After a night of waking up every couple hours to check the clock - "Is it time to fish yet?!...No... Now?!... No..." - I finally woke up the last time to the giddy sight of a thin line of light on the eastern horizon. Time to fish! I hopped out of bed, crawled from my den of fly fishing tackle, and headed for my waders.
The air was still as I stepped out into the coolness of the morning. Walking to my fly rod where it leaned against the side of the house, I grabbed the dew-damp cork and took a deep breath through my nose, eyes closed. There's just something about that time of day that encourages me to take a moment to be still, to let it roll over me. The sparrows flitted and chirped nearby, and a coyote barked a challenge somewhere to the west. Brian stepped outside and also paused to take in the morning. Then, grinning like kids on Christmas morning, we headed down to the water.
We fished our way downstream, but not very far, because we knew that breakfast would soon be finished. Eggs, bacon and potatoes. I'm a little jealous of my past self right now actually. No fish wanted to play that morning, so after heading back to the house for breakfast, we evaluated our options. Our local intelligence it that a nice hatch was going to come off on a river that wasn't too far away. We piled roughly 3,000 fly rods and 500 pounds of assorted gear (only a slight exaggeration) into the back of a couple trucks, wedged ourselves in around and between the gear, and headed off.
The pretty little river we arrived at was flowing nicely; long, streaming vegetation waving in the current and small trout sipping bugs under the bridge.There was already a truck parked at the pull off that was disgorging a load of fishermen, but our host wasn't discouraged.
"I bet they'll walk right past the fish we are going to focus on."
The other group threw waders and gear on quickly, trying to make sure they were the first to hit the worn path down to the water. Our guy, by contrast, was unhurried, taking plenty of time to chat, and making ready at a pace that had me chomping at the bit by the end. As we finally set foot on the path though, I thought I understood; we were resting the fish that the other guys were going to pass by.
Easing down the path to the first little riffle-run down from the bridge, we paused as instructed and watched for fish. Sure enough, a couple risers showed their snouts after a couple quiet moments. Carefully casting to these fish with dries matched to the local bugs didn't pay off however, so on downstream we went. We eventually worked around a couple bends and through some excellent-looking water. The trout continued to be snobby though, and beyond one brief pull for me on a hopper-dropper, no fish showed themselves. On the way back to the truck we were already formulating a plan for the afternoon; I walked up on the conversation just in time to hear someone mention 'kick boat' - I was all ears.
The plan was to eat and then stack a couple pontoon boats in the back of one of the trucks and head up to the mountains to some lakes. I had fished out of float tubes, kayaks, jon boats, and canoes but never a kick boat, so I was excited and looking forward to the experience.
We arrived on site after a journey up a twisted, winding gravel road. Around us was forested land showing the brown, gaping wounds of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation.
After hauling the boats down to the edge of the water, our gracious hosts insisted that Brian and I be the first out into the lake. The launch point was a muddy, nasty mess which complicated things a little, but we were already in waders so it was a minor setback. While we were getting ready, the trout were making themselves known, leaving their signature rise rings along the vegetated edge of the lake.
Soon I followed Brian out onto the lake.
It took me a little bit to get the hang of steering and powering the boat backwards with my flippers, but my kayaking experience helped shorten the learning curve. The wind that would kick up now and again was the real enemy, twisting the boat out of position and leading to some frustrating moments, but all in all it was fun.
We soon had the fish figured out - small, buggy streamers retrieved low and slow would draw a strike every other cast or so. The rainbows weren't huge but they were willing, which made it easy to brush off the skunking we had received that morning. After one flurry where I caught 5 in a row, I headed back to the bank to let the other guys have a crack at the action.
We kept a few for supper, and after an approaching storm pushed us off the water, we headed back to the house to regroup for the evening assault.