That's the time that I woke up and noticed that the air mattress that I was on was flat. I woke up because my back was freezing from being on the ground. It was low 40's that night, so it was cold!
To cold for me to crawl out from my sleeping bag (rated to -20, thank God) and mess around with the mattress, so I roughed it until morning.
We got up at about 5:30am and decided to grab a quick snack, head out to the water for a bit and then come back mid-morning for real breakfast. So we chomped down some granola bars, a Gator-ade and suited up.
We must have been slow going because we didn't hit our first spot until 7am. We stopped at some likely pools as we worked up stream but we had no visuals and as far as we could tell they were empty.
We finally got to a long pool, about 50 yards long and 20 wide and it was filled with chrome. It was hard to get a count as they were moving back and forth pretty good, but I'd put the body count at about 15; all of decent size.
I started with a Rainbow Nymph; nothing. I then changed to a champagne sucker spawn and a few casts in had a hit, but he was off as quick as he was on. I casted for about 5 more minutes and bam, but same story.
Then, nothing. After a while I changed to a baby blue egg. Cast after cast, no action.
Now by this point there was an older gentleman to my right who had hooked 3 and landed two. My buddy was to my left and then down from him was another angler who had landed 3. Apparently I was the meat in a failure sandwich.
I looked over at my buddy and he was half-heartedly tying on another fly. He meets my eyes and nods.
As I pack my things, I make my way over to the older gentleman to my right.
"Excuse me, but what are you using?"
He tells me that he is using just a little nymph, and shows me a size 14 brown prince nymph. We get to talking and he says that he has been using a 6 lb Seagar tippet due to the clarity of the water, which on this day was making gin look brackish. I advised that I was using a 3x 8.8 lb test, and he said that was probably my problem.
Thanking him for the advise, we head back to camp.
On the way back we stumble (literally) on 3 steelies making a run. They get up almost adjacent to us and then decide to hold out next to a shale shelf in the stream bed. It is simply amazing the way these fish, or any for that matter, can take cover under a small little bump in the bed.
We make several casts at them but, with them showing no interest in our offerings, allowed hunger to win out on our desire for casting practice.
After a mashing of scrambled eggs, sausage and Canadian bacon (which tasted suspiciously like ham.....) we head up to the camps office/store/fly shop (very cool!) for some coffee. To our pleasant surprise the coffee was complimentary, so we sip a cup or two and stretch our legs on their porch.
After our break, I said I wanted to take care of the GD air mattress.
I bought the thing at Walmart. Now, I'm not a great fan of Walmart's expansionism (among some of their other practices) but when I have a flat mattress that I bought 250 miles away, it is great that I can take it 10 minutes down the road, take it back and get another one.
I get the mattress set up and to my pleasant surprise, no more sleeping on the ground for the rest of the trip.
About now it's 2pm and getting warm. We grab a brew and talk about where we were going to strike next. We decide that this time we will head downstream. It was drizzling intermittently all day, but it was almost borderline hot out, so we decided to travel a light.
We essentially had a repeat of the morning. A lot of walking, a little bit of casting, and no rewards. Then, we stumble on to a pool with some steelies, about 5 or so, swimming around with a different group of anglers casting to them. I stop to make my feeble offerings and my friend moves on.
I had changed out the egg from earlier with a nymph pattern. I'd cast and let it dead drift. I'd cast and let it swing. I'd cast and let it bounce. The steelies looked on, indifferent.
Some of the other anglers moved on, so I started working down the pool, towards another fly guy. I even got to the point where I was using an indicator, my first time ever (desperate times call for desperate measures.)
I got down to the other fly fisher and we got to talking. We had talked briefly the previous day right after I landed my first Steelie. He told me that he wasn't having any luck but someone he talked to earlier had landed a few on streamers. He said that he would agitate the fish into striking the streamer.
We chewed the fat a little more and he invited me to fish the head of his section of the pool; which I gladly did. This was the first and only time that someone invited me to fish a spot with them, of which I was especially appreciative. Most of the other anglers I saw would just saddle up next to you and then glare at you like this was their damn hole, so I kept 20 feet or so between myself and others or I'd move on.
I fished the head for about 20 minutes with no change in luck. Thanking the fly guy again, I moved on.
I found my buddy fishing a hole about 300 yards or so downstream. He swears that there was a fish in there, but I didn't see anything. Still, I started to work the hole, but nothing. He had moved downstream a bit and I started to follow.
There was a section of river in front of me that was very, very shallow. I was walking, looking ahead when I see a dorsal fin cruising up the shallows, causing an impressive wake.The a pause and the fish jumps up and over some unseen barrier.
It was big.
A few seconds later I saw it cruising by and oh yea, it was big! It was very distinct because it had a puss bubble on the tip of it's nose.
I started jogging backwards in the stream and started to cast at him. I realize that to get a running steelhead to take a fly isn't very probable, but this was too good of a chance to miss. I made a few casts and then reality set in. I'm running in shin deep waters, backwards, casting to a fish that wants nothing to do with me.
I decide that, to save a little of my dignity, I should at least get to the shore.
I make a bee-line to the shore and turn.
And he was gone.
I meet up with my friend and tell him about the fish. He tells me outright that he doesn't believe the size. We decide to head back.
We were almost back to the site, still wading upstream, when my buddy points out a tail swooshing the water around. I look closer and notice the now-familiar white bulbous nose. It was the same trout.
"Holy $%&" my buddy says. I look at him. "I told you."
We follow it upstream, keeping about 5 yards from it. There was no point in casting at it; I doubted it would take anything. We figured that we would share its journey for a bit.
Within a few minutes we get to two more anglers and point it out to them. "Damn," one says, "in my 12 years fishing these tribs, I've never seen one that size!" He makes a cast.
It seemed funny to me because he completely overcast the fish, it wasn't more that a handful of yards away. I glanced askance at the guy, but the turned to watch. As soon as the fish got to his line, with the fly about 2 feet from the head of the fish, the guy yanks back on his fly rod. The fish thrashes for a bit and then swims off a little bit upstream. The guy tries again and hooks briefly, but the fish, with a tremendous head shake, gets free and takes off upstream.
The bastard was trying to snag the fish! Maybe I shouldn't judge another man by his method of fishing, but if you can't present the bait, no matter what your using, and elicit a strike from the fish, then you don't deserve to catch that fish. Especially if you think it is OK to snag a fish, no matter on what part of it's anatomy, just to get a bit of a thrill and then show off your "trophy." It's disrespectful to the fish and a dishonor to our sport.
OK, I'll put my soapbox away.....
Disgusted, I walked away without another word glad to see the tail fin of that fish disappear into the waters ahead. That fish was just too beautiful to go down like that.
Getting back, we decided that since we had a lack of fresh fish that we would make dinner the venison burgers that I brought with. As the sun set, we had those with some (more) brews. Even though the day was fish-less, it was still a much better day than it could have been. The weather was warm and we didn't have a care in the world.
This is Mark, our camping neighbor, with a Steelie that his 82 year old father Jack hooked into. Jack wasn't in the pic because in the 5 seconds after they unhooked this one, he had another on the line. Some people have all the luck.....Later that night we tried some night fishing, but our luck still held out. I had mixed feelings of this anyway, because I wasn't too keen on trying to fight a steelie in the pitch black, so I think things worked out for the best.
We went to bed and the last thing I remember was a hope that the air mattress would hold.