Monday, August 20, 2012

Bighorn Post #5 (finally)

In my defense, although it might seem like it's been six months since I took this trip, it has actually only been three. So get off my back! Good things to those who wait and all that baloney.

The past couple posts regarding this ancient trip were a little difficult to write because I didn't totally remember everything that happened. This one's a bit easier because it is only regarding a single very eventful day, and the last one of a long trip that remains the freshest in my mind full of cobwebs. Thank god!

Why was this one memorable and eventful? Because I caught more fish this day than any others, while fishing the least and was the end of a great trip. We were floating the river again and after a bit of a heated conversation I agreed to a crazy plan to fish 3 to B. That means 3 mile boat access to the B access (13 mile). I didn't want to do this because yesterday we had floated the full 13 and after about 6 miles or so there was so much moss in the water that it was nearly impossible to fish. Brady and John assured me that they had passed over an excellent spot that everyone else misses because of the quarter mile of stagnant water leading up to it, so I acquiesced despite my concerns. The pro to the moss's con was that we could get out ahead of a large corporate party that was going to be on the river and get to some good spots before the guides snatched them all up.

The float down to "the spot" was pretty uneventful and direct. No slowing down to actually fish a bunch of good stuff, just rowing straight there. Once we got there it looked decent to me, but nothing special. Nonetheless we all got rigged up and started fishing and within the first 15 minutes, all four of us in the first boat had hooked into fish. We continued to fish this long run with regular success and eventually some fish began to rise so there was additional fun to be had with dry flies, which was nice.

But it was one of those spots where you just catch too many fish too regularly, and after seven days of this we were getting impatient after an hour or two. What to do? Go carp fishing in the little pond that just happened to be on the island across from where we were fishing. So we grabbed my carping rod and a camera and went for a nice stroll. Not long thereafter we found some cruising carp and I was up. A quick cast out past one, strip, strip, strip, to get the fly right in front of him, wait.... The carp makes a nearly imperceptible dipping motion as if to suck something in, and SET! Carp on! He takes off like a freight train. Two seconds later he spits the hook, and carp off.  :(

Now it's Brady's turn. It took a little more effort to find another catchable fish, but we do, Brady gets a hook into him and this one doesn't succeed in spitting the hook. We proceed to follow the carp up and down the bank for the next 12 minutes before finally and successfully beaching him; a bigger net would have been nice. 

This pretty nice sized fish satiates our need for something other than trout for a bit and we head back to the river for a celebratory beer. Boat number two had arrived and the run we had been fishing was mostly taken up, plus I was still needing something different, so I grabbed my nymphing rod and walked downstream to a big and deep eddy. It was a very neat spot where a strong current dropped off a very steep cut and swirled back around on itself, essentially creating a 30x20 foot pit that was probably at least six feet deep with a very sharp seam.

After a little trial and error I discovered it was extremely difficult to get a good drift through this spot, which isn't surprising given that I was fishing over an upstream current out to super fast moving water with some dead water in between. This is always an issue in eddy's. The fly line gets stuck in the fast water or slow water while your flies are in the other and the flies get dragged around unnaturally underwater. It was also so deep and short that it was nearly impossible to get the flies to the bottom before reaching the end of the hole. But the good part was the seam and fish weren't too far away. At least 15 of them just hanging out in plain sight in the dead water looking at the food train ripping by in the current. Eventually I discovered what a lot of people already know and what I had been aware of but never really paid much attention to. Tight-line nymphing or Czech nymphing. I apologize for my ignorance if there is some difference that I am unaware of. But this is where you toss your flies upstream but not very far, then keep all your line and leader off the water surface and straight down to your flies which you can hold at a certain height (just above bottom). A tight line between rod tip and flies, hence the name.

I put on two of the biggest weights I had to get down fast, tossed the bugs about 20 feet upstream directly into the seam, and by the time they had floated downstream a few feet they had sunk all the way to the bottom where I could hold them up just a bit and deliver them straight to the fish's mouths. I figured this method would be more productive, but I had no idea how much better. Employing normal nymph tactics I had been having a pretty good time of it catching a fish every 20 casts or so. Then I caught one on my very first cast tight-lining. Sweet! Then another on the second! And the third!

Wait, there's no way it was that good, you might say. Actually it was. After three in a row I had a couple casts where I didn't catch one. But I continued catching fish after fish after fish on every second or third cast until I had caught at least 10. By this point I was actually feeling a little bad because there was a father and son fishing across river from me, and I saw the two of them catch a single fish while I was there. I could also see the kid out of the corner of my eye watching me with a slight look of disgust on his face just about every time I hooked a fish, and I know how impatient youngsters can be.  To that kid: I'm not usually this good, I promise. After catching the 10th or so in 15 or 20 minutes I just strung up my rod and walked away with a big stupid grin on my face.

I fished this hole another time or two later in the day with nearly as good of luck. We also found some fish rising heavily in the afternoon and had a good time feeding them dry flies, which they were happy to stupidly consume.

In all this time we saw only two boats drift by through out channel, whereas there were boats drifting by in the main channel nearly constantly. That can give you an idea of how underutilized it was. But the second boat deserves note. It was a big blow up float raft full of kids and two adult dads. They proceeded to go right over the run we were fishing, which was acceptable since there's nowhere else to go, then they decided to beach the raft about twenty feet downstream of our boat and between two of our guys fishing. Not acceptable, but tolerable since they were just some humyucks out to mess around.

We spoke cordially for a bit and found out they had left a hatchet or something here the day before and were just going to get it. Ok, perfectly acceptable. Then while the one goes off to look for their hatchet the other grabs his rod and starts fishing right next to one of our guys. Now we're back to unacceptable, but we figured it was just going to be for a few minutes so things didn't get heated. Yet... Things began to get heated when one of our guys decided to head downstream, so walked back along the trail into the bushes to stumble upon the guy who was "looking for the hatchet." Instead of searching for a hatchet he was in the middle of taking apart one of our rods, which we had left leaning back against the bushes and that he must have grabbed on his way to the trail. This is where things went from annoying to combative. I wasn't there so I don't know what our guy said or did and don't even remember which one of us it was, but he got the rod back and the other guy headed to their boat. There were some words exchanged, mainly from our side (understandably), and they headed on downstream. At least the ordeal gave us something to talk about, but how stupid do you have to be to try and steal something from a group of six 30-something guys when it's two kind of old guys and a bunch of little kids?

But back to the fishing... We continued to fish this spot until late enough to row out, and row out we did, under gale force winds. Normally rowing out means rowing downstream, but in these conditions we were actually rowing across stream in a feeble attempt to stay in the middle of the river. I appreciate chad's efforts and know I would not have done any better even though we ended up on the bank more than once. At least it didn't rain, as promised by our own personal weatherman, Tyler.

But the wind did blow away one of our tents back at camp. It was sadly, but not surprisingly the 25 year old Eureka tent that got blown back through a bunch of thorny bushes getting completely ruined in the ordeal. It had had a good life so we gave it a nice burial. You can see it in the background here. It's upside down and back in those bushes behind the tree.

We had another nice sunset campfire dinner along with some beer and whiskey and presented John with the big fish prize of a bottle of whiskey and a ridiculously big cigar. In all a great trip and I again apologize for not sharing it with everyone for 3 months. Life is busy even though life is obviously quite good.

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