The Last Feeding Fish

On Wednesday the river was perfect. Good water clarity, warming water temps, and the onset of the Mother’s Day caddis hatch, combined for everything an angler could ask for. But everyone knew it would be short lived. The same temps that warmed the water, encouraged the hatch, and caused the fish to look up, would soon bring an end to the party and usher in runoff in earnest.

I was lucky to be on the water and had hopes for eking out one more day. Reports from Thursday were good. Friday morning the river was still clear. The gauges had spiked upstream but I thought we had at least the day before our window closed.

I was wrong.

At 4pm, when we arrived at the put in, the river resembled weak coffee and was deteriorating quickly. The snap crackle and pop of suspended sediment hitting fiberglass was audible as we headed downstream. Branches and small debris joined the party soon thereafter. By evening we watched full trees pass by our camp with regularity. A bloated, dead cow bobbed by, accentuating that the river meant business. The river had begun its annual cleansing ritual.

Fishing seemed out of the question. But with a couple inches of visibility remaining, caddis clouding the air, and fish gorging themselves only hours ago, I held out hope that we might find a fish greedy enough to keep eating. I scanned every back eddy, soft seam, and foam line. It didn’t look good. Then along a small rock wall I spotted him. The last feeding fish in the river. Optimistically, we had a dry fly rod at the ready and my son was up for the job. Having cast double nymph rigs with caution all spring he could now freely take aim with the single dry.

The dirty water allowed me to maneuver the boat close, but a precise cast and drift was still required. He must have made forty casts. Too far. Too close. Too much drag. Perfect… no eat.

Feverishly, I worked to keep the boat in place as I provided directions. A little farther up stream, strip in some line, mend, wait. Finally, the nose pierced the surface and devoured my son’s offering. Working to keep the line taught the rainbow made a break for faster water and broke him off. It was his finest fishing to date.

There was no more fishing. But marble sized river cobble made for a perfect camp. Good company, a fire, and mild temperatures made the evening. Stunning scenery and islands full of morels made for an idilic, albeit, fast float to the take out the following day.

We’ll be back for the fish in a month or two.





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