Monday, December 15, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Its been awhile since I've posted to this blog.  A variety of reasons really.  My work with TU has kept me busy.  I've enjoyed every minute of it too!  Great work, great people and partners and its work that is so important for the rivers and fish I live to love.  

Our new home on the lower Umpqua has taken a fair amount of my time the past few months as well.  Now that we've got most of that done and can just enjoy the place, you'll likely see more posts from there.  We've scuba dived the whole river in front of the place.  We've chased fall bear and elk during archery season in the hills and canyons surrounding it.  The boys caught tons of smallmouth bass out front before the cold high water came in September.  Fall Chinook and Coho have slid by, unmolested by yours truly or any of my family, friends or guests, in spite of more than just a few casts with spinners from our dock.  The winter steelhead started showing up around Thanksgiving like they always do on the lower Umpqua, but this years rains and high, muddy water hasn't lent itself to swinging flies.  Kind of a bummer for me and my buddies, but its also nice to know that the beating the fish have taken from the hordes of anglers plying the low water we've had the past two years didn't happen again this year.   Maybe this winter there will be a few more wild steelhead in the North Umpqua fly water.  Something else to blog about in the coming months I suspect. 

Winter steelhead hold a special place in my heart.  They're TOUGH! Not only in terms of just plain old grit, they're tough to catch, especially on flies.  The past 15 or so years has changed the game and leveled the field quite a bit with our advances in gear...rods and lines particularly, but in fly design and tying materials.  But even with these advances, they're still damned tough!  

Step, cast, mend, swing.  Step, cast, mend, swing.  Step, cast, mend, swing.  Hour after freezing hour.  The lines swing stops at some point, sometimes days into it.  Slow steady weight transmits up the fly line, into the rod and your numb hand...followed by that sweet sound.  The sound of your click-pawl antique Hardy reel as line melts from the reel and backing leaves the guides.  GREAT STUFF! and once experienced, tough to walk away from. 

Until the flows recede a bit and/or the winter fish start showing up in fishable numbers in some of my coastal streams I'm content to hang around the house, get my TU work done and do a little bird hunting.  I have a friend from Montana who corrects me every time I call ducks and geese "birds".  

In Montana where he lives I guess a "bird" is some little feathery creature that hides in the brush until your uppity English pooch sniffs the smelly little bird up and stands there "pointing", another word for "telling" you "hey here's one, here's one boss".  Then you simply dismount from your trusty steed and flush the bird for dispatching with your high dollar over and under 20 gauge. 

 I point out to him that the "birds" me and my sons and buddies hunt require a little more effort to bring to hand.  We often plant and flood ponds to provide quality feed and roost area for our birds each spring.  Then in the fall we construct blinds that allow us to hide from the wary eyes of our prey.  We intelligently place realistic decoys (sometimes hundreds of them!) in a manner that accurately depicts what these "birds" look like when relaxed and social and feeding/resting.  Then when the birds fly by we use all manner of gadgets and gizmo's to clinch the deal.  Calls, jerk strings, spinner dekes all further the illusion that all is calm, all is bright... finally, after ALL of that effort, we might actually get a chance to bring the bird to hand with camo painted 10 or more likely 12 gauge pump or semi-auto shotguns.  And IF we don't blunder and miss (happens way more often than I willing to admit) our poor old trust worthy "working mans dogs" like labs and Chesapeake bay retrievers finally get a chance to do the deed that they live for, retrieving!    

Merry Christmas to you and yours and here's to a great New Year!

No comments:

Post a Comment