Day 2 Float
Chad Johnson met Mike and I at the shop a little later than the day prior. The idea was to start our day a little lower in the system, wait for the push of water from the release to reach us and target some water which would hopefully have a larger population of post spawn browns who were hopefully geared up to eat. The generation schedule called for another short push of water lasting roughly 3 hours but the amount of water exiting the impoundment was going to be greater than what we had experienced the day prior.
Emotions were high as we were all exicted to see bigger water than the day before, but we were also keeping it real as the weather for the day was going to be slightly different. Chad really knows his stuff, literally minutes after he dropped his boat in the water, the front of the tidal wave caught up to us and passed in front of our very own eyes as Mike and I readied our gear for the day’s activities. Everything seemed to be falling into place, but as you and I both know, perception isn’t always 100% accurate.
After Chad motored us across river to attack our first bank, I paused for a moment and realized that the days weather conditions were a stark contrast from what we had experienced a mere 24 hours prior. We were dealing with blue bird skies and bright sun with a much stiffer breeze, in fact a nice ripple of chop was periodically forming on the waters surface which reminded me of many past excursions on my home waters of the New England coast chasing Striped Bass. The wind, although manageable, was going to be a factor all day and from what the forecast predicted, was going to increase as the day progressed to stiff 25-30's.
To be honest, the wind didn’t concern us, we both deal with wind a majority of the time we fish, but the high sun is always a crapshoot with brown trout, especially larger specimens. More often than not, its a 50-50 proposition with limited windows of opportunity, but Mike, Chad and I were gonna keep our hopes high and give it our best shot.
Things looked promising from the on set, we ended up boating a couple of quality browns literally in our first couple of drifts down our first or second bank. To be honest I can’t quite recall, but at any rate we were feeling pretty confident our game plan was going to work to our advantage. We weren’t met with dinosaurs, instead we tangled with a few clean, colored up browns in the 16 inch range that were hell bent on a big meal.
Our morning was a ritual of persistence, casting, working our flies back to the boat, repeat. This went on for several hours with the occasional fish in the net, but nothing eclipsing the magic twenty inch mark. It was not for a lack of sexy water I might say, our flies had gone through some serious lies just without any true tanks wanting to show themselves. We seemed to be picking up our fish on similar flies from the day prior, just slightly larger and brighter. Ice picks and Masked Avengers in two tone combos of olive/white, chartreuse/white and olive/yellow were getting relatively consistent attention as we traversed the river.
What made it a little harder was Steve had hit us up in the first hour of our float as their boat had landed a 27 inch kyped up gator in the first 100 yards of their day. When you catch wind of that early on it sets the bar rather high for the day no matter how you wanna slice it, so I’m sure Mike and I subconsciously were working harder (not quite as hard as Chad on the oars mind you, carting our big asses around) to try and at least put a respectable fish in the net.
A little past midday we decided to lick our wounds a bit and recharge, meeting up with Steve and his crew for the day, Chris Franzen and Alan Broyhil for a shore lunch. After exchanging experiences over a solid lunch of hot soup and sandwiches we noticed that the theme was pretty much similar in our partners boat aside from the gator; relatively slow action courtesy of a bright sun and short push of water.
After our midday gluttony we shoved off and motored to a stretch of water that we hadn’t thrown our flies through which was flanked by a series of islands and long braids with some exceptional bank structure. When we slid into position and I first caught glimpse of our target water I was immediately getting that feeling that something good was gonna happen here shortly. For the next hour we were casting to some very sexy streamer water. The soft edges created by bank depressions that jut out into the current, with a plethora of deeper drop offs adjacent immediately off the river bank are the type of water any serious streamer nut longs for. These are all some of my favorite lies when the water is up and typically will hold a fish or two from my experiences.
After we stuck a couple smaller fish, we made our way down a long riffle with some of the same aforementioned bank structure, only this time the edges were deep enough to hold some rather large boulders that were completely submerged. As I cast my fly behind one of these oversized potatoes and let it sink in the water column, on my first or second strip I felt an abrupt stop in my line and what appeared to be either a head shake or that dreaded submerged branch wavering in the current. I strip set rather poorly, as I was in mid retrieve when this had happened and Chad saw my rod tip bent and bouncing and screamed out stick it!
In my half assed attempt to clear my line I somehow managed to keep a tight grip on the line and strip set a second time although my confidence on the hook finding its mark wasn’t super high as I was taken a bit by surprise. Within a second after my doing so, a bright buttery shape ghosted up from the river bottom directly behind that boulder and was beginning to shake its head in anger, and the mood in our boat had completely changed, not to mention my sixth sense was spot on and a grin came across my face.
In short notice the buttery slab was in the net and we were making our way towards the bank to snap some pictures. Steve and his crew were on the opposite side of the river after dropping out of a side channel and returning a fish to the river themselves, so they slid over to see what all the ruckus was. Every brown trout over twenty inches is memorable to me, but this fish had a little more to write home about. Out of all my years chasing these beautiful creatures, I can say with a very high degree of certainty, this was by far one of the most spectacular looking browns that I had ever laid eyes on, even though it wasn't the largest i've tangled with by any means.
The coloration and spotting patterns that nature had painted this fish with were something I will never forget, and I am elated we captured the creature on camera so that I could share them with you. Although pictures can capture the beauty of a fish, they often do not capture the feeling they give the angler who is overcome by what they have in hand at that very moment, and I am certain many of you reading this can relate to what I am speaking of. Words cannot describe the feeling you get when you hold a fish of this nature, although not a giant by any means, what this guy may have lacked in size , it sure as hell made up for it all in beauty.
After releasing our fish back to the river, we spent the rest of the day methodically picking apart the river with not a whole lot to show for it. We managed to put a few more smaller specimens in the net, but after several fly changes and some sore arms our day ended at dark with just that one memorable fish to show for it. At days end, Steve mentioned that he would be coming by the cabin with dinner shortly after getting off the river.
Within an hours time from our river departure, we were enjoying some pulled pork, rice and beans and a few cold beers with Steve and his wife reflecting on our day. Although we were all battered from the days fishing, we had some great stories to tell and another great day sharing some water together. Dave Hossler and crew joined us for chow and we all hung out for a few hours of storytelling before we turned in for the night. Mike and I both had classes to teach the next day before the main event, and wanted to catch up on our rest. Mike was kicking the day off in class first while I was meeting up with Brian Wise for a short morning float and interview for his Streamer Chronicles series. Day break was gonna come up fast so we decided to call it a night.
TO BE CONTINUED.....