So I've wrote nary a word on the North Umpqua trip and I figure I should probably at least get something started. I didn't have a camera, so no eye candy...though in terms of fish very, very little eye candy was available...for me anyways.
Overall the trip was a success, much more for some than others, or I should say, much more for one than the rest of us. See, one guy that was in camp is a bit of a yoda on that river. He knows it, well. And it was clearer to me than ever how far river knowledge can get you. But certainly that was only part of the massive gap in contact with steelhead. 9 out of 10 of yoda's casts were perfect, good loops, no tails, and the fly snapped straight out at the end, landed and was fishing instantly...about 1 in 5 of my casts could make the same claim. Prior to this trip I was very pleased to be in the "pretty casts don't matter" camp, but now I've learned that "pretty casts" are also "fishy casts"...especially in the summer and especially on that river, with clear smooth water and a lot of fishing pressure. Likewise, every cast that fails is one less cast to catch a fish with in a day. I paid attention to this and realized I was wasting on the order of 30 minutes minimum every day in bullshit casts, this was an extremely frustrating epiphany. When fishing is tough and one fish every two days is really good and that one cast that might have caught a fish lands in a big pile...well you get the picture. You never really know if it's real (a failed cast causing a missed fish) but you can't help wondering.
By day 3 I was thinking it ought to happen. Yoda had already landed 4 fish and brought one or two more to the fly, the rest of us (3) were fishless. Just after noon I was fishing over a suspected steelhead, he had risen once to a dry in the morning and grabbed a wet a half hour or so before I went through. After 4 or so attempts I finally got a cast to mostly straighten out over the lie, there was a big belly in the line and it was dragging through the juice pretty quick. Then it stopped, I swept the rod low and slow proper but there was a lot of slack and all I got was about 3 or 4 slack line head shakes. I couldn't decide if I should be elated for finally touching a fish or pissed cause I farmed the one chance I had...see with all that slack, low and slow wasn't proper, I shoulda wailed on that fucker.
3 full days later and about 3 casts away from calling it a night it finally happened. A little hatchery rat slammed the fly right above the lip of a small rapid in a nice tailout. For a cookie cutter degenerate it put on a good show, clearing the water 5 times in the first 10 seconds or so, but afterwards played the doggy hatchery fish game. Nonetheless at 6 days in I would have taken a tailess, finless pile of puke over continued nothingness. And it ate damn well grilled up over the camp fire, so I can't complain. I rose a fish to a waker the next morning. It didn't stick but it didn't really matter at that point. The fly was only about 25 feet away from me and I got to see the head come out of water, grab the fly and go down in a boil. I waited with maximum patience but nothing happened, the fly just popped back up a couple seconds later. Just seeing a fucking steelhead eat a dry is about the most badass thing in the world for a dude who cut his steelhead teeth on great lakes fish with lead and spawn bags. I need to see it again.
So like I said, all in all a success. It was steelheading at its finest, at day 4 I wasn't going fishing anymore, I was going casting. And like I said a couple weeks back, it's not all about the fish. Somehow, for about 6 or 7 nanoseconds during the trip I actually believed it and that was a fucked up feeling, but one I wouldn't mind finding again. Although if said feeling's attainment didn't include 6 fishless days I would be quite alright with it.
Thanks to those of you who've stuck around through this boring ass stretch of the pictureless Leech. But it is now officially over, Kari and I floated the Deschutes saturday-tuesday and got a new digi prior to departure. The next post will have pics and maybe even some fish, if yer lucky.