We drove along the Provo River looking for a good spot to stop and fish. From the passenger seat I caught glimpses of the water over the guard rail between the curves in the highway.
I saw the flash in the current below the surface and knew it was a nice fish. Big brown if I had to guess. That’s what I told myself, at least, as I thought of how to reach it. It had risen, rolled over and back down to the pool that swirled behind the boulder that made the seam across from where I’d been fishing.
“He’s comin’ to you Pop.” My brother yelled it as he reeled in his line and I barreled towards him. I was slipping, sliding, wading and floating my way downstream while I fought to keep the rod tip up, but out of the overhanging branches and tall grass along a high bank that hugged waist-high water on the Yakima River. I had a big fish on and was moving downstream quick to keep it that way.
The river rolled over boulders and cut through the sounds of the afternoon so all I heard was its powerful consistency roaring in my head. Listening to the song I took one more cast and one more look at the water I had fished downstream that continued on through the canyon, then I walked up the embankment to my truck and drove along the river towards my house or back towards the water churning in my head. As I drove I caught glimpses of the river and of the day’s fishing trying to think of a lesson I could take away. I had fished hard with no fish to show for it. There was still time left. Should I fish all day?
Spotting fish is easy, until it’s not. We all know what a fish looks like and when it’s obvious, sight fishing moves along nicely. But mother nature has a tendency to make things tough. There’s a reason these trout are so beautiful. They blend in with their surroundings, and we all know “trout don’t live in ugly places.” Rocks and stones along river bottoms combined with debris, vegetation, or branches do a good job of fooling us and helping trout. There are lots of things we can do to help us spot fish and tell the difference but only a few ways to know for sure. How can we be certain what we are looking at is not a rock? There are only two guarantees. Catch it or spook it. Even though catching fish is the goal, both will improve your sight fishing game over time. Here’s how…
The Yakima River Canyon was on fire. We had fished above with success, but the second day the wind left us drifting more than fishing. As the day went on the wind became stronger, the casts got worse, and the drifts without fishing grew longer. But I guess that is the way it goes with fly fishing trips. Mother nature, like trout, has a vote. And I was with my brother and father. That much was always good. And we caught some fish. That is the way it goes.
We had to pull the drift boat back upstream to reach the pull out. It was our first day on the Bighole River and fishing had been slow. I pushed and my brother pulled until we reached the concrete that jutted into the current and my brother handed the rope to my father and left to get his truck. It was not a far distance to move the drift boat, but combined with a slow day fishing, I stood waist deep in the cold water a bit deflated.
We saw their tails first, walking up the river with hands on boulders, and watching the water with each careful step a little further ahead. They swayed in the current. The river bottom was gold pebbles. At first squinting helped pick out the black spots on their backs. A touch of blue swirling in the seam just behind the eyes and then long red that waved like flags planted in the stones. I cast to them while my friend watched. Beautiful rainbows in a beautiful canyon. He moved back to the sand along the bank and watched while I made my casts. Standing there, he waited, then moved upstream around the bend.