Monday, September 27, 2010

Back From the Northern Wilderness

The Long Road to Nowhere

Got back into town late on Saturday night, boy does the Northcountry Blues hit hard. I had planned to fish through Saturday but it pissed rain all day and night Friday and I woke saturday morning to find the river chocolaty and gone for at least a couple of days. Rather than doddle around I thought it best to hit the road and get to those nagging responsibilities which had been building up steadily since I left the week before. After 9 dayson the road, sleeping in the tent, fishing 13 hours straight in moist, stanky waders and eating a steady diet of cornchips, PBJ and various barbequed meat I was ready to be home. Still, city life seems strange, rushed and completely detached from the reality of the planet we live on.

Big Water

If you haven't heard by now they're having a great run this year up north. Tyee test fishery counts are the second highest on record and I've heard rumors of anywhere from 18,000-30,000 fish returning above Moricetown. Thats alot of steelhead and for the 8 days I was there the fishing ranged from steady to absurd. After last years trip I wanted to spend a little more time, see a some new water, and revisit some good spots from last year. I also set a few goals for the trip, 1. catch more than half my fish on the dryline, 2. catch a fish on a waker, 3. find a rhythm in my fishing. Going in I'd heard good reports and tyee counts looked good but I was hesitant to get too hopeful. The most important thing to me was to catch a few fish, on my terms, fish well, learn the rivers I fished and try my best to forge a connection with the rivers that flow through gods country.

Upper River Vista

Steelhead and Smuddler

The first few days went more or less as expected. Found a small onesalt buck the first evening on the dryline with a purple smuddler which helped the confidence and reinforced the supremely fishy feeling I've had about that pattern for sometime. The next day I found a couple of fish, two which pluck plucked the first swing only to crush the fly. Also got a very large hen, probably equal in size to the two other largest fish I've ever caught (both on the big mighty river). The rest of the trip more or less as planned. All but two fish were on the dryline which was extremely gratifying. The funny thing is, despite the fact that fish in the northcountry are world renowned dryfly eaters, most dudes still fish tips. With water on the low clear side I think a dryline was actually fishier than tips and the fish seemed to have no ambivalence about rising a few feet in the water column to blow up my wakers.

Afternoon light

The Northern Rivers are so special. I always feel like I'm looking into the past of our southern streams, into the primordial world when salmon and steelhead still outnumbered anglers when a moose or grizzly can stumble out of the woods at any minute. The north is a raw, young land. A place of epic views, harsh and abrupt seasons and rivers with a power rarely witnessed in the more southern latitudes. Even in mid september, the nights were well below freezing and each morning the tent was covered in a thin coat of ice where condensation from the previoius night had frozen. Accordingly, the fish are strong, determined and 100% wild something which is difficult to find following a century of industrial scale hatchery production. If last year was a primer to the unforgettable beauty of the northcountry and its fish this year was a big step towards total ruin. This year the timing was better, the fish more abundant and I fished on my terms, in no particular hurry and confident that the fish would willingly rise to the surface. There is absolutely nothing more gratifying or exciting than raising a steelhead to a waking fly, even if every time I have to fight my impulse to immediately raise the rod tip and take the fly away. All in all an unforgettable trip, 9 days fishing alone in some of the beautiful country on earth, I even found a few fish.

Big Hen