When you are travelling there are all sorts of tricks to settle your body in to whatever time zone you will be enjoying. Sometimes they work well and you don't skip a beat, but other times your body doesn't fall for the ruse. The amount of food eaten the night before and the high level of anticipation had everyone rolling early on Day Three!
One nice thing about hopper fishing is that it is not really a crack of dawn type of thing. It takes a little time for the water to warm up a degree or two with the sun and the bugs to wake up and get to doing buggy things. Knowing that we usually get up and have some coffe a nice breakfeast about 7 then head back to the rooms to shower up and grab gear for the day before meeting around 8:30 to hit the road. Greg and I rolled down about 6:45 to find that everyone was already chowing. This year we had the father and son team of Dan and Aaron finally back for a second year along with Chad and his business partner Rob who is just dipping his toe into our proverbial rabbit hole of a sport. I could not wait to see the smiles and excitement on the faces of the return crew and the absolute look of awe with the new guys. The forecast was for rain showers throughout the day but you sure couldn't tell that on the drive in!
Greg and I got to fish with Anthony for the first time and on Greg's favorite water to boot. Anthony is a great guy that we have joked around with the last few years out there but not had a chance to hit the water with yet. I always give Greg first crack on this river as this is his ShangriLa and right out of the gate Anthony was on his game and was coaching up Senyo. Greg let it go for a few casts before the shit talking started. We were going to make it one of the easiest days for him as a guide, but we were going to talk shit and laugh hard all day. Despite Anthony barking out when to set just to rile Greg he kept his composure and hit the first fish of the day a few minuted in. This was going to be fun.
I quickly got on the board as well with a great surface eat. This fish wanted the fly so bad that it slow rose to inspect it and took too long to eat so the fly started to drag out. That made no difference as he was on the fly like a cruise missle...he chased it down a few feet out of his holding water and sharked it!
The water we hit this day is a mixture of narrow willow lined chutes and deep meandering bend pools. The combination really forces you to keep track of where your line is at all times. If you get too excited and lose track or are off target then you are definitely in for a date with a tree.
If you can keep the line in the water though and get a good drift then there are jewels in these depths!
This is a pretty typical chute. Great undercut banks with overhanging grasses and a well defined current seam. Trout heaven.
In all the days I have spent out there I had somehow avoided all bad weather, until this rolled in. It went from sunny to nasty rolling thunder just over the range and out of sight to dark and windy in about five minutes. The sunlight coming through the clouds and bouncing off the canyon walls a really sinister dark purplish look and we knew that we were not avoiding this one. As Anthony was hoofin back to grab out lunches the storm hit and Greg and I found ourselves in hurricane style sideways rain. It was pretty warm so we did not have rain gear on us and chose to back in to the willows get a little out of it. And then it was gone. As fast as the storm popped up it was out of there in about ten minutes. Lucked out again!
There was just enough rain to raise the humidity to normal midwestern level soupiness and wake up every mosquito in the area. Time to cover up or become a meal.
Some places you can get away from the swarms of little blood sucking bastards but not here. There is just not enough space to separate you from them so you ignore it because it is some of the best trout fishing around and they generally do not stick around too long. Just to be safe though I lit up a particularly girthy and dark cigar to give them more incentive to look elsewhere, and it worked...mostly.
The color of the fish here never ceases to amaze me.
This is the reason I will continue to go back every year that I possibly can. This fish needs no photoshopping of any kind to glow and is as thick as my wrist. I will never get enough of it.
Greg has a spot that he has been waiting to hit literally since last year. Two years ago he hit the biggest fish of the day in a nondescript spot that has mere inches of depth change as a current break with a small stump to guard it. Last year, on the same fly, he had what we decided to call the same fish in the same spot rise and miss the fly...and it was all of a solid twenty. As the day wore on I caught him looking upstream and knew this was where he wanted to be. Just downstream of 'the spot' he re rigged his leader and put the fly on then worked in to casting range.
It wasn't Neo that he hooked in to but a great fish none the less. Greg was admittedly down on it a bit at the time, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't as well, as when the line went taught for that split second we yelled and thought it was stilll there. Looking back on it later that night we both were impressed with this fish, both in color and fight that it displayed. Now this is the one we will look to find next year, a little wiser and a few inches bigger!
This foam tasted like hopper.
The rainbow above and brown below show the amazing spot patterns that this river has. High frequency of spots and dark as night, providing great camoflage.
Really just about perfect camoflage actually. They seem to just melt away at your feet in to nothing and do it right in front of your eyes. If you blink they are gone...even though they are still right there in inches of water. Really an amazing adaptation for survival in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
It really doesn't get much better than this.
At the end of the day we all met back up at the cars to shed our gear and load up. Everyone had enjoyed a fantastic day on the water and there were smiles all around. Rob, our least experienced guy, had caught his fill and had a look of near shock on his face. On the drive back towards town the silence was frequently broken by headshakes and laughs of disbelief at what we had experienced. It was beyond fulfilling to be in this environment and share it with people that so obviously were enjoying every second and soaking it all in. We stopped up on the mesa in one of our favorite spots to show them the scope of where we were. Parking the car on the side of the road you can see the valley is there, but not until you walk about 100 yards out and up a gentle slope do you come to the edge and realize just how vast this single valley is. Awe inspiring.
We made it back in to town in time to stop off for a quick pizza dinner and by the time it was on the table you could see the jet lag and physical nature of the day had caught up with everyone. There were a few stories told of fish from each team of anglers but once the food was gone so were we. Back to the hotel to recharge, organize gear and get to sleep. Tomorrow we do it all again.