Thursday, May 21, 2009

North Fork, Coeur D’Alene River

I visit the campground host in the morning
a nice old boy who sells flies and knows the river.
I bring coffee and donuts. I ask about a pool
upstream where it looks like big trout might live.
He allows that there just might be an 18” plus
cutthroat there and if a guy tied a hair wing Caddis in
cream he might just get a shot at him.

Sun slanting toward late afternoon I walk the road upstream,
rod in hand, vest on back. Air dry, hot, smelling of pine and fir,
gravel crunches under sandals, Steller’s Jays quarrel in the trees,
a flit of bright blue against deep evergreen. Small clouds
hug the mountain tops.

At the bridge, a solitary fisherman works the tailwater of
a small pool. A tattoo of a flicking line with a bright fly
graces his left shoulder. I ask quietly if he’s working downstream.
He smiles, shakes his head and says, “Nope, it’s all yours.”

I wade in, water cold and crystal clear over river rock,
set like tile mosaic. Weeds tug and wave, straining to go
downstream. The first pools are slender, undercut banks and
brush above make casting tricky. A roll cast flicks a Wooly Bugger
to the top of the lead, rod tip follows it down.

Approaching the pool the brush is heavy. The ground around it
is elevated and grassy; one cannot just walk in and cast, as trout
are not stupid and will see you. So I kneel and stalk in slowly
and quietly on my knees stopping half way to change flies to the Caddis. I rise slowly, head at grass top level and watch the pool for a time.

Several trout are feeding but when the big one joins in you can hear
the ‘glup!’ as he sucks in some unlucky bug. I watch him, ignoring
the rest, log his pattern and his timing. There will be only one shot
at him and if it is not just right he will be gone; he and I both know this.

The time comes and it is magic; a light wind ruffles the grass somewhere above a hawk screams. Time slows; I rise and flick the line, shadow casting twice to get where I need to be and then let it go and it shoots out, falling straight at the spot. Leader hits water and five feet further on, the Caddis lands perfectly, a juicy bug without a clue.

‘Glup!’ goes the water and I set the hook and he and I are now connected. The slow motion time has ended. Without hesitation he streaks for the tailwater which is held back by a rock ledge. Over he goes and is in to the next pool while I stand transfixed, line stripping out fast. I palm the reel and stumble to the rock ledge;
he is already at the tail of that pool and my line is into the backing.

I stumble down the ledge into the next pool but he is already below that and I am running out of line. I find purchase with my feet and begin to reel him in. He is coming back up slowly but surely, fighting the whole way. When I have moved to the tail of the next pool, he is half way down the one below that. He jumps and slow motion returns, a brilliant flash of silver, green and gold, droplets of water suspended like diamonds falling back to the creek and just like that, he is gone.

Just like that.

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