Thank You For Reading My Blog

This blog is about my life as a fly fisherman, guide, and fly fishing instructor in and around Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Inside the Fly Fishing Show at Somerset NJ

I really had not planned on going into the fly fishing show at Somerset last weekend. I figured I would be at the PHWFF booth the entire time. Turns out there were more volunteers than needed and we all had a chance to take a break and wander around. Here is what I encountered during the breaks over the 3 day event.

There were all sorts of fly tying material vendors, rod and reel vendors, soft goods sellers, outfitters and guides, boat companies, line and gadget companies, celebrity tiers, and books and more. I got lost several times going up and down the isles.

I bumped into my old boss Crosby Beane on the first day. He is now with Hardy & Grays. I have not seen 'coach' in several years and he saw me and immediately called me 'Cinderella'. Just like the old days. Lefty passed me walking down an isle and I had a chance to speak with Emily Whitlock. Wow. This place was full of all the big names.

I was stopped by the fishing magazine companies and was able to renew my subscriptions. I am now getting 3 years each of Fly Fisherman, Fly Tyer, Fly Fish America, and Fly Rod & Reel. 

I walked around and bumped into lots of old friends. I had several long talks with Beau Beasely. We talked about his book, fly fishing in Virginia, the Va fly fishing festival, and getting out on my boat and fishing together. That would be a first in the 12 years that I've known Beau. His new book Fly Fishing the Mid Atlantic is very informative, with great maps and photographs. I suggest you pick it up at your local fly shop.

Mick Heck is a long time friend too. He used to do early morning talks at the fly shop where I worked. He would make the long drive to the store and entertain us with his spring creek stories. I still have some flies he tied for me in '99. A moth, some ants, and a few deer hair beetles. Mike was tying flies and selling his  new book. One of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Looking forward to seeing him at the National Capital Trout Unlimited show in a few weeks.

Next up was Captain Paul Dixon. Paul was a flats guide at the shop I worked at in Key Largo from '99-'00. He is incredibly knowledgeable in all things salt water. Paul was a the Rise Fishing Company booth. Very nice looking rods, felt great in the hand. They give back 20% of profit to charity.  Paul has been gracious enough over the past decade to answer e-mails I have sent. I have been to the Keys and up to Long Island and he has always given me great information on where and when to fish and some hidden spots. We caught up about the demise of the shop we worked at on the Ocean Reef Club. We had some good laughs and I got some great info as to why the shop had closed. It did not surprise me.

I bumped into the Davala family. Melody, Virginia, and Dan. They made the drive up from Va.

On my bucket list of people I want to meet has always had Dave Whitlock on the top. I finally got a chance to meet Dave. He had a firm handshake and was like the grandfather you never knew. I bought a print from him on the last day and he signed it. It would have been signed to our upcoming daughter but we have not decided on a name for her yet.

I bumped into Dave several times in the hotel and got all giddy. I am such a huge fan of his artwork, innovations with development of raising trout from eggs, his innovative fly patterns, and so much more.  Take a listen to Zach's interview with Dave and Emily. I stopped by Dave's booth several times over the weekend to watch him sketch. He was working on a print of a largemouth bass leaping out of the water to a mouse. His drawing was so effortless, minimal lines that gave form to a fish. His hands were so steady too. It reminded me of a video in art class in high school where Pablo Picasso had a paintbrush and black paint. He painted 7-8 lines on a piece of glass and it formed a bull. So simple yet distinctive. I could have watched Dave all day. That was a huge milestone in my fly fishing life.

Another fan stopped by and had an article from a book published in 1977. Dave remembered the article and signed it. We all  had a good laugh that the book was old and pages bleached by the sun and the fact that I was the same age as the book.

I stopped by to talk to Crosby once again and had a chance to talk to Andy Mill. Everyone else there was going to talk to him about fly fishing. I talked to him about his brief cameo in the movie Aspen Extreme. 

Enrico Puglisi was a character. He thought I worked for the FBI since I was taking pictures. He didn't seem to want to talk to much. I asked him about his products and materials and he briefly stated that he made them all and would  not tell me more. He answered his cell phone when I was asking him questions and telling how I thought he was very creative. He didn't seem too interested in talking to me. It was rather rude and I didn't return to his booth.

I had a a long talk with Tracey Stroup who had a booth across from us. She is married to Eric Stroup. 
What a fun couple. I hope to see Tracey at a PHWFF event as she has volunteered her services. I was jealous of Tracey for being able to stick to a healthy diet during the weekend. She worked on protein shakes and bars while we all ate fried and nasty crap. Eric tied some great nymph patterns at his booth. I think his football team is in the super bowl,  he was wearing a big ben jersey.

The opposite of the Puglisi experience was meeting Olli Ojamo of Eumer tube flies. Ollis sat down with me and went through his whole product list and why their brand of tube flies are better than others. Olli spent several minutes going over their vise, materials, and how to produce a tube fly. He took time and effort and I was very impressed. They tie some serious tubes and have an arsenal of materials. Its a bit too much for me as I tie simple tubes. I got a whole new perspective on tube flies and Finn raccoon. I had never tied with the material but am now willing to use it. Olli tied a very neat fly. Very few wraps with clean and tight stacks of material over material.

His companies system is very easy to use and each set of materials is pre-packaged for simplicity. I will endorse his company to my clients who want to get into tubes. He let me keep the fly he tied when he was done.

This was the other tube fly company. Again, lots of materials and products for their system. However they did not spend the time and effort with me. Lots of colors and varieties of materials. 

As I was walking there was one tier who stood out against all the rest. Lots of people were tying standard big water stripers flies, realistic looking spiders and stoneflies, midges, and nymphs. Sure there were some colorful deer hair patterns but nothing like Kevin Arculeo's flies.

From the Somerset show site: 
Kevin Arculeo:  Kevin Arculeo guides north of Atlanta, GA on Lake Sidney Lanier focusing on land-locked Stripers and Spotted Bass. He has also guided on the Chattahoochee River and several other trout streams in North Georgia.  Kevin's fishing obsession began as a small child. He spent his adolescent life in central and south Florida pursuing Largemouth Bass. He bought his first fly rod at age 12 using Green Stamps and caught several nice bass with it, but during that time, Kevin used mostly conventional tackle. In 1993, he discovered his true love for fly fishing during his first fly fishing trip to Colorado. He's been obsessively hooked ever since. As an accomplished fly tier and casting instructor, Kevin is often called upon to teach fly tying and casting for adults and children. Several of his flies and instruction on how to tie them have been published -- including a feature in Saltwater Fly Fishing magazine. Kevin is on fishing guide programs with Sage Fly Rods, Rio Fly Lines, Tibor Fly Reels, TFO, Action Optics, Redington, Minn Kota (Johnson Outdoors), Lowrance Electronics, and Sea Hunt Boats. To see more information about Kevin go to

When I saw these flies the first thing I thought of was snakeheads. His flies are tied out of 4mm craft foam and onto a string of bead chain. I had wanted to sit down and watch Kevin tie one but our schedules conflicted. This was the most clever set of flies I had seen at the entire show.

At night I had the pleasure of sitting down with Marla Blair and talked fly fishing. She is a lovely lady and quite knowledgeable. I hope one day to be able to take clients to locations as she does. From Patagonia to Canada. Due to my PHWFF schedule I was unable to attend her talk.

I had dinner with the guys from Temple Fork Outfitters on Saturday night. I was able to thank them for their donations to PHWFF and we all told stories from getting hooks stuck in random body parts to rod flexes and function etc. I really want to get my hands on their Deer Creek 11' 6wt switch rod. If I could get the PHWFF logo on it too that would be a bonus. On a side note, the hotel bar was so cold, I was able to see my breath!

Simon from Rio Products was at their booth. I was able to stop by and thank him for their customer support. They replaced my shooting head line after the plastic coating came apart after a few fishing trips. I will admit that I still don't fully understand how a fly line is broken down by segment based on weight and function. There is a lot of physics going in there. More power to them as they understand it and can answer any questions you have. Don't believe me? Call Rio if you want to buy a fly line. Tell them what make and model rod you will use, where you will fish, what species you will target, and the flies you will use. They will put you on the exact fly line.

I found the round rubber legs at eflytyer and purchased the whole lot. Those will be used to tie piles of scorpion bugs for the summer.

One of the best conversations I had was with Conway Bowman. I told him my name and that it was like Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. And that if you Google me for some reason there are all these pictures of Rob Lowe and Snow White and I was not sure why. That was a great conversation piece as Conway stated that was his sister. His twin sister and Rob Lowe did an intro to the Oscars several years ago. Now I know why that search always appears.

Trent Jones and Dalton Terrel from Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders and I had a long conversation with Conway about fishing for mako sharks, fishing San Diego, and the next generation of fly anglers. One of the nicest guys at the show and willing to share stories and information. Conway was there to promote his new Orvis book. I am hoping he might be able to lend some helpful information to someone new to the business as myself. We invited Conway to come fish the Tidal Potomac with us if ever in our area.

It was great to talk to the guys at Angler's Inn in Harpers Ferry, WV. We have made some plans to fish together this spring and summer. One of the guides was familiar with the Mountain Lake Lodge where I worked from 2002-2003 before it was burnt down.

Another group I spoke with was out of Steamboat Springs, Co. I can't seem to find their card but will post their information soon. We have a lot of friends in common as THW used to live in Steamboat.

Per my previous post, I spoke with Quentin from Fish Pimp. He developed a tent waterproofing formula that is now used on flies. Some creative products and I look forward to using them this spring.

And after a fun talk with Brian from Clear Cure Goo, I decided to go with his product for my patterns over the competitors. Reminds me I need to send a check out to him today.

Some random images of the weekend:

Collins Hackle Farm.
I sniffed around the fly tying booths to get an idea of who had the materials I was looking for: bright green round rubber legs, chartreuse peacock plumes, and chartreuse super hair. I got a massive pack of super hair and some great ostrich plumes from Cotes Fly Shop
The largest rotating fly drier I have ever seen.
Tier Scott Cesari

Monday, January 24, 2011

Project Healing Waters @ The Somerset New Jersey Fly Fishing Show

Wow, what a weekend.

One of the best parts of having quit my 9-5 job last June is being able to help out with PHWFF.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to be able to help out at the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) booth at the fly fishing show over the weekend. Several other volunteers from New Jersey and New York were also at the booth, including members of Veteran Anglers of New York. Board members and employees also joined us. At some points we had so many volunteers it was hard to stand behind the booth!

Several vets from VANY visited the booth on Saturday and had a photo op with the van. A great bunch of guys who were joking around and kept me laughing. They spotted another Vietnam vet passing by during the photo op and went over to talk to him. They all said 'welcome home' to him. Other Vietnam vets stopped by the booth during the weekend and said the same thing to our volunteers who served in Vietnam. This was a new experience to me. I had never heard that before. 

The booth was located near the front doors of the convention center so lots of traffic passed. We raised several thousand dollars for PHWFF. We accepted donations for hats, pins, scarves, and stickers. Several generous individuals dropped cash and did not want anything in return. A few people walked by and put a hundred dollar bill in the donations bin. The saltwater guides from New York worked the crowd and sold a dozen raffle tickets in the first five minutes they were at the booth.

We also sold over a hundred raffle tickets at $10 each for a custom made bamboo rod. The rod is made from South American bamboo and features bamboo ferrules.

Dozens of anglers signed up to volunteer their time to PHWFF. Dozens of people who had never heard of us were now informed. We got the message out, raised some money, and had a great weekend. 

In addition to the monetary donations, Fish Pimp donated several soft goods and gadgets to the Two Fly tournament being held this May 1 at the Rose River Farm. In addition, Collins Hackle Farm donated a more than gracious amount of feathers to PHWFF for use in fly tying.

Below is a Marine with a dedicated fly fishing tattoo.

Greg Wood of Rivers Fly Fishing | Fly Fishing Shop and Guide Service

 A poster depicting flies for several military campaigns.

 The PHWFF van. Look for it on the way to the waters.

 Flies on display. One each for a branch of military.
 This is one of the most amazing flies I have ever seen.
 A purple heart fly by Dave Benoit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Fly Fishing In Virginia | Mind The Litter

I have been putting in some hours over the past few weeks down on 4 Mile Run. The stream starts in the Virginia suburbs and gets bigger as it near the Potomac river. Sections of the stream are periodically stocked with trout. The last few mile of the stream have been modified to prevent flooding. Concrete walls line the water as it follows Glebe road through Alexandria. The tidal portion starts near the Mt. Vernon bridge. 4 Mile Run opens up from a narrow stream to a wide canal-like channel from the bridge to the Potomac.

A waste water treatment plant is located on the north side of the channel and dumps hot water into the stream. This hot water prevents the stream from freezing over. The heat allows the fish to warm up their body temperatures and feed enthusiastically if not aggressively during the cold winter.

To find fishing access, park either adjacent to the Toyota dealership on Rte 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) or near the Pier 1 Imports which has a larger parking lot. Follow the foot trails down to the water and under the bridges. This is an industrial fishing area. Planes take off and land a few  hundred yards away. Amtrak and metro trains pass over head. Cars and pedestrians cross the additional bridges.

Anglers congregate below the bridges during tidal changes. A 45 degree angled slope of rubble covered with fence material is what you stand on. Wear shoes that you can get a good traction. You don't want to slip and land in the water. This environment will destroy your gear so don't bring your best lines. The lines get caught up in the fencing and can easily get nicked. You will need to hop over or through the fences/rail so wear clothing that will allow you some flexibility. Most of the guys down there are wearing Dickies one piece coveralls for warmth.

Watch your back cast to avoid trees and the bridges overhead. In addition, avoid the following:
  • piles of pigeon excrement
  • broken bottles
  • homeless people blankets
  • piles of mono
  • litter (cans of corn, beer, soda, liquor bottles)
  • paint cans from the graffiti people
  • cigarette boxes
  • underwear (there is an unusually strange amount of underwear stuck in the tree branches. From leopard print funderwear to tighty whities.
  • Random shoes (that's a shout out to Trent Jones)
This is an urban fishery. There is unfortunately all sorts of litter that anglers leave behind or is washed down from the gutters upstream.

Targeted fish species: largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, carp.

How to fish the area:

Watch the water stains on the bridge pilings. That will tell  you if the tide is high or low or going out vs. coming in. Throw a stick into the water to find the direction of the water and its speed.

The fish congregate along the bridge pilings. The water is 3'-6' and the fish stack up. They also line up along the shore where the rubble and fencing drops off. Polarized glasses don't work under here as its all shade (thus its dark and cold, and don't forget the wind coming down from the west). Anglers move up and down the shore to different spots based on the tides.

Get  your flies deep. A sink tip or split shot help. I fish a 9' rod and an 11' rod. You can get some decent rolls casts when the tide is low. Fish between bridges for more clearance overhead.

I prefer a 2 fly rig. A white marabou spey pattern with a dropper of either a damsel nymph or a bead head, soft hackle pheasant tail. The bass and crappie will chase the lead fly. Subtle tugs will alert you to the slower fish. The bass and sunfish will chase your fly right to your feet. 

Fishing with a strike indicator and dead drifting the flies has only produced sunfish. Stripping in the flies will get crappie and bass. Nothing huge so far but its nice to be able to catch fish when its 25 degrees.

The spin guys are using a similar set up, a small float with a jig suspended below. They cast and let the tide move the jig up or down the stream.

Walk from the Toyota dealership down toward the Potomac. The carp will roll and jump in the gaps between bridges. I have tried several tactics to get the carp but none has worked yet. Nymphing, dead drifting, and stripping several types of flies from nymphs to crayfish.

The best area to get a long roll cast is where the sewers dump into the stream. Large concrete drains come out of a wall and allow  you to get a few feet of debris and tree free areas to your left and right.  I always fear someone will jump out of the scary drain each time I  hope over the fence.

If  you don't want to drive to the mountains to fish for trout in spring creeks or below tailwaters, this is your best option for wetting a line during the winter.

Any questions, send me an e-mail to

Monday, January 10, 2011

Two Days In Idaho | Anglers You Are in Bull Trout Country!

Here is a short story I wrote after a visit to Idaho in the summer of 2007.

It’s 6am and I’m jolted awake by vintage Rolling Stones blaring from the next room from a record player. My buddy, Erik, sneaks into my room to place a steaming cup of java on the night stand and urges me to not waste any more time sleeping when big fish await. I have my first cocktail flu in a long time but it doesn’t slow me down. I roll out of bed into the cool July air near Sandpoint, Idaho. Through the window, the early morning light reflects like a mirror off Lake Pond Oreille, one of the deepest lakes in the world. Though the lake beckoned in the distance, our destination was a local, hidden fishing hole.

This vacation wasn’t designed as a fishing trip. My wife had intended to visit family and friends out west, with some fishing thrown in to appease me. Since I didn’t know where or when I would fish, or what species I would target, I brought a 7’ 5wt rod, and a 9’ 6wt rod, one large arbor reel with 6wt line, a box of miscellaneous flies intended for stream and lake fish, and some spools of Berkley vanish for tippet attached to my lanyard. I was completely unprepared.

We loaded up my fishing gear in Erik’s 1960s-era pumpkin orange Dodge Power Wagon. This leaded-gas guzzling beast had no interior decor, save for a spare bench hastily screwed into the wooden floor that morning, and no amenities. With much coughing and sputtering, the engine finally turned over, and we were off.
 A moose we almost hit.

We creaked and jostled 20 snaking miles into the national forest, on unpaved fire roads, and seemingly no shock absorbers, feeling not unlike ice cubes in a pumpkin orange cocktail shaker. It was impossible to figure out where we where, as the road endlessly switch backed into the wilderness. That and Erik’s wife used the topo map as a makeshift cushion, which prevented Erik from ever referring to it.

After about an hour of hairpin twists and turns, Erik and the wives finally dropped me off on a dusty turn out where an old campfire was my only indication that others had ever made it this far. Their plan was to drive back up the dirt road to the next turn out, park, and walk downstream to meet me, as I headed upstream. Erik promised some beautiful waterfalls and to be prepared to catch a lot of fish. He wouldn’t tell me where I was either to protect the stream. Those were his last words as I set off.

I strung up my 7’ 5wt with the large arbor reel. As the wheezing of the truck’s engine faded, I began to hear the sound of rushing water. I suddenly felt like one of those Discovery channel guys, getting dropped off in the wilderness and having to rely on my wits to get out alive. So I did what they always advise, and let the sound of the water be my guide.

Following a steep, dirt pathway through the overgrowth ringing the campsite, I parted branches and wildflowers and entered the frigid water. My first impression of this stream was of its similarities to my home streams in the Shenandoah National Park (SNP); small pocket water, long pools, boulders, and overhanging branches. The only immediate difference was the lack of suffocating humidity. The bank was carpeted with wildflowers. Wasps, beetles, bees, and butterflies buzzed loudly through the air as they flitted from flower to flower, gorging themselves on nectar and pollen.

Without a vest, my foam box had to be wedged deep in my pants pocket for safekeeping. I took it out and inspected my various flies with a good idea of the stream’s adjacent insect population. Like a beacon, a small terrestrial stood out from the rest. This nameless fly is “buggy” and quite simple. It has the silhouette of a plethora of aerial arthropods. My pattern is a ¾ inch strip of craft foam. Black on bottom with yellow on top. Two sets of black round rubber legs per side tied in ¼ of the way in from the ends on either side. It had a nice outline of the wasps along the bank. It was perfect. This pattern had not failed me in the summer months through several different states that I have fished. I smashed the barb, tied it on, and cast to a small pocket behind a moderate sized boulder. I saw a shadow and a splash. I set the hook. I skated a tiny 6” cutthroat across the current and released him after a quick photo. This is the second part of dissimilarity between wherever I was in Idaho and Virginia. No cutts in the Old Dominion.

I worked my way upstream, casting behind and along boulders, along seams, and in deep riffles. I caught trout after trout, ultimately losing count. The perfect little speckled gems averaged 5-9 inches. I wish I had my noodley 3wt rod and a tiny reel like I fish in the SNP. My 5wt has too much backbone for this type of fishing.

The weather was perfect. What a day so far. I was alone, with no sign of anyone else around for miles. It would have been nice to have my fishing buddy Tom with me. He constantly out fishes me so I’m his net and cameraman. I supply the flies since my impressionistic ones always out fish his Rembrandt-like realistic ones. We alternate pools in water like this and snap each others photos when a fish is landed. This time, I had each pool to myself.

The water and fishing remained the same for about an hour or so. Then I arrived at the first set of waterfalls. Sitting on the bank to observe, there was a 3 foot fall with a deep plunge pool, forming a run with steep walls on either side.

 View from upstream
The walls were about rod length apart and continued for a several feet. This section emptied into a broad tail out about fifteen feet wide and waist deep. The left bank was shaded by pines and the right was open to the sun. The right wall was exposed and had a shallow stillwater pool behind it. A trout rose on the far bank just where the walls ended, making me salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

I waded into the tail out and began false casting perpendicular to the current and threw the fly right up into the run, the seams, everywhere. The foam bug which caught plenty of fish downstream did nothing for me here. Nothing! I took out a spool of 6x tippet and tied dropper after dropper: pheasant tail (Tom’s go-to nymph), caddis, stone, brassie. No luck. How could I have caught so many fish early with one cast per pool and now I’m getting skunked? What was I missing?

Time to re-assess. Dries and droppers didn’t work. Hmm…falls, plunge pool, deep water. Eureka! Big, heavy streamer time. I niped off my dry and dropper and stuck them into my meager selection of flies buried in my pocket. I took out my favorite streamer. It’s like Erik’s truck: big and loud. Long hook wrapped in wire, tungsten head, peacock estaz body, zonker tail, and thick, webby cocktail hackle. Did I mention rubber legs tied in at the cone? It’s a massive streamer with a massive success rate. I tied it on with a loop knot, smash the barb and move in.

I’m now standing on a large boulder where the wall opens up. I cast into the waterfall and let it sink, strip, tip shake, strip, tip shake till the fly is at my feet. Next I throw against the wall, strip, tip, strip, tip, to my feet. The fly is closing in at my feet and I feel a tug. The hook is set and the game is on. The fish emerges from along the boulder and I see a huge cottonmouth on a fish. The brightest white mouth I have ever seen in the water. The fish is at my feet when it spits back the hook. Nothing I had caught or seen in the stream so far was this big. Adrenaline is coursing through my veins and tunnel vision narrows my line of sight to only the stream.

How did I lose that fish? Would my wife believe me? Where is Tom when I need him? If I was steelheading in New York, my friend Joe would let out a string of colorful expletives at me like he does every time I lose a fish.

I take deep breathes, gather myself, and get back to fishing. Nothing. The giant fish probably has a sore mouth and is hiding or knows I’m here and won’t bite. Or worse, all of the above.

I move from the boulder into the sunny side and climb up the wall. Its tough going, rod in my mouth, fingers scrabbling for anything to grip. I make it to the top, and look down into the run. The water is dark on all sides and turquoise in the middle with foam and bubbles under the falls.

This vantage point yields a whole new perspective compared to my previous location. I look around and see nothing moving in the water. I’m reminded of those magic eye posters that require intense focus before your eyes pick up on the details within. At first I see nothing and all of a sudden there he is, against the far wall, parallel to the rocks and in the current. But wait there’s more, another fish in front of him. I cast and let the fly sink along the far wall, strip, strip and whump! First cast is a charm. The fish is on, but he darts into a confined space, deep into the water by the falls. I can’t land him up here. I hold my short rod up and painfully slide down the rock face on my side. He’s still on. I can’t see the water because the rocks are in the way. I reach my rod arm up so the line won’t shred on the rocks. He pulls out line. I’m on the move and I’ve got him, the hook is surely set. I don’t know what I have on but it’s massive. We are both fighting for our lives. Up and down the pool he goes, from falls to tail out. I’m in the sunny shallow and my forearm is on fire. The rod is bent like a horseshoe and doesn’t have the back bone for this fish. I wish for my beefy 6wt that was left sitting in the truck.

I don’t know how long we’ve been at it. Up and down the pools and runs this fish swims with no sign of yielding. Time for a change of plan. I begin to back up, there is a shallow pool I think I can bring him to. Tom where are you with that net? I didn’t have room to pack my net. Crap. Tom would have had his small catch and release net and it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I’d need his canoe net.

The fish seems to sense I have a history of losing big fish like this. He’s giving me the middle fin. I can’t get him to hand, I have no net and he won’t budge to be pulled into the shallows. This seems to go on forever. Finally, we fight until he yields just enough that I can beach him on the rocky shore. I shout, scream, and do a little dance. I drop my rod next to him and snap a few pictures. The fish measures reel seat to first stripping guide, fat as a football, and eyes as big as those of my schnauzer. His belly is a whitish cream, marble size spots along his side, and a mouth bigger than my fist. I later find out it’s a bull trout Salvelinus confluentus. I make sure to capitalize the first letter in genus and lowercase in species, and italicize as my Ichthyology professor in college stressed. I’ve caught big fish before but never a bull trout and never in a stream this small. I was ecstatic.

I had a flashback to my AEG Trout Bum Diaries Volume 1 when the guy is solo fishing for sea run browns and how he filmed himself with his trophy. I set my camera to movie mode, placed it on the rock in front of me, and began filming. I took a short film holding the trout to the camera first lengthwise then pointing the fish to the camera. The final shot is me holding the fish as I walk him to the water. I hold him up for the camera one last time and dip him back in the drink. He’s back in and breathing. I stabilize him and run to shut the movie off.

The fish and I stand there in the current, looking upstream. I walk us deeper into the current. The water is frigid. My knees begin to numb, my muscles tighten. Forearms and wrists no longer have any feeling. The fish is just idling in the current with my left hand behind his pectoral fins and other around his tail. I can’t get over how large and beautiful are the qualities of this fish. He moves his tail as if to say he wants to go. I know after that fight, more time is needed for recovery. Too much lactic acid has built up, this fish could be a floater and that would ruin both our days and break laws. I alternate hands. One to hold the tail, the other to defrost in the warm Idaho air. Minutes pass and I feel his strength return as his body begins to undulate in the water.

Ten minutes later his fins perk up and tail pulses, head moving side to side. My hands open, the fish glides deeper next to a rock. He sat there for twenty more minutes while I returned to work the pool for more fish. I continue to fish and have a few smaller fish chase my streamer but I catch nothing. It’s now 1:50 and the big guy moved to another rock a little up stream and then cruises back to the pool where it was hooked.

No one is there to share one of my greatest fishing accomplishments. I wish my wife and friends had come down the mountain to see me and my ear to ear smile.

I climb the rock wall adjacent to the falls. Once I’m on top of the falls, I look back on the spot where I had just spent an hour. Upstream is all shallow, I nip off my streamer and replace with my foam bug. I worked my way upstream and caught several delicate and beautiful cutthroats on the terrestrial. I cast to a bulge of water just right of a large boulder, I see a shadow and splash and as I set the hook on a cut I heard “Bob!” from the forested banks of the stream. (She is the only one who refers to me as Bob.) I couldn’t see where it came from but knew I had finally been found. My wife was a sight for sore eyes, bearing water and snacks. Erik asked how I had done and I said I could retire from fishing with the day I had just experienced. And it would only get better.

While the hikers sat and refueled, I continued to fish. I had taken my time fishing up stream and thus they had to walk farther to find me. My audience watched as I moved up another set of waterfalls.
Deeper water meant streamer time. I tied on my streamer, pointed my rod tip to the corner of the pool and said “that’s where I want my fly to land.” First cast was to the left. Second cast was worse. Third was a bulls eye and on the second strip I had on a 17” bull trout.

I pulled another bull trout out of the plunge pool and broke a third off. I moved up stream and around a bend, while everyone else remained to bask in the sun on the warm rocks.

I came to another large set of falls with what appeared to be a bottomless pool, followed by riffles and a broad pool with a steep wall on either side. I moved in and crouched along the pool and worked my streamer from riffles down into the broad pool. The fish were there and aggressive.
I landed several more, lost an equal amount, and broke one off. I had now just one streamer left and another day on my license. The hikers were all beat up from bushwhacking through the stream and they were fighting a fierce case of the beer tooth from Erik’s kegerator.

I called it a day and we climbed out of the canyon and hiked up to the car. After sandwiches at the truck, we piled back in for the bone-jarring ride back to civilization. I was looking forward to a cold beer from Erik’s kegerator.

We spent the next day on the lake. Everyone took turns tubing and wake boarding. I sat back and basked in the sun. I had my adrenaline rush yesterday and was content to take in the beauty that is Idaho.

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