Composed on a scrap of paper after a few Doublehauls and half a pint of Maker's Mark.
11pm, Nov. 13, 2012, Bobcat Gulch Campground, near North Fork, ID.
The fire is growing faint, because you didn''t want to use too much of your precious wood. It had to last, but it's close to bedtime, so screw it.
You are afraid. You know that now. Afraid to fish this alone. Sometimes, it's hard to get someone to come along with you on these "missions". This mission was all about steelhead on the swing. You always hope to cajole one of your buddies into coming along, but it's late fall, the snow is flying, and feet turn to numb stumps within a few minutes, even in leak-free waders. When there's ice in your guides after five casts, camping is not for the faint of heart. And so you are alone. And thus, you are afraid.
Sitting around the fire, hour two, you're trying to stop talking to yourself. You've gone over the day's fishing at least 100 times. Was that a bite, there on the dangle? You thought you saw a swirl, or was that just your imagination, a mirage caused by your fly breaking free from some underwater obstruction. After hours without a bite, it's hard to tell. Were your flies getting into the strike zone? The water temp is under 40°F, so they probably aren't real active, but maybe if you lengthen your cast, mend a little earlier, get the flies dangling sooner, slow it down. Maybe if you would have...aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhh!
It's easy to scream out loud when there's nobody around for miles.
You tried to get into your favorite run early today. The boat ramp was empty and silent as you slipped downstream at dawn. No public access other than by boat. It's on the far side, too. There's no other way in there. Unless you know the property owner and have a pontoon boat, just like the guy who was swinging his way through, when you came around the corner. He wasn't hooking any either, though, so that was comforting. It's so frustrating knowing you could be doing everything absolutely right, and still not catch shit.
You want to stop this idle chatter, the inner monologue, but you can't. You decide to write it down, so you don't go totally crazy. Maybe you'll hook a fish tomorrow or maybe you'll get blanked again. Maybe you'll be swept away in the current bound for the Pacific, trying to cross to hit that river left run that you know is holding fish. Maybe you'll make it and hook into one of those sacred salmonids, now over 800 miles from the ocean.
No matter what happens, you'll be alone, and anything could happen. That's steelheading, for you.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Saturday, December 29, 2012
|Mike C. deep in Far East.|
|Josh and beautiful Salmon River hen|
|Jay Dixon and Al Pils having a skwala moment.|
|Jon Bentzel testing a cornice.|
Later in the spring, I got to learn the ways of the lower Missouri, with a lot of thanks to Jay Dixon and Phil Camera, who were both instrumental in the steep learning curve. And I have to also thank Marc Betourney for selling me the sweetest used drift boat in Montana.
|Ahhh, the South Fork.|
Then there's the magic of steelhead on the swing. I can't say enough about my new found love for these amazing fish and the incredible journeys they make. I can't wait for next fall. I'll be that much further along and hopefully we'll have a bigger run.
If I forgot to mention anyone, all apologies. Hope you all have a wonderful 2013! Happy New Year!!!
Saturday, December 15, 2012
|High Park - Early Morning|
As usual, Missoulians have been slow to catch on that winter is here, especially above 5,500 feet. That's fine with all of us, because the ski slopes have been a ghost town, and the snow has been awesome. In the past week, we've had a few adventures both in and out of bounds, and conditions are improving every day. All the rain we received in late November and early December fell as snow up high, and although the mid-elevations are still catching up, by next week things should be skiing pretty well from top to bottom at all the area hills.
We haven't been out of bounds up at the Bowl yet, but there's been a steady stream of folks on the skin track. In-bounds has been so good that we haven't been that motivated to hike. The bowls opened yesterday and we raged it pretty hard. Ten laps in about 4 and 1/2 hours, pow all the way. The outrun is definitely challenging. Coverage is excellent until you get down to about 5400 and the entire mountain is open except for Griz Chute and Longhorn. Still a lot of obstacles so be on your toes. Having early season rubber legs in the Chicken Chute makes it extra interesting. I'd advise not drinking and riding, but you probably will anyway;) Also, when you get tired, take a break. It's not worth losing the rest of your season to get in one more run today. There's a lot of snow yet to come.
|Rob getting nasty in "Chinaman's"|
Looks like a good sized storm is on the way for early in the week. The Bowl is open 7 days a week starting Thursday. Let's hope they make it Tuesday! See you on the slopes and remember, in the sidebar you can find all our favorite snow and weather links.