July2012

50 shades of summer gloom

Returning to the daily grind is always hard after a fishing trip. It’s even harder when the fishing trip was incredibly excellent, and our recent trip to Idaho was excellent in every regard. The weather was exceptional: 80 degrees, clear blue skies. The river was in prime shape, the trouts plentiful, and we hardly saw another fly angling person on the river. As we returned home on Sunday to western Washington, we paid dearly for our good fortunes as two things welcomed us: traffic and gray skies.

Summer is so brief in the Pacific northwest that nearly everyone who lives on the west side of the Cascade mountains heads for parts east in search of reliable summer weather. We know the Sunday traffic gets bad as nearly everyone heads back home. We should have known better. We should have come home a day earlier, or a day later. Actually coming home a day earlier was never a consideration. The latter sounds like a better plan to me next time.

Heading west near the town of Cle Elum, the skies were blue, but in the distance we saw clouds stacked up in the mountains. We also saw cars stacked up on the interstate.

Note the ample blue sky.

 

After crawling along for 20 miles, we are within a few miles of Snoqualmie Pass. The clouds could be seen intensifying. The traffic seemed to be holding steady.

The blue sky is giving way to clouds.

Eventually we would break out of the traffic as the interstate widens from 2 lanes to 4. Did I mention summers are short here?  Some shorter than others, and this year seems to be no exception. Today it’s 64 degrees and the sky contains no fewer than 50 shades of gray.

50 shades of gray

Sorry, that was a shameless attempt to pick up a few thousand hits thanks to the popularity of the books I keep hearing about but have no intentions of reading. I’ll write about our Idaho fly fishing trip later this week. IN the meantime:  50 shades of gray, 50 shades of gray, fifty shades of gray.

 

Brother, can you spare a brook trout?

When a friend asks an angler to take their 23 year-old nephew from out of town fishing, an angler feels obligated honored to do so. Immediately after committing to said act of selfless generosity, the angler begins to wonder just what they may have gotten themselves into. The angler’s imagination runs rampant, fueled by speculation, curiosity and anxiety. What will said nephew of this friend be like? About all the angler is told is that the nephew is fairly new to fly fishing and would really like to get out and wet a line. The angler ponders what, in this case, “fairly new” means. I can mean one of several things:

  • Said nephew has fly fished a few times
  • Said nephew has gripped a fly rod once
  • Said nephew has watched A River Runs Through It, and wants to do ‘that’

More significant than the experience level is the type of person said nephew turns out to be. The angler wonders at the nearly countless possibilities, and speculation is vast:

  • Said nephew is painfully quiet and socially awkward, making conversation difficult
  • Said nephew is an ill-mannered punk, representative of the worst that the generation of entitlement has to offer
  • Said nephew is horribly offended by the occasional colorful expletive
  • Said nephew doesn’t drink beer

While en route to the rendezvous point to meet said nephew, the angler is deep in wonder; thoughts dominated by one:  What the hell did I get myself into?

If appearances alone are any indication, my anxiety was immediately reduced.  Said nephew, whose name shall be “Dan” from here on out, appeared to be quite normal looking. No piercings or visible crazy tattoos. No that there’s anything wrong with tattoos–I mean, heck, all the kids are doing it, right? His social skills were above normal without coming on too strong. A good firm handshake and eye contact.  Someone had raised this young man properly.

We loaded his gear into the back of the Fish Taco and made our way east on I-90 toward our destination. We didn’t have a long drive so awkward silences wouldn’t be intolerable. However, the conversation came easily. It also came with some very interesting discoveries.  Turns out we shared a common bond: we were are both Eagle Scouts. I’ve met only a small handful of Eagle Scouts over the years; not surprising given that the achievement takes a lot of hard work and dedication (not many teenagers are interested in that). I’ve never met an Eagle Scout I didn’t like (not sure that they’ve been able to say the same about me).

The conversation moved naturally from one topic to another and as it did so it revealed that Dan and I also brothers. Not in the familial sense, but fraternally. He attended Oklahoma State University recently while I attended Washington State University not so recently. During our years at respective state universities, we were both members of the same fraternity: Sigma Nu. From that point forward we were like old college buddies. Sort of. A generation gap did divide our college experiences, but we had a bond.

Auntie Em–we’re not in Oklahoma anymore.

We fished an easily-accessed section of the South Fork Snoqualmie River that lies within full view, and earshot, of I-90. While perhaps not quite the back-country fishing experience Dan may have hoped for, it was a delightful afternoon to be doing something other than work, or mowing the lawn.  My favorite nearby rivers are still running high due to La Niña’s ferocity this past winter/spring. The high flows are good for the fish, bad for the impatient angler. The South Fork levels were looking pretty favorable. I warned Dan that we would not be stalking trophy trout.

I armed Dan with my Sage Launch 4 weight, and we began with some casting instruction. Dan had done a little stick waving prior to our outing, but not much.  I explained the basics of waiting for the rod to load, about presenting the fly, mending to get a drag-free drift, yadda, yadda, yadda. I explained about current seams and what to look for. Fish the foam! After a while of me hovering, the best thing for me to do was leave him alone so he could relax and get the hang of it. He did.

First bend in the rod.

After a few missed opportunities Dan eventually set the hook on a fish: a 5 inch brook trout. I’ve yet to catch a brook trout, and cursed him congratulated him on his accomplishment. A few more missed hooksets followed before he landed a little more respectable fish: an 8 inch brook trout.  Sonofabitch Good for him! I hadn’t caught anything yet, but in my defense I wasn’t really trying.

First trout on the fly…a brookie.

On an Adams.

Interstate 90 is just barely visible in the background.

We worked our way upstream, careful not to bump our heads on the I-90 overpass. We fished more trouty-looking water as I intensely went about my quest for my first brook trout. Dan caught another.  Finally I hooked up with a fish: an 8 inch rainbow. Damnit. To show my angling prowess, I asked if Dan would like to see a wild rainbow trout. He was impressed (or so he pretended to be).

We wrapped up the day with a beer on the tailgate of the Fish Taco before heading into North Bend for a bite to eat (I “pulled chapter number” on him and made him buy my dinner). In the end we had a rather enjoyable day (at least I did). Dan learned a good bit about fly fishing for (brook) trout, made strides to improve his casting, and showed every indication that he is well on his way toward becoming an accomplished angler.  The same cannot be said about me.

Unaccomplished.

 

I am a Master Bug Chucker

I’m usually pretty humble, out of necessity.  After all, one does not title their blog “The Unaccomplished Angler” if they plan to boast of their keen angling prowess, that’s for sure. However, I recently achieved an honor that I must brag blatantly about: I am a Master Bug Chucker.

It’s true, and I have the award, signed by Lefty Crayfish, to show for it:

No, I am not perfect, and there is always room for improvement. But I’m pretty proud of my achievement to date.  I vow to not grow complacent in my mastery; I’ll keep at it, chuckin’ bugs in quest of a flawless score and avoiding the skunk.

If you have an iPad, you’ll soon be able to test your skills as well. Stay tuned.

Coming soon to an App Store near you.