Monday, September 26, 2011
An Old Friend Named Moccasin: Parts IV-VI
Breakfast was a sliced sausage, egg, and cheese on a homemade biscuit. It sure tasted good; the whole thing was yummy. But what was I thinking?
Now that Moccasin is private you can drive right to the shore; that suits my 60 year old joints. Since last being there in 1992, an aerator, a shack with picnic tables, an outhouse, a dock and a few boats were the man-made changes. Nature and time brought more cattails to the lower end of the lake and more brush to the upper end. My old friend had aged well. Looking across the lake I smiled seeing the spot where that first fish surprised and delighted me 40 years ago. Could it really be that long ago? Where has the time gone?...
At 8:30 five anglers met our guide, Kevin, at the gate to the ranch.
Our group included Michael and Nancy, husband and wife, who live in the Okanogan Valley and are hay farmers. Nigel, who is from England, was fishing for the first time in the United States. Al Green lives in the Methow Valley. I should mention that Al is 87 years old. I hope I'm still getting around and fishing when I'm 87.
Al and Nigel:
We started fishing at about 9:45. In a float tube, Nancy was the first one on the lake; she had two fish quite quickly on dry flies. It was very encouraging. Michael, her husband, entered the lake soon after that in a 12 foot aluminum boat he had on a trailer. Al and Nigel were in a river raft with our guide, Kevin. Al had to be helped into the raft but dog gone it he was fishing! Gary and I set up our pontoon boats and were the last ones on the lake. Hopes high, I was experiencing both the anticipation of the present and reliving the anticipation I had known 40 years ago. Time and memories became fluid.
Starting at the shoreline where so many years ago that first fish took my fly was an easy decision; rising trout were luring me like the sirens singing to Odysseus.
My first and smallest fish of the day:
Since that first kiss I shared with Moccasin I have worked hard at learning to fly fish for a variety of species. Unlike the 70's, today, good gear lives at my house and I cast well.
Nigel and Al were only fishing for half a day; at about 1:15 Kevin started bringing them back to the boat launch. At that point the four fish I had caught were just not that big of a thrill to me. They were less of a thrill to me because my stomach was still upset from the damn greasy sausage I ate for breakfast. What was I thinking?
Kevin asked me how Gary and I were doing. I told him I had caught only four fish, Gary had caught 3, and that we were both a little frustrated. I told Kevin that we both understood that he had people in his boat but that one way or another he should have probably checked in with us at least once during the morning. Immediately Kevin was patient and tried to be helpful. He wanted to sit down and talk. Oh, I definitely wanted to sit down, but not to talk. I wanted to get to the outhouse and recycle the last of that damn sausage. What was I thinking?
Recycling finished and stomach calm it was easier for me to talk to Kevin. He suggested that I come in his boat and that we fish together. It really didn't sound like that good of an idea to me; I wanted to fish in my own pontoon boat. Plus I didn't want to be able to do something that Gary didn't get to do. I tried calling Gary to see if he wanted to get in the river boat also; his phone was off.
Kevin took me down to the far end of the lake. Nigel and Al had not taken a fish on a dry fly for the first part of their morning; they didn't get fish until they started Chironomid fishing. It was good to see them finish with a double both taken on dry flies near the boat launch.
Virtually always with an indicator, I have done a good deal of Chironomid fishing through the years. I had two rods set up; I had hoped to only use the one with the floating line and catch hog after hog on hoppers. Kevin had me switch to the rod with the sinking line. We put on a Red Chironomid and a Black Chironomid for a dropper. We did deep line chironomiding. That is with a sinking line and no indicator. In short order the line is straight down from the tip of the rod. The fly is a foot from the bottom in 20 feet of water.
I honestly felt a little silly being in the guide's boat. I have been in a guide's boat in a river several times but never on a lake. While Gary was getting Chironomids on his sinking line, seemingly for no good reason and totally without warning the tip of my rod went in the water. That fish had some zip. In a few minutes, resting in the net, mouth of the water and fly in his lip, my first fish of the afternoon waited to be unbuttoned. He was 24 inches. My hands were not shaking. Still, I was smiling--outside and inside. That fish began what was a great second part of the day. Six nice fish came to the net and I lost a few others using the deep line method.
Gary got a good number of fish deep lining also.
Gary nets another multi-pound Trout:
When I fish with friends it is important to me that they have a good time and that they catch fish. Gary was catching fish. Here is a link to a video of Gary as he finishes playing a nice fish.
Those deeper water fish reminded me of some of my first kisses at Moccasin. In forty years I have had a lot of kisses. I still want more. Happy enough with the Chironomid fishing I still wanted to get some crushing strikes on a Hopper. In all of life "the take is the premier moment." I want those takes!
Before the last 90 minutes of (fishable) light Kevin suggested that if getting some big fish on dry flies was important we would risk getting no fish but that we could try the edges at a couple spots where the fish feed. I will virtually always trade lots of smaller fish for fewer big fish. I will trade lots of "felt" takes for fewer visual takes.
Moving down the side of the lake several nice fish were kind enough to pick up my Damsel pattern and a Parachute Adams. Still I wanted to see a 4 or 5 pound Trout take the Hopper on the way out of the water, briefly attempt flight, splash like a presto log dropped over the side of the boat, and then make the reel sing.
None of us wanted to break down our gear in the dark; we were running out of light. It was almost time to call it a day. Kevin rowed to the other side of the lake to have me make my last casts of the evening off of a small point. I was ready to call the trip a good one, ready to take a deep breath and reel in. Well, not quite ready. Almost ready. I was still hoping for a big wet kiss; that visual, crushing strike. Kevin probably would have probably allowed me just a few more casts. My Hopper was riding on the surface of the water several feet from shore. Seemingly for no apparent reason and totally without warning a nulti-pound fish became airborne. He had my Hopper in his mouth! Hell yes! The take is the premier moment and that one was excellent. Releasing that Trout was the perfect way to end the fishing for the day.
Time and memories became fluid this day. I had relived some frustration just like my first date with Moccasin. Certainly not to the extent as that first date; after all I'm older and wiser. Still, there was some frustration. I experienced and relived some of those truly wonderful memories I had through 20 years of fishing Moccasin when it was public. In a way, it was if 20 years all happened again in a day. This day clearly exists on it's own though and added to my good memories.
Moccasin, my old friend, it was so good to reconnect with you. I look forward to seeing you in the future.
Kevin was great. Gary and I appreciated how he worked with us both on and off the lake; I plan to book a Steelhead trip with him in the future and expect to fish Moccasin Lake with him again. Thanks a lot Kevin.
Kevin with his 2 1/2 year old son, Jackson.
My favorite picture of the trip at the "moment of the spirit".