the fishing life...
 
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Katie Roloson fishing the Gallitan
It is not right that I am writing about the past three weeks of this trip from a Comfort Inn, or that I haven't written anything for that matter in quite some time.  By now it doesn’t matter that this comfort inn is located in the middle of nowhere, the furthest I have been from a trout stream in over two months.  On the contrary, it makes sense I suppose, to write now, now more than ever, now that the temptation of fishing, or the lure of mountains, or the guilt of running or simply not wasting this precious time is momentarily at bay.  I am in North Dakota now and having spent the past three weeks in Montana, there is nothing else to do but reflect.
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A promising sign on Easter evening
We left early on Easter Sunday.  You know how on TV when the father peers in a cracked bedroom door?  The hallway light illuminating a small peaceful figure bundled in a race car comforter, a matching theme displayed throughout the room on the walls and nightstand.  It’s a boy of 8 or 9, that’s for sure and an expression of satisfaction and approval is cast on the fathers face, then the door closes, the man leaves without disturbing the child's final moments of sleep and the screen goes black.  I guess the point is, we didn’t leave that early.  We were going fishing.  It was Easter and everyone knew it, no need to be secretive, maybe slightly embarrassed or sorry for leaving the family on a holiday, but that was it.
 On the way out I called up a good friend from Washington, Katie Roloson.  Katie works at the North Cascades Institute.  Works her butt off actually.  She had managed to accumulate almost of month of comp time on top of her unused vacation and was in need of an adventure to cash in on.  So she decided to drive out and meet us in Big Sky.  It was great to have her there.  Her presence was a reminder of my life the past two years in Washington and the adventurous souls I got to know, but more importantly it was just nice to be able to spend some time on the stream with a good friend.

Katie had done some fishing in Washington with me, very little though, maybe less than an hour, but I wasn’t too worried about that.  She is one of those rare individuals who, having never done something before can almost immediately do it better than you.  You know the type.  On top of it, she is completely clueless to her skill.  You could bring her to a bowling alley and she’d roll a 300 and ask if that was good.  People like her are pure wanton talent so I knew she would pick up fly-fishing quickly.
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Casting away
As I suspected it didn’t take long for her to get her casting down, it didn’t even take long for her to put down a respectable drift (cast, mend, strip, mend, give, mend reach, cast, repeat…), in fact she had a fish on within the first 30 minutes or so.  I knew this because I was standing there with her, but I would have known it even if I was 30 miles downstream in Bozeman.  She screamed, “Oh my god!  I’ve got a fish, I think I’ve got a fish, I had a fish, I think that was a fish, I can’t believe it!” 

From that point on every fish that bit, and more so every rock her line bumped stirred a wave of excitement that she could barely contain.  “I got a… nope.”  Then, “Oh, my gosh I think I got a, oh”… then, “I got a fish, I got a fish this time!  Paul a fish!” 

“Really?”, I would say.  “Yeah, I think it’s a fish,” she’d say.  “Hold your rod still.” Sizing up the movement, or lack thereof I’d say, “Hmm, I think you’ve got another rock…”. 

“No, I think it’s a…, okay I think it’s a rock.  But it felt like a fish…”

To her credit, it can be really difficult to tell the difference at times between a rock and a fish.  Either way you need to set the hook, it’s what happens after that that solves your problem.  If your line takes off it’s a fish, if it stays put it’s a rock.  Further confusing the matter however is the fact that large fish often do stay put.  They are smart.  They pause for several seconds to help you think you have a rock while they buy themselves some time to think about how they are going to get themselves out of the mess their in.  Regardless, it was fun to hear the excitement in Katie’s voice over each little bump in her line.  A reminder of that pure joy that originally hooked me to fish, well before I trained myself to mute the excitement of possibility, an excitement that I have to believe still drives all fishermen.
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Temperamental spring weather
We had four days to get Katie a fish, and seeing how well she was doing just within the first hour, I was positive it wouldn’t take that long.  So, I was more than overjoyed when we finally killed the monkey around 5 O’clock on the fourth day (nothing like waiting till the last moment).  After the first day, a front came through and dropped several inches of snow, chilled the stream, dumped some color into it, and put the fish down.  Things didn’t look good.  There were still fish to be caught, but they were much more difficult now and nothing was for sure.  Katie’s first fish was a very respectable whitefish and it wasn’t her last.  She landed several more before the day was through, before she headed back to Washington, and before my dad and I headed to the Big Horn.
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Katie got a Fish!
 
 
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Bishop Creek
If you are familiar with the northern hemisphere, and assume most of you are, the word southern usually denotes, among other things warmer weather.  When used in conjunction with the word Wisconsin as in “southern Wisconsin” you can count on warmth in the spring about as much as Obama’a universal healthcare.  Hoping for descent temperatures, all the while knowing better, we arrived in southern Wisconsin’s driftless area to fish its famous (yes, even) limestone spring creeks, welcomed by an inch or two of fresh snow, blustery winds, and of course Josh Mattila, smiles were plastered to our faces.
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Coon Creek rises
Josh and I grew up right across the street from each other and have been pals since before I was born.  I can say that because I am almost positive that even while I was still riding fanny pack in Sheila’s belly around the neighborhood I was aware of a miniature  Josh Mattila, two years my senior, patrolling the cul-de-sac bare back on his Saint Bernard, an act of which I instantly approved. Needless to say, over the years we have accumulated a resume of stories and experiences that makes the other’s presence pure joy. 

Here are three stories involving Josh Mattila:

1.  When I was little, 8 or maybe 9, the cul-de-sac that we lived on was  thrust into turmoil when Josh’s little brother Benny Mattila had an accident in their backyard while enjoying an early evening escapade on the swing-set.  In the process of loosing touch with the rubber seat and chains his skull met resistance on a two by six.  Initially less curious about the commotion and more concerned about whether or not Josh could play, I arrived to see Ben floating wide eyed in the summer grass wearing a diaper on his head to cover the crack in his skull.  The hustle and seriousness of the situation is burned into my memory.  It's was also a brilliant use of a diaper for a bandage.

2.  Years later Josh and I were playing hockey in his driveway and for some reason or another we started wrestling.  With Josh pinned I started tapping on his sternum and giggling hysterically.  I stopped laughing as quickly as nerve endings in my lip could inform my brain that it had encountered something painful.  Stunned I asked, “Did you just punch me?”  Nodding assuredly with an expression that suggested he would do it again if I didn’t stop, I got up and walked home.  Thinking back I probably deserved it, I hate sternum rubs.  For reference it is what you do to assess the awareness of an unresponsive person.

3.  Josh introduced me to Queen.  I remember rollerblading over to his house one day to play street hockey.  For pump up and effect he had his taupe single speaker hand held tape player that looked like it should accompany Teddy Ruxpin sitting on the stoop draining four C batteries to Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls.  Wearing black rollerblades with neon laces and red hot wheels Josh was working on his crossovers while singing the chorus.  It was an education and I was more than envious as I strolled in on my Wayne Gretzky endorsed Ultrawheels, skates that even Wayne Gretzky's endorsement couldn't prevent from sucking.
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Mattila releasing a nice little brown
So it was great to see him.  By the time we arrived Josh had already landed a very respectable brown on Rullands Coulee Creek swinging a black hare’s streamer.  He said he had tried to go down stream to some better water but a ranging horse kept pestering him for a carrot.  An interesting thing about the Driftless area is that much of fishing is gained through easements on private property and most of the private property is farm or graze land.  It is not uncommon to walk through a herd of cattle on the way to the stream, your waders protecting you from manure as much as the water.
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There's supposed to be a stream around here somewhere
With the wind howling pretty good and the temperatures lingering around uncomfortable, Josh and I fished for a bit on Coon Creek, landed a handful of fish on scuds, and headed back to the cabin.  After dinner Josh pulled out some Iowa pride and we tied flies late into the night with a fire and some playoff hockey on in the background you couldn’t ask for anything more.
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A tying session done right
The next day we woke to an open ceiling and the prospect of a comfortable day fishing.  With a bit of wind in Coon Valley we headed over to Bishop Creek, spent the day stalking skittish fish and enjoying the first day of sunshine in while.
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Bishop Creek
We ended the day back in Coon Valley on Coon Creek.  The clouds rolled in and lifted the curtain on some rising fish.  Back to delicate presentations, tiny tippets, and calm waters we spent the rest of the day frustrating ourselves with dries.  With several hours of driving left for each of us, Josh further south to Iowa City and Big Paul and I back north to Hudson we prolonged our departures as long as possible ultimately heading our separate ways.  As is the case with good friends it is tough to say good bye, the consolation always being, you will see them again and the promise that next time there will be more stories to tell, and more fishing to be had.
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Coon Creek
 
 
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Iced-up Ghost Lake
As a child we took at least two trips to northern Wisconsin every year.  One with just the guys late in the spring called father-son weekend, and another later in the summer that we called family camp. These trips were spent entirely on the Chippewa Flowage a huge 30,000 acre conglomerate of lakes and bays where we fished for bass, crappie, and musky.  Coincidentally I associate northern Wisconsin and it’s dark tannic waters with big warm water fish and not cold water fish like trout.  Boy was I mistaken, at least partly.
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The Namekagon
The Namekagon River is a National Scenic Waterway managed by the National Park Service and flows dark, cool, and wild for 90 miles before merging with several other streams to form the St. Croix (also a wild and scenic river).  Fresh off chilly winter temperatures during Wisconsin’s early trout season (March 15 – May 14) while the Namekagon is still flowing cold and saturated with oxygen big brown trout and native brook trout linger in the main branch before the warm summer ambient temperatures force them to relocate elsewhere.  I’ve heard that during the summer months they are nearly impossible to find.  Where they go, I do not know, I do not eat green eggs and ham.  I do not eat them Sam I am…but probably into the lakes and groundwater fed tributaries, that would be my guess…
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John's cabin
We stayed near Cable, WI at a good old friends cabin on Ghost Lake.  Good old friend probably doesn’t do John justice.  John has been a part of my family’s life and mine since I was little and is 100 percent responsible for my infatuation with the Upper Peninsula.  He acquired the nickname “bad uncle” for introducing my brother and I to Glenfiddich and cigars at a young age.  John is a connoisseur of the Northwoods, wine, whiskey, and scotch and he has indoctrinated my dad, brother, and I in all of it.  So naturally the first night at the cabin when my dad asked for some Jameson, John brought the fireworks.
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The fireworks
It is tough at times, well a lot of the time, to be patient with big Paul.  Sometimes I think I am getting better, sometimes I think he’s getting better.  Then, just when I think we’ve made some real progress, he’ll blow all assumptions out of the water.  The morning scratch that, the afternoon after our whiskey bender we stopped and scouted several spots along the Namekagon for access (thank you Jon Jacobs!).  The weather forecast was terrible for the day, so when it turned out to be 70 degrees and sunny I wanted to get the waders wet and take advantage of it.  On the other hand Big Paul wanted slippers.

One thing you need to know about the old man and I is that we are both annoyingly impulsive, dad especially so.  You would think after 27 years of being exposed to his mode of operation I would be use to it but it’s bizarrely difficult to anticipate his level of procrastination.  The night before, I vaguely recall him (remember the whiskey…) babbling about wanting a traveling pair of Ugg slippers because he keeps forgetting his others at home.  So, when the sun emerged as we arrived at a beautiful access spot along the river and he didn’t grab for his waders I put it together, we weren’t scouting the stream and looking for a good stretch to fish, we were slowly inching closer and closer to the slipper store.  Coy fellow.  I love him.
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Big Paul animated
After a detour that took us on a failed slipper mission and the revelation that my dad’s answer to shortening his pant hem was to staple it (pretty genius actually…) we eventually hit the stream.  Hearing size 12 and 14 stoneflies were about the only thing going we looked for rising trout but didn’t see a thing so we decided to throw some meat.
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John casting a streamer
The water was high, running around 300 cfs (almost twice the summer flow) and flooded well over the banks.  Steep cuts and inundated tag alder made perfect holding refugia for big browns. 15 minutes or so in I saw a flash from the bank and almost instantly my rod doubled over as my heart blew out my chest.

I started getting into streamer fishing out in Washington chasing salmon and steelhead and aside from fishing big terrestrials in late summer there isn’t much like.  The flies are big, which means the fish are looking for a serious meal and when they strike you feel it.  After a long fight I ended up loosing the fish when I repositioned my rod in some slacky water.  No words, just regret.
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About to lose a fish
After some cooling down time, I waded back up stream (the fish had taken me 50 or so yards down river) and started swinging again.  Not knowing what to expect, certainly not another big fish after all the commotion the other had made, I hooked into a super 17-18 inch brown.  It was sweet redemption, the nicest brown I had ever caught on a Wisconsin stream.
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Beautiful redemption
We went back the next day.  This time I waded up stream and John went down.  Seeing how hot the streamer I used the night before was, I tied up a green pattern to mimic a bookie and swung that for the day.  I worked a really nice stretch of water with great depth and cover but I didn’t bump a single fish.  My dad and I had just talked earlier about the importance of confidence in your fly.  Doubting your fly can be like trying a gateway drug, soon you start to doubt everything.  Your presentation, your methods, before you know it your passed out in the bathroom wondering how the hell you got there any why your mouth tastes like diesel fuel.  Okay I'm exaggerating, the point is it’s a slippery slope.  Needless to say, not feeling a single fish throughout the entire run I was beginning to have my doubts, maybe green wasn't the way to go...maybe the fish yesterday were flukes...  Then, just as I thought the wheels had come off I felt a big thump toward the end of some fishy water.  Zeeee! My drag reeled and I was in business.  Back on my feet I landed a heavenly 20-21-ish brown.
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The next day
It felt good to be back in Wisconsin.  It all came together, snow, ice, humidity, thunderstorms, the sweet scent of pine duff and decomposing red and white pine pulp, dark coffee stained water, a phoebe’s morning call, birch forests, sugar maples tapped for syrup, leather leaf and Labrador tea, the list goes on… the Northwoods are one of my favorite places in the world.  Tomorrow we will be heading to my dad’s favorite place, the driftless area, to meet up with one of my favorite people, Josh Mattila.
 
 
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Armstrong Creek
8 or so miles south of Livingston in Paradise valley flows a fair sized stream called Armstrong spring creek.  Armstrong shares the same valley as the Yellowstone river, parallels it for a couple miles and harbors browns, rainbows and cutbows just as the Yellowstone, but that is about where the similarities stop.  The Yellowstone is a freestone river, temperamental at times and susceptible to runoff, blowouts,  and temperature flux.  While Armstrong creek is a groundwater fed constant 55ish degrees year round and experiences very little variation with respect to flow and clarity making it a go to fishery any time of the year.  Of course, this kind of reliability comes with a cost, $40 a day in the winter, $100 in the summer. 

You see, access to Armstrong Creek is gained only though private lands.  While Montana state law (along with most other states, excluding Colorado) affords fisherman and recreationists stream access once in the river up to the adjacent high-water mark, it does not guarantee  access to this point.  Armstrong creek bubbles up though private property, which is how the O’hair and De Puy ranches are able to charge fisherman for access to their right to be in the stream.  They do not own the stream, only the way in.

Regardless, because of the limited access to Armstrong spring creek, fishing is fantastic.  Armstrong owns access to 1.5 miles of stream, and while famous fisheries like the big horn, Yellowstone, and the Madison may see floatillas of recreationists during the summer months, max capacity is set to 6 on Armstrong creek meaning that in addition to access you have also paid for solitude.

We took a gamble and made reservations in advance for a day on Armstrong.  We arrived from a calm Big Sky to a blustery blowing Paradise valley.  Things were not looking good fishing wise.  I suppose one positive to take away from trying to flyfish in 35 mph gusts is that you can be sure you are the only idiots out there trying to do it.  We had the whole stream, and all of its beautiful fish to ourselves.
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Big Paul and Sheila nymphing
I watched Big Paul and Sheila head out and fish some of the near by water for a bit.  They were swinging nymphs and doing their best to make me laugh and smile walking hand-in-hand.

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Smoochers
When I finally got down to business the wind didn’t seem too big of a deal as my best attempts at casting, terrible as they were, somehow managed to land me a half dozen healthy 16-18 inch rainbows.

I met up with the folks an hour and a half later and we decided to head up stream to scout for some rising fish.  Dad found some feeding in the middle stretch below some ripples and I watched as he landed several bows on a CDC beatis dun.
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Dries in the riffle
As we tried to settle in for a quick lunch we were bombarded with huge gusts of wind that made fat cold rain drops feel as though god was hucking shards of glass at us and because we had hats on to cover our faces he got wise and started throwing side arm.  Knowing that it was silly to fish in hurricane winds, we relented as the rain turned horizontal.  All in all, worse weather than we had hoped for, but better fishing than we expected, all things considered.
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Big Paul looking for the rise
 
 
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The Gallitan River
Temperatures had dropped considerably as we arrived in Big Sky to fish the Gallitan river.  A snow storm dropped two inches or so overnight and as I headed out excited to fish the next morning I stopped in at the gas station to pick up some hand warmers, hot tea, and a snickers peanut butter.  All three were going to be necessary if I wanted to last the day on the stream.  I had gotten used to spring and temperatures in the 50’s, my body didn’t want anything more to do with winter and it’s freezing weather.
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Chilly morning walk to the river
Exiting the car and entering the stream I was reminded how perfectly snow muffles sound.  The turbulence of water rushing past my waders and the wind whipping through my line seemed muted, distant.  After twenty minutes or so my body gave up on saving my fingers and allowed them to slip into a comfortable numbness along with the rest of my body.  At this point even the bustle of weekend traffic up to the mountain was reduced to an indiscernible trickle as I sank into the landscape.
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Nice Gallitan holes
I emerged to the delicate clatter of big horn sheep walking over cobble to browse the stream bank.  Around the same time my indicator sunk as I hooked into a mountain whitefish near the tail of a run I was working.  Two hours had gone by, and while it was beautiful to be among the snowy cliffs and wildlife my core was cold and so where the fish.  In addition my body had again decided that it wanted its fingers after all and made me painfully aware of its decision by forcing blood back through constricted capillaries to the similar affect of slamming my hand in a car door repeatedly.  If there was any part of me that still wanted to stay, this had changed my mind.  “Okay, okay” I said, “we’ll go.” As if in their frozen state my throbbing fingers and mind were distinct characters.  “We’ll get some hot tea and maybe a bite of that snickers I promised you, but then we are heading back out to fish.  No excuses.”  I am going crazy.
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Where's Waldo?
When I jumped into the car the temperature read 33 degrees.  Not cold enough to freeze up the line guides, but just cold enough without sun to chill you out after several hours.  I decided to head down valley where the temperatures where a much more manageable 39.  Worked some nice pools landed a colorful rainbow and headed back up valley to see what trouble the folks had gotten into.
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Knee, hand, rainbow shot
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Madison River valley. I love how the clouds pile up against the preceding ranges.
The following day, we headed one valley over to see what was shaking on the Madison.  When we arrived it was cold and the winds were howling.  It was early, but when big Paul insisted that we head into Ennis and the trout shop to waste some time and see if the weather would calm down it was clear there would be no fishing today.  I had been duped.  A bit annoyed I got hyper and bet my mother that I could walk a handstand onto a parking pile-on.
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Amusement
The following day was partly sunny as we fished the Gally.  After a slowish start, I landed ten or twelve fish on a #8 wine colored san juan worm in the final hour of the day. 
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Stellar convergence
Back at Peter’s condo we talked over cocktails. My mom told me of how unsettling the water makes her, but that she was able to catch a rainbow in spite of it.  In telling me how nervous she gets wading in the stream my mother laughingly recalled her account wading earlier in the day.  She was telling me of the roar of water rushing past her and how she had to talk to herself to encourage and ensure herself she would be alright.  My dad, not far away and watching this take place interjected out the side of his mouth, “She was in ankle deep water…”  Slightly buzzed, this set off a laughing attack.  With a good day of fishing behind us, a beautiful sunset outside, good company around, and a cocktail in hand, the atmosphere was prime.
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Mom safely wading
One more thing…

While cooking dinner, my dad asked where the Italian sausage he bought was (he insisted we add it to a vegetarian meal I was making for them…)  When my mother pulled it out of the bottom drawer of the fridge we looked at it together at arms length.  Clearly printed before our eyes were the words Italian Sausage.  When I said I didn’t think that was it my mom replied, “What?  Really?  It says sausage.”  To which my dad said, “No Sheila, he’s being a sausage.”  Just like old times…
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Gallitan river below house rock
 
 
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Bitterroot bend
We planned to leave the Yakima valley under pretenses of foul incoming weather, so when we woke up to blue skies and soft pillowed clouds I was more than agitated that we wouldn’t take advantage of the weather on the stream.  I kept asking myself, why are we leaving this?  We have no itinerary, we don’t need to be anywhere other than where we want to be and if fall, winter, and spring in Washington had taught me anything it was that if God or Buddha gives you sunshine you gorge yourself on it till your pooping starburst.

Then I remembered we had months to fish and while I would like nothing more than to ransack the Yakima for a couple hours the health of the trip depended on us getting the hell out of there.  I needed to quit thinking of myself and remember that there were other people on this trip as well.  So we packed up, tidied ship, and set sail for Montana, after all Montana is not a bad place to find yourself heading. 

Plus on the way I listened to a handful of Stuff You Should Know podcasts and learned about the black death, volcanoes, tickling, and stagflation.  4 things I had always wanted to know more about, but had never found the time (making better use of my time is also something I have always wanted to do...)  For example, when an economy experiences high inflation, slow job growth, and high unemployment it results in what is termed stagflation.  It’s a circling the drain sort of situation that perpetuates a seemingly inescapable downward economic spiral.  Prices keep rising, job growth keeps slowing, business can’t hire.  There, now you know what I know.

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Nice run
Damn it was good to see Montana valley’s again.  From the bases of geometrically shaped peaks to wide open expanses large enough to swallow a hundred football fields end to end there wanders the Bitterroot. We arrived in Hamilton with enough daylight to scout the stream a bit and make plans for the next day’s ascent into the river.  Skwala’s seemed a bit sparser, and I suppose it made sense since the temperatures were several degrees cooler here.  Snow several feet thick still hugged the banks in shaded sections.

Giving the water and fish time to warm up a bit I waited until noon to get on the stream.  I went for a run on forest service road 736, however when I got there I realized I had everything I owned with me (yep I can fit everything I own into the back of one jeep…almost) so I turned my run into a mountain bike.  After 30 minutes or so I hit snow line but with the melt and compaction from sun and snowmobiles I was able to continue riding all the way to the canyon creek trail head.  Then with blue skies and promises of grand views just beyond, I continued on by trail. 
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Everything I own...
You may think it is crazy, and maybe it is, but in addition to cottonwoods and willows, most big streams we fish are lined with road.  Cars zoom by.  Truckers honk with approval.  I nod.  To be up, back in the mountains away from all things motor, where a walking presence is still enough to alert Jays to alarm and leapfrog you till you’ve left their home, I am replenished.  I got hyper and rifled myself back down the mountain, the sun was high, and the stream was waiting.  Two seconds later I was on my ass.  Oh yeah, ice.
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Willows turning color
The skwala action didn’t really get going until 4 or 5 and even then I didn’t see much feeding take place.  I noticed a fair amount of adults on the water, but very, very few fish taking them.  They were taking something else.  Something I couldn’t see, and something I was unable to figure out.  I stubbornly fished several skwala patterns for most of the day and landed one rainbow.  When I got too frustrated, I would switch and nymph for a bit and immediately hook into a bow or whitey.  I suppose you can’t force something if it isn’t there.
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Arm-fish photo 1
The second day I was determined just to catch fish.  I headed out early, not waiting for the sun or the warmth it brought.  I wanted the maximum amount of time on the river.  I entered the stream with the mindset that I was going to work fast and cover a lot of stream.  Two hours later I hadn’t made it more than a hundred yards from the car, and I was fishing the same stubborn skwala pattern as the day before.  Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a fisherman is to land a fish within the first ten minutes of entering the water.  I hooked into a rogue bow early and it threw off my entire game plan.
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Arm-fish photo 2
I missed my folks that second day, we were going to meet on the river, but I went up stream and they went down.  I guess it gave me time to think, about the future, about work, about where I wanted to be, and of course about what the hell these fish were taking.  Preoccupied, with thought, I managed to work a good amount of river.  A mile or so from the car with the sun setting I hooked into my final bitterroot rainbow of the day on a hole that would make a blind noodler drool; a deep, dark product of a blow down and the resulting depression in absence of a rootwad.
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Sunset
As I walked back to the car the sun had sunk below the ridge-line.  I took some photos and followed my nose back to the cold beer waiting for me at the car.
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Sunset too
The next day we would be moving on to the Gallitan.  Again, the weather was great.  Cloud watching from a moving car was as good as it gets.  I listened to a podcast on clouds.
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Listen to the podcast on clouds and this will seem so much more impressive.
 
 
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Yak Houses
My dad and I are a lot alike and I believe that is why spending more than a couple hours together is very difficult.  One Paul at a party is Paul-enough, two Paul’s anywhere is suicide.  This isn’t anything new.  Friends and family, have questioned this trip from its initial murmurs a year and a half ago.  “A fishing trip?  For how long?  Good luck.”  My mother told me that Brooks, a good buddy and old friend of mine, upon inquiring of my plans after graduation and the situation of the supposed 6-month fishing trip he had heard about remarked, “Oh yeah, they’re still thinking about that?  I give them two weeks.”

A week and a half of father, mother, son time in Bellingham and I believe we were all thinking the same thing…then we found sweet redemption on the Yakima.

Emotions were running pretty high, as we drifted into Cle Elum on the east side of the cascades.  Traveling east out of Seattle in less then 60 miles the landscape is transformed from a concoction of greens to a homogenous muted gray of winter weary grass,  Rolling foothills, blue skies, ponderosa pine, and lazy clear cobble streams, this is heaven.
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Cle Elum
Big Paul insists it’s hell.  For the past week and a half he has managed to steer every conversation he has had towards the god-damn, no good, dirty sons of bitches that are Washington State troopers.  I swear to god I listened to him turn a conversation about the badgers center Jon Leuer’s poor play in the sweet sixteen into a rant on Washington Cops.
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Jon Leuer
Scouting the Yakima on the trip out to see me in Bellingham big Paul lost control of his lead foot admiring the landscape.  Seconds later a cop in a deceiving dodge charger appeared out of nowhere and damn near collided with the bumper of my folks enclave.  It is a pretty bum deal really.  My folks were doing 57 on a road they thought was 55.  The cop wrote him for the full amount not budging an ounce, 12 over the 45 limit.

It wasn’t so much the ticket that frustrated my old man, but the manner of how he got.  Nobody likes to sideswiped and told they are wrong when they were doing what they thought was right.  It was a misunderstanding, not a criminal act.  For that misunderstanding big Paul was in fear of his insurance going up, and losing six points on his license.  So his fears and emotions snowballed a bit to the detriment of his enjoyment of the Yakima valley.  In reality, his insurance probably wouldn’t budge, the last time he got a ticket was 15 years ago, and the most points his lawyer said he would lose would be 3, the same amount Leuer finished his career off with verses Butler.  Not that he needs reminding.

The fishing was great.  I am not sure how to document this trip yet.  I have my big camera, but I don’t like to carry that with across the water and with the possibility of rain and that.  I will figure it out eventually. Bare with me.

We stopped in Cle Elum at the Troutwater Fly shop and got some tips for fishing and stream access.  I nymphed the Cle Elum for a bit the first day with no luck, it didn’t matter though it was just nice to be out on the water.
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Paul and Randy with a bow
The next day we floated the Yakima through the canyon with Randy, a guide from the trout shop.  Towards the end of March and through the middle of April a handful of prominent western streams observe a famous stonefly hatch.  Skwala are stones about an inch and a half long that emerge in mass for about a month and become the trout’s favorite food.  When conditions are right, skwalas migrate from the cobble of the stream substrate to the banks of the stream where they shed their exoskeleton and wait for love.  Being cold blooded and somewhat lethargic in the springtime temperatures the slightest wind can blow them from their roost and send them careening back to the water’s surface where they are gobbled up by hungry trout.
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Adult Skwala
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Skwala imitation
We spent the day casting skwala imitations and waiting for the acoustic doip of fish breaching the surface to take our fly.  We landed some nice fish, got to see some beautiful country, and officially started the trip.  A good day of skwala fishing was good for the soul, and it even took big Paul’s mind off his ticket, at least for a bit.
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Let it Rain...bow
The Yak was beautiful, but the weather coming in was not, we decided to head on the next day.  Montana bound, skwala bound again, and in route to the Bitterroot.
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