Venturing almost as far from civilization as is possible in these parts, Ralf and I spent yesterday exploring some new water and visiting a few of his favorites. It was a perfect day for steelheading, mild with temperatures reaching into the 50s by afternoon and a light drizzle falling for most of the morning. In the steep glacial valley the clouds hung close the precipitous mountain sides, draped in moss and studded with the hardscrabble firs and spruce which predominate the region. The river looked good too, after falling for almost a week it still had a touch of color and enough flow to give us confidence in our presentations. A month of fishless swings had my confidence at a low ebb, but this time of year anytime the line is in the water good things can happen.
About 11:30 we crossed the river and walked up to a nice run where two braids came together, pushing hard against the left bank and creating a soft bucket in the head. Ralf chose to fish the tail, a long ambling piece of water and I shuffled up to the top. The run was fishy and swimming my white, pink and orange offering through I felt I was covering the water well. maybe 15 casts into the run the line tightened with an almost imperceptibly light tug. Waiting but focused I let the fish take the fly, turn and then set in a sweep towards the bank. Instantly it was rushing down and across river leaping downstream, then upstream again, far into my backing. After one of the strongest fights I have seen in some time the fish finally came to hand, a thick shouldered buck, bright and probably 12 pounds. Minutes later Ralf would hook and loose another fish on the leap.
We fished the rest of the day only landing a few bull trout, but the afternoon sun was glorious and the memory of the leaping fish is forever etched in my memory. We also had an encounter with a bobcat. Apparently unperturbed by our presence he sat watching us fish for almost an hour, at one point allowing me within 30 feet to snap a photo. A day like that revitalizes the will to fish, sharpens the focus and highlights just how preciously short the season is. In a land dominated by its glacial past and present fish arrive to the spawning grounds late. From now until freshet we will see some of the best fishing of the year and I for one am really looking forward to it.