Sunday, August 27, 2017

Yeah, just bass fishin'

It was a steep ditch bank, all right, but that didn't keep Jack from backing his drift boat trailer down to the point of almost tipping. He tied a rope on the boat to slow it a bit when it came off but I'm not sure how effective it was. I still think it was the alder and willow brush at the bottom that did most of the braking. It's a good thing that brush was there because we still had a sixty foot drag to get the boat in the water, and if not for the brush on each side of the path that boat would have torpedoed itself down the bank and I wouldn't say the two of us could have stopped her. That was the start of a good day on the river.

Summer is slipping away quickly and though it's darn near impossible to get in too much fishing, it's just as hard to get enough. Two river trips were canceled to thunderstorms. We don't mind fishing in the rain, of course, and thunder is exciting, but high winds can ruin a trip and nobody stays on the water when there's lightning. Then there are the things that come up. Some are annoyances, some are necessary. That's life. All said, though, I'd be a poor one to complain for I've been out fishing more than a lot of folks.

Jack took the first shift rowing his boat while I tossed deer hair poppers at the bank. The smallmouth bass were active and I'd hooked seven or eight before I took the oars after thirty minutes. Most were on the small side but steady action was welcome – the last couple of floats consisted of lots of casting between fish. Captain Jack picked this stretch of water not only for it's population of bass and muskies but for the little pressure it received, likely because of the tough access. We caught bass throughout the very pleasant sunny warm day. Now and then we'd come to a section of river we took for muskie water and we'd grab the big rods and toss those chicken-size flies (Chicken-size flies – what a song title!) hoping for a monster, but to no avail.

We did see a muskie, however, when it followed and hit Jack's big streamer without hooking up. We'd drifted into a wide, deep run in front of a riverside cabin where two folks sat in lawn chairs watching. When the big fish splashed and missed I lowered the anchor so Jack and I could bombard it with our offerings and hope to coax a strike. The fellow on the bank apparently decided to show us flyfishers how it's done and walked to river's edge with a heavy casting outfit to throw a multi-hooked musky plug twice as far as we could cast and skated the thing across the surface. It made a pretty good impression of a young duckling running across the water, but he couldn't entice a strike either. Jack and I figured he knew that fish by name and probably had caught it before. We moved on.

Speaking of ducks and muskies. Scotty and I were on our favorite muskie river earlier this summer and I was happy to have landed one on a bushy new fly I'd tied. Then I was on the oars easing us downstream when we started a pair of Canada geese from the bank into the stream. Then went a single gosling about the size of a grown mallard. Only one. We watched for awhile as the gosling swam along the shoreline to catch it's parents. Scott took to casting again while I kept an eye on the geese. Suddenly the gosling disappeared in a huge splash and was gone! Just gone! Taken by a muskie? What else? We once watched a muskie chase a sucker under our boat and up to the bank before catching it and returning to swim under the boat with the sucker crossways in it's jaws, but I'd never seen anything like that goose disappearing. Wow.

No matter the species it can be tough to remain cool when you see the fish, or it's wake streaking at your fly. If it's a big muskie we all know to leave the rod tip down and strip set. Easier said than done. It takes some kind of nerves not to jerk the rod back and sometimes pull the fly right from the fishes mouth. I think I hook half of my fish when I'm not paying attention. I tend to get distracted by the scenery – a muskrat on the bank, an eagle high in a tree, a loon swimming in it's own reflection – and just the other day I was in Tony's boat looking the other way when the nicest bass of the day hit my popper and hooked itself. I love fishing topwater for the explosive strikes, but you won't see 'em if you're not watching. I can't tell you how many times drifting nymphs under an indicator for trout one of my partners yelled while I was gawking around, “Hey, you got one!”

It's been a rainy and cool couple of days. Pretty darn cool for August. The other morning I woke to 39 degrees. The maples are turning and a friend complained about switching the heat on in their house. We haven't turned the heat on, but I might light the stove if this keeps up. I'm not done fishing by a long shot, but this kind of weather has my dogs restless and I'm feeling the pull of bird season, myself. I've caught some good fish this summer, but I think I'm short in the brook trout department. I need to remedy that, and it would be good to use some fly-sized flies again.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Good Man

He sat his five year old son in the middle of the boat along with Queenie, a yellow Labrador, and poled them into the marsh. After pushing the boat into the bullrushes he stepped out in his waders, grabbed a little stool made from a 2x4 with a piece of plywood nailed on top and pushed it into the mud to sit on. He was only a few feet from the boat, watching out over the boy and the decoys and occasionally whispered, “...quiet now, here they come.” The boy watched fascinated when the ducks appeared overhead and his father rose with shotgun and dropped a duck or two into the decoys. “You got 'em, Dad!” The big splash of Queenie hitting the water was exciting and the boy stared wide-eyed as she returned with the prize. “She got it, Dad, Queenie's got it!” Laughter followed a shaking Labrador retriever, the boy held a duck with shivering hands while the man grasped the boys shoulder as if the boy had done the shooting.

Often cold and wet, sometimes bored, the boy couldn't get enough of hunting with his father. And his father seldom went without his son. As time went by he taught the boy to shoot, the dogs changed from a range of retrievers and spaniels, and they hunted the marshes and upland as partners – or so the man made it seem. And they fished the rivers and lakes, often with Mom and Sis. Unforgettable, it may have been for recreation, it may have been for fun, it may have been for spending time together. There's no way to measure the appreciation and lessons that were being instilled.

He came from a large family, that man, and hunting and fishing were important sources of food. Still, he took his game fairly, over a dog, wing shooting. That's style. And he probably had many opportunities to cheat – maybe a bird or trout over the limit – but that wouldn't occur to him. That's class.

He fished for trout, walleye, pike, and panfish to supply suppers, but dawn would often find him rowing along the lily pads tossing big Jitterbugs and Crazy Crawlers with an old South Bend casting reel. He loved the explosive surface strikes of bass and it was all sport for him. He taught the boy casting and how to thumb a spinning spool of braided line with just enough pressure to avoid a backlash, and that took patience, lots of it!

He hunted and fished when he could and worked hard making a home for his family. There wasn't much time for reading the outdoor magazines, but he was the kind of man those writers wrote about. He served in WWII but never bragged or boasted about himself, though he would sure talk about his family, his friends, and his ever present beloved canine companions.

 There's no stopping time, and he walked the woods with his spaniel until he just couldn't, anymore. So he stayed home caring for his lawn and flowers, and helping the neighbors. In his cupboard he had a bowl full of his neighbors house keys. They all trusted him to watch their homes when they were away. All of them. He and his springer spaniel Otis were known all over town. He was the kindest man I've ever met. Even in his last hours his eyes still twinkled and he managed a smile. A son's hero.

Born the first day of spring 90 years ago, Dad passed last Monday. God bless. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Paddlin' & Portaging

There used to be a time when tripping into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area was all about the fishing. Walleyes and Lake Trout were the quarry and coolers of ice were the first of the gear loaded into #4 Duluth packs. The melting ice provided a little cold drinking water but the weight of the cooler was a necessary burden to carry fish fillets home. The canoes were heavy aluminum and tough enough to run up on the rocky landings at portages. Big Ed did the planning and everything was packed at his house, the headquarters for our expeditions. Brother Don manned the bow paddle of Ed's Alumacraft and always seemed kind of grouchy but catching and eating fried walleye would put a smile on his face. I was paired up with a variety of partners, depending on who was game and most often it was Holmsy in the front of my Grumman – a good partner always in good humor.
The destination was one of three lakes, each requiring multiple portages to get to. Holmsy and I, being in our 20s and half the age of Big Ed and Don, each carried two packs the first trip over the portage then went back for more. Looking at the amount of gear and packs stuffed into the canoes you might think our trips would be weeks long. Three or four days was a typical duration depending on when we'd had our fill of fresh walleye in camp with enough to bring limits home, along with who had to be back at work and when.

Times change, of course, and canoes got a whole lot lighter and way more expensive. Gear became high-tech and before long we were all saving up and buying new tents, bags, pads, stoves, and packs to put them in. I became fascinated with the idea of solo tripping in the wilderness area. Suddenly I was all about the paddling, traveling and exploring the lakes and portages of the BWCAW and Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park on my own. Spending weeks each year alone in canoe country was a passion and I thought nothing of getting dropped off in Atikoken, Ontario and paddling different routes south through 30 or more of the hundreds of lakes back to Ely, MN. Or putting in at a western entry and traveling the border route to see the various falls before circling north or south through small lakes and beaver dammed streams back to my starting point. It's beautiful country and the fishing was still there, obviously, and enjoying some fantastic angling along the way is another benefit of canoe travel. I can't remember all the camps I've pitched, or all the portages, but the experiences stand out.
I don't get there as much, anymore. It seems there's more people up there, now. And the reservation system took away the spur-of-the-moment capability of going whenever the urge hit. Not to mention the years collected and added to my age. But a trip was due and I was ready.


Camping along the border and lacking the extra permitting to enter Canada, I stayed on the U.S. side. Walleyes were there to catch, along with smallmouth bass and pike. Fly rod, canoe, and breeze can be a frustrating combo but when it's right it's... well, right. There was a moose followed without bothering with the camera, and pictographs. There was flat water and currents, wind and calm, sunshine and rain. Portages aren't getting easier, and this trip took nineteen of them and several camps before I pushed into the last landing, the takeout, tired and satisfied. Grateful for the chance –and thankfully able.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

They're called panfish for a reason...

I sat in my truck listening to public radio and watching a women attempting to back her boat trailer down the ramp. An old fellow in a SUV pulled in front of her and was whirling his arm around like a windmill trying to get her to turn the wheel one way or the other. Of course, she was looking back and couldn't see him, which is just as well because nobody understands that kind of signal. She finally got the trailer angled into the water and hopped onto the dock to watch her husband, who'd up till then had been out in the boat bobbing in the whitecaps, drive their boat onto the trailer. His first try failed. He got the bow on but the strong wind pushed the hull sideways and he was crossed on the trailer. Revving reverse got him back into the lake and he circled around for another try. Same result. I set my coffee cup in the holder and walked down to help the third effort. With knee high boots I waded out and grabbed the side of the boat before the wind could turn it, hooked the winch strap and the next thing you knew their boat was safely up and dripping on the parking lot.

Twenty minutes before I was at the less popular south landing watching waves crash over the dock and pound the gravel ramp. No wonder no one was there. So I drove around to the bigger concrete launch where those folks were just taking out. I think they thanked me – I heard something – but in the howling wind I couldn't be sure. I got back in my truck and spent five minutes just looking at the rolling whitecaps and felt just a tinge of hesitation. I wasn't worried about safety, it wasn't that bad, but I knew it'd be a heck of a time trying to fish the spot I had in mind with that heavy north wind. There was only one other vehicle in the big lot, looked like most were waiting for a better day.

I'd received a tip from a friend that the crappies were in shallow and biting, but four days of cold rain kept me off the lake. Then the sun came out and brought wind. It didn't seem bad at home but driving north it pummeled and rocked my truck. When I saw the lake it was like, wow! I'd came to fish, however, so I backed my boat into the water, on the upwind side of the dock. It was cold in that wind so my heavy coat felt good and I pulled a knit hat down over my ears. Another boat approached as I backed away from the dock and the gal in the front seat yelled, “You're gonna' get wet!” I pointed the bow into the wind and took off. A couple of odd swells broke and sent a light spray over the gunwale but I wasn't going to get wet.

On the drive up I'd stopped at the Country Store/Bait Shop and carried my minnow bucket past the woman behind the counter and straight to the bait tanks in the back. There were two teenage boys passing a fishing rod back and forth but no one else in the building. I dipped some water into the bucket and added a small scoop of crappie minnows. Up at the register I told the woman what I had and she asked if I'd gotten them myself. It seemed obvious, but when I offered to show her she just said, “5.09.” I dislike buying minnows but decided to hedge my bet – I was thinking about a fish fry and wasn't confident the fly rod would be the way to get it.

I turned the boat into the big part of the lake and bounced out into the waves and whitecaps. The reef I wanted was a mile away but there was no way I'd be able to hold the boat there. I stopped lee-side of an island and anchored up. If the crappies were in shallow this rocky island looked promising. I tossed a minnow-tipped jig out with my light spinning rod and sat back for some bobber watching, coffee sipping, and trying to come up with a plan. After a while with no action I motored up and eased into a protected bay with the kind of rocky shoreline that had me rigging the fly rod.

100 feet away the wind roared and waves busted into whitecaps, the sheer line as true as a laser, but on this side the water showed only the slightest riffling and I was soon down to my tee-shirt in the warm sun. I cast easily to the bank, operating the electric motor with my foot. It's a good way to fish, slower than a river drift, a chance to really work the water and go over it again if desired. When you're in the zone it's easy to forget everything else but the rocky bank slipping past. Cast and strip becomes the intended activity and good casting is it's own reward. Sometimes it takes a fish strike to remind that you are, after all, fishing.

A little white Murdoch type streamer was on the tippet, I was still prospecting for crappies, but the water looked like bass cover to me, and it wasn't long before a nice smallmouth was under the fly but wouldn't bite. Working along the bank, it took two more bass flashing on the fly before I changed to a pink hairball leech, wondering if the bright streamer would trigger a strike on that bright day. Nothing. So I clipped off the pink and went with a black wooly bugger for a natural approach. Stripping the line on the fourth cast it stopped dead, and I first thought it was snagged. Then it pulled back and shook and a hefty smallmouth bass was putting up a fight! I could see the bronzeback several feet deep darting before it rocketed up and out of the water. The day suddenly took a different turn and this was more like it! It was a good bass that taped just under 20 inches. Satisfied for the moment, I drifted out into the bay to eat my sandwich, finish the last of the coffee, and gaze out at the rough lake. An osprey splashed down nearby. Perfect.

Sandwiches. When I was a kid my dad took me duck hunting and we always packed along a box full of fried egg sandwiches and ham sandwiches. I never grew to be real superstitious, but came to believe a ham sandwich was the correct hunting trip lunch. We always shot ducks. Now, I'll eat most anything and enjoy it, but things do seem to go a little better with a ham sandwich along.

Two more bass were landed along that shoreline before I worked around a point and into another small bay. A couple of light strikes near a submerged boulder had me excited but no hookups so I turned back and cast again. Fish on, and I was surprised to see a nice crappie had taken the big black streamer. Where there's one there're likely more so I dropped anchor and changed flies again, going back to the white Murdoch. Crappie action can be fast and it was. Nearly every cast landed a fish and a bit of greedy guilt set in as I hurried to unhook one and catch another. Too soon there was a limit – the makings for that fish fry – in the live well.

Out on the lake was like a different climate. I motored back to the landing lurching and surfing through wind and waves wearing my coat again. When I had the boat loaded an old pickup drove up and the driver said it was too rough for him on the lake, he'd try tomorrow. He had an empty pail in his truck so he went home with five bucks worth of minnows. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trout trip

OK, I was wrong. Or maybe I was right. Perhaps it was being right by being wrong. Looking forward to our Montana fishing trip I tied up a bunch of flies hoping at least one of them would be the answer and I'd be pulling in big trout while sharing that certain fly with my companions, thus making me the hero. Past experience, however, has proven my best intentions and efforts are often for naught. It seems no matter what patterns are tied there is always some new hot fly that catches all the fish, and I don't have it. So, to put it simply: I tied flies suspecting they would be wrong, and I was right.

Our cabin was located one other cabin and three trailered drift boats away from the fly shop, so a short morning stroll for coffee and advice seemed routine. I've said it before – folks running fly shops have to make money, but they won't try it by selling you a pig-in-a-poke. They can't guarantee anything, but I've come to learn their suggestions are mighty close to fly fishing gospel. If you don't wanna' ask outright, listen for the subtle, like when we were peering over the massive fly trays and someone mentioned they were almost out of #16 Rainbow Warriors, the guy behind the counter smiled and said, “There's a reason for that.”

If there was a downside it was that the river was higher than I'd ever seen it the few other times I've fished it. There were bugs on the water, bwo's and midges, and a few caddis hatches but the trout were just not rising. It's hard to know if anyone actually knew why but the water level got the blame. Seemed reasonable. So we fished nymphs and tossed steamers.

I'm impressed with sixteen inch trout every time, but those were the exception. The trout we caught were thick and strong and we taped plenty that made the 20 inch range. A few ran an inch less, and a few were several inches more but it's the size of the fight that gets your heart thumpin' and it didn't take long to realize a 5x tippet wasn't going to cut it on those jumping Missouri River rainbows and deep pulling browns.

Days on the river with good friends; great suppers grilled outdoors; fine whiskey and stories makes for easy sleep and sweet dreams, and so another Montana trip is in the books.

Monday, May 1, 2017

going fishing

The first time I went to Montana I brought my three English setters, a shotgun, a fly rod and backpacking gear. The mission was to meet up with some friends from Wisconsin and Idaho for some early season sharptail grouse hunting. I was to drive to Culbertson to purchase a license from the hardware store then drive north watching for a roadside information sign that would have a handwritten note tacked to it with the directions to our camp location. There were no cell phones in those days, so if I didn't find the sign or note there'd be no way to contact those friends I was to meet. That's how it was done then and no one thought a thing about it – heck, it was simple, what could go wrong?

After driving to the other side of Minnesota I crossed North Dakota only stopping for gas and letting the dogs air out. Montana highways had no speed limit in those days and I spotted a half dozen white crosses along the ditch in the first few miles of that two lane Big Sky highway. Some six hundred miles from home I parked in front of the bank in Culbertson and walked over to the store. The gal selling my license invited me to some sort of round-up/festival the town was having that weekend. Sounded fun but I had other plans.

Northbound I found the sign and note, then camp and companions, and after several days of good shooting, good food, and sleeping under the stars we split up to head home. Except I didn't. I hadn't seen enough of Montana so I headed west to the Rockies for several days of backpacking with my dogs.

Good memories were made, but two events stand out from that trip. On the first day hunting I shot a true triple with a borrowed auto-loader over my pointing setter, and in the mountains I found a little alpine lake that I fished without results. On my way back out I ran into an old cowboy who liked my dogs. For some reason I confessed I'd been fishing without a Montana fishing license and he surprised me stating I didn't need one. So I'm thinking, Montana – no speed limit, legally drink a beer while driving, and no need for a fishing license! "No," the old-timer explained, “You don't need a Montana license, you're in Wyoming.”

Since that trip I've been out west a number of times, always for the fishing. I've had the pleasure of angling on a number of fine Montana trout rivers. Some were big, wide and strong and others meandered lazily through the landscape and a short cast would have your fly on the far bank. They all held trout in numbers I'd never seen.

In preparation for the first western fly fishing trip, I did a minimal amount of research and concluded the elk hair caddis was the dry fly to have. So I tied a box full and another box with an assortment of standard nymphs and hoped I wouldn't wear out my net the first day. It was the biggest case of over-confidence since Custer stood at Little Big Horn and told his troops not to take any prisoners.

It turned out I was sort of on the right track with the caddis flies, but it took helpful folk at a friendly fly shop to steer me to the correct species of caddis. That's when I started catching fish and realized it's not only OK to seek some advice, it's a darn good idea. I tie flies for every trip and sometimes have a few of the right ones, but don't rely on this years flies to work on next years fish. There was the time on a spring blue-wing-olive hatch that I caught fish on a #20 imitation with a white post wing. So I tied a bunch for the next year but the fish wouldn't touch 'em. The fly shop guys showed me what was working so naturally I bought some and caught trout with their #20 bwo tied with a black wing. Hhhmmm, go figure.

This time next week the boys and I will be trout fishing in Montana. Road tripping with a couple of driftboats in tow, our cabin is waiting and I'm looking forward to it. I'm tying some flies for the trip – drys, emergers, nymphs, midges, etc. I'll go down to size 20 but between fat rough fingers and tired eyesight they never turn out all that well so it's likely some money will be exchanged at the fly shop. Still, I have to believe some of my stuff will work, it always has. I actually have quite a few flies left over from past trips so I probably don't need many more, but there's inspiration that comes from the tying along with picturing one of those flies lodged in the corner of a 20-incher's mouth.

I can't wait.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

OK, it's spring and there's a lot to like about these springtime early mornings. I'm sipping hot coffee and watching impatient robins hopping about the frosty yard searching out a daybreak meal. Sure, the early bird gets the worm and I'm no expert but my guess is the worms will stay tucked a little deep until the sun knocks the frost from the grass. Still, the robins sing a happy song and seem confident breakfast is on the way. The winter birds have left, though there's always a few resident chickadees around. A flock of juncos are busy under the feeder and a few purple finches stopped by this morning.

We're enjoying a normal spring this year and it's a welcome change from last year when it felt like winter lasted right up to summer. Bright colored mallards sit in water filled ditches and beautiful wood ducks are checking brushy streams and backwoods ponds. Grouse are drumming all day long and it's hard to stay indoors in such inviting weather.

Gabby has been finding grouse and woodcock in good cover daily. I like spring training – it's like October hunting but there's nobody else out there and I don't have to fret over my poor shooting.

Folks who hunt and train bird dogs live for this kind of spring. Like the trout fisherman who watches the stream open up and settle after the snow-melt, bird dog folks see the snow disappear from favorite covers and turn dogs loose to find returning woodcock and surviving grouse. If there's something better for a young bird dog than spring exposure to wild birds I don't know what it is.

Pencil popple, dog hair aspen – call it what you will – it stirs the soul with a promise of birds after a long winter, and if those thickets go unnoticed by most, all the better. The best of it won't last long so we enjoy it while we can. The grouse and woodcock will be nesting soon, and we'll leave them alone then. But stream trout season opened yesterday, so things should be fine. 
As always, I'm grateful to be living where and how I do. I don't, and won't argue politics or religion with anyone, but it surprises me to hear folks claim not to believe in much of anything other than what's in their immediate grasp. They obviously haven't seen the things I've seen.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A full day

There's always that ting of anxiousness when you make that last turn down to the trailhead leading to the river. It's the middle of the week so you don't expect too many vehicles to be crammed into the small parking area, at least you hope not, but you never know. It's a beautiful spring morning and word is the steelhead have been running for over a week.

I'd heard the weekend crowds were pretty heavy so I was pretty happy to see only two vehicles parked in the lot. It was nearing late morning when I got there so some of the earlybirds had probably come and gone. I was pulling on my waders when another truck pulled up and the lone angler came over to say hello and greet Gabby, who was running around checking things out. He'd been a couple miles downstream that morning and though he wasn't giving up, he'd had no action and figured the run was about over. He said he was going to check a hole downriver and I was quietly relieved he wasn't going the same way I was. Well then, I told him, I'd go up the other way.

I hiked in and looked down the steep bank at a favorite run I like to fish and was a little surprised no one was in it. After a clumsy clamor down the hill I stepped into the river between  the snow and ice still hanging on the bank and used a walking stick I remembered to bring for a wading staff. I had to get out in the river a little ways to clear the overhang stream-side brush and I don't dance around those slick rocks as well as I used to so the stick was welcome in the steady current. It hung off my wading belt by a cord while I fished.

A size 14 prince nymph was my choice under a single split shot and and indicator set at about six feet. This rig has worked before for this sort of fishing where the casting is basically slinging it upstream and watch it go by. Slowly working my way upstream I had my eye on a promising hole ahead. The rig seemed to be right, ticking bottom and now and then hanging up. I broke off a couple of nymphs trying to pull free and twice I got lazy and tweaked a hook that straightened on snags.

Other than enjoying the sunny day listening to the river and the grouse drumming up in the woods there wasn't much happening and I was thinking about hiking up to another spot. Then it struck! I didn't need an indicator to tell me a fish was on – the line darted sideways and the rod jerked to the steelhead barreling downstream! Fish on! Game on! There's nothing like the thump and tug and when it cleared the water I suddenly wished someone was watching. After some fun minutes I was gaining line and the fish was coming closer – and that's when I realized I'd left my net in the truck. Well, I'd hand land it out in the river, have a look and let it go. I got it to about a rod length away when it pulled deep and was gone. The hook broke. The one I'd bent back with my hemostats. Good going, dummy. Standing in a river feeling like an idiot.

The second steelhead came 30 minutes later, smaller than the first but strong and bright. When it tired I grabbed it's tail and held it up for a look. Without a net to hold it I couldn't mess with the camera, so I lowered it to the river leaving me with just a story. By then I needed to get out of the water and warm up a bit so I hiked back to the truck to see Gabby and get my net. The fellow who came in after me was gone but there were a few other vehicles there. I'd planned to run Gabby on some spring woodcock on the way home, but there was still some time to fish.

I'd already hooked two fish and short of falling in the river there wasn't much that could go wrong with the day, so with net hanging on my back I headed the other way and half slid down the hill into the river to try another promising spot. I tied on a #12 gold marten nymph just to try something different and before long was into a fish. It figures, ready with net and camera for a hero shot of a big steelhead, the third and last fish of the day was a tiny resident trout that hardly covered my palm. Still, catching fish is better than not catching and Gabby found a couple of woodcock and a grouse in some cover on the way north to top off a satisfying full day.