Sunday, February 28, 2010

This weekend I spent Saturday fishing with the kids. I had recently picked up some ultra light spinning gear for them (one pink, one green). I haven't owned a spinning rod in years, but the kids figured them out pretty quickly and in no time we were casting on the lawn. Saturday, we went down to a local pond with a can of corn. I have no idea how to bait fish so I just stuck a few kernels of corn on a hook, put on a bobber and had the kids cast their rods in an area that I know the carp frequent. In just an hour or two, both kids landed two carp on their own and were thrilled with the entire event!


It was just incredible watching the kids duke it out with some carp on their own terms. The ultra light gear was big enough to handle the fish, but small enough that the kids could handle the rods, and they had a blast. JJ hooked about 4-5 carp in total but he had so much fun fighting them that he only landed two! Every time he would get one close he'd pull back as hard as he could and rip the hook loose. We had just a fantastic afternoon. Elia reminds me a lot of myself. She was all business. I told her to watch her bobber, and I don't think she took her eyes off the bobber, or even blinked the entire time we were there. After a few fish, JJ was ready to leave but Elia refused to go. She kept wanting to catch one more fish!

Watching my daughter and her focussed intensity I realized just how much I have changed since having kids. Growing up and in college, I was about as intense as they come. I hated to lose, and would do just about anything to win, including causing myself quite a bit of physical pain. Over the last few years I feel like I've mellowed out quite a bit and thanks to a last minute trip to the Deschutes today, I got to see it firsthand!

I got to the river about 9 am, and rigged up fairly quickly for a guy that hasn't fished the D since Nov. of 2008. I remembered my standard nymph rig and got set up at the FJ then headed to the water. 20 minutes in, I realized I was pretty rusty. I couldn't get the drifts I wanted, and was having trouble reading the water. I slowed down, got out of the water and moved slightly upriver to start again. Shortly after getting back in the water, I started catching fish. The magic of nymphing came back and in short order I was flipping my rig up river with nary a thought, and setting the hook almost before seeing the indicator or line move (I fished both naked, and with an indicator depending on water type). I started landing fish, both trout and whitefish, but definitely more trout, when I set the hook on a heavy fish. The second I set it my mind screamed "Steelhead" and seconds later a big fish exploded from the water and leapt into the air. You all know my first love is Carp, and nothing can touch their power in fresh water. Trout are lovely for their acrobatics and speed. Steelhead are trout on steroids. The fish zipped upriver leaping like a porpoise and I looked down with a frown at my 4 wt, knowing only 4x tippet kept me connected to the big fish. Nearly as quickly as he ran upriver, the big fish turned and shot downstream, exactly what I did NOT want him to do. All the thoughts about kids mellowing me out and a lessening of my competitive drive were gone as that fish swam through the first chute, my reel zinging away. Ignoring the handy wading staff attached to my belt I plunged after the fish, splashing and clawing my way through downriver like a walrus in the shallows. I felt like a walrus too...what the hell happened? I used to be a fairly agile guy and here I was slipping and tripping and grabbing and sinking my way past one rapid chute of water, clinging to a puny 4 wt with a fish attached. Somehow I made it to the end of the run in one piece, and mostly dry. To my surprise...the fish was there waiting for me. I could see him flashing down deep in the pool. I collected myself, set my feet and then applied some serious side pressure to bring him toward the bank. That did it..the fish took a hard 90 degree turn into the middle of the river, then blasted down river through another chute of rapids.

At this point...I mellowed out. I listened to my reel singing and looked at the jagged and rocky path that lay downriver. Looking back on that moment now, I realize that a few years ago, I wouldn't have stopped to listen to the reel...I wouldn't have taken even one look at the terrain between me and that fish. I'd have quite simply started after it. Today though...I didn't move. I stood there and listened to my reel sing. After a while, I reached down, and palmed my reel tightly until the line went slack. This is what a steelhead does to 4 x tippet.

After a few minutes I got back to fishing. The day wasn't over and I hooked and landed more feisty trout and noble whitefish. The fly of the day was none other than the famed Pink Squirrel...It seems the Deschutes trout are not much different than their MN brethren. I reflected on the decision I made to pop that fish off, and overall, I was satisfied. Yes, I would have gone after him years earlier, but maybe now I'm just a little easier to please. Or maybe it just matters less. I kept thinking back to watching my kids land small carp on corn, and thinking forward to when JJ and Elia will choose whether or not to chase their own fish downriver. Those days are coming, and I can't wait.

Near the end of the day, not the last fish of course, symmetry being what it is, I actually hooked another steelhead. This one was not quite as big, and seemed content, like me, to simply plant his metaphorical feet and see how things played out. With that advantage, I used slow but steady side pressure, and eventually got that fish to the bank despite my wimpy little 4 wt and 4x tippet. It was a nice fish, and I was happy to see her.

4 comments:

Alex said...

Always good to hear about kids having fun at fishing..and what a great story about that steelhead, this is what makes me come back to check your blog weekly

Wendy Berrell said...

Great report. A lot happening there, and some things changing.

Must have been pretty fulfilling to watching your kids catch those carp.

And you listened to that reel singing...

winonaflyfactory said...

Very cool Montana, I love kids playing with fish. Good on ya.

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