I'm not particularly big on holiday traditions anymore, although they do usually offer some extra fishing time that I appreciate. Celebrating the new year IS something I embrace, particularly the time spent reflecting on what was and some thoughts for what the coming season may bring. With that in mind, and I'm surprised no one started this thread yet; I thought it could be fun to share some highlight memories from 2016.
I'll spare you all the personal baggage (aka whining), but overall 2016 was a tough year for my wife and I on practically all levels. Fishing included! Reflecting back, there were less fishing days, more days with iffy conditions or run timing, low returns; combined with more fish broken off, and more rods broken it wasn't the easiest. Despite the negatives, there were some magical times on many waters, fishing with new friends, sleeping under star filled skies, steaks grilled on campfires, and there were a few fish caught here and there too.
I'll share two of the fishing specific highlights, since both were quite substantial and memorable to me:
The end of September my Wife and I did a wonderful 4 day anniversary float down the wilderness section of the Rogue river fishing for half pounders (adults were mostly unwilling to play). While the catching was mixed, we did get into them really, really good on the last day of the float. My Dad met us at the take out and we spent a couple of days floating and fishing the section just below. If anything the fishing just got better, including two adults hooked (and lost).
It was a highlight for many reasons: the wilderness float is spectacular of course, just the scenery, the wildlife, and the camping alone make it a memorable time. The action, on a 4wt and a 5wt switch with floating lines, was hot. And it was a great opportunity for my Dad to revisit a stream where we had many great times almost 30 years ago, and his first time catching fish on a switch rod as well as a swung wet fly. At one point I had tied a Donnelly Coachman on his line for him, and for whatever reason that fly just kept getting hammered. It was just something I had tied up one of, on a whim, after seeing it in Shewey's "Classic Steelhead Flies"; I really didn't figure it to be a hot producer or I would have tied more!
He was out fishing both my wife and I put together (by more than I was willing to shrug off), and refused to switch flies even after it was tattered to bits. He still kept hooking fish at almost 2-1 over both of us... combined! Being handicapped, he doesn't get to fish nearly as often or as seriously as he would like these days, so I felt it was well deserved and I am happy that it was a real highlight experience for him. One of those kinds of trips that will likely be relived frequently for many many years to come; stories to be enjoyed no matter how many times the've been told and retold.
The other highlight is special for very different reasons. I'm sure others have had similar experiences: waking up far too early with concepts of a fly insistently keeping the gears turning in my head, and sitting down promptly tie one up, hitting the river as soon as it grew light and fishing that very fly. It was a hodgepodge of ideas for a good crayfish, and it looked great in the water. I was all alone clambering along some bedrock ledges bordering a slot like pool that usually has too much current to fish it effectively. The water being low in late fall made it look more than promising, and I meticulously probed every nook and cranny.
When streamer fishing, I am often one of the worst offenders at lifting the line up to recast too soon and not fishing the fly in quite long enough. For reasons of confidence and purpose, I was actively working the fly in close on every cast. A good thing too, because when I saw the huge shadow come blasting out from underneath a ledge I only had maybe 6-7' of line out of the tip. I was stunned as the fish exploded on the fly, only a foot or so under the surface at this point, but the fish missed! One of those "I can't believe my eyes, that thing is HUGE!" kind of fish. I turned the rod tip and gave a good pull in the new direction, hoping to give the fish a little more time... it surged around and swiped again. Big splash! Missed again!!! I'm in that catch 22 scenario of needing to give the fish a bit more time, but not really having much line left to play with and worried that at any moment the fish will catch sight of me waving the rod around and split. Two more cat and mouse maneuvers and the fish grabbed hard and I was ON! A few minutes later I was admiring a gorgeous, colorful wild rainbow; a large one for this particular section of river and by far the largest rainbow for me personally. The combination of factors all add up to what will likely remain one of my favorite fish of all time.
So it wasn't all bad, but here's to more adventures in 2017; be they with friends and family, or soulful solitary trips. Hope to hear some of your highlights too,
Tight lines to all in 2017, Happy New Year!
Thanks for sharing your year. I did a one man remodel on my house last year. 2015 /16. Fishing...... what's that? This year I'm back on the beat, thanks for the inspiration. We should fish sometime, I'm down in the Bay Area. When my girl lets me off the leash I'm putting my raft together and hitting it hard. This winter has started well as far as rainfall is concerned hopefully the fish follow.
After 40 years in the east, in late 2105 I moved, along with my wife and son, back to near where I grew up. At least near where I was born, having bounced around the PNW for my first 16 years. But the move was tough, done on our own. My wife dove into her new job, the rest falling to me. I started fishing my new local water first of the year, but being new to the area, even learning access is a challenge, and I managed to go all winter without touching a fish.
Summer had me on the road, including a spectacular artists residency in Rocky Mountain National Park, and some great CO fishing with friends, and I had a good selling season. So fall came around, and I was sitting pretty, and despite having spent weeks on the road over the summer, my girl gave me the green light for hitting the fall season pretty hard.
And right on cue, my new JM Reid Steelheader's Favorite arrived, 11'9" of bamboo sweetness. I wanted to break her in at a special place, so I headed south for a couple days. And then the next week the same. And then the week after next was my birthday, so I went again.
The river can be notoriously stingy, but the fish have a deserved reputation for heading to the surface. My first evening was fishless and a bit frustrating, having gone a year now without a fish, I was trying too hard. But over a quiet riverside campfire and bourbon, I got my mind right and slid into the next morning relaxed and in the moment. The first run was the same as the night before, so I wandered upstream to a run new to me. As I watched an ouzel, then coyote and then my little muddler skating across a wave at the bottom of a tailout, a nose appeared and quietly sipped her down. At first I thought it was an over eager rainbow, but as she came in easily towards me, she slipped through patch of sunlight and I could see the breadth of her back, and she saw me. And decided to leave. After several minutes of the reel squawking and screaming, she let me tail her. Such a sweet way baptize a special new stick.
I had a sip, a nap on the bank, and then went for pie. If you fish this river and don't go for pie, well, we probably wouldn't get along.
Another campfire, a bit more bourbon, and the last morning was just a gimme. I wasn't really looking for anything, more than happy enough. But i love this water and had time for two or three more runs before heading home.
On the third run, I had a startling revelation- I hadn't fallen. I ALWAYS fall here. And I knew I was cooked. Or soaked. And sure enough I went in 10, 15 minutes later. I didn't g completely under- I think my forehead was still dry. And damn is it cold. It was a reasonable walk back to the car, but I knew if I went up, I'd change clothes and just head home. So I pulled my waders, dumped them, put them back on, and once I'd waded back into the shade, could barely fight off the shakes. But the run felt fishy. I waded out in to the heavy water high in the run, and started dropping the muddler tight to the far bank, I lost sight of the bug in the waves and shadow. But she didn't. She hit it hard and after a couple short tugs, ran hard downstream. When she stopped, I glanced down to see the backing though the last couple turns of running line. I worked her back up, and just as the head came in the tip top she took off upstream, ran tight to the shoal at the head, then circled back, and then in one long sustained run, all the running line and 70 or 80 yards of back disappeared. When I finally worked her back up, I couldn't believe the little muddler was still there, tight in the corner of her jaw. Measured against the rod, checked later around 33 inches of spectacular.
I was done. I thought.
Headed back the next weekend, to meet a friend from out of town. He loves the river as much as I do, and is on the other end of parenthood, knowing he has limited fishing time in the decade ahead. We traded water back and forth, each showing one anther runs we weren't familiar with, and had a great time, but no fish. As we came to the end of the last day, he wanted to hit the camp water out of a sense of history as much as anything. I like the camp water,from that sense, but almost never fish it as it seems to get hit pretty hard. So while my buddy fished pretty hard, I wandered around, took nap (yes, there may be a theme here), and then diddled around playing with the new bamboo, watching the little muddler skating and skittering, and then it was gone. And there it was up in the air in the jaw of a nice fish, then twice more, and then she got on the far side of something big, and after a couple muffled, hard tugs I could tell she was gone. I let some line out, the bug floated free and when I got it it, the hook was straightened.
The weekend ended, and I got home and put in some work time before,my birthday loomed. I wanted to fish my birthday, and still have dinner with my family, so I headed down for just an overnight on the eve. I got to the river, quick set up camp, and hit the water. First run a small hen, took the bug at the bottom of the run. Bam. Happy birthday! I took a swig, went back up to the truck and headed to the next run. About half way down I hooked and lost a fish. Man, it must be my birthday- I've never had fishing like this here. So I take another sip, and head to one of my favorite runs. I've never had a chance to fish this run the way I want to, as there is always someone in it or just leaving when I get there. But this time I pull in, and no sign of anyone. So I start short, fishing the part of the run I always see people wading through. I'm about 15 casts in, and a huge fish clears the water, completely airborne, backlit by the setting sun. I was startled, and it took me back to a night a few years before when I'd been napping (see, I'm consistent) along the river upstream, waiting for the sun to drop off the water, and had been awaken by a tremendous splash. I sat there a minute, and an enormous Kind erupted 20 ft in front of me again. So, back here on birthday eve, I tell myself, oh, just a king, and go about my swinging. Then ten or twelve casts later, a fish erupts under my muddler. I can still see her, as she cartwheeled backlit by the setting sun. All the way around, and then around again, before hitting the water. And about 3/4's of the way through the second rotation, I could easily see my little bug spit free.
I was wrecked. Heart hammering, I pulled my flask and took a good long sip. Then poured a bit. My hands were shaking so hard I had a hard time putting the cap back on. I reeled up, and clipped my fly, just so I had to retie a know before I could begin to start casting again, as I knew I'd cast like crap til I cooled out. But eventually I started again, and about eight or nine casts in, quiet as a trout sipping a bwo, the muddler disappeared. And the reel shrieked. An then I was tight to a bulldog. Or a bull. Hard head shakes, then steady hard pulls. I skated up a small king here a few years back and I thought I had another. So she jumped three times just to show me what I didn't know. A bright, shiny steelhead, just a hint of rose on her sides. The big fish (now looking small) the couple weeks previously was a sprinter, this one was a brawler, and up til I finally had my hand around the wrist, I was sure I was going to lose. But then I had her, and as I struggled in the thigh deep water to pull my camera, I saw a blue flash near here head. My mangled little muddler, point bent out, floating free. I knew there was no reasonable way of getting a picture. I held her against the rod- nose right to the node at the stripping guide. I rocked her a few times, and she soaked me as she exploded away.
It wasn't til I was headed back to the truck in the dark that it occurred to me that the probability of two big, hot fish in the run was pretty slim. She was most like the same girl that had nearly given me the heart attack earlier.
I should probably have quit fishing, because it is never going to be any better than that.
Nice story there SLSS, and I too agree with all that has been said about that wonderful river. My first season there I had quite a bit of success, especially given my lack of technique, skill, knowledge, or even "mojo". The last two seasons she's been giving me the cold shoulder, almost as if to remind me not to take her for granted... almost...
I cannot wait to go back, even if it means falling in and getting wet. Again!
Wonderful stories, thanks! My year was a tough one as far as catching goes, but I was blessed with great times with great friends in beautiful places, couldn't ask for more.
Perhaps a highlight for me in 2016 was discovering the magic of a tiny all black skater that I started tying that became dubbed the Ninja. My friend Steve Turner provided the inspiration and the name for the the fly. My friends and I found some quick success on the little fly and I gained faith and confidence in fishing a trout sized fly for steelhead. I discovered that there definitely times where small flies shine.
I wished I could say that I have some exciting stories from SLSS's river, but even though I fish there all summer long, she's stingy to me.
Wishing a blessed and prosperous 2017 to all,