Friday, August 03, 2007

A Perfect Day

At 6:00am the air felt cooler than it had been the previous four mornings. Dew on the seasons dying grasses and the adjoining waters dense layer of fog visually confirmed what my body sensed. I was up early, this being my last day. The sun had yet to crest the eastern horizon. I quickly made coffee and took in little sustenance before heading out. The previous morning’s fish were up by the time I and my companions arrived. I wanted to be there prior to the rivers residents taking notice of the dying mayflies that would soon be floating overhead.

For the past several days fishing had been good precipitated by summer’s heat reluctantly yielding to cooler temperatures. A much needed reprieve for this and other western rivers that have suffered through another season of minimal rainfall and record breaking heat. The previous evening the heavens released a brief washing of refreshing rain. Something I hadn’t seen or felt since early June. The storms electrical intensity had my rod arching in my hand. The first subtle shock got my attention. The second sent the it off into the nearby sagebrush. As the air crackled I was wondering if I’d used up another of those nine lives. For a moment it wasn’t funny.

It was a short drive to the river from camp. Exiting my vehicle morning’s cool air was still damp from the previous evening’s storm. Overhead not a cloud littered the vast blue sky. For now I was the only person present. Other than a few vacationers, that’s how it’s been every day. Casually I began the ritual of suiting up while sipping the last of my caffeinated dregs. Before finishing, several of my friends casually began to arrive. Milling around in various states of consciousness, depending on how many beers one had had the evening before, the sound of a hastened vehicle disrupted any semblance of calm. A level of anxiety followed its arrival. Noticing our presence its occupants quickly exited their oversized truck and began to dress. It was obvious they intended to beat us to the punch. Already dressed, I casually made my way to the water, noticing the Texas license plates as I passed. My departure didn’t go unnoticed.

Having had four good days behind me, I wanted to enjoy some solitude for as long as possible. It was a short walk to the river from where we parked. By now each of us had our spots where previous days challenges had gone unfinished. Yesterday, I missed a very nice fish after a long patient effort. It took my Honey Ant as aggressively as it had the numerous naturals that drifted overhead. Setting the hook, only the slightest tensions was felt before the fly came free. I had hopes of having another opportunity this day.

Crossing the first of three channels, all was quiet. I cautiously made my way to the small island where I would sit in anticipation. Matted grasses showed where we’d patiently hunkered down previously. For now I was alone. Across the way a mature Bald Eagle leveraged its body into the nook of a dead tree as an irate Osprey assaulted it from above. It was obvious that neither was happy. After a while the Osprey succumbed to the futile situation. Noticing a return to calm a sibling joined the mature raptor. If this day should fail to unfold as the others, the view was worth the effort.

Before me lay a vista of ancient glass, the rivers current barely evident as it flowed around me. A random Callibaetis spinner lay dying on the water and slowly drifted by. Not enough yet to stir the rivers larger rainbows into taking notice, but it was still early. As the air warmed clouds of Caddisflies and swarming Trico’s gathered. The past mornings spinnerfalls had been excellent, extended by a calm that’s a rarity in this basin. For the past four mornings before the last dying mayfly floated by, we were treated to a shower of Honey Ants. This delicacy is cherished by angler and trout alike. My friends, having never fished this river before, were treated to something that I’ve rarely encountered here in thirty odd years of fishing these waters.

My buddies from Texas eventually emerged from the parking area again disrupting my mornings calm. Like buffalo they waded into the river oblivious to anything. Where they stood and flogged the water a number of nice fish had dimpled the waters surface the previous day. Such would not be the case today, at least anytime soon. Before long several other anglers came lumbering up from the parking lot, my friends interspersed among them. It looks like our visit to the local fly shops the previous day had tipped our hand. Where over the past days we seen virtually no one else, today there were ambling bodies surrounding us. I hunkered down.

It took sometime before the first nose rose to take morning’s first offerings. Typical of the sequence, it was a smaller fish and not what I was looking for. It soon was joined by several others. I tried to hold off the anxiety of last mornings as time passed and none of the larger fish who’d agonizingly inspected my imitations over the previous days appeared. Halfway through the morning a cool gust dispersed the mating insects. As time passed the wind increased, the gathering spinners scattered and never found the water.

Eventually I found a nice fish up at the tail of the island. I put one of my friends on the steady feeder since he’d yet to land a nice fish. Jon and some of my old high school friends traveled from Ohio to fish these famous waters with me. Given how challenging these waters are, we were fortunate to have the tides turn during our brief stay. We both had a date with a fish this morning. He eventually got his. I on the other hand was less fortunate. Three hours had passed with me hunkered among the islands tall grasses quietly watching. For the first time since arriving my reel would not disturb the stillness. If you fish here, you get accustom to such days.

Eventually I left my perch. I didn’t wander far. I noticed after a while that Jon had also moved on. I passed several other wandering anglers looking for the ants they’d been promised to find here: “you should have been here yesterday”. Reality was setting in. I smiled at the ambling scene before me feeling fortunate knowing that our stay could have been filled with fruitless wanderings.

As I headed back my gaze took in the beauty of the area. Views that for the past thirty some years I’ve never tired of. Now only a handful of anglers worked the waters to splashy risers. Little did they know they were fishing to Whitey’s. The more experienced anglers sat and waited or cautiously made their way through the tall grasses that bordered this river in hopes of finding a rising trout feeding on the meager remnants from the mornings affairs. If you fish here, such is the game.

I relived much of the past days fortunes as I stowed my gear away for the last time. An old Neil Young album played in the background. It was an album that was cut when I first starting making the long trek to these hallowed waters. It brought back many fond memories. Morning’s cool breeze rustled the needles of the towering Lodge Poles that shaded my exit. After enduring a summer of intense heat the cool breeze was welcomed even though it stifled the days fishing. At the Park entrance a Red Tail hovered motionless several feet over its prey to my left, its tail and wings illuminated by afternoons intense sun. In an instant it pounced, simply retracting it wings. Proudly it inspected the kill. His success evidence of valuable lessons honed over the years. If one is to have much success on these waters, similar lessons and skills must be learned.

I half expected the day to end as it did. To have had a fifth incredible day would have been a lot to ask from a river that is reluctant to give up its bounty. The Iroquois say that when you see birds of prey you are doing what you like. Often I take this to heart. There are few things in life I prefer more than being on a river. Just to be in a place where trout live, is reward enough. To catch a fish, a bonus.

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