Riding the storm out

We had a blow out the other day. A soldered joint in the plumbing behind the tub decided to go. By the time we noticed, the damage was pretty much done. After putting in sixty hours at work Monday through Saturday, Saturday evening I spent four hours tearing the bathroom apart. I'm replacing more than is technically needed, and with a woman involved in the project, you know it's going to go above and beyond. Tile and all that.
Sunday was my scheduled run to Home Depot to pick up materials not available in our little hamlet. I made it noted that if possible, I was going to try to get in an hour of fishing on the way, as I have to drive right by one of my spots. And the brown trout run was tapering down fast, they would be on their redds soon. It would be my one last chance this season(at least on "my" run), there are a couple other runs I might still get lucky with for another week or two.
When I left, huge storm clouds were roiling all around me. Shit! No chance of fishing. There was a white-out storm hammering Moses, snow coming from across the river. Snow and wind coming from every direction! But, no shit, as I was passing the place I was planning to fish over, there was one big sunbeam lighting the place up like a spotlight. It was like a sign from God! I still hesitated, slowed, and almost passed the two ruts that pass for a road. One hour I told myself! Though with the storms closing in fast, I doubted I had that much time. I pulled up and assessed the situation. Water was low, too low for optimum fishing, but probably a good thing as I had no boat and was wading it. I started wadering up as fast as possible. Stringing my rod, I realized I wasn't going to beat this storm. I ALMOST just turned around then, but stubborn runs in my blood.
I hiked half a mile to my spot and waded into position. A solid wall of rain/sleet was pushing upriver directly at me. It was snow only a few hundred feet up the canyon walls above the river. Stripping line off in a hurry, it managed to wrap around my fighting butt. With only twenty feet of line just laying on the water, a real good 'bow decided to take my fly while I was untangling my mess. I managed to unwrap myself just as the fish made a looong run. I wish I hadn't forgot my camera, because it was a beautiful male wild redband(?), sporting a big kype. I was wondering about that kype, reading somewhere that Kamploops sometimes spawn in fall. Where I fish it's not unusual to find wash-down kamploops.
I had no sooner let that fish go than the freight train hit me. It started out wind, then a little rain, then full on sleet. I pulled my hood tight and turned my back to the wind. It was fine, until I had to retreat when the whitecaps(which came up in under two minutes) started breaking over my chest-pack. I was ready to make a run for my truck, but noted blue sky behind the fierce storm crashing over me. At least there isn't lightning this time of year, the only positive. After getting pounded in the wide open for more than twenty minutes by one of the most fierce, but short lived, storms of the year here, the next cast hooked up when it calmed. And the next. And the next. I landed one big trip, lost one even bigger.
And as I was stalking waist deep along the shoreline like a heron, I spotted one of my target fish. There was a big male brown, cruising along the weedline. At least eight or nine pounds of Columbia gold! My carp practice payed off big time. The first cast lead him perfect. He showed interest, turned, and moved toward my fly. And then "disaster" struck! A two foot bow rocketed out of the weeds, and literally snatched the fly out of the brown's mouth. I felt robbed. I took a minute after I released the fish to put things in perspective. That would've been many flyfishermens' I know best fish, but I was almost disgusted. I was there for browns, 'bows are incidental. I landed one more two foot bow, and lined the only other spotted brown, though it was under twenty inches.
The "eye of the storm" was wearing off quick. I was about to get crushed by forces I couldn't prevail fishing through.
I set off for my truck, obviously scanning the shallows on the way. I spotted another big brown making a slow beeline ten feet off the weedline. This one was big. Way big. I took a breath and fired. I let it sink to the bottom, then pulled it straight into the fishes path. Just as it passed over I gave a twitch. He grabbed, I strip set, and failed. Browns that big have an amazingly bony jaw.
Tucking my rod under my arm, I began the long walk back to the truck in utter defeat. It was over. I blew my chances this year. I was actually thinking of naming this thread, "Snatching Defeat Out Of The Hands Of Victory" as I sludged through the muck of "low tide". This would be the first year since I started learning and chasing the run, that I zero'ed. I usually lose more than I land, but I at least would get four or five a year. It's kinda my obsession, almost like the "steelhead bug".
I would'nt have even noticed the fish is not for the fungus. Sad but true. Walking along in my slump, I almost missed the fish cruising slow along the current seam. All I saw was a bright white spot moving. "Spawned out koke", I thought. Big one, though. Maybe the one that broke my tippet the week before.
My first cast was pathetic. The only saving factor was it SO far off it didn't put the fish down. My next cast was good, but not perfect ala carp. It swung near his face and he grabbed! Surprising for a koke. It wasn't until I was landing it that I realized it was my target species. I thougt I was casting to a nearly firetruck sockeye, but it was a good male lake run.
On the fins, gill plates, fungus.... one beat up looking fish! Eagle scars on the back, battle scars from scrapping...... a typical proud male minus the fungus.
I've talked to a couple bios and have at least two theories on the fungus, but would like to hear others' feedback.
Ugly and fungicidal as it may be, it made my angling year.
Awesome!!! What a great report. I swear I could feel that storm bearing down on me as I read. I was literally disappointed near the end when it appeared you would not land a brown. Redemption! Way to tough it out.

Thanks for sharing!

Bob Rankin

Chasing fur and fish every second I get :)
I wish when I sat down to rite it came out like that! Great post! Nothing like catching HOG JOHNSON to make it a better day!


Active Member
OH MAN" I can't take many more of these awesome reports from the upper Columbia that you torture me with. Time for me to start adding miles and gas cost's - camp grounds - and boat launches and distances of floats with oars and - or motor on my drifter that can be done! this winters - research-research - research!

Great job and report! spot fishing big bow's and maybe browns, what more could anyone ask for!

Steve Call

Active Member
Great report Trip!

I wish I lived so close to great fishing. Me - I'm 2 miles from Home Depot and on a first name basis with half the staff.