Friday, 16 October 2015

Idaho and Oregon

I leave Idaho today with a heavy heart. Goodbyes are never easy. The silver lining is that when I step off my final plane in two days time it will be at Christchurch, New Zealand. I have a bit of an epic flight schedule first, with stops at Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Auckland, but when I finally get to the South Island it will be the start of three months of stalking large trout in gin clear water, fantasy landscapes and living in a tent. I can't wait.

The Snake River gorge near Twin Falls, Idaho. An oasis of green in a barren landscape.

Shoshone Falls, one of the "twin" falls
I did go back to the little green trout stream in Twin Falls one evening. On my previous visit I had spotted what is for this little stream a decent sized trout, holding in shallow water right behind a low overhanging branch and not two metres from a picnic table on the mown lawn of the river's edge. There was a much smaller trout holding in the same seam just a metre behind the bigger one, and I watched them for a while as I tried to figure out how to get a cast to the larger fish without snagging the tree fronds or leaving the cast too short and exciting the smaller fish.

You can see the larger fish holding in the bubble seam, under the tree fronds. A tricky cast!
I crossed the river a little way downstream and startled a family of ducks. They took off from their shady refuge, a cacophony of squawking and wing beats and I heard them settle in the pool I intended to fish a little way upriver. When I eventually made it to that pool, having hacked my way through the undergrowth, the ducks took off again, making just as much noise, but thankfully the large fish was nonplussed by the commotion. It continued to feed in the seam of bubbles.

I eased slowly into a casting position where I could cast over my left shoulder and of course, my first cast was too short, and the smaller of the two fish in the secondary lie came up and swallowed my dry fly. That was it for the larger fish. It disappeared pretty quickly.

The smaller of the two - the other looked to be about four times larger...
A look at the tricky lie from the point I made the cast
As dusk settled, bringing a chillness to the air, I came by a shallow pool with gravel and green weeds and rising trout. I slowly entered the water - a cast from the bank was impossible - and hooked three more brown trout on a little caddis and purple haze pattern. Catching brown trout on a dry fly just at the moment between day and night when the light is pink and red is a magical experience.

And then I hit the road for near on a week in Oregon. The town of Bend in Oregon is probably the prettiest town I have seen in America. It sits right where the mountains and tall pine trees start - the Oregon I imagined. I had driven for hours through Oregon on roads as straight as a tape measure with nothing but dry sage brush to look at (if lucky a few gnarled juniper trees broke up the landscape). As far as drives go, the long drive from Idaho through Oregon to Bend is one of the most mind-numbingly boring I have driven. I had to turn the music up and open my window to stay awake. Bend probably seems prettier than it is because of the eastern approach to it.

The fishing in Oregon was largely uneventful. I fished a very low Crooked River and caught four rainbow trout. I fished the Metolius River near the quaint little town of Sister, a picture perfect river if ever there was one, hooked two fish but lost them both in the strong current. I rounded off the trip by spending a day fishing a pretty famous river - the Lower Deschutes - near Maupin, and whilst everyone else seemed to be going after the steelhead I focused on the seams and tried - and failed - to gain the attention of the resident trout. This is the biggest and most powerful river I have ever fished. I did hook a little trout on the nymph but it wriggled off and was gone in a flash.

The Crooked River, described to me as a "desert tailwater"

The Metolius River

The Metolius trail
Steelheaders on the Lower Deschutes

The confluence with the aptly named White River
That's it for the USA in 2015. New Zealand awaits!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Trout Surprise

I'm back in the USA visiting someone I know in Twin Falls, Idaho before moving on to New Zealand later this month. The 'city' of 45,000 people - it really doesn't take much to obtain city status in the U.S. it seems - is located on the crest of the spectacular Snake River canyon in the semi arid southern half of the state. As its name suggests, a couple of picturesque waterfalls cut through the canyon in the vicinity of the city. It's hot and dry here, and mostly flat. The land bordering the city is somewhat bleak and lunar-esque (the stark Craters of the Moon National Preserve is not very far away in south central Idaho). There is nothing to suggest the presence of trout, not even a dedicated fly store which is rare for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Until today I thought a drive north for at least an hour was needed to find trout.

The Springboks had just beaten Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, convincingly too, and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and feel good factor by walking a trail through a park not 100 metres from my motel. I descended the path to the river basin and left behind the sounds of the city. Being a fly fisherman of course I had to check out the river and this is when I spied a feeding fish in the murky green water. I watched it for a while and it was unmistakably a trout by its shape and the way it moved. I couldn't just leave a feeding trout to its own devices, especially one chanced upon completely unexpectedly, so I popped back to my motel and fetched out my rod and reel and camera.  

The trout tracked my dry fly several times and even mouthed it gently once before darting away into the depths, clearly unimpressed by the unwelcome texture of feather and deer hair. It ignored a streamer but eventually took a small unweighted pheasant tail nymph suspended below my dry fly. It was a little brown trout.

I recently purchased a waterproof Nikon AW130 and this was its first trial. Taking underwater shots seemed a bit hit and miss and the murky water and shaded tree canopy didn't exactly lend itself to great underwater photography. I think I still got a couple of interesting shots for a first effort with a waterproof compact.

Finding trout where you don't expect them is always a pleasant surprise, like finding a $10 note on the street or cracking open an egg and getting two yolks for the price of one. To discover that the city I am visiting has trout existing in its very heart makes the experience even more rewarding, and not simply because of the obvious recreational boon. My deeper underlying positive feeling is perhaps too esoteric a concept for anyone who is not a fellow trout nut to truly comprehend. People who own pets are supposedly happier. My fix comes from knowing there are trout in the waters that flow through my daily life, for they are pure and healthy refuges and places of innocent, carefree pursuit.

I can see myself spending more time in the park in the coming evenings, looking for signs of trout in the green water.