Just one of those days…

This fish came in a foot and a half of clear water.
This fish came in a foot and a half of clear water.

Saturday was one of those days.
I woke up at 5:30, couldn’t sleep so I laid in bed wondering how I would fill the next 16 hours of daylight. Since it was supposed to be sunny and 75 degrees, I had initially planned on floating the Thorne River in the $29.99 inflatable raft I bought last summer.
Instead I drove toward the north end of the island to check out the coho salmon snagging grounds at Whale Pass. The creek is a few weeks from being choked with salmon, so it was more of a reconnoissance mission.
Milage wise half the trip is gravel, half paved. Construction is further bogging down efficient travel, and after an hour I had looped around on the 1.5 lane gravel detour and saw the flag lady with the ominous STOP pointed in my direction. I slowed.
“Next pilot car goes through at 11.”
“That is three hours from now. I guess I’ll be turning around here.”
There’s only one road north, so I had no choice. Forty minutes later I was back to the beginning of the detour, and rerouting to another creek on the east side of the island.
A few years ago I learned something about fly fishing on this creek – you don’t always need a lot of water for big fish. Shallow riffles of shin depth hold fish, especially if there’s a rock or dip that creates an easy holding spot in a feeding lane.
With that in mind I walked up stream to a spot where the foot deep water deepens to maybe two as a few rocks split and braid the water. I caught half a dozen cutthroats and a nice rainbow, then saw a massive flash. The trout was feeding on a specific line on the inside seam behind the rock. I threw the perfect cast with my olive body elk hair caddis. Rejected. Again. Rejected. I switched flies. Rejected. It was starting to feel like high school.
I tied on a black bodied caddis with gold wire rib and the fish took. The red stripe down the flanks of the thrashing fish excited me, but I stayed focused, played the fish to the shallower water and into my net.
It was a 20-inch rainbow, the biggest I’ve ever caught on a dry fly. The rest of the day, check that, week would be gravy after such a trout.
When I arrived back home I still had four hours until dinner, so I started up Sunnahae. On the previous two hikes I had gone to the second muskeg, but this time I wanted alpine. I rationed what little water I had to combat my profuse sweating. I stuck my head in leftover snow as I neared the top, but I was still a furnace. At one point I even took off my shirt. The brightness must have made float plane pilots think someone was signaling for help.
I sat on clean rock and looked north. There was no wind. Nothing at all. Earth was on mute. It’s rare that places of such beauty are both so still and quiet, but for a minute everything was. Then the birds let out their breath, and a couple float planes resumed their noisy treks around the island.
I watched the last of the charter boats make their way back to the docks as I made my way down the mountain face behind the city of Craig.
Absolutely wiped out, I doubled down on dinner, fresh rhubarb crisp then tried to communicate with the deer that was having a much more bland meal in our yard. I would have watched the full sunset but I was too tired and fell asleep. Guess I’ll have to do it all again.

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