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Exploring and Re-visiting

Started by Yallerhammer, August 03, 2019, 11:21:53 AM

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Yallerhammer

August 03, 2019, 11:21:53 AM Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 11:36:11 AM by Yallerhammer
Drove a couple hours westward yesterday to a special place.

It's a high valley, laying just under 4,000' elevation through most of the basin, where a dozen creeks come together in the span of just a few miles to form the headwaters of a major watershed. It's all wild and native trout, it's been many decades since a fish was stocked here. No delayed harvest or pellet pigs. So, not a lot of fly-shop sports fishing in here. But it's just my kind of place.

This place has some special emotional ties to me, as it was my Grandpa's favorite place to fish and camp. When he was in his early 80s and was informed by the doctors that he had terminal cancer and likely only a few months to live, the first thing he did was to go home and pack his camper and rods and head into this valley for several weeks to get his head wrapped around the news and come to peace with himself. Some of his daughters got mad when they found out, and raised Cain, saying that he wasn't able to be doing stuff like that, and he would probably fall in the river and drown or any number of other things. He should be at home where they could take care of him. My dad stood his ground against them and told them to leave him alone and give him his space; and that if he died while he was out there fishing, it would be the way he wanted to go, on his own terms, not laying in a hospital bed connected to a bunch of tubes and wires.

He came back much better than he was when he left, and lived nearly three more years, until the hospital bed and tubes and wires finally got him.

I haven't fished this valley since I was in my late teens or early twenties. A lot of the water, I've never fished. It's about time to go back.

When I arrived, it was just breaking daylight, foggy, and a light, misty rain was falling. @alittlebird had given me some intel about a stretch that might hold some good browns, so I headed down the trail as daylight broke.

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Came upon this huge yellow birch with a cave under the roots, where the sapling had originally sprouted on a big nurse log or stump and the roots had run down to the soil over the log, still there long after the log rotted away. The pics don't do it justice, you could crawl in there and sleep.

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Ghost pipes were growing along the trail. Strange, mysterious, pale parasitic plants that lack chlorophyll, because they steal their nourishment from the photosynthesizing trees around them by connecting their mycorrhiza to their root systems and sucking nourishment from their hard-working hosts, kind of like Democrats. Oddly, they are closely related to rhododendrons and azaleas and blueberries, but they have gone off on their own path of vampirism until they are no longer recognizable as ericacious plants. They live around the world in dark, high, damp places, from Siberia to the Andes. In some places, they are called corpse plants. They contain a powerful nervine agent that has been compared to opium or Xanex. I find them pretty fascinating.

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An odd, colorful, slimy fungus: the stalked puffball in aspic:

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After a long walk downstream, I wriggled through the streamside rhododendrons and into the water. Looks promising:

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My intel was good: nice browns were here, and they were hungry. And pulled like freight trains.

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Oops:

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Really nice fish for a creek this size. I hung and lost one that could have likely swallered a fair-sized housecat.




To be continued......
Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Yallerhammer

As I moved upstream, the deep bend pools gave way to shallower riffles and runs. The methodical, bulldozing browns gave way to colorful, high-strung rainbows. They were here in abundance, averaging around 8-11 inches. Every good run yielded several, and they fought like much bigger fish, jumping frequently, and working the current to their advantage.
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This continued for a couple hours. Some of the best fishing I've encountered in awhile. I got lost in the rhythm of wading, casting, mending, striking, fighting, netting, releasing. Countless fish came to hand, along with many that didn't. I re-tied flies to my tippet and then re-tied tippet as the teeth, slime, and blood of the trout took their toll on my fly-tying handiwork.

As I worked my way through the stretch that was to me hallowed ground- the site of my Grandpa's last campsite and fishing trip; I couldn't help but feel that there was another pair of eyes watching my fly floating through the riffles just as intently as mine were. Yep, grandpa, we're still here, and we're still doing this. And maybe one day, my progeny will come here and keep the cycle going. Maybe. The world changes, and people's priorities change with it. I have faith in genes, though. Some future offspring of mine will undoubtedly be compelled to wade in cold waters and cast flies to the trout living in them, and not even know why they have to. Just that they do.

To be continued even more.......
Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Yallerhammer

As time passed and early afternoon came on, I reluctantly fastened my fly to the keeper and hiked back out to my truck. Part of the reason I came here was to explore some of the headwaters of this valley that I had never fished before. I love small, cascading creeks, and they are here in abundance. Plus, I wanted to catch some of the original and true trout of this place. The ones that have been swimming in these waters since the trumpeting of mastodons echoed through the woods and hollows; and saber-toothed cats and dire wolves stalked the shadows and dark places.

I am constantly drawn upstream. Like a compass, something in my head points that way - toward the gorges where waters noisily fall and cascade over cliffs and through narrow openings in the earth. Always upstream.

Several miles higher, I started up another trail, a trail that leads to where everything comes together to form the stream I had just fished. Water gathering from a multitude of springs, drips, hollers and gorges, following gravity ever downward until it all runs together.

This creek looks like it should hold specks, but it was teeming with rainbows and diminutive browns:

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A good little creek. I fished it upstream for awhile. I love standing in one hole and fishing the plunge pool above you, watching your fly floating and fish coming up to hit it at eye level. But, the trail beckoned. More water to explore.

Around the ridge, the trail dropped into another drainage.

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It was full of fat, brilliantly colored rainbows.

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This is one of the most unusually-colored rainbows I've ever caught. It had almost no spots, just a few big ones on each side. It looked almost like a cutthroat:

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Evidence of granola-based lifeforms:

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To be continued even more.....
Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Yallerhammer

When you're working up a stream at 4,000', seeing this is a good sign:

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Barriers. They keep the new out, and provide refuge for the old.

Above the falls: Paydirt.

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Now we're talking. Deep-time Pleistocene mountain trout. I looked around for ground sloths, and worked upstream, catching specks from every hole.

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Time went by quickly. As I arrived at the base of another set of falls, a gateway to another world above it, a black cloud rolled in, raindrops started falling, and loud thunder echoed and rattled down the gorge. Looking at the scoured streambed and the piles of huge tree trunks scattered like matchsticks along it, I knew that this was no place to be in a heavy rainstorm. So, I clipped off my fly, broke down my rod, and started the rough climb back out to the trail, and to my truck. A day very well-spent.

As I said before, this is a very special place. And hopefully, if the public land selling advocates don't gain momentum, it will stay special for a long, long time. Time is deep and slow here in the mountains. They endure.

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Fin. ​
Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Stone-Man

Damn nice report and good narrative as well.  Some really pretty fish also.  Nice trip !!!

Phil

Well done, well written, well photographed. You da man, Yaller. Thanks for the time it took you to share it here!  bd;0  bd;0  'c;  'c;

itieuglyflies

Bravo for many reasons.....the place, the fish and connections to a special person. A+ report.

greg

August 03, 2019, 14:12:54 PM #7 Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 15:54:23 PM by greg
That's one heck of a post there. Great pictures and words. Thanks

Dougfish

Dan, damn nice, sir. Well played, well told. 'c;  0:0
"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change? " <br />-Oddball, 1970

Yallerhammer

Quote from: Dougfish on August 03, 2019, 18:11:27 PMDan, damn nice, sir. Well played, well told. 'c;  0:0
Quote from: Dougfish on August 03, 2019, 18:11:27 PMDan, damn nice, sir. Well played, well told. 'c;  0:0

Thanks, but I'm not Dan. :D
Women want me, doughbellies fear me.<br /><br />Little Debbie Prostaff

Woolly Bugger

Saved this for my Sunday morning coffee to digest your trip! Fantastic. Thanks for taking us along for the journey. My neighbor, a hunter/fly fisherman passed away yesterday afternoon. I poured a sip for him and the families in El Paso while out fishing my local Smith river.
ex - I'm not going to live with you through one more fishing season!

me -There's a season?

Pastor explains icons to my son: you know like the fish symbol on the back of cars.

My son: My dad has two fish on his car and they're both trout!

hcrum87hc

Wonderful!  I have a report to share from Saturday, but I'd be embarrassed to have it compared to yours.
Jeremiah 17:7

Dougfish

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change? " <br />-Oddball, 1970

Big J

Missed this report this morning.  Very nice.  Always is good when intel is correct.
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." Hemingway


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