This is a guest post from a buddy of mine who currently guides for native steelhead on the chalk streams of Central Texas. The story is true. The names and certain locations may have been changed to protect the identities of those concerned. For example, there really aren’t steelhead in the chalk streams of Central Texas.
Shitty Clients, Part I
By the Unknown Fishing Guide
Let me preface this story (so that I don’t sound like a jack-ass holier than thou guide who cares nothing about teaching, education, conservation and only about catching fish) with the fact that out of the 1,000+ guide trips I have ran in the last 10 years, there have been exactly 2 people I would never fish with again. In fact one of the best things that guiding has given me is great relationships with people from around the country that I have met as fishing clients and with whom I have became very close friends.
This particular gentleman, we’ll call him Dick, started out our trip in a particularly interesting way. After the normal morning “hey hows it going, here’s where we are floating, here’s what to expect” we hopped in my pickup and drove down into the Yakima canyon. About 2 miles out of town, Dick says: “You know, Fords are pieces of shit, you need to get a GMC.” Ok, I thought, I’ve had good luck with my truck, but he’s welcome to his opinion. We continue down the road, making small talk, and he follows up the truck comment with this gem: “Eastern Washington is the ugliest piece of shit I have ever seen, it’s full of nothing but hillbillies and rednecks”. I thought that was a little rough, especially from someone from Boston, and who had seen two of the prettier places in Washington: The Klickitat and Yakima canyons. Certainly there were our share of Hillbillies in the 509, but no more than anywhere else in the west, and substantially less than Idaho. However, I was still going to college, and although an asshole so far, some people turn it around when your fishing, and I really needed the money.
We finally arrived at the river, got the boat in the water, and rowed down to a nice pod of trout eating blue wings. The night before we fished together, Dick and my boss had dinner together, and had talked about the Green river in Utah, one of the better trout factories in the country. For those of you unfamiliar with the Yakima, it will never be mistaken for the quality of the Green. It is a unique river with it’s proximity to Seattle, but at 1,300 trout per mile in it’s densest stretch it can’t hold the jock strap of the Green. Dick quickly caught two trout out of the pod, and completed the trifecta, “This Yakima is just like the Green” he said “full of dumb fucking trout”.
The third time was the charm, and I realized at this point that nothing I could do as a fishing guide was going to please Dick, so I gave advice as needed, treated him as nicely as I could, and continued to work hard to put him on fish. On our second day of fishing we floated half of the day before a monsoon that had engulfed the state of Washington caught up to us, and the river blew out. Still several miles from the finish line, this provided Dick an opportunity to share with me his knowledge and firm belief in Bigfoot. Were it not for this hour long discussion I would have never learned that Bigfoot is most certainly real, and can turn your brain off with alpha brain waves. Dick was particularly interested in the time I had spent in Forks, one of the more popular Bigfoot spots around. Of course I couldn’t help leading him on a little bit, and after two days of dealing with his shitty attitude towards life, at least the last hour was entertaining.
We hope you enjoyed this guest post by the Unknown Fishing Guide. The staff at the Unaccomplished Angler hope to bring more, similar stories in the future, as evidenced by the “Part 1” designation in the title. If you are an Unknown Fishing Guide and need a safe, anonymous forum in which to
vent tell your story, please contact our editorial offices. Your secret is safe with us.
It’s a little unnerving to have a professional photographer constantly lurking about, snapping photos from all and strange angles. Knowing that one may be under the constant scrutiny of a camera’s lens makes stealing a quiet moment to pick one’s nose a delicate proposition (not that it happened–I’m just illustrating a point). But a photographer’s job is to tell the story that otherwise may not be told. It has been said that a picture paints a thousand words, and it’s true: photos tell a story in ways that words simply cannot, even if you’re a gifted writer, which I am not (and that is exactly why I always carry a camera). But I am not a real photographer–I simply carry a point-and-shoot to capture some images from the day which also help me recall moments worth writing about. And frankly, people like to look at pictures much more than they like reading words. Pictures are always more interesting, and I have no doubt you will look at the photos posted here. That being said I shall throw out some words for you to read if you wish.
It was a day that was all about photos. It was a day intended to be an opportunity for Jason “Orad” Small to photographically document a trip to be used as part of a presentation to be given by 2011 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year, Derek Young (Emerging Rivers Guide Services) the following day. Everyone’s role for the day was clearly defined except mine. I’m still not sure why I was brought along for the trip, except to take photos of the photographer taking photos and catching fish.
The water was hovering around the 45 degree mark as we mixed some tasty Bloody Marys on the tailgate. Pickled asparagus purchased that morning at Owen’s Meats in Cle Elum were nothing shy of awesome. If you’ve never been to Owen’s Meats, you really owe it to yourself to stop in for some of their products. Seriously. We did not have a particularly long float ahead of us so we were in no great hurry.
We hit the water around noon and started out the day nymphing the typical setup: a Pat’s Stones with a Copper John or Pheasant Tail dropper. Pink Thingamabobbers all around. The hope was that around 1:17 in the afternoon, the March Browns would start coming off and we’d switch to dries.
As the Photographer, Orad wasted no time in getting the skunk off the boat by landing a nice, thick, post-spawn rainbow that looked as healthy as a fish can get. Likely an 18 inch fish, she was what they call a “Yakima Twenty” (always round up). This fish put a taco bend in the Orad rod as she ran upstream, downstream, under the boat and every which way but loose. A short while later Orad caught another rainbow in the 12 inch range. Apparently he forgot that he was fishing out of the back of the boat (second seat) and was supposed to be the designated photographer and not the the primary catcher of trouts.
Later, Derek landed one of the more spotted trouts I’ve ever seen on any water. Seriously, this thing looked like a Leopard variety rainbow from Alaska.
Shortly thereafter I set the hook on a fish that I’m pretty sure was a Yakima River steelhead, although Derek maintains it was a cutthroat, but I’ll never know. Let’s just say that Orad is better with a camera than he is with a net.
That was the last fish touched on the day. Yet we did not see any fish rising, nor did I see any bugs popping. This provided ample opportunity for Orad to capture the other side of fly fishing: the side of fly fishing that doesn’t involve catching fish. You know- behind the scenes sort of drama that looks cooler than it really was because of good photography.
For example, this photo makes me look like I’m a decent caster…
And this photo makes Derek’s hair look shorter than it really is…
And this photo makes the act of pinching a barb look interesting…
And this photo has a certain action feel to it, when in reality there was nothing going on…
And in this photo the Lucky Fishing Hat was not flattered by Orad’s wide angle lens, and I am left questioning whether to ever wear it again.
At the end of great day on the water we paid a visit to The Brick in Roslyn for some excellent food. I can honestly say that the French Dip Sandwich was the best I’ve ever had, and would have been better only if I’d have been able to get a Budweiser to wash it down.
The next day I was late for Derek’s presentation at Orvis. Apparently it started at 1PM and not 1:30 as I was told. But all was not lost because while I was at the shop I picked up a few Pat’s Rubberlegs to replace the ones I’d sacrificed the day before. I’ll be needing them in a week, and if they don’t produce I’ll simply take them back to Orvis. Leland Miyawaki, the fly fishing manager, is very good at handling returns.
I hope you enjoyed the photos more than the words. I know I did. Enjoy more of Orad’s work at Jason Small Photography.
For those of you who didn’t catch my feeble attempt at being clever with my headline, it’s an admittedly weak play on my favorite Heart song from their 1976 Dreamboat Annie album. Great song, though it has absolutely nothing to do with fly fishing. Regardless, just click the play button and listen as you read – at least that way the music will be good.
Against my better judgment I found myself once again floating the lower canyon of Washington’s blue ribbon Yakima River (which really is not a blue ribbon river based on my experiences) with Marck and Erique (not his real name). It was the third week of August, which is was prime hopper time on the Yakima. The Yak flows are artificially high during summer months in order to supply the agricultural Yakima Valley with the necessary water to grow an assortment of crops in what would otherwise be a desert filled with sagebrush. As the growing season tapers to a close, the high summer flows (around 4000 cfs) are cut off and the great annual “flip flop” commences. By September the flows settle to somewhere around 1000CFS. As the flows drop, the fish know what’s happening: Winter’s a-comin’, so they’re on the lookout for food. OK, they’re always looking for food, but like bears and sorority girls, they need to increase their caloric intake ahead of winter hibernation (not that fish hibernate, but their metabolisms do shut down considerably as water temps plummet to near-freezing).
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. And so on this trip the water level was beginning to drop significantly. I’ve heard it told that the best hopper fishing on the Yak occurs at this time of year, so I was giddy when Marck called to say we’d be fishing on this day. It would be good to spend the day with Erique as well, as he is in his own right a very accomplished angler and good all around guy, even if he made a bad choice in the college he attended.
Unfortunately, the day didn’t exactly turn into a catchfest. A couple smallish 10 inch trouts were landed, though nothing worth writing home about. One event worth writing about was the fact that Erique rose a 7 inch whitefish to a hopper. Now, before you make fun of both the fish and the fisherman, it should be noted that this was no small feat given the fact that even a much larger whitefish has disproportionately small mouth, which means that a 7 inch whitefish has a mouth so tiny that someone my age would need reading glasses just to see it. So, nice job hooking that fish on a size 10 hopper, Erique! Not surprisingly, Marck had already landed the Fish of the Day (a 13 inch bruiser), which gave him bragging rights (again). Par for the course.
Things were looking dour for me, so when I finally hooked into a solid fish that bent my 4 wt to the cork, everyone onboard got excited in much the same way that everyone cheers for the uncoordinated kid when he finally scores a point. Immediately after I set the hook, Marck (in an uncharacteristically excited manner) proclaimed, “NICE fish! That could be your best fish on this river!” (Note: To date, my best fish on the Yakima was a 19 inch rainbow I caught 3 years prior while drifting with my brother Hal and guide Johnny Biotano of Red’s Fly Shop.) At any rate, it took some time to bring this beastly fish to the net, and as it was played closer and closer to the boat, two things were missing: (A) The typical acrobatics and (B) typical coloration one might expect of a rainbow trout. Enter into evidence Exhibit W: a 17 inch whitefish. Marck was partially correct in that it was my best (white)fish to date and, unusual for me, the biggest fish of the day. Braggin rights, baby! Had the fish been a trout I’m sure I would have been an insufferable braggart the rest of the day, but being that it was a whitefish I didn’t find much satisfaction in the whole thing. The remainder of the float wasn’t much for the memory books: The hopper action we had anticipated never really amounted to much and the evening caddis hatch let us down. Blah, blah, blah. Oh well, there was still the cold beer and greasy burgers waiting for us at The Tav, and all we had to do was put an end to this forgettable float and drive the short distance to Ellensburg.
There was, however, one small matter preventing that from happening: the keys to Erique’s Suburban were not inside the gas filler door where we had instructed the shuttle driver to leave them (as they were the only set of keys). We searched every likely and unlikely location where the keys might have been incorrectly placed, but they were not to be found. Marck and I were in denial – it was almost a year to the date of our last fiasco (Dude, where’s the car?). Surely this sort of thing couldn’t happen again! After the desperate search that fell just short of removing body panels, we concluded that lightning had indeed struck for a second time. To wash down the bitter taste of the bad situation, we borrowed a couple beers from a cooler that had been unintentionally left behind at the ramp by some generous and very intoxicated rubber hatchers. We then contemplated what our next move would be.
Ted and Troy, a couple of guides who work for Red’s, were hanging around the launch, talking shop after having pulled their boats out of the water. They’d had a great day putting their clients on fish and when they asked how we’d faired, the collective reply was “Great! Fabulous! Slayed ‘em we did, by golly!” We then told them of our precarious situation and they kindly placed a call to The Boss, who in turn made a couple calls. It was discovered that the shuttle driver had safely locked the keys inside the vehicle, under the floor mat, where they were secure from anybody who might want to drive off in the car, be it some low-life car thieves, or in this case the owner of the vehicle and his two very hungry, very thirsty fishing companions. I offered a simple solution that was met with a lukewarm reception: smash the window and presto- we’re in! It was decided that Erique would make use of his roadside emergency service and call a tow truck. Seemed pretty simple and straightforward, but in actuality it was far from either. After walking 37 paces to the southeast, standing on one leg with his left arm outstretched at a 47 degree upward angle, Erique finally manage to get a cellular signal. He then spoke with an operator in Maylasia, who connected him with the dispatch center which was, I believe, in Bostwana. From there the dispatcher consulted the yellow pages and within an hour and a half we had a towtruck en route from Yakima, which was twice as far as had they sent a truck from say, Ellensburg, which was about 12 miles up the road. The important thing was that the tow truck driver was able to unlock the Suburban, and by 9:30 PM we were on our way home, way behind schedule. As we sped past Ellensburg, I pressed my nose against the window and gazed to the north: I could just make out The Tav in the distance. I was hungry and parched. If you’ve ever been struck by lightning, you know that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth that only a greasy burger and a cold beer can wash away. Oh well, maybe next time – I’ve heard that lightning never strikes three times. Knock on wood, and please pass the cheese: This Unaccomplished Angler is whining.
It had been another forgettable day aboard The Hornet, fishing the Yakima with Marck. Like so many other days on Washington’s finest “blue ribbon” trout stream, it began with hope, which faded into frustration, and ended in disbelief. Actually, I may exaggerating things just a bit because at least one of us caught more than one fish that day. It was late summer, and we’d floated Big Horn to The Slab, covering several miles of grass-lined banks which we pounded with hoppers. As the sun set behind the canyon walls, the magical hour of the Caddis was suddenly upon us. We’d timed our float just right, hitting a long stretch of perfect dry fly water just prior to our take out. With each cast of my size 16 tan elk hair Caddis toward the brush on the river bank (where it would proceed to hang up on a branch) several dozen caddisflies would be shaken free of their perch and land on the water’s surface, where the trout would methodically sip the bugs while I fought to free my hook. When I did manage to avoid the vegetation and get my fly directly upon the water, it would be met with a rather lackluster reception from the feeding fish (read: Refusal). I won’t even tell you what Marck was doing – by now you’ve probably assumed that he was getting into fish, and your assumption would not be incorrect. I caught one fish that day, for which I was grateful. I’m not one to feel entitled, and I know that just because you’re fishing that’s never a guarantee that you’ll be catching. Still, one would expect more than one fish on a blue ribbon trout stream at the peak of hopper season.
We continued this madness until it was nearly dark, and while I have both the keen eyesight and cat-like reflexes necessary for setting the hook in complete darkness, Marck was struggling. I suggested that we call it a day: We were both hungry and The Tav in Ellensburg was calling our names. Marck got on the oars and we made our way downstream to The Slab. The high summer flows on the Yakima River can call for some frantic maneuvering at the termination point of a day’s float, but The Hornet was beached without incident. The Bureau of Reclamation had given this area a major facelift a year earlier, and it’s actually quite plush now. The campground glowed with the light of many bonfires, a couple of which could be seen from outer space. Everywhere, youthful outdoor enthusiasts were frolicking and laughing, preparing s’mores and singing campfire songs. I marveled at the good, clean summertime fun as I began breaking down the rods. I took me back to the simpler days before expensive fishing gear and fancy driftboats – back to a time when all I needed for a weekend of fun was a styrofoam cooler and a sleeping bag. Ah, good times. Marck was also feeling nostalgic and he sang “Kumbaya” as he walked off toward the parking lot to retrieve his truck and trailer, which had been dropped off by the shuttle service per our instructions. We’d be sipping a cold beer and enjoying a burger within a half hour.
Ten minutes had passed before Marck returned, but there was one thing missing. Well, actually two things were missing: His truck, and the trailer. After we stood around for a few minutes in the dark scratching our heads (during which time Marck apparently scratched off all the hair on his head), we concluded that the rig was not here. We didn’t have a cell number to reach the shuttle service after hours, and besides that, cell coverage is spotty at best in this location. Fortunately there was another fisherman who’d just pulled his boat out of the water. He kindly offered to take Marck with him as he drove the Canyon Road back to Ellensburg to drop off his boat at a storage facility. The plan was that after doing so they would head back down the Canyon Road. Along the way they would engage in a reconnaissance mission, checking each of the possible launch points where the truck and trailer might have mistakenly been left. Certainly it had to be at one of the obvious points along the river. The overwhelming majority of fly fishing folks are people of solid character, and The Good Samaritan Flyfisherman appeared to have all his teeth so I figured Marck was safe getting in the truck with this guy. An hour passed without word. Having seen Deliverance many times, I feared the worst and did what any concerned fishing buddy would do: I drank the last beer in the cooler. I walked 37 feet to the southeast, where there was a small patch of cell coverage, and sent a text message to my wife to let her know I’d be home much later than anticipated. Struggling with the “word” mode which my kids had recently programmed on my phone to make it easier for me to be an active participant in the 21st century, I managed to get off a message that read, “canv fiinde mARcks trckk wilbee hmme laabte. LOL : )”
The backlit screen on my phone was like a magnet to the thousands of caddisflies that were now fluttering about, and I actually thought about stringing up my rod and doing a little night fishing from the bank. I didn’t get much beyond thinking about it when a set of headlights pulled into the parking area. There were no trailer lights in tow, so I knew it wasn’t Marck’s rig. It was, however, Marck and The Good Samaritan Flyfisherman. They came bearing bad news: No sign of the rig. Our biggest concern now was that The Hornet was in the water with no means to extract it. We knew could get a ride home by calling one of our wives. I quickly pointed out that Mrs. Marck would have to be the one to drive 2 hours to come get us. Of the two wives, she was our only hope when it came to an act of sympathy: Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler would simply laugh at such a request before hanging up the phone and returning to her previously scheduled programming: The 14th viewing of Sleepless in Seattle. Or was it You’ve Got Mail?
Before we were faced with making that unpopular phone call, The Good Samaritan Flyfisherman offered to take Marck a couple of miles down the road in the other direction – there were two more potential launch points where the rig might be parked. If that yielded goose eggs, he said we could lift The Hornet onto his truck and he’d be glad to take it to his house in Yakima until we could make plans to retrieve it. A generous offer, but the idea of getting a 16 ft driftboat loaded onto a pickup truck with an 8 foot bed sounded like an act of dumb redneck desperation and conjured up images like the ones (below) found on the interweb.
But first things first, so once again Marck and The Good Samaritan Flyfisherman headed into the night on a continued mission to find the missing rig.
Within 10 minutes, Marck’s white truck with trailer in tow pulled into the parking lot. They’d found it parked a couple miles down the road, right where the shuttle driver left it – at the last takeout before the Roza Dam. It was an easy mistake given that “Slab” and “Roza” both contain 4 letters. Speaking of which, 4 letter words were what comprised Marck’s vocabulary as he climbed out of the truck (leaving the door open and consequently the dome light illuminated, by the way) and we loaded The Hornet onto the trailer. It was 10:30 PM–way too late for a burger and beer at The Tav tonight. We were just glad to put this one behind us, so we jumped in the truck and headed toward home, along with a thousand (give or take a couple hundred) caddisflies.
It should be noted, in all fairness to the shuttle service, that shuttle drivers are only human, and to err is an unfortunate trait of the species. When Marck called them the next day, they apologized profusely and offered us compensatory damages in the form of a few free shuttles in the future. Can’t ask for much more than that. The worst thing was that it meant we’d have to face the Yak again.
The ink from last week’s blog entry was barely dry when I received a text message from Marck. Expecting criticism for having taken certain creative liberties in my post, I was surprised to see the words pop up on the screen of my phone: “Yak tomorrow?” Unlike me, Marck is a man of few words. Texting is a rather unpleasant endeavor for me because I have a hard time buying into the whole “textspeak” thing, with its baffling array of acronyms and abbreviations and lack of correct punctuation and proper grammar. It would have taken me 25 minutes to respond with the following text message: “Good day, Marck. I received your digital communication regarding the matter of fishing the Yakima and yes, that sounds like a rather grand idea and one that I would greatly enjoy partaking of. If you’ll allow me the courtesy to first check with Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler before I commit to joining you, I will get back to you just as soon as possible. Thank you for the invitation. I look forward to conversing with you in the very near future and hope all is well. Very sincerely, The one who is rather unaccomplished in the ways of fly fishing.” So rather than reply in kind I opted to actually call him.
Then I sent an email to Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler announcing that I was going to go fishing with Marck. The reply was not encouraging: “You have a chore list to do.” Oh, yeah, that: The honey-do list that was taped to my computer so I couldn’t ignore it. “Yeah, yeah – I’ll get to that when I can. By the way, what’s for dinner, woman?” should have been my response. With no further discussion, I called Marck once again and told him I wouldn’t be able to go. I stared at the list for a few minutes and it became painfully clear what my Saturday was going to consist of: Change lightbulbs, sweep driveway, take cardboard boxes to recycling bin, sweep out garage, clean fireplace glass, and my favorite: Clean your office. When she got home from work a short while later I was moping around the house like a dog that had been punished for taking a crap on the living room carpet that had just been shampooed. I was caught completely off guard when she asked what time I was leaving in the morning to go fishing. “Huh?!” As it turns out, I could go fishing as long as I was aware that my list had to be completed by the end of the weekend. My spirits were instantly lifted and I quickly fired off the following text message to Marck: “stillgotr oom in the hornet 2morrow i cango : ) LOL”
Per standard operating procedure I arrived at Marck’s house, refilled my coffee cup, and we headed east on I-90 with the Hornet in tow. It was just the two of us on this day – apparently Sir Lancelot (not his real name) wasn’t man enough to inform his wife that he would be going fishing and anything else could wait for another day. Several feet of snow had fallen in the hills recently, providing a good start to the winter ski season, but fortunately the road conditions over Snoqualmie Pass were bare and wet. We made good time, and it was 9 AM as we drove the Canyon Road to Red’s Fly Shop to arrange for a shuttle. Along the way we saw one lone soul wading a river that was otherwise strangely devoid of anglers. As we pulled into Red’s, which is usually teeming with optimistic fishing folks, the gravel parking area was empty. Surprisingly the boat salesman had apparently taken the day off, and only Leif was working the counter as we walked into the shop. From the reception we received one would have thought we were his long-lost best friends, who’d come to party and hand out cash prizes. He was obviously deprived of human interaction, which probably meant nobody had been in the shop for days, which meant the fishing had probably been slow, which meant staying home and chipping away at a honey do list might not have been such a bad idea. But here we were, so we arranged for the shuttle, plunked down a couple bucks for some token flies (purchased out of sympathy, as we didn’t really need any), and made our way back up the canyon to our launch point. We were going to float 4-1/2 river miles and planned to be off the water by 3:30 so Marck could be home by 5 PM for a party.
There was one drift boat with three passengers at the put-in when we arrived. Weather report: 34 degrees under sunny skies and no wind. We layered up accordingly and dropped the Hornet into the low, 41 degree waters of the Yakima river. After having been humbled the last dozen or so times on this river, I had declared today to be a day of redemption. A bold declaration for sure, everything looked just right for a great day on the water, and it should be noted that Marck had wisely opted for his old standby Red’s fishing hat. We strung up our 6 weight rods with indicators and double fly rigs: I opted for a brown Pat’s Stone with a #20 Lightning Bug dropper; Marck tied on an olive Sculpzilla followed by a Copper John. Immediately after launching we rowed across the river a short ways and anchored up on a gravel bar. A particular side channel looked fishy and we wanted to cover every piece of promising water on this day, which would very likely be our last jaunt to the Yak before spring: It was the third weekend in November, and winter could take hold at any moment. And so on this fishy-looking side channel I made my first cast, tossed a mend into the line and watched. The strike indicator dipped, but I dismissed it as the swirling current simply up to its cruel tricks of deception. However, when I lifted the tip of my rod it became readily apparent that more than the current was to blame for submerging my bobber. I was a bit too hesitant in my attempt to set the hook, and saw the fat rainbow roll below the surface and spit my fly. Good looking fish- probably 15-16 inches. Just as well – it’s not like me to have good fortune right off the bat, or at any other time for that matter. We boarded the Hornet once again and proceeded downstream.
This wasn’t the usual stretch of river we typically fish, so the change of scenery was sure to make a slow day of fishing more interesting. Navigating this section of the river was a bit more challenging as well, so whoever was on the oars at any given time had several opportunities to yell, “Hold on!” as the other braced themselves for a bumpy ride or ducked to avoid low-hanging overhead branches. However nothing really out of the ordinary took place for the first hour or so, and it didn’t appear as though the day was going to give up much fodder worth reporting. I did manage to land a couple Whitefish, but nobody with any self-respect boasts about catching these much-maligned fish.
This is something I’ve never quite understood because afterall, they’re a native species and they swim where trout swim so if a whitey puts a bend in your rod, so be it. The way I figure, it simply means you got your fly where the fish are – so what if the fish you caught wasn’t what you intended, right? I mean, heck – one occasionally hears of anglers catching a steelhead when engaged in the act of fishing for trout, and that’s an example of an unintentional by-catch, isn’t it? Wait, never mind. At any rate, my second whitey was actually a fairly large specimen and I even hooked it in the mouth, of all places.
Marck was still fishless at this point, but neither of us worried about that. There was still plenty of day left and he’s a fishy dude so it was just a matter of time before he caught on. In the meantime, I managed to hook into my second biggest trout ever on the Yak: A beautiful 18-inch rainbow that fell victim to my Lightning Bug, and gave me several minutes of sporting entertainment before finally cooperating and coming to the net. It was 2-1/2 years earlier when I caught a similar sized fish on this river, and the time between had come to be known as “The Lean Years”, with few fish being caught overall, and none of those fish being more than 12-14 inches. I’d also tasted a skunk more than a couple times during this era of famine, so catching this solid fish began the healing process.The sweet smell of redemption still lingered in the air when I landed my next fish: A feisty 14-incher that I plucked from behind a log in water that looked so good there might as well have been a sign posted that read, “There’s a fish here – Guaranteed.” Landing this second trout brought me much additional pleasure, and grinning a smug grin I happily took the oars so Marck could angle. I’m not one to be greedy or spiteful, and I really did not want Marck to go fishless on this day.
We covered a lot of great looking water in our quest for Marck’s first fish of the day. While neither of us had mentioned it, we were both keenly aware of the fact that his catch record was in dire jeopardy, and as we entered the last hour of the day there rode with us an elephant in the rear seat of the boat. At one point we anchored the Hornet on an island to work some nice looking water, and Marck walked off a ways so he could be alone with his worries. It was clear that he was troubled. As Marck grew more serious I knew better than to tease him about something like this. I rowed in silence and began to ponder the headline of my next blog entry: “Marck Tastes a Skunk!”, or “Hey Marck – How Do Ya Like Them Apples?” It would to be a tough decision, but thankfully one I would never have to make because shortly thereafter he set the hook on an adorable little 9 inch rainbow and secured his skunk-free record. After releasing the fish, Marck requested another turn on the oars to warm up his hands. By now the sun was fully behind the clouds and a wind was starting to bite at us, so I humored him: The reality was that he was emotionally spent from the ordeal, and he needed some quiet time to reflect on having escaped shame and public ridicule by the narrowest of margins. This was a man who came dangerously close to epic failure…all color had drained from his face and a cold sweat beaded upon his forehead. He regained his composure and warmed his hands on the sticks.
Checking his watch he announced that it was 4:15. “Uh…Don’t you have to be home by 5?” I asked rhetorically. Marck decided that he’d just call his wife and tell her we were on our way, and that we were about an hour away from arriving home. I tried to discourage him from lying to her, but he assured me it would be okay. And truth be told it wasn’t really an all out fib because from the time we launched we were ultimately on our way home. As Marck dialed his wife’s number, he reminded me fishermen are notorious liars. He had a point. In reality we were probably 15 minutes from our take-out and another hour and a half from home, assuming it wasn’t snowing on the pass. As Marck spoke to his wife and explained that the roads were icy and the going was slow, my indicator took a nose dive and I’m pretty sure Mrs. Marck didn’t hear me yell, “Fish on!”. Enticing the 10 inch rainbow on the Pat’s Stone topped off a much better than average day, and it was good way to end the year. Let the icy grips of winter have the Yak – I’d had my day of redemption and was heading home with the smell of fish on my hands. Now, if I could have just gotten Marck home in 20 minutes he wouldn’t have had to spend the night in the doghouse.
Note: If after reading the accounts of this day you feel that the Unaccomplished Angler is becoming an accomplished braggart, fear not – winter steelhead season lies just ahead. I am bracing myself to have my posterior handed to me accordingly.