This is long overdue, but here it is anyhow. The backstory is I went to Ak to fish with some no good bums and then headed out in my home state for trout and grouse as soon as I got home. The drive home from my local sent my mind into a spin and I sent a pal an email about the lessons learned. That email is copied as the text for this report (names removed to protect the innocence).
Necessities in hand for a week up north...
Scenes from near Bristol Bay...
G at the helm of the G3
Earl putting it all out there
Then back to AZ...
I loaded truck with grass, glass, shotgun and dog to head to the White Mountains. Blue grouse and apache trouts would be the targets.
First observation, 9300 ft elevation base camp feels different than sea level +4ft on a river in Ak. Although, the weather wasn’t much different. Breathing now takes effort. Walked upstream on one of my very favorites after driving to my favorite nook in the forest to make sure I could camp where I wanted. Tied on a black simiseal leach no bigger than a nymph in big western rivers, it was raining, hard. Water brown and high. Not dry fly conditions. Good news is I tied into a large (for apache trouts) fish.
Second observation, after bombing 80’ (lets be honest now, 50-60' when shit was on all cylinders) casts with a two handed pole to fish 4 times bigger I noticed that Alaska natives are different from Arizona natives. This is not surprising, however what was surprising was how my heart felt when the bamboo bent and when I picked up that silky little 10” (told ya he was huge) fish to remove the hook.
That is observation three. I don’t have the words to wrap around the feeling, but the feeling was there. Just as satisfying as a “fish of a lifetime” rainbow, maybe more satisfying? No, not more, just different. No words. I don’t know how or why finding tiny, native oncorhynchus makes my wheels turn, or maybe stops them from turning? Is that the effect of finding the fish that belong? The ones you find on your terms, with the fly you know works. Preferably dry, never with a bobber and never for the sake of competition (czech nymphing will be the end of us all, mark my words). The ones you find at the top of an alpine meadow, right where that meadow meets the forested canyon. The fish you need to put the miles in to find. The ones you know are there and that knowledge, knowledge that they are hanging on and not lost, not extinct, not ruined (completely) by the introduction of some worthless species that is easier to raise in a hatchery to please an ever-growing population of those who call themselves *“sportsmen” (strange that this “worthless species” is the very native fish I was swinging for in it’s home waters off Bristol Bay where it (rainbow trout that is) has it’s own battles to fight), but left in it’s perfect balance. More or less completely natural up there. Perhaps it’s the solitude that is so satisfying? Just me, fly pole and dog. Maybe the simplicity? Just me, fly pole and dog.
Anyhow, observation 4 on this trip was less about the differences between Ak and Az and more about having a standardized check list for your camping gear. 9300ft in the driving rain with temps in the low 40’s, wet pants and a wet dog is not the time to realize that you’ve left your sleeping bag in the closet. Not normally an issue, but this rain was incessant for no less than 14 hours and we were soaked to the bone. I actually made use of one of those space blankets (good thing I have a little emergency kit in the truck) and can say that they work. Along with this observation, a one man tent is fine for man and dog in dry conditions, but is not so hot for man and wet dog in driving rain when the dog is constantly bumping tent walls and shaking precipitation off the tent onto your face all. night. long. Just a thought, grab the 2 man or larger.
Onto grouse, we found none. Not surprising though. I’ve never seen them in fall. I’ve also never talked to anyone who has successfully hunted them in Az. We had a good (wet) walk with a shotgun and happy pup. We called it at about 1030 and went back to teardown camp and resume fishing. The sun came out, the creek was at least 6” higher than the night before, but I tied on a caddis anyhow. Why? because I knew it would work. It did. We fished up into the canyon, saw elk, caught fish, got dog tangled in line, yelled at dog, apologized to dog and thanked him for being my companion.
We were going to stay two nights, but seeing as how I was out of dry cloths, without sleeping bag, light on sleep and the second predicted storm was headed in I asked ranger his thoughts. He pointed his nose to the west. I took that as an indication to load him up with the last dry blanket in the back seat of the truck and head for home. This is where we come to the crux of this whole email. While driving out I thought about you. I thought to myself “self, you should really try to convince CB to come share in these magical experiences”. I then thought about my three favorite streams in the state and decided that you should fish them all and come to a conclusion as to whether or not I am in fact a crazy person or if there is a feeling, an emotional affect, or something else that there aren’t words for. Chances are I’m just bat shit crazy, but I’m going to need you for the experiment anyway.
native (the apache variety)
food prep in the ghetto, the wet ghetto
The food of my people, and the last photo, because what's the use at this point. #tarplife had one up on the shit I was going through...
In the time between this trip and it's reportage some things have happened around the homestead, mainly this. There are some folks here who sent some gifts to help welcome her into our world. Thanks guys.