Conditions were miserable. Cloud cover, high water, even a little rain made the fish tough to spot and the normally nearly imperceptible Columbia River takes were even tougher. Then the winds came...big winds. Targee was a great sport and we kept stalking and looking and only his considerable skill allowed a few fish to be put in the net, but no monsters. The big slabs of Columbia river gold eluded us, but it only takes one.
We slipped into a sheltered bay, mercifully out of the wind and the eerily dead calm water was a welcome relief from the whitecaps. The sun stayed hidden, and visibility was maybe a couple of feet. The bay looked fishy, but we simply couldn't see. Then I spotted a bit of nervous water, waist deep and just barely noticeable. I crept closer, the soft bottom masking my footfalls. At 30 feet all I could see was a mirror of clouds. I crept closer. At 20 feet the mirror was even more pronounced, but there was clearly a fish there. Based on the nervous water and the depth, it had to be tailing, and it had to be big. I crept closer. At 10 feet I could see a clear line of mud, but no visual of the fish. I took one more step, then stopped. The clouds persisted, the wind crashed through the trees, unable to disturb our bay and I stared. I willed the mirrored water to give up their secrets, and slowly...extremely slowly...a shape began to appear. At first it was just the tip of a tail, waving slowly under the surface. Then a line of the back, and the mass and bulk of a body. I stared, and I stared but the clouds won and I just couldn't see the head. I looked over what I could see, estimated size, and flipped the hybrid toward where I thought the head would be. I counted...one...two...three...four...five...and lifted the rod. Nothing. I dropped the flies back in, a little closer this time and counted...one...two...three...four...five. Then I lifted the rod and the big fish bucked and exploded, shattering the mirror and sprinting toward the whitecaps.