Back from the hinterlands and finally with some motivation to write. The ladyfriend flew down to SF and we took the slow ride home, driving up the California coast and about half way up 101 into Oregon before hanging a right to the NU. Other than a couple of days at either end of the trip in Berkeley and Seattle it was 6 days of sleeping by the river, campfires and plenty of fishing. Its a bit difficult to talk the girlfriend into an all day grinder of fishing, but lucky for me she loves to sleep in and doesnt mind eating a late dinner so most days I got to fish morning and evening. This time of year fish can be hard to comeby mid-day anyway, so a siesta, swim or slow lunch was a welcome break.
First stop was the Rattlesnake Fork where I'd previously scouted a sweet, secluded river side camp spot conveniently situated next to a couple of the fishiest runs I've seen. The first morning I'd fished through all three of the runs in camp by about 8AM and decided to take a second pass. A fish took In the very top of run just where the run went from boiling white water to smooth surfaced seam and ran immediately downstream before screaming up and across, jumping out of the water and throwing the hook. After a rusty summer it was just the affirmation I needed, steelhead still take flies. Being early yet in the season my expectations were fairly low on the Rattlesnake Fork, but it was beautiful weather and scenery and the camping by the river would have been worth it on its own. The fish was a great bonus though.
The next afternoon we drove back out to Fogtown and up the coast to Oregon to the mouth of a long storied river. Arriving near dusk there wasn't alot of time for scouting, but a quick drive out on the bar in camp revealed a reasonably fishy looking piece of water. The next morning I woke at o'dark thirty to the sound of diesel trucks rumbling down to the boatlaunch. In riverside campgrounds throughout the west an alarmclock is hardly necessary and for a light sleeper the predawn diesel truck hatch is normally more than enough. The first run proved fishy and gave up a couple of nice half pounders, which put a surprisingly nice bend in the old brown 5120-4. The thing I love about half pounders is their exuberance. They still take with a force that can only be found in fish which have traveled the ocean and without fail they leapt from the water when hooked, meaning that despite numerous encounters, few came to hand. Drove upriver a ways after the first run, hoping to fish below the mouth of the first major tributary, but I found the river crowded with jet boats filled with gear anglers chasing Chinooks. The crowds and bad manners were a major turn off, and after having one jet boating Jim drive over my line repeatedly I asked him nicely to please drive up the otherside of the river. Spent the afternoon in the sun on the beach and the next morning after fishing we packed it in and headed up the coast, then inland to the NU.
I had a chance last summer to fish the Ump for a couple of days, but since then I'd been thinking about it often. 30 miles of beautiful flyfishing only water is more than an angler could reasonably explore in a summer, let alone a few short trips so I've been trying to take it in piece by piece. The great thing is, other than the few quintessential runs near the mouth of Steamboat, the river tends to be fairly open and there is plenty of amazing water. The first day was pretty uneventful, lots of casting, no fish to the fly. The second evening, in the last run of the night I hooked a fish in a sweet looking piece of water behind a pile of fishy ass boulders and got absolutely schooled. Fish jumped twice right off then bat, then peeled off way down into the backing before running towards shore and cartwheeling within a few feet of the bank and then sprinting back up river. The fish settled down and the holyshit part of the fight was over, just when I'd caught my breath and was picking up some line, working down towards a better spot to try and land the fish it leapt on last time and threw the hook. Despite loosing the fish, I got all I could ask of it and got a huge confidence boost. The fish took a red and black smuddler, flies which I've been tying all summer in anticipation for this time of the year.
The next morning was the last fishing of the trip, and around nine, with the sun just beginning to peak around the doug firs and basalt cliffs, I stopped in at a shady little run that I fished last year and found to my liking. I started in at the top with a skunk, a fly that normally gives me major confidence, however about half way through the run I saw a fish jump out of the water near the head of the run. I'd fished over that spot just minutes before without a take. Who can say why, but starting in at the top of the run for a second pass I knotted on a purple and black smuddler, figuring the bright purple body and the movement of the wing would provide a nice comeback after the more drab, buggy skunk. a few casts into the run the fish took with an electric jolt was was immediately off to the races. Fist downstream, then up, then across, then back up, leaping directly across from me showing itself, a male about 7 pounds with just a hint of color. I reeled, then stripped line frantically, trying to keep tension on the fish and had managed to hold on when the fished jumped even closer, its body contorting in the air. Then the line was stuck...the fish had run around a rock, leapt and broken the line in midair. As I tied on my new fly I could barely thread the eye of the hook, my hands shook and my heart beat quickly, trying to catch my composure after the frantic excitement of the fish. I did eventually manage to tie on the fly, but my fish encounters were done for the trip. 0 for 3 on hook ups with three sound ass beatings, the fish won fair and square, whatelse is there to do but sit down and catch your breath?