Journal Entry: January 8, 2010
Note: all of these journal entries are true, more or less. Blatant lies and exorbitant exaggeration will be denoted by a small asterisk (*) at the end of a sentence. Small inconsequential exaggerations are considered fair game because they either have happened on some other day; may occur at some point in the future; have been experienced by someone, somewhere, probably; or were part of a hallucination that has become real in my mind.
Remember, steelhead are Pacific salmon, so this is still a Salmon Fishers Journal. Ha ha.
I peek at my watch for the umpteenth time. 4:20 AM. What the hell, I might as well get up. There are flies to tie and this will be my first day fishing since mid-December.
Frank and Jeanne left for New Zealand on the 7th. Dale is house sitting. I can hear him snoring gently up in the loft over the kitchen table. I make a feeble attempt at starting a fire in the wood stove and give up rather quickly. Dale will get it going when he comes down.
4:30. I pull up a chair at the table and stare at a mountain of fly tying junk. What a mess. Four vises, a dozen saddle patches, ten thousand hooks, twenty shades of Krystal flash, rubber legs, a dozen shades of dubbing, arctic fox. Finnish coon. Egads. Where to start? Locate scissors and a bobbin. Decide what to tie.
Nah. Make coffee. microwave water. Filter water through coffee grounds. Awful, but it is caffeine. Add Swill Miss Hot Chocolate to make it palatable. Face the fly vise again.
Ahah. I know what to do.
Hook: size 2, heavy wire. Thread: black Lagartun 95 denier X-Strong. Body: blend trilobal purple, blue, black, and red; add pinch polar white ice dub; finish with another pnch gold ice dub. Rib: Lagartun oval silver tinsel. Hackle: Kingfisher blue saddle: webby, sparse. Wing: six strands Mirage Opal Flashabou.
I secure hook in vise, start thread. Uh-oh. No tinsel. None. That’s OK. Frank will have some. I root around his fly bench. Nope. There are probably a hundred snarled old fly lines, tippets, chewed up flies, and abandoned projects. Only wide Mylar tinsel, which I detest. No oval tinsel.
OK. I can adapt. Sip more coffee. Rethink fly. Ah ha. Got it. Substitute reverse palmered blue grizzly saddle, very narrow, for the tinsel. Counter wrap saddle with copper wire for security and fly longevity.
Crap. No copper wire. No use scouting Frank’s desk. There ain’t none there either.
5 AM. Dale wakes and joins me. He struggles with a smoky fire and finally succeeds. Hot water, and maybe, good coffee will soon follow. Dale sits across the table from me and we both stare at our vises. I start with a big rabbit leech. Nothing to tax my brain here. I use some cool lookin’ two-tone crosscut colors that are sure to attract monster steelhead. Dale secures an Eagle Claw 1197-b in his vise and gets started on one of his signature traditional steelhead flies. We tie and tie some more.
10 AM. Our neighbor friend knocks, shoves the door open, and pulls up a chair. He eyes one of the flashy monster flies I have been tying and shoots me a look of disapproval. That’s hardly fly fishing, he’s thinking. He is a traditionalist, like Frank and Dale. You probably brought a Spey rod too, he remarks, half kidding, half deriding.
11 AM. We stuff ourselves in waders, borrow Frank’s magnetic rod carriers, and pile into my 4-Runner. Off we go. Dale and our neighbor strategize as we drive the river. Color is good. The water is maybe 3-inches too high, but fishable. Fish should be moving today. There should be old summers and a few early winters around. I get detailed over a roadside bank. See that rock there? See the tuft of grass in the water. See if you can get out there without drowning. Make your cast to swing across that big boulder.
I do as instructed, more or less. Be careful about that loose boulder. Go to the right around that tree. Avoid the poison oak. Tentatively make my way out to the tuft. A coho carcass lays on the bank nearby, feeding river life. I balance precariously and roll out a cast. I am fishing my brand-spankin’-new Burkheimer 7127-4. I have been dreaming about making Ed Wardish casts for a month. Unfortunately, there is no way to achieve a D loop so I resort to messy splatting and roll casting until my fly swings through the targeted area. Third cast I feel a tug.
Three hours slip by in an instant. Good conversation. Days gone by: fish hooked, lost, and landed over the years. Holes changed. More people. Dastardly deeds and unsporting anglers. People we love and respect.
My casting is world-class.* My companions marvel at my grace and finesse as I fish water they have dreamed about but have been unable to reach with their single hand rods.* I hook a brick-red buck, a big fish, pictured above, and release it as my friends marvel at the fact that i hooked this fine fish behind them, noting the superiority of my presentation and the attractiveness of my original fly pattern.***
4 PM. I uphold my tradition of nearly always falling in. My feet slip out from under me in three feet of fast water and I scrabble around for a minute trying to get my feet under me to stand up. New Cannon G11 is soaked. I am so disgusted that I throw my rod. But I make a point to throw it where I can retrieve it easily and the water is deep enough that rod and reel will survive: wet but unscathed. I release frustration without damaging gear.
Back to the truck. It was time to go anyway. And who knows, maybe the camera will dry out. My companions suggest burying camera in a bag of rice. This sounds ridiculous to me but I eventually comply. Nuthin’ to loose, I figure.
6 PM. Dale and I eat dinner and our neighbor joins us at the kitchen fly bench for conversation. Dale fries up a SPAM and Cheese Sandwich. Honestly! Apparently, Dale developed a taste for Spam when he served in Korea. I concoct a main course of lima beans, black beans, corn, yogurt, and applesauce.
I turn my waders inside out, empty water from fly boxes, hang my flies near the wood stove to fluff out, and use a towel to dry out the insides of my Gore Tex coat.
Dale and I tie flies. The mess of materials on the table grows. We listen to a Blazers vs. Lakers game. Talk turns to salmon season past. I try to pry our neighbor’s secret salmon patterns. Without words, his eyes say, “no way.” I resolve to interrogate him in coming months. He resolves to resist my prying. My shoulda-been 20-minute fly turns into a one-hour mess.
Time to sleep. I turn in and turn off the light. I got a grab.