Working with the wind is an attitude as much as a technique. For years, a windy day frustrated me, and that frustration carried over into the rest of my fishing and made for worse drifts, mends, and hook sets. In short, a windy day on the river tended to slowly burn my patience fuse and put me in a bad mood. Now I try to look at the wind for what it is – another problem to solve. And I work with the wind to keep me tied to the river and my environment.
“What fly you tying on?” It is a question asked on every day of fishing with my brother. He asks me, or I ask him. Sometimes we ask because we expect one knows more. Sometimes because an unexpected fly piques curiosity. Sometimes I ask, so I know what fly to switch to after watching him fight a fish upstream and out of earshot. I wonder if he caught that on his…
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 went at dawn when the river and trees and rocks still faded into a blue shadow waiting for the sun. It was too cold for my son to last long wading through the shallow water, but he woke early that morning so off we went. Neither wore waders. Most of the time he spent crouched along the bank moving sand with a stick and poking at stonefly husks stuck to round river rocks dried up and whitewashed between the grassy bank and where the rocks were wet from the river.
“I’m hung up.” My brother looked back from the bow of the drift boat then picked up line to cast while I bent the rod deep and gave a few jerks. We were anchored at the head of a long cut bank along the Big Hole river. Wet grass dried in the breeze and a grey sky rolled against the hills beyond the bank. I needed a long cast upstream and quick mends to get the flies down and I had been bumping bottom here and there since we stopped. My father watched from his hunched forward position while I worked to get free from above him. Nothing doing. I reeled in all my line and grabbed it tight, then repositioned my efforts with the rod to work angles that might free the hook. Satisfied with my best efforts I stood resigned to break off and lose the flies. In that moment the taught line slid. A few inches maybe, but upstream. I was quiet, and then, “I can’t be hung up. The line just moved.”
After lunch, my brother fished the seam that separated the fast water along the far bank from the slack water along the island where we ate our lunch.