There’s a canyon stretch on my home stream with a gated, gravel access road used by dog walkers, runners, hikers, bird watchers and crazed fishermen. It’s a wonderful three-mile walk up into the canyon or down from the other side. In some sections the path bumps up against the towering limestone walls, and you can feel crisp cool air pushing aside the heavy heated blanket of summer.
There are huge chunks of those same rocks that have broken off through time. They remind you how many centuries this place was here before you were, and how long it will remain after we’ve all turned to dust. The eternal boulders were separated from the crest of the cliff through the earthly power of spreading hemlock roots that infiltrated every available crack, until eventually an enormous boulder fell to the forest floor and rolled into the river, providing a landmark and a constant reminder of how small your space in time really is.
So it’s a good walk up in there. And lots of anglers make the trek. But here’s the funny thing: people stop and fish the same places, day after day, year after year. We all do it.
There’s a concrete walking bridge about a mile up. The railing was freshly painted bright blue, I’d guess, about fifty years ago. Now it’s a faded baby blue with a chalky surface, matching the morning skies of early Spring and mixed with iron rust. The bridge is easily seen from the gravel road where we all walk, and it’s positioned in a dip, just before a minor hill. So after a good slog upstream along the road, wearing the excess weight of wet boots and waders, and loaded down with an overstuffed fishing pack, one ambitious angler after another decides that he’s had a good walk in, and this is a great place to start.
And it is a great place to start. The first time I ever fished here, guess where I put in? Yup. Right at that bluish bridge. With the heart of an explorer, I decided I’d walk far upstream to where no one else fishes. And unknowingly, I fished where everyone else fishes. I caught trout.
All anglers are compelled by the irresistible allure of bridges — like moths to a floodlight.
But if you do walk past the bridge and over the hill, you probably can’t resist the pull of the old hatchery building either. With its splintered wood siding, green mossy roof and broken windows, the structure still stands, but it’s failing. It has the macabre appeal of a haunted house, and yet the chain links that guard it safely assure that you remain a spectator — and the ghosts of stocked hatchery trout are kept inside.
So on your first trip into the canyon, you’ll surely stop at the chalky blue bridge or the old hatchery. But on a return trip, if you can resist the draw of familiarity, you might trek on a little further. Like the others before you, you’ll follow the comfortable trail at the top of the grassy ponds leading to the creek, and you’ll start fishing. Just maybe you’ll walk a few hundred yards upstream of that, and you’ll find it impossible to resist the urge to setup below the low head dam and cast into the foamy darkwater, probing for the river boss.
Every single one of these places is a wonderful choice for accessing the river. There’s no doubt. But the water in between can be even better.
On every river across this country there’s a hole that someone stamps his name upon. Just a twenty minute walk from the lower access of another favorite creek, there’s a braided section. And right where two of the channels combine, there’s an ancient log with a trunk the size of a pickup truck. The water there has carved out a basin that my friend calls Munch’s Honey Hole. I’m sure it’s also Greg’s hole, Steve’s Sweet Spot and Chad’s Lonely-Log pool.
None of us are naive enough to believe that we’re the only ones who fish these spots, but we do like to think we’ve found something off the edge of the map when we’ve walked a fair distance.
Funny thing is, when you start talking with guys at the local bar, or you hike up into the braids a couple dozen times every year, you realize that everyone fishes these spots. Really. Everyone.
Again, Munch’s Honey Hole is an amazing little corner of water, and most times I can’t resist it either. But I rarely fish it first. Instead, I try to start somewhere in between most anglers’ starting blocks. On a pressured river, it just makes sense to give the fresher water a chance.
Try to see what every angler sees, and then do the opposite. It can be an extra few minutes to the top of the braids instead of fishing Munch’s hole. Or it can be as simple as fishing the other side of the river in the grassy stretch near the parking lot.
Fish the other stuff. Fish the weird stuff. And fish hard.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N