A reward for having waited
It was nothing short of an act of desperation when I called Marck and said, “I need to fish on Sunday.” Fortunately his response was favorable. Too many months had passed since I’d wrapped my hand around the cork of my 4 weight. Too much crappy weather had been endured recently. I didn’t just need to get out and go fishing, I needed to do so on a day that would brighten my outlook on life in general.
I spent the entire day before our trip doing yard work, something I’ve grown to loath with each passing year. You see, I live in fear of our yard. It’s rather sizable and induces head-spinning Landscape Maintenance Attention Deficit Disorder. By the time I finish one project in the yard, all I need to do is look to my left or right and see numerous other tasks needing attention. There is no getting ahead, no sense of accomplishment. Just perpetual hopelessness against a yard so needy that it drains a man. However, with got one task completed, I left on a particular Sunday morning with a conscience that was as clear as the skies.
That was the ticket: clear skies.
Anyone who lives anywhere knows that this time of year is completely hit and miss when it comes to weather, and Mother Nature changes her mood on a whim. One may pick a day based on the weather forecast, but there’s no guarantee the weather will hold up it’s end of the bargain. This time, however, the weather was actually better than I’d hoped as we drove east, across Snoqualmie Pass, which was still tightly in the grips of winter.
As we drove along the river into the lower Yakima Canyon, it was apparent that other angling types had the same idea as us (skwala hatch), and there were several boats on the water already. No worries, we weren’t in a hurry. In fact the longer we waited, the warmer the air and water would get. Red’s Fly Shop was kind enough to sell us a few obligatory skwala dries (we didn’t need them, but we like to drop a few bucks in the shop). We arranged for our shuttle and chatted up with owner Steve Joyce, who happened to be getting ready to hit the river himself. We laughed about botched shuttles in the past and got the low-down on the new shop, which is long overdue. Construction is well under way with a completion date of August (hopefully sooner). It looks to be a really nice facility that will also offer the opportunity to grab a burger and a beer, and a deck on which to enjoy both. I can see myself spending a fair amount of time on that deck once it’s complete. Because I really like burgers.
With the water temps headed toward 44 degrees, we fully expected the skwala stoneflies to be popping and fish rising to this first major hatch of the year. Our expectations for perfect catching conditions were exceeded by the weather which was, in fact, perfect. It was one of those days where just being on the water was reward enough, and catching fish was not the foremost concern. That’s what fly anglermen say when the fishing is slow but in this case being on the water under blue skies really was all that mattered. We were able to fish in short sleeves under a bright sun that warmed the day into the low 60’s. Just the ticket for the pasty, vitamin D-deprived skin of winter.
Marck took the oars first as he always does (it’s his boat, and he’s a bit of a control freak). Our general rule is that one guy fishes until a fish is caught and he was on the oars for an hour before the first rainbow fell for my skwala dry. Not a large fish by any standards, the Yakima 12 (translation: a 10 inch fish) served to get the skunk off the boat. Normally I wouldn’t waste the time or film on a fish this size, but I had time, wasn’t shooting film, and this was the first Yakima fish of the year. And I was in a festive mood. I gladly swapped places with Marck and promised I’d keep The Hornet off the rocks as much as possible.
bounced off several rocks rowed for quite some time before we broke for lunch, another highlight of the day. Marck has become a masterful meat smoker and the pulled pork sandwiches he brought along were exceptional, especially when paired with a cold beer. After lunch I was back in the bow, trying in vain to fool another fish on the skwala. We saw a few adult stoneflies on the water, but not in any great numbers, much to our surprise. We saw a couple nice fishing rising in a slow seam and anchored up on them. Whatever bug they were taking was small–probably in an emerging state because there were no bugs visible on the surface. These fish weren’t willing to play, so we moved on.
Marck broke out the nymphing stick for a spell but that didn’t produce any more results than the topwater attempts. We traded positions one last time and in one last act of desperation I decided to try something a little different and tied on a March Brown. That might not seem like such a radical idea as it was late March, after all. However, the March Brown hatch wasn’t exactly happening just yet. Throughout the day I’d seen an occasional small brownish mayfly coming off and I figured if the fish weren’t eating skwalas, they probably wouldn’t eat a March Brown either. I had nothing to lose.
There’s one nice stretch of dry fly water just before the take out, but thinking that it would produce a fish was really little more than wishful thinking and it appeared that one fish might be our tally for the day. It didn’t matter, really, that we caught any fish, or that the one fish was caught by yours truly. I’m not competitive.
Within sight of the takeout, a Yakima 14 (meaning a 12″ fish) hammered the March Brown and gave me a two fish advantage over Marck’s skunk.
Perfect day, indeed.