Upper Yoda with gear (in which all four of us landed a fish). We opted to make a last minute run through Marty's again before we called it a day. Jim managed to impale his ear with a fly as it shot back at him as it pulled free from the jaw of a humpy that he had near his feet. I guess the fish gods felt for him as he landed a fish definitely over twenty on our mop-up run in here ... on what else, the conehead!!! We laughed and laughed as we talked about what sort of a gear-fishing monster he has become in the last week ... but it's nice to have him join the two-rod club, as we're all involved in the mop-up runs and he stills gets to find some action in those places where the flyrod isn't practical or when the water conditions dictate a gear-only approach. River level is down to 21 inches, so it won't be long before a return visit to Cable Crossing is in the works.
Saturday, September 18, 1999 ... Back to Mickey's again this morning. Original group was Art, Fishgal and myself ... but Jim R. showed up a little after 8 to see what we've been hiding. Art picked up a fish the first cast of the morning on the fly ... I lost one just a few minutes later on a Volcano ... lots of lost fish for just about all of us except Fishgal today. She was the heroine ... going five for six, and missing two others ... two of her steelies were over 20 ... one just over 39" pictured here on the left, the other 41 1/2" that was shot with celluloid only. The Upper Yoda fished well, with both of Corey's big fish coming from the top corner of the hole on spoons. Art, Jim, and I found decent fishing on the fly in the lower portion of the hole, but unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, many never made it to hand today. The worst heartbreak came when, for the second day in a row, I lost an unseen, powerful fish several hundred yards downstream in the pile of logs that has now become my nemesis. Too bad, we were going to show you a pic of the fish, and the goofy fly that I hooked it on ... a silver body and about 50 four-inch strands of silver tinsel tied on a 1.5 Alec Jackson spey hook (our best imitation of the silver spoons that have worked so well the last few days). To make matters worse, Fishgal severely jammed her reeling thumb after taking a nasty spill while running down the beach with the tape and camera in hand as I followed the fish down ... reeling may prove to be a difficult task for her final two days of fishing coming up. Only one successful double-header today ... that coming for Art and Jim just after lunch, and of course, right behind me in the drift ... but I repaid the favor later by yanking this pretty teener hen from behind them with a Volcano. We've noticed a disappointing trend for the feather flingers ... the girls are all laying in the lower part of the hole, and the boys (with the big bruisers included) are predominantly laying in the heavy stuff up top. The last of the regulars showed up in camp today ... Art's wife, Sue and Jack and Doris E. ... things won't be the same in camp now that Jack is here ... bouncing from cabin to cabin telling tales of yesteryear (he's been coming here for nearly 40 years straight) with a touch of color and humor that no one else can match! Fishgal and I are talking of a gear-only float as a possibility tomorrow ... but no definite plans as yet ... we'd like to make our presence known to a few fish at the Crossing, but a little rain last night is keeping the river right at 21 inches, which is still a little high for really good fishing in there. We'll keep our fingers crossed that we get a little more drop in flow to make this a worthwhile option.
Sunday, September 19, 1999 ... Lost my partner this morning as we decided at the last moment to send Fishgal into a hospital to have her thumb joint x-rayed as it felt even worse this morning. Art also took today off, spending time with Sue on her first day here. Jim S. and I were the only two left, and we decided to make a float from Mickey's to camp. Jim started the day off with a bang, landing two smaller fish in Mickey's on the conehead (sorry everyone, I can't tell you exactly what it is ... we gotta have a few tricks up our sleeve!). We then stopped in the corner at the very top of the Upper Yoda and I found my first fish of the day ... a very acrobatic hen of about 15 pounds, also taken on the conehead. Wish I could share a pic of her with ya, but as we turned on the digital camera, the screen blinked "NO DISK" ... doesn't it figure, probably gonna catch the big 'un today (the pix below came from scanned 35 mm pic rather than the digital pix I use while writing in camp). Seeing Jim R. pulling into Marty's, we quickly hoped into the Puma and shot down to the Upper Yoda proper. Jim led the way through the lower half of the hole with the flyrod. It wasn't but two casts on my part and I had a rambunctious steelie trying to throw my bunny leech ... and guess what, it did, about 2 minutes into the battle. Just as I made my way into the money portion of the hole, Jim R. and a friend of his walked in above us ... I promptly hooked another fish which stayed on for even less time. Strike two!! As the run became crowded with four of us fishing it, Jim S. and I decided to up to the corner where Corey had done so well yesterday ... both armed with coneheads, we doubled on our first casts ... a pair of bucks, both in the mid-teens. I walked back up to the same spot, switched to the spoon and made two casts before I hooked another fish ... this one marched upstream and then finally came back down after a few minutes and then proceeded to engage me in one of the most drawn-out battles of tug-of-war that I've played .... twenty feet out, ten in ... ten out, twenty in ... this played out for what seemed to be an eternity before I finally slid my first 20 plusser of the trip into the shallows, a buck of about 24-25 pounds looking at him. As we faced a short day with a dinner party this afternoon, we hustled downstream. We finally got an opportunity to fish Killing Creek today ... with lots of coho grabbing our offerings ... four landed for me and a couple for Jim. I also managed to lose another steelie, this time on a new root wad in the break at the bottom that I didn't try to steer the fish from, thinking it was only a mound of gravel from spawning humpies. Damn! Three days in a row, I've popped one off! I also managed to grab top honors for the longest catch of the trip ... approximately 96 feet of T-400 that I drug off the bottom of the tail ... thanks to someone ... it'll make a nice backup for me. Our fishing for the remainder of the day was hurried, a few casts here and there, trying to see how some of our favorite spots were fishing with the slight drop in water since our last float ... results were poor, with only one more fish apiece hooked and lost for both of us. Off to Wolf Jaw Ranch for dinner tonight ... where the group did their best imitation of Mary Ellen's over-the-glasses look (from L to R ... Sue C., Jim S., Art C., and Nancy S.). Lots of laughs and good eats ... just a prelude of our annual bash coming next week-end in which the valley residents will get to indulge in a rare treat for them ... part of my Alaska razor clam stash! Latest word on Fishgal is no fracture ... possible ligament damage ... she's now wearing a fiberglass cast on her left arm ... but guess what? She went up to the Upper Yoda on her own this afternoon after returning from the doctor and caught a fish with a cast on her arm ... damn, she's as hardcore as any angler you'll ever find!!
Monday, September 20, 1999 ... Fishgal's last day! Art, Sue, Fishgal and I went back up to Mickey's at first light ... big surprise, huh? Like the old saying goes ... "Don't leave fish to find fish!" ... so we didn't. Walking in this morning, we were disappointed to see that the river had risen about an inch or two from yesterday afternoon. None of us bothered to check the gauge this morning ... but I guess those black clouds to our north yesterday must have done some damage. Art and I pounded the lower half of the pool with the fly rods for several hours ... starting with 300's and finishing with 400's and weighted flies as the river continued to rise and pick up color. By 11, we hadn't touched a fish on the fly, nor were we tapping bottom any longer with our flies ... so we chose to hang up these rods and trade them in for gear. Sue had landed our only fish of the morning at this point ... a 20 plus buck that I gave her hand holding up here ... Corey, operating at a distinct disadvantage with the cast on her arm, managed to only get one good tug early on. When I finally traded in the flyrod for the conehead, I found immediate results ... landing a hen of about 12-13 pounds on my first cast and then hooking three more, landing one of them, in the next thirty yards of river. After we broke for lunch, we began working the drift again ... Art found a couple of fish for himself, and I too, found another fish. As Corey neared the tail in her pass, she finally connected and amused some passers-by by fighting a near-twenty buck up to shore with cast and all. Slipping a bag over her cast, she tried once to pose with the fish, but as she reached to slip her hand under the belly, she filled the bag, and her cast, with water ... that's where I came in to give her a hand holding her fish too. Actually, at this point when the pic was taken, I was watching the plastic bag floating, with Corey instructing Sue to go grab it ... hardly the prettiest fish picture you'll ever find ... but a testament to Fishgal's determination to find herself a 30 pounder. Her quest will have to wait another year, unless she finds the good fortune to find one in Washington this winter. I found the only late-day action today ... hooking a couple more fish and landing one ... of course, a little tyke of about 7 pounds, with the 'unseen monster' throwing the conehead back at me a few minutes into the battle. All in all, it turned out to be a pretty good day of fishing for me despite a rise in the river of about 4-5 inches (over 25 on the stick for awhile) ... 4 for 8 on steelies ... no coho today. "The girls" ... Tom S. and Joe G. got in tonight and I'll be doing some fishing with them the next few days ... I'm hoping to get some indicator fishing lessons from Tom ... the fly-bob god ... but unless the water conditions stabilize, we'll likely be back to gear, if we're even able to fish at all ... I don't think the river will hold too much rain looking at the effect the showers yesterday afternoon had on the river today. We'll keep our fingers crossed!
Tuesday, September 22, 1999 ... Late start this morning as we sent Fishgal on her way back to Forks. Sad to see her go, but with her gone, it was time for the guys to start catching big fish again. Art and Jim S. drove up to Mickey's at first light and came back to camp around 7:30 with a report of the river being out there, despite a drop in the river at camp back down to 21 inches. So Joe, Tom and myself decided to head downstream into Cable Crossing ... the water was still high in here, but the vis was okay ... but its reputation as a poor high water hole proved true as our efforts were only rewarded by a single rolled fish in Corey's Corner by myself. Chancing going upstream, we ran up to the High Pea Garden and found some excellent looking water ... already occupied. So, we decided, ah what the heck, and drove up to Mickey's just to see how bad the water was. Level turned out to be excellent, but the river was quite silty with about only two feet of vis at best. However, it didn't take Tom too long to land his first-ever Zipperlip steelie, a hen of about 14 pounds on the conehead. I hooked one a few minutes later on a 3/8 ounce silver spoon that ended up 20 feet in the trees behind me as the fish made its first leap and spit the spoon over my head. I followed with a coho in what was prime steelie water .. a major disappointment ... but not anything compared to Joe's ... his only hook-up of the day ended in an SDR near his feet of a small buck. We then headed down to the Yoda about 1 and went to work in the very head end with gear ... I made only two casts, and found this tug-o-warring 20 plus buck. We nearly doubled as Tom rolled one on a cast made before my fish headed down their way below me. As we fished the Yoda, the water began clearing quickly, so at mid-pool, we traded in the gear rods for the bug rods and worked our way through the lower end of the pool. Tom put on a display, hooking and landing three steelies on the fly ... two over twenty, one a gorgeous hen that I never saw as I fished away and didn't realize how far downstream he chased it ... and the other, this 40 inch buck that started as a sluggish fighter, but soon woke up when he finally realized that something wasn't quite right with being pulled into the shallows. I managed to only briefly hook one steelie low in the hole with the flyrod, but did land a hen of about 12 or 13 with a conehead on our mop-up run through the hole. Joe gave the flyrod a valiant effort, but didn't find any willing takers. An accomplished gear angler, he's trying for his first steelie on the bug rod while he's visiting ... we'll certainly keep you updated! As of this evening, the river level is down to 20 inches, the lowest since I got here, there are some clouds on the horizon that have us a little uneasy, but we're hoping that they don't amount to much precip so that we can get the level down a little more.
Wednesday, September 22, 1999 ... Well, we haven't had a really bad day in a while. But we did today, and we don't wanna talk about it ... the score ended up: FISH - 5 US - 0. The only pic you get today is Bob navigating the SS Rubber Ducky (Art's boat that we borrowed) back from the island at the Upper Pea Garden ... just one rolled fish here for Bob. Going upriver around 11:30, the Yoda didn't bode any better for us after we got there after a hot morning bite ... 0 for 5 on hooked fish, a couple of other tugs. It's now raining and blowing, and the river has been full of leaves since about noon ... things are looking bleak!!!
Thursday, September 23, 1999 ...Well, the river was still in this morning ... level at 20 inches, up one inch from yesterday. Leaving camp around eight, Art, Jim S., Joe, Tom, and I all went up to the Yoda ... we found the water here was rising hard, up about 4 inches from last night when we left. Visibility was down to around four feet. Everyone came armed with 200's after the last drop in water made it tough to fish the 300's ... we all swapped lines before we even hit the water ... everyone but myself opting for the 300 (I chose 400). I managed to hook a hen of eight or nine pounds on my second cast with a Volcano, but a couple of runs and two leaps and she was free! That was the only fish any of us touched the first pass through the drift ... by the second pass, everyone had 400's and we were scrambling to move our gear on the rocks up into the trees as the water was rising very fast ... at one point about an inch every half-hour. Tom, our hero of the day, landed the only fish for us today on his second run through the hole on one of those god-awful tinsel flies we made up. By 11:30 ... the fly rods were put even further up in the trees, and we were flinging gear with no success either ... by 1, we were done: a few logs floating by, and a handful of leaves on the tackle every cast made up our minds for us ... time to go back to camp. The water, as of mid-afternoon, is at almost 28 inches and vis is about a foot. We're looking at alternate plans for tomorrow, Tom and Joe's last day here ... we don't wanna see them leave on this note, so we might have to go exploring ... besides, Joe hasta catch his fish on the fly rod!
Friday, September 25, 1999 ... Well, the Zipperlip was pretty much shot this morning ...the water was down to 26 inches but had almost no vis ... so we headed over to the junction of a couple of other rivers about an hour away. It's a place that I haven't fished in two years now, but did produce a little action for Art and I on our last visit ... although the fish run much smaller here, it can be a pretty good 'action river'. The junction of the two streams was an excellent place to indicator fish (fly-bob as we call it) ... but our first surprise upon arrival was a major change in how the two streams met ... rendering the indicators basically useless ... good thing we brought the gear rods, because the pool is a terrible spot for conventional flyfishing. I started out pretty much where we dropped our gear and took all of about three casts before I found my first fish ... a buck of around 11 pounds that pounced upon my spoon. This was kind of a neat area, very much reminding me of the canyon on the Hoh back home ... very similar water, but the river carrying about triple the average winter volume of the Hoh ... so we'll call this river, the 'Hohlip'. I hit the next fish a about twenty minutes later, a nice fish for this river ... a hen of about 15 pounds that went airborne numerous times. It seemed to be my day ... switching over to the 'Corey Custom' rag, I hit the next two fish too ... losing both right at feet ... I guess many would have considered these landed fish given where and how I lost them, but my old rule of physically touching the fish with my hand preventing these as being 'counters'. Joe finally broke his hex ... finding a pretty hen that thought his swung spoon needed to be removed from the river. Both Tom and I wondered who was happiest that Joe finally landed one ... ourselves, or Joe himself. But it was apparent that even if the fish gods hadn't finally smiled down on Joe ... he would have been happy anyhow ... after all, after he spent the latter half of the summer guiding in Bristol Bay for Mission Lodge, he seemed very content just fishing for himself and not worrying (as much, anyhow) about becoming a "bear doughnut" ... needless to say, he had a little trouble with the bears up north on more than one occasion this summer. As the activity in the first little area we fished slowed, we worked our way up the canyon a few hundred yards and slowly worked our way back down to where we had started ... Tom rolled one fish as we worked down ... but it appeared that nearly all the fish were holding right where our gear was piled up ... so we fished it some more ... I hit two more fish there, landing one, and losing the other just a few moments into the battle. Tom finally landed his first fish late in day after losing one that he had hooked after free-spooling what probably was a little too far ... but sometimes, we just can't seem to resist that urge. After fishing, we visited a new local restaurant that serves up some pretty good eats and feasted away on some St. Louis style ribs ... grubbin!
Saturday, September 25, 1999 ... Voluntary day off today. With Joe and Tom leaving, I thought I would fix them breakfast before they headed home since Tom was kind enough to feed me some of his excellent fixing's the past few nights. Good thing Art pounded on my door at O dark hundred this morning to let me know the river was in shape (about 24 inches and two to three feet of vis); when I informed him that I wasn't fishing today, he reminded me of the annual shindig at Peter's place ... oh crap! I forgot! I always bring a whole mess of razor clams ... and I had forgot to get the necessary ingredients for fixing them when we went to town yesterday ... and I forgot to take them out of the freezer. I spent the force thawing my stash of clams, about 7 or 8 pounds of razor steaks ... and getting them ready. So much for tying up a whole mess of flies today ... although I did manage to get a few done and also managed to clean up my cabin ... it's amazing how long it can actually take to clean up a 125 square foot fishing cabin ... especially tracking down the loose pieces of marabou that seemed to evade me. After bringing a big stash of clams that was quickly devoured last year, I made a few extra for this time around ... didn't seem to matter ... they were gone just as quick. Clams are a delicacy here, and when I finally made my appearance at Peter's house about 45 minutes late ... the hungry pack of wolves was waiting ... and the frenzy that followed would have put even the most voracious pack of meat-eaters to shame. Ten minutes max ... gone! Lots of story swapping floating around ... and tons of food ... I know there will lots of folks sleeping a little later than normal tomorrow morning too! I got to hear a little more scuttlebutt about the local guides saying that I am guiding here ... kinda funny I think ... the guys I fish with here have been fishing this area for almost as long as I have been alive ... I hardly think they need me to guide them. Even funnier when they say stuff like that without knowing that I possess one the most anti-illegal guiding sentiments imaginable! Sorry fellas ... I watch others catch fish 11 months out of the year ... this month is MINE!
Sunday, September 26, 1999 ... I should have known last night that the funny feeling under my tongue meant something. Awoke this morning with my nose running and a nasty head cold setting in ... so I slept all day ... NOT! Actually, I did sleep a little later than I had planned as I felt the cold coming on as I woke up to the alarm at 5AM. I finally got out of bed around 7 and headed up to the Yoda as Art and Jim R. were already gone. The fly-bite was quite slow for us this morning ... Jim R. managed a couple of fish, but Art and myself failed to touch a thing. I did manage a couple on gear ... which I fished more of the time anyhow because casting the flyrod made my head throb ... nothing really big, but some respectable fish anyhow. I guess I goofed when I drove into Mickey's this morning and saw Jim R. and Art finishing up their pass with the flyrod and getting ready to leave. Instead of going right in behind them with gear, I joined them at the Yoda and Jim S. came along a little later in Mickey's and banged two very big fish ... both over 41" ... guess I zigged when I should've zagged. I can't say that I fished too hard today, as the logs along the edge the river seemed to sooth my head more than standing in the rapidly cooling river water did ... lots of snow in the lower hills and the temperature stayed in the 30's most of the morning. I nearly bagged it in the early afternoon when Jim S. came down to chat and Jim R. left. Art and I decided we might go try the Timbers Hole on the way back to camp. As Art was packing his gear, I walked out into what was our fly-water with my spoon and banged a fish first cast. Art, seeing this, joined me in a mop-up run through the drift. Either the fish began biting, or we had a good shot of fish move into the lower end of the run ... or maybe the fish gods took pity on me for standing out in the water when I should have been in bed ... because I made all of maybe 15-20 casts and hooked four fish ... landing three of them. Art landed one of his own on the conehead. We probably would have hit a few more fish if a huge raft with four guys and a dog hadn't had come through and floated right over the top of the water excitedly pointing out fish to one another as they scattered from the Queen Mary passing overhead ... my head hurt too much to ream them a new one ... but the thought of beaning one with a 3/8 ounce spoon certainly crossed my mind ... Art, 2/3 of the way across the river working the narrow slot at the bottom of the hole, laid into them though as they floated right over his water too. Funny watching a 65 year-old working on the younger fellas in the raft like dad ready to swat junior ... they sure did deserve it ... I don't quite understand how people can be either: 1) so rude and inconsiderate; or 2) just simply brain-dead.
Monday, September 27, 1999 ... Well, I guess I'm paying the price for fishing yesterday when I should have been sleeping. The cold set in with full force and I've spent all day trying to sleep it off. Reports tonight were fair from our stomping grounds upstream, so it makes me feel a little better than I didn't miss a red-hot day. Not sure if I'll make it out tomorrow, or not. Depends how I feel in the morning ... I feel a little better now, Art just stopped be and let me know that the Queen Mary came back through the Yoda today while they were fishing it, and did go behind them rather than over the top of the fish ... guess Art's spanking must have had some effect!
Tuesday, September 28, 1999 ... Okay, I must be nuts ... who goes on vacation to a place where it snows in September??? Awoke to pouring rain on the roof of ol' cabin 8 ... I thought the rain mellowed just before I got up as I didn't hear it anymore, but, alas. the precip was still coming, but now in solid form! Actually, it has switching from rain to snow and vice versa here in camp all day, but a five-minute drive from camp up a small hill found a pretty good shot of snow covering everything in sight! Day three of my cold found me ready to go try the fishing thingy again, but seeing the nasty weather outside short-circuited my synapses and forced my brain into thinking more like a normal person (realistically) and calling it another day off. A few diehards have gone out, and subsequently come back an hour or two later ... yet to see a raft float by camp all day so far. River is picking up some color here at camp, but has only come up about a half inch or so ... don't expect much as most of the precip is now laying on the ground just above us. I would also venture to guess that the color of the river is still pretty good if we get above the tributary just above camp that is running really dirty right now. Guess I'll finally get that fly-tying day that I've needed and we'll wait and see what the weather does ... we're keeping our fingers crossed, if we get a warm rain now, we're done!
Wednesday, September 29, 1999 ... Mark this date down on your calendar ... it may perhaps be the first (and maybe only) time in Bob's life in which I was very responsible / domestically-oriented and abandoned the allure of the steelhead to pack things up and head for home. Fishgal's hand has not improved since she got home, and she has been struggling with many everyday activities with the cast that has been replaced on her left arm. So, instead of staying through the first week of the October, I'm back in Forks to give her a hand. The steelies will just have to wait another year ... Fishgal and I (among others) will be back next year to keep the tradition of our annual pilgrimage alive.
Look for the next installment in the early fall of 2000!
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