October 26, 2009


Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
Will Durant

Seldom in my fishing experiences on TDR (Spokane River), or, for that matter, anywhere, have I been witness to a hatch of such magnitude as that which I observed last Sunday (Oct. 25). To be sure, this activity had been building for the past several days, as I had noted during my fishing the previous Wednesday. The conditions that entire week were textbook, and as is the order of things for this time of year, the Blue-winged Olives were next on the slate for their annual fall hatch, and hatch they did, in such numbers as to cause at once joy, and at the same time, consternation. For a period of almost 2 hours, the eddies and buffet lines were dotted with thousands of tiny sailboats.
In the picture of the river, taken at approximately 2 p.m., you will notice the severe hydraulic upwelling. This convolution is 50-odd feet or so below several somewhat shallow rapids, running over rocky terrain to spill into the lower, flatter runs whose bottoms are dotted with very large granite and igneous rocks. The bankside edge is literally wing-to-wing with newly hatched #20-22 BWOs. Water temperature at this time was 48 degrees, and air temp. was 52.
You will also notice the outcropping of large rocks, where just downstream, there are a number of trout noses dimpling the surface. As I noted earlier, the picture was taken at about 2, and I'm pretty sure the fish had been hitting the buffet line for awhile before I arrived, got over my amazement, pulled out the Minolta (with shaking hands), and snapped the picture.
I worked my way back up to the tertiary trail I had used to get here, went downstream below the pod of fish I was watching, who were rising with as much frequency as I have ever seen TDR trout feed, probably about every 3-5 seconds, and decided on an emerger. Like I said, I really had no idea as how long the hatch had been going on; an emerger for me has always been the logical starting point when I'm not sure of the time frame s far as the progression is concerned, which I will explain more fully later, if I remember.
The flows as of Sunday were at about 1920cfs., which means to a classic caster, if he is attempting to reach these fish, that there is no, and I mean, NO, room for a classic cast. It's all roll casting now. And, the fact that one is severely limited as far as access to 'perches' which will get him even a couple of feet further from the bank, well... good luck not slipping in for a swim if you miss with your leap from the bank. I opted for the safe, although more difficult angle close to shore.
So I started at the bottom of the pod, and the emerger immediately took 2 fish. Then, upon further examination of the hatchees when I began seeing 'excuse me' rises close to my emerger, I saw that there were now a few spent-wings (dying or dead mayflies) in the mix. Not many, but a few. So, wanting to test my new adult version, I went to a #20 adult (see picture); and took 3 more, one close to 19".
Then, a while later, I went to the spent-wing, and finished off the day with 2 more fine rainows and a beautiful cutbow.
An amazing day. All in the span in the photograph, and all in the span of 2 and a half hours.

October 21, 2009

There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
Stephen Wright

A wintry day spent fishing a popular spring creek comes back to me.
A foggy, windless, damp afternoon. Clouds of midges are everywhere, thousands of them, creating a midrange buzz audible for even the hard-of-hearing, which includes yours truly.
The creek where I am fishing languidly flows to the west; lazy convolutions occasionally marring the glassy surface surface as they move downstream.
I am fishing a scud. Cast upstream, right off the bank, and let it sit. And sit. Then, as you would retrieve a chironomid in still water, with simple, slow wrist-twists, the scud is worked back downstream, alternately sliding, and sometimes even almost bouncing through the grasses and mud. I start close, with short casts, and gradually extend the distance with each successive cast. This method has proven deadly over the years, bringing many fine trout to my hand.
On this day, however, as I occupy myself with the task of remaining patient in the retrieve, I become aware of a fisherman across the creek. He's watching me, or so I think. But the reality of it is that he's really watching clouds of midges that are hovering above the creek in the area.
"I'm twitching a scud", I tell him, thinking that he's wondering what I'm using.
He nods, and pulls out a fly box.
"A #16. Kind of a pearl-olive coloration."
Again he nods.
"Little slow so far. How've you been doing?"
He looks up, biting off the tag end of his tippett, and lets fall from his hand whatever it is he's just finished tying on.
"Oh, I've been doing all right. Say, would you mind if I put a cast right downstream from you... say right off that stand of cattails?"
I turn and eye the area asked about. The water was shallow there, maybe a couple feet deep.
"Not a problem", I replied. " Gonna throw a scud at 'em? Don't see many prospectives there right now, though."
He grins, pulls line from his reel, and nods.
About this time I notice that my rod has become a midge landing zone. It is literally coated with tiny, crawling insects with wings. It is amazing. Even my fly line, normally a flourescent green, is now a gray-black. I am so amazed by the sight that I fail to see the many intersecting rings overlapping on the surface of the creek below me.
I pick up my line and cast upstream again, sending thousands of midges into the air. I am afraid to breathe, making sure my mouth is closed.
I watch the fisherman place a nice forty foot cast within two or three feet of the cattails. His strike indicator wiggles a bit, then steadies, and I'm just about to remark on his cast, when a very large trout very deliberately swims underneath said indicator, and said indicator suddenly submerges. The fisherman lifts his rod, and the very same very large trout comes two feet out of the water.
" Scud?" I ask, not really thinking that he's using one, because my eyes are now finally communicating with my brain. Doing some adding.
"Chironomid. Black-olive. A twenty-two. Beadless."
"Ahh", I remark, as if to say, yeah, I knew that. Inside, however, I'm thinking, is my chagrin showing? My red face?
" So... how those scuds working for you?" he laughs.

Lesson learned. Big time.

October 19, 2009

Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.
Eliot Porter

Yes, it's that time again. Time to pay attention to detail. Why? Well, as applied to flyfishing the spring creek where I will spend the majority of my fall and winter fishing hours, it means paying creedence to some very highly educated trout. And that means, for the most part, offering only them only very authentic imitations of the food sources they see the most. There are always exceptions to rules, but AS A RULE, exceptions do not offer the pleasure derived from matching what are the few predominant food sources in the cool weather diet of spring creek trout. And, to take that a step further, those imitations must also ACT like the natural. Otherwise, it makes for a long day watching fish after fish ignore your offering as if it was nothing more than detritus. That's part of the beauty of spring creek fishing in the winter; the chance to WATCH this happen, time and time again.
But, if you fish it long enough, and are willing to not settle for the occasional exceptions to the rule, your ability to discern proper patterns, their coloration, movements, and times of the day will cause you to tie better imitations and fish them more wisely.
I can't wait.
I say that to myself every year, somehow forgetting the hours that will still be spent suffering through various periods of refusal.

October 13, 2009


I cast across the the graying water. Older now, silently it moves past, shedding remnants of
any connection to an endpoint,
carrying only a single dream
tethered to this, this very moment of stark edges, subdividing time into odd segments of fascination, punctuated by the hydraulic of change.
Anomalies. Incandescence. Sequences, made clear only in retrospect, neglected until now, on this razor-thin precipice, in the belly of hopeless hope where I may yet one day find purchase in the mortal soul of my folly.
I stand waist deep in the coursing remains of my days, to cast across the ages into graying waters, searching...

October 12, 2009


I allow my intuition to lead my path.

Manuel Puig

It's not always what is obvious that draws me. More often than not, the obvious is food for deeper thought. The obvious is superficial, demanding closer inspection. The obvious is a key, but contains only the invitation, the necessity, to pursue further. From the obvious come only first impressions; any application of method at this point sanctions only slim possibilities of success, leaving wide open the door to guesswork and subjection, which is usually a descendant of prior experience which may, or, more likely, may not lead one to plausible conclusions, and therefore a systemic plan of address.
More importantly, it severely constricts the avenues of intuitiveness, simply because that intuitive ability is brought to disadvantage by the lack of knowledge. Experience is a good teacher, unless those experiences have done little to educate, or cause introspection. Intuition is then a tool of the clairvoyant, and I have known few, if any, in my life.
Both of them were flyfishermen.

October 9, 2009

Nat Park

The Pipe Line. San Soucci. The Nursing Center Run... all the names I've given to this particular stretch of TDR. But I was thinking about it the other day, and it came to me that there's some real history here. Why not refer to this place by honoring its glory days as the Lilac City's pride and joy? Plus, turns out that Spokane and I share that same sentiment; mine being more aptly applied to my experiences with the fish, especially in this particular section. But, I can remember being here at a much younger age, sitting high above TDR on a merry-go-round, as thousands of folks below me enjoyed the carnival atmosphere of Natatorium Park, or, as it affectionately came to be known, Nat Park. And I remember how even then, that with all the scenery that might have drawn my eye, it was the moving water of the river that my gaze was usually fixed upon. I wasn't a fly fisherman then; I wasn't much of anything other than a very (I thought) normal kid. And don't think for a minute that I'm going to try to draw some relevance from this, other than the fact that yes, I loved seeing the water, and yes, after all those years I've returned and am once again enjoying this very spot.
There's now a trailer park, for some reason called San Soucci, where the Park used to be. It's right across the river from what was up until a year ago a nursing school. And just off to the left (downstream) of the picture, spanning the river is an old trestle which, I'm told, once held a large pipe which carried water for residential use to the residents south of the river in that area. Many names, but from now on for me, it's Nat Park again. It's also a good reference point for people familiar (or not) with the river. Amazing how many people not from the area will know where Nat Park was.
I've had some fabulous fishing experiences over the years right in that section in the picture. Most of them have occurred at twilight or later. The fish here hang back, in the deeper water at the downstream end of this run, until darkness begins setting in, and the caddis start coming off. Then you can watch them, slowly working their way upstream into the faster water, chasing the emerging caddis. By dark there are splashy rises all up and down the the edges of the fast flows here, and that's why there's also a picture of my beloved soft hackle; it's the fly that I've developed over the years because of the sheer numbers of caddis that almost continually hatch here. It imitates a mature nymph swimming to the surface to take wing, and it has hooked more fish for me here than any other. The coloration almost exactly replicates that of the natural.
And the fish? Rainbows. Maybe a brown once in a while, or a cutbow, but mainly rainbows. They hit savagely, are extremely strong, and have adapted to their dark environment with dark coloration on their backs and striking copper-like hues running from the gills to the adipose.
I need to talk somebody into coming with me so I might be able to photograph the fish. As it is, by myself, it's almost impossible to handle a rod, the fish, and a camera while standing in that fast water... in the dark!