The Upper Columbia Part 2

This is the continuation of my previous blog post.

Now that we had an idea what this water could physically do, we could start the hard process of determining how to fish it. None of us had actually fished this river. I was too busy building in the lodge to dedicate a substantial amount of time to fishing. Working at The Evening Hatch as a scheduling manager for fly fishing trips up there, I could tell you everything you would need to know when it comes to hatches, best times of year for specific techniques of fishing, etc. Actually fishing it effectively is a whole other story. Jack, the owner of The Evening Hatch, and Upper Columbia guides CJ, Rory and Rial have shared in great length the hardships of guiding such huge, complex waters. I soaked in every word so that I could be not only better at discussing this tributary with potential clients, but for my own knowledge to be able to start to understand how these fish eat.

“Let’s just start nymping the banks” I said to Troy, as this is a good way to begin the learning process of any water that you’re not familiar with. The river right bank looked tasty so off we went, and 10 min later we reached the other side. One angler with a big rubber legged stone fly nymph on top and a big prince down below and the other angler sporting the same bugs but in different sizes and colors, we cast and mended our way down. Every “fishy” looking piece of water had bugs dead drifted through it. A mile or so down river, Bam, Lacey was hooked up! I will tell you this, redbands are the most aggressive, acrobatic rainbow species I have ever had on the rod. Of course the first fish to the net was the girl’s, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Lacey held up her healthy little silvery hen.

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As the rules of the boat dictate, Lacey got on the sticks so Troy could make the magic happen. We rowed laps through a huge inside seam long enough to feel the need to drop the hook and get out for a bit and do a little swinging by foot. After a decent tug on the swung fly by a fish that just didn’t want to commit to the eat, it was time to head on down river. Sure enough, a hundred yards later, Troy pulled out another healthy hen.uc4

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Although, these fish in the 16in range are fun, they are not the size we were ultimately looking for. In the back of my mind all I could think about was big fish eating a streamer stripped off the bank. Switching up, Troy and I started chucking meat to the bank and letting her dredge down to the depths. Still no real action, to our surprise, even after a few miles of this. We stopped on a jagged rocky island in the middle of the river and do a bit of recon when we came upon a Canada goose nest with 3 big eggs. Everything we were taking in was “supposed” to help with understanding how this system of water works when it comes to feeding fish. The sun was starting to set so it was back into the boat. I grabbed the nymph rod again and deepened it up to the max about 10 ft. With the takeout in sight these were my last few casts to pick up a fish for the day. I spotted a beautiful seam coming off a little rock point and Troy, as we usually do, was reading the same piece of water. He set me up perfect on it and I cast upriver of the hot spot to be sure that bug was at its depth when it went through. POW! Fish on and it was a rod bending machine! When the line stacked at my feet went ripping through my fingers, I knew this was what we had been waiting for. Once the fish got the reel screaming, it shifted into 4th gear and started clearing 3 feet out of the water to show us a bit of tail walking. After a fight reminiscent of steelhead chaos, my only fish of the day was in the net.

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Finishing up this part of the story, I am realizing this was only day one and we still have the next day on the river as well. Tune in for part 3…

Until then, my friends, Fish On!