Monday, November 5, 2007

Fishing beautiful water, well.

I stumbled across this video teaser for a film coming out called "Drift." This steelhead segment was filmed on the lower Deschutes, where I just returned from (read "The Myth of the Steelhead.") There's a line in here which really sums up steelheading for me, and for that matter, all trout fishing.

"Fishing beautiful water, well."

That is all we can expect from fly fishing, and exactly what I strive for: fishing beautiful water well, and thoroughly. It's not just about the fish, it's about the place and the experience. If the fish are there, and they're happy, you may hook up. But if not, you move on to the next beautiful piece of water, and fish it. Well.


A day of fishing on the Strawberry quickly turned to a day of watching the brown trout spawn. There were a lot of empty redds, so it looked like we missed the main event, but some of the redds were really happening.

These were some LARGE fish, not the size you would normally see in the river. At least not the type I usually see. So my questions are:

Where do these fish live during the year, when they're not upriver getting some lovin?

And more importantly, how do I catch them?

que the Barry White...

Combat Fishing: Middle Provo River, UT

This is not a term we often use to describe the conditions on the rivers here in Utah. Alaska, sure. I actually enjoyed this experience in Alaska, standing shoulder to shoulder with dozens of anglers at the Sheep Creek Slough, shooting the shit while you wait for a tug. But bring this to the Middle Provo, and you have the potential for serious conflict. For one thing, this is trout fishing, not salmon fishing. And this is a relatively small river, not a huge Alaskan slough.

When you go to the Provo on a weekend, you've got to expect some crowds. But I have never been to the river when I simply couldn't find a decent reach to fish. This is incredible, seeing as how the Provo lies within an hours drive of over a million people. And the fishery seems to be doing remarkably well, despite the amount of pressure put on the resource. But my experience this weekend has soured me to this river, and I can hardly imagine returning any time soon.

Follow me back to this past Saturday...

After spending the evening at Bob's cabin in the State Park above Midway, I drove into town and found my way to the River Road access at the bunny farm. Several cars were already parked there, but such is to be expected. I was rigged and ready to go when I arrived, so I moseyed up river past several anglers until I reached an empty run, with Everett dog sauntering ahead through the fields. I began fishing the tailout of the run and managed to pick up a nice 10-12" Brownie on a midge nymph, just as I began to see the splashy rises signaling an emergence of some sort. I stopped to tie on a small befus emerger, and that's when the rodeo began.

As I was tying on my tiny fly, three men, led by a conspicuous guide-looking fellow weighed down with what looked like a combat vest, pockets bulging with tackle, approached the run I was working. They gestured and discussed their options. In my head I thought "they wouldn't...would they??" But the thoughts turned to utter disbelief as they waded across at the head of the pool, and positioned themselves within casting distance right in the meat of the run I was working.

The guide-looking fellow rigged what I thought to be his client's rod, and demonstrated an appropriate cast and drift (no use in mentioning that he was casting across a large back-eddy current which produced a nasty line drag scenario on each "demonstration" cast.) At this point, since my drop-jawed look of utter disbelief had failed to register a reaction from the other anglers, I proceeded to confront them.

"Hey, are you a guide?" I asked of their leader. (To me, what they had done would be completely inexcusable behavior for a professional guide and a significant breach of etiquette, and I was hoping to find out who he was working for.)

"No." he exclaimed.

"OK, then, do you know anything about river etiquette?"

"What is your point?" he replied shortly, obviously annoyed with my implication that somehow he was in the wrong. "I passed you wide and waded across, up-river."

"Obviously not." I uttered, answering myself. "You cut me off! You waded right into the run I was fishing!"

I don't remember what he said after that, but I was so pissed that I simply muttered "Asshole" as I walked on upstream in search of a quieter piece of water.

But, already my day had been ruined by the encounter. My mindset was shot. Instead of tuning into the river and enjoying myself, I found myself reliving the encounter over and over in my mind, stewing over it, and becoming increasingly frustrated. No way to fish.

At this point I had fished through the tailout of another run, and had made my way right into the meat. Fish were rising to emergers all around. I had hooked & "farmed" (to borrow a term from steelheading) a couple nice fish, but I had forgotten my bottle of floatant so I was struggling to keep my size 22 befus on top of the water. I was about to leave, when it happened again. I was, for the second time in so many hours, cut off from finishing out the run. This time by a young guy who came out from the bushes within casting distance and began pitching lures into the shadowy depths of the run. The rising fish were instantly put down. And I just didn't have it in me for another confrontation. So I spooled my line, whistled for Everett, and sulked back to my car.

When a river receives as much pressure as the Provo, those who visit it need to be respectful of other users, be they anglers, bird watchers, or anyone else. And while you can not expect to have the river to yourself anymore, you certainly don't need to bully your way into it either. Give each other some space for gods sake! If someone is fishing a run you'd like to fish, talk to them. Communication can go a long way in these instances. Ask if they mind you dipping in BENEATH them in the run, as most trout fishermen fish up-river (unless you're steelheading, then you would enter the run above, as you most often fish for steelhead down-river.) Or patiently wait your turn.

When this happens to me again, I hope I have the fortitude to use it as a teaching opportunity, instead of making it into a confrontation which ruins my day and probably the other person's as well. But to the folks on the Provo this weekend, if you are reading this (you know who you are): For Shame! Learn the rules or don't play the game.