Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall in Idaho - fishing, photos, and driving

It was just over a month ago that we finished up our last Middle Fork of the Salmon trip of the season. It was a fly fishing trip and the fishing had exceeded everyone's expectations, as it so often does now. On the drive back home from the take-out at Cache Bar the river was spotted with coming signs of Fall: yellow and red trees dotted the banks and the occasional early but optimistic Steelhead fisherman could be seen working a hole.

In the following weeks things seemed to warm up a bit and the signs of fall (except for the fisherman) began to slow down. Until now. With our first few nights of frost, fall has come storming back, and this time it's here to stay.

This past weekend I visited Idaho River Journeys guide Scooter Carling who lives in Sun Valley to watch the Giants hopefully destroy the Phillies. I took a road called "Trail Creek Road", which acts as a bit of a short cut if you don't mind a dirt road. Plus, aside from saving some time, if you travel this road this time of year you are guaranteed spectacular views, fall colors at their finest, and maybe even some wildlife.

Summit Creek drifts through a frosty field near the Trail Creek Road:

Fall colors, looking back toward Mt. Borah:

A herd of elk grazing near Trail Creek Road:

After the Giants disappointing loss on Sunday (by the way, there are no professional sports teams in Idaho, so I guess river guides are the equivalent of star athletes here), I started the trek back to Salmon. I gave another Idaho River Journeys' guide, Tom Tremain, a call to see if he was interested in going Steelheading. We pushed off around 2:00ish that afternoon to float a three-mile stretch of the Salmon River, just north of town.

A lot of the talking we did was about how neither one of us really had any idea how to fish for steelhead. Tom knew a little bit about technique but really we were just floating to get outside and see if luck would smile on us. We tried a few different holes and then realized that we really had no idea what we were doing. I figured we had a better chance of catching a fish if the plug was in the water, but that was the only method I could come up with to increase our chances.

We reached our take-out at Red Rock about two hours later. At the bend above the ramp, upstream about 20 yards, Tom threw the line in one last time. I held the boat, which was a drift boat borrowed from a friend, and was paying more attention to how easy it was to hold the boat in the current than to Tom's fishing. After holding for a few minutes I pushed off and headed towards the ramp. Like my previous four days of steelheading, I had not even seen one fish. The nice thing about disappointment is that the sting goes away the more times you experience it, so after a five days of failure it seemed like the norm.

Tom was reeling in and, because of the current pulling the plug downstream, the rod tip bent slightly. And he reeled in and reeled in... there was a lot of line out. And then a giant steelhead drifted to the surface with the plug in its mouth. In a moment of disbelief I turned to grab my camera but Tom quickly pointed out that I had better row us into an eddy so we would not miss the take-out.

We had never thought that we would get a fish - we didn't even have a cooler to put it in (by the way, you can keep the hatchery fish, which this was). Tom gutted it and we just threw it into the bed of my truck where it slid around for a few miles.

Tom with his fish, a 28.5" steelhead:

Just goes to show, it's always better to be lucky than good.

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