** This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke. **
I began the long hike in just as the early morning blue haze crested the hillside. As usual, I opted for an early start to maximize my fishing time. My wife had plans in the evening and I was given a prompt time that I needed to be pulling back into the driveway.
The first few hours were slow. This particular section of river seems to pick up once the sun hits the water. So I spent my time indicator fishing some of the long runs and pools picking up smallish wild browns and the occasional big sucker. My heart would race every time I saw the large golden shape. Time and time again I was let down as I dug the hook out of those large rubbery lips.
The first good brown of the day hit just about the time the sun broke the mountainside. The water was deep and it was difficult to pull the fish out of the depths to get a good look. After crossing the river and following the fish a hundred yards downstream, he gave one final surge directly at me, where I had the net ready and steered his head straight for it.
From that point on, the fishing picked up significantly in the same water I had been previously fishing. I’ve found in this river that the fish seem to just wake up out of nowhere. I didn’t alter my approach all that much and I was basically using the same flies I started with. The fish were more willing and I landed a few more solid fish before I moved downriver to try my luck out in a different stretch.
I began another long trek down to the bottom of where I wanted to start fishing. As I approached, I noticed a big black object on the hillside directly above the hole I wanted to fish.
Looking back, I should have been more cautious. I caught myself picking up speed, trying to find a break in the trees to get a better picture of the large sow. Maybe that wasn’t the smartest move due to the fact that she had two cubs behind her. There was still plenty of space separating us though. Having the river dividing us emboldened me. I took a few pictures from as close as I felt comfortable, then started fishing. I instantly flashed back to the trips I took to Alaska where I spent most of my days fishing with bears around me. It’s amazing how quickly you let your guard down when you are surrounded by bears all day and the fishing is good. That’s probably a bad thing.
After a short while of looking down the embankment, the mother gave a quick huff and lumbered off with her two little ones. I’d like to think she just realized I was of no threat to her young and decided it was safe to walk off. I kind of got the feeling though, that she was bored by my inability to catch a fish. As if on cue, I picked up a respectable fish as soon as she departed.
As I was adjusting my rig after the battle, I spotted a large mayfly float past me. Shortly after I seen another. Within 20 minutes there was a steady stream of tiny sailboats floating down the river.
As the hatch increased in intensity, the cloud cover also amplified. It took close to an hour for the fish to take notice. What started as a single fish, quickly escalated to dozens of fish as far as I could see rising.
I was down to an hour left of fishing when I caught the first riser. The fish was picking off every dun that floated past it. I was still rigged up with nymphs so I plopped them down directly upstream of the fish. The fish was on instantly. I didn’t even have time to tighten my connection as I began tracking my flies back downstream.
I worked my way up the bank picking up one large brown after another. It soon became apparent that I shouldn’t be wasting my time with the camera. Large heads were breaking the surface as far as I could see and time was running out.
Time was up and I was desperate. It is not often that large wild brown trout lose all caution and rise eagerly in the middle of the day. My wife made it very clear that I needed to be home for dinner to watch the kids while she went to the Garth Brooks concert. I sent a few hopeless texts suggesting we get a babysitter. I received a brief, direct response back within seconds – “Get Home”.
Two large browns continued to rise directly in front of me in perfect cadence, picking off every helpless Hendrickson that floated past. I cursed under my breath and started my walk back to the truck, disappointed, but smiling.