It is a bright morning, finally, this second day of summer.
I crawl, squinty-eyed and wary, out of my sodden hole, staring at the sky in disbelief. And why not. This has been, for the area, the third wettest May and June ever recorded. More rain has fallen in this time period only twice since someone decided it would be fun to accumulate this type of data.
It occurs to me, as I stand above my river observing, that the debt of moisture accrued through the winter months is now being dutifully repaid. In full, with interest.
The island directly below the bridge is submerged in the swift-moving waters. Ten days ago from this vantage point I watched a white-tail and her two youngsters moving with ease about the island, having taken refuge there from predators who also frequent the area in search of a meal. I wonder when it was she decided that the rising water was going to usurp her sanctum, if her young ones made the what must have been an arduous swim to higher ground safely.
Downstream a couple of hundred yards a blue heron stands knee deep, eyes focused at his feet, in a softer flow. Last year on this date, according to my journals, he would have been standing in slower, knee deep water some fifteen feet closer to the lies of hundreds of adolescent trout, patiently waiting for that split second moment of distraction and a tasty bite. I sense his frustration, although it is probably closer to the truth to say that it is mine I am attuned to.
For the past several days, as I walked the muddy trails to my scattered viewpoints, my thoughts inevitably turned to strategies. It is apparent to me, especially after today's observations, that it's still going to be a decent stretch of time before my usual venues will be fishable. Oh, I danced around with the idea of altering my modes of operation, but this river is the type that won't allow any application of methodry until the flows have receded enough to at least allow access to the fishable waters. Years passed and flies hung up and lost on submerged vegetation have taught me that. At low flows, the bushes that line the prime spots are right at the edge of the rocky shorelines. Now, they are four to six feet beneath the surface yet still begging me to 'go ahead, Steve, swing your soft hackle here...', which in the past would impatiently attempt, often with frustrating results.
This is a frustrating river to fish when the flows are still high for a number of reasons, even when a viable entry point can be found. History has taught me that despite the relative security offered by the shoreline and its proliferance of vegetation, most (not all but close to it) of the trout residing here choose the deeper water. One of the main reasons for this are the rapidly increasing populations of osprey and blue heron, who have been here now for several weeks in search of food for their young. I have, so far this year, also sighted a number of otters, whose abilities in the water are really a sight to behold. They are amazingly swift, agile swimmers who have no trouble whatsoever in catching unwary trout who venture too close to the edges looking for safe haven. I have seen it first hand, and the spectacle is humbling.
Also, the deeper water also provides a more constant food source. This is a river whose flows, and therefore edges, shrink considerably as the summer months progress. The countless millions of blue-winged olives, caddis, midges, and others who have deposited eggs in the periphery of the river's early season flows are not likely to see their offspring survive. These rocky edges will dry in the heat of the sun as the river recedes, leaving only a skeleton of water with life perpetuating ability as the nymphs mature. And, as the flows grow again in the late fall, those lies that were once so easily in reach are now a lengthy cast, if not a pipe dream, away. It is so frustrating to watch a late September mid-river flotilla of blue-winged olives being casually gulped by trout that are suddenly out of reach. But, that is the reality of the season of fishing here. So, when the flows decrease and the river allows me more choices, I am here constantly, searching out avenues of travel to access areas where often the hatches, and therefore the trout have often gone unnoticed. Even though I am fishing in the center of the city, there are still those places! That will always draw and amaze me.
It is the twenty-first of June. Last year on this day, flows were less than half what they are today. By the first of July, despite the heaviest snowfall ever, I was well into my third day on the river. This year's rains have delayed my beginning, and have also deigned that I change my way of thinking. I will not wait until flows are what they were a year ago. Instead, I will alter my method.
My type three full sink line is now in my vest, along with a new box brimming with big uglies. My twelve foot five-weight will probably be the rod of choice for a couple of weeks. In fact, all this re-alignment in thinking has gotten me more than a little excited about the prospects...
It's a long walk back to the car. I stop to watch an osprey circling downstream. It is soon joined by smaller version and I hear the high-pitched lessons being administered.
Summer has come to my river. It is nearly time.