Yup…Salmonfest can be a demanding mistress. Wake up well before first light. Down to the river. Fish, cigars, and a little whisky. Walk out, lunch, beer, dominos. Back to the river, more fish, more cigars, a little more whisky. Walk out, beer, dinner, beer and whisky, stories, laughter, high fives. Bed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The strong survive. Well…I guess the weak survive too, they are just more sore.
I look forward to getting back together with the guys all year for it, and Salmonfest has yet to disappoint. We have had great fish years and great beverage years as well as with the opposite of each…but never had a bad time. Despite being in different cities and states Mike and Brian have now made it on the trip a number of years in a row. We have done this enough that there is comfort in knowing we have an approximate schedule worked out, as you can see above, so there is no reason wasting time on the details and instead we get straight to the having fun part.
Mike and I have been friends since the first day of freshman orientation at the University of Dayton (Go Flyers!), so we have plenty of old stories to mix with the new and keep the laughs rolling. Reliving moments like him sleeper choking me out (back when I was much smaller) because I refused to ‘call uncle’ is half the fun of the trip. Another favorite is the resulting disbelief in his eyes the time I uttered “nice sammich” before smacking a freshly made swiss turkey and mustard from his hands to the ground. In retrospect that was a real dick move, but in that moment it seemed wholly appropriate and hilarious to everyone there except Mike. Brian and I have been hanging out for well over a decade now as well. He is a photographer and graphic designer so there is always a conversation going about gear, lighting, shots we want to get. I pick up tips from his more studio based shooting and I like to think that he has picked up a thing or two from me on getting candid shots with fishy subjects that don’t always want to cooperate. Despite his arguments otherwise I still say it is better to shoot a fishing trip in JPEG than RAW…
First thing this year I got us off the schnide just after 6a on morning one. Still well before light I decided to tie on a glow in the dark ESL and use the light of the moon to show me the way. Flipping the fly into a deep and dark pool in the dark of the night ended up being productive as I hooked up about ten minutes in…and the fight was on. As I fought the fish in the dark I hoped to myself that the river had not changed too much over the last year as a swim would suck in the 30 degree morning. The river stayed relatively true to form and Mike eventually got the net on this nice buck for me. I was all smiles.
This year I was thrilled to have my buddy Greg come out for a night and day as well. Having been friends since the first day of kindergarten Greg is one of my oldest friends so it was cool to have him come out and get some water time with us. We were not able to get him in to any willing salmon that day but he did get in to his first brown trout!
I was really amazed at the number of browns that were around this year. Normally we see a few around as they scoot through the current avoiding their bigger brethren, but this year it seemed that every redd had a whole pod of browns laying in wait for any stray eggs. It was pandemonium every time a female would fan her redd…the browns would dart about crazily gobbling eggs then resume their vigil just off the back of the bed and wait for the next time.
We were not in Michigan until after dark on the way up so I had not seen the color in the trees yet. As the sun lit the trees for us that first morning I was pleased to see the vivid yellows, reds, and oranges despite the drought of the summer.
Mike was able to get himself on the board so of course we had to have the obligatory toast. Can’t afford to upset the fish gods…
The browns were not too picky. Whether egg, stonefly, or caddis..a well drifted fly had a great chance of being made a meal.
This particular bank slot and hole was a favorite of Mike’s last year so of course he needed to give it a good run this year as well.
And it did not disappoint!
This one put a respectable bend in the rod. Not as many active fish this year but the ones that were willing to play pulled hard.
This was actually Mike's first ever brown trout. Not a bad way to get on the board!
Hanging out riverside was the name of the game. At any given point one of us was looking over the shoulder of another; watching the drift, looking for head shakes, offering advise…or giving them crap about wrapping up in a tree.
When they were on the line they took you pretty much where they wanted to.
And when they were in hand they put a smile on your face that helped you forget about the burn that they put on your arms and shoulders!
Plans are already in the works, and a little over 51 weeks from now we will reconvene for the 2013 edition of Salmonfest. We may have a few new faces in the group, or maybe just the old standbys. There may be lots of fish around or just a few goblins. There may be flooding or drought. One thing is for sure…we will have one hell of a good time again!