Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Foster's Tent ' part one: Fishing I5

I left for Oregon Tuesday and made it to 'Valley of the Rogue State Park' that night. It was raining and dark when I arrived. Tired, bleary eyed, I found a campsite one hundred yards from the piece of river I planned to fish the following morning.
Fishing sites along Highways is not to encounter wilderness in its pristine form. Often the sound of the rush of traffic is equal to the rush of the river and it is as common to snag a stray shopping cart as to hook a wild fish. But, these are the times we live in and I consider it a kind of reality check to fish 'trampled' waters.
After a good night's sleep I had no luck at this I5 hole. I did find a good cup of coffee in the town of Rogue River and this I sipped with warm satisfaction on my way through Merlin to 'Carpenter's Island'. There after fording chest high cold water I got to the island that cuts the Rogue almost in half. After a few hours of flogging the water, I found my way to success.
It happened as I was negotiating my way around a bush that was hanging out into the river. I was holding my rod away from the tree and grabbing a branch for balance as I manoeuvred my way about it. Having not reeled in my gear, the line floated freely, the fly anonymously downstream when like the flash of the paparazzi camera my fly was recognized in its aquatic milieu. The loosely held rod popped out of my hand; pulled away by an adoring fan. Watching my rod swim rapidly down stream, I realized I must act. I dove into the frigid river head first in time to catch the butt of the rod. Pulling myself and the rod up out of the water I felt the big fish tugging. As cold water moved inside my waders from my upper body, to my yet warm crotch, to my extremities I struggled to gain control of the fish. Just about as the water reached my feet the fish got off. Alas, though soaked and cold, I now knew how to fish. Comfort - a small price to pay for knowledge.
Armed with with the knowledge of what the fish were biting and how they like it served, I retreated to the my van for fresh clothes and a trip to Merlin. It wasn't long before I was back on the river (this time at 'Ennis Riffle') with dry clothes, a full belly and renewed confidence. What I had found was working was, one, a hanging fly after a long swing and, two, a brown 'Woolly Bugger'- a perfect combination for a spey rod.
I fished 'Ennis' the rest of the day and caught the fish shown in the picture, camped there that night and refished, with success, 'Carpenter's Island the next morning. I then started to make my way back south to my ultimate destination of the McCloud to meet up with Tom, Dave and Chris at Foster's Tent at Ah-Di-Nah to close the season.
On the way back south, again on I5, I passed over the Upper Klamath river. Remembering what the venerable Dunsmuir angler, Joe Kimsey, had said about fishing the upper river at that time of year, I pulled off at the rest area and drove up the dirt road that follows the river. There, the river is banked on one side by I5 and the other by soggy pasture land. When Joe first fished it, I5 did not exist. Instead, Route 99 wound its way around rugged rock outcroppings and the creosote bush of this high desert plateau and the kinetic energy of the river surpassed by that of the road. No more, now I5 is a main artery of commerce between the Pacific Coast states. Twenty-four/seven, in the once isolated valley where the Klamath River is bridged, the human presence at rest at the the rest stop and in motion on the hyway, is equal to that of a small town. Some day when humanity has lost its grip on this planet, the river's sound in the riffles and rocks will again be heard, but now it is the rush of big rigs, the percussive thumping of tractor trailer air brakes and the whoosh of cars that dominate. Nevertheless, the river flows here pretty much as it has for a millennium and beneath the waters, where the fish are, it is quiet.
After a few tries at different spots I find a likely looking length of river where the rocks bend the flow to make probable holding areas for migrating fish. Since my spey rod was still rigged up from the Rogue and, I know no better, I employ the same trick here on the Klamath as worked on the Rogue. Sure enough after a few tries the fly is stopped and I have a fish on. This one gives me quite a fight and when I finally land it I see it is larger than the Rogue fish and from the unclipped dorsal fin I know it is wild. My fly is hooked deeply and with a sinking heart I see some blood pumping though its gills. I clip my fly and while holding the fish in the current I don't see more blood. Feeling sad and victorious I watch it swim away and allow myself a little hope for its survival.