Thursday, May 21, 2009

Final Day

Normally, our fishing days are spent together. As my Dad would describe it, my brother Sean and I like to fish like “commandos” on a mission. As the years pass, there is more attention paid to the other aspects of fly fishing, such as, photography and on recent trips, boiling water along the river for an afternoon coffee break. But for this trip I admit we were fishing hard and at times get overly focused on the mission of catching trout.

It was September 2006 and the trip was a weeklong battle. On the “Final Day” of our annual trip, Dad was tired and in need of a day off. So Sean and I headed out from the condo in South Lake Tahoe to the East Carson River along Highway 4. This area is above Hangman’s Bridge where the non-fly fishing anglers frequent. Surprisingly, we had most of the river to ourselves. Late September is a time that we enjoy because most of the summers angling crowds have returned to their post Labor Day routine.

Sean and I stopped along the river near a bend. A large rock protruded from across the river creating a deep crystal clear pool. Since there was no surface action, we went directly to indicator nymphing. It was an exciting opportunity to sight fish with a nymph rig. There were pods of fish lurking near the bottom, so it was only a matter of adding the right amount of weight to entice the trout to strike.

Soon we were experiencing the action we anticipated. Get the right drift and we were rewarded. It was a mix of browns and rainbows and a surprising wayward whitefish. We seemed to have the most action with a #14 Prince Nymph nearest the bottom and a #16 Red Copper John drifting nearer the surface. This combination seemed to work everywhere we fished.

The first stop produced some steady action and after Sean landed a hefty 22” brown, we agreed to leave on a high note. The fact that a sightseeing couple and their water bound Golden Retriever arrived also helped with our decision to move on.

We moved up river a short distance and decided to park above the Highway 4 bridge before the turn off to Wolf Creek. The second spot was similar to the first with a large rock on the opposite side. This rock created a deep slow run below a swift narrow section. What was different about this location, the shadows of the fish near the riverbed were much LARGER.

Sean and I began fishing the run by alternating between the head and the tail out. After some initial frustration with getting hung up on the bottom and having to re-rig a few times, Sean moved down and across to fish the opposite bank. With his departure, I had the whole run to myself. The current was circling back as the water slowed and deepened. As my nymph rig drifted past and began curling back toward me, my line suddenly stopped. I immediately raised my rod to set the hook and it was solid and not moving. My first thought was, if I am hung up again, I don’t have any more Red Copper Johns. A spilt second later; I felt the heavy pull toward the middle of the run and the fight was on! I wasn’t sure if this was a monster or I had foul hooked a mediocre sized fish. The latter would have been harder to live down. Over the next 15 tenuous minutes, I was working hard to manage my line and prevent the painful experience of losing a fish of a lifetime. At the same time, Sean is encouraging me with “keep the rod tip up” and “move down, move down” and the like. What was preventing me from racing straight down river was a rocky bank and steep drop off.

I carefully moved back to the bank when it became necessary to chase after the fish. Luckily, Sean was in the right position to assist with a net. After a couple of anxious attempts to land it, the fish decided to make a run toward the opposite bank. Seeing the last opportunity to net the fish, Sean high stepped through the water like a like running back with the goal line in sight, and finally, netted the rainbow. With a brief inspection, Sean shouted from 50 feet away, “yep, it’s in the mouth”. What a relief!

After the ritualistic photos and brief video, I released a 26.5” rainbow back to the shadows. Like most fly fishing experiences, it is best shared with friends and family. Which makes the only down side to the whole day was that Dad was relaxing in the condo after a long, hard and exhausting fly fishing trip and unable to share in the “Final Day” adventure. Get your rest Dad; there will be other trips and other fish.

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