The team we were supposed to have played last Sunday got kicked out of the league for assaulting an umpire, true story. Apparently someone did their best Roberto Alomar impersonation after a called strike 3 and got the entire team kicked out of the league. So, with the rare Sunday off, I had my entire weekend free so it was the perfect time for an impromptu getaway, and my saner half immediately went to work, calling various establishments to see if we could get a last minute reservation. We finally found a room, but the friendly inn keeper mentioned that "we have no TVs nor cell phone service."
"We'll take it!"
Armed with a Sense of Direction (unlike last time), and a map (that wasn't written on the back of a McDonald's napkin), we made the excursion into familiar parts again. The second time around, the same hike seemed less of challenge. I've always assumed it was your brain at work, creating some sort of game plan, pacing your muscles on every step, knowing full well where the start and end points are, and where the difficult and easy stretches are located. Also, I had taken various suggestions to ditch the waders and boots, and engage in some wet wading, so the exclusion of both those items definitely assisted with the reduction of weight.
When we got to the bottom of the canyon, my partner was in zero mood to make any further progress upstream on either river, so we set up base camp about half a mile upstream from the bigger tributary after crossing the smaller one. A nice riffle emptied into a deep emerald pool, and from the moment we set foot into the area, I could see the river's residents tailing in the current. The adrenaline began flowing at a higher CFS.
The first beautifully painted rainbow was caught on the second cast, which I have the tendency to do from time to time. Unfortunately, this puts me in a precarious position mentally because if I don't get another bite soon, I will spend the next few hours analyzing whether or not the early fish was a fluke, and whether I'd be wasting my time continuing to throw the same pattern. Am I using the right flies? I must have, I caught a fish. Are they feeding in different spots? Should I change my leader length? Change the size of my flies? Change the color completely? Add split shot? Sometimes, I'd rather get skunked for the first hour so I can get in a mindset where I have no problems adjusting and making changes on the fly But, catching a fish on the second cast usually means you're doing something right, right?
Regardless, today was definitely a learning experience. I understood the need to get my nymphs down deep, and got out of the comfort zone of fishing tiny patterns, which were getting swept out of feeding lanes in this faster water. In fact, using larger tungsten based patterns resulted in some consistent takes throughout the mid morning and afternoon. Considering the streams I'm used to, the composition of the river made it extremely challenging, and the wet wading was even more difficult than I imagined.
Even though I missed a lot of strikes, simply because I was thrown into an environment completely new to me, I did manage a good dozen fish and lost just as many. A real treat was wading across the river to an outcropping, and seeing some big fish sitting deep in the pool below. Even while wading across, I managed to scatter some bigger specimens, sporting their signature bright red lateral line. I did finally hook a decent fish, but he ended up wrapping me around a large obstruction deep in the pool, after a drag peeling run on the initial hookset. Everything happened so fast.
I wish this area was closer to me, and I could spend more time learning the water, analyzing fish behavior, and scouting new spots. I am slowly realizing the endless possibilities of this watershed, and have been enthralled with it since my last trip weeks ago.
We made the hike out as the sun was coming over the ridge, as the temperature was slowly coming down from the afternoon's triple digit heat. Exhausted, we made our way down to our cozy cottage near Kernville, ate an amazing steak dinner, and feel asleep with dreams of my strike indicator being suddenly pulled underwater.