October 14th, 2002

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Saved The Best For Last
By Liz Conrad, Elk, Washington

Every once in awhile you have one of the best days in your life. The last fly fishing trip of the season became my greatest day ever! I would like to share it in hopes you will enjoy the experience as we did.

With summer gone and October just around the corner, my fishing buddy, Fuzzy, thought it would be really fun to take his son, John, fly-fishing before the season ended. For me this entailed getting permission to skip wood carving class on Friday night and my work for the hackle ranch. Fortunately for me, things were pretty slow, and I could play hooky. Thanks Dad! Unfortunately, John was already camping in Idaho and would be unable to join us.

Fuzzy, being an Air Force Survival Instructor, has tromped all over the northeast section of Washington. Through the years he has found several out-of-the-way ponds. We decided on a small pond that would offer some cutthroat trout action. Fuzzy informs me "cutthroat are business fish. They don't begin biting until 9:00 am and quit about 5:00 pm." I am thinking these are my kind of fish! We still planned to get up early Saturday morning just in case.

Whenever you travel you should always have a map, right? Right! Not just any ordinary map! When we travel we take a 7 minute military map that is about 20 years old! I get to play navigator. There is an art to reading one of these maps I am sure. I have just the hardest time, so we make several 'read the map' stops. Sometimes we find a road we want to use has been closed off. Well, this trip was no exception! We get within two miles of our pond and the road we need to turn on is closed. Well, now what? After checking the map and looking at our options we had two choices. We could turn around and go 40 miles back the way we came in hopes of finding roads open on the east side, or try this newer looking road, noted as a dead end. Perhaps it could not hurt to go a couple of miles to see where it goes. Luck was with us, the road did not dead end, it went directly to the pond we were looking for!

Author and Fuzzy

When we arrived, about 9:30 a.m., the day was chilly, a slight fog in the air, with the sun just coming over the ridge, ready to spill sunshine on the pond. We quickly located a campsite and unloaded our gear. Upon checking the water we found one small boat with two fishermen. They appeared to be using the standard garden hackle. We also noticed fish rising! We could not get our waders, rods and belly boats ready fast enough! I am a true dry fly fishing lady. I get the most enjoyment out of watching the fly float on the water top just waiting for the fish. Since I was given a belly boat for my birthday, I have come to enjoy flyfishing from the water top as well. Today my choice of fly is my old faithful elk hair caddis.

Finally in full gear we proceed to the water. The water level is very low and it appears to be a mucky mess before hitting the lilies and deeper water. Well, a little muck was not going to stop me. I waddled out in the belly boat, rod in hand. I made it about four steps before my flippered foot sunk to my thigh. The next step wasn't much better and soon I was stuck in the muck! I was unable to move my feet. I could not pull my foot up or move it in any way. I was frustrated and feeling trapped in quick sand. Since I am determined to free myself from this doom, I decide to lay back in the boat and try to kick loose. After many struggles I was able to wiggle my feet from the muck and slowly move through the bottom sediment. Fuzzy tried a different port of entry but with about the same results. Before too long (although it seemed like an hour) I had reached the deeper water almost exhausted. But I had made it!

Within moments a fish pops the top of the water in front of me. I begin to reel off some line and kick my way out into the pond. Upon my first cast, as the fly hits the water a trout grabs it. Soon I had landed an eight-inch trout! I am one of those people who get very excited when I hook a fish. I start calling, fish on! Fuzzy is watching and still struggling through the muck. I release my first catch of the day and begin to send my little fly out over the water again. Bam! As soon as the fly hits the water a trout rolls over the top of it. Fish on! Fish on! Fuzzy is still struggling out of the muck. Well the third cast produced no results, but the fourth one was a prize! This fellow hit and rolled hard over the fly, I set the hook and knew he was a larger fish. What fun it was to have him dive straight to the bottom and pull and stay down forever, finally to appear from the depths and fight as I play him to the boat. He measured about twelve inches and was the fattest chunk.

Fuzzy finally makes it out of the muck. He chooses to go across the pond from where I am fishing. His usual first choice of a fly is a wet.

I continue moving around this small area and kept getting strikes almost every cast and just hooting it up. I had to be careful (only a little) because of the echo. Even a whisper seemed to give you a return call. I was getting the biggest kick out of hearing, "fish on!" repeated. I have never caught more than six fish on one outing. Normally I call that a great day. Today I quit counting at six. I figured everything over six was a bonus! I just never knew there could be so many fish in one spot.

After a bit I notice that Fuzzy isn't catching many fish, so I offer to share my spot. Perhaps the fish were holding in this particular part of the pond and I didn't want him to miss this fun. He declined and kept on fishing around the pond. It wasn't too long though and he had moved closer. He has changed his fly to a dry. Look out Loretta! He begins catching fish! Over and over we were calling "fish on!" Hey, we got a double! Fish are popping the water all around us, so close we are getting wet. You load the line on your rod and as the fly sails close to the top of the water, the fish jumps up, trying to catch it before it lands. And when it does, bam! The fish has rolled over the fly and he's playing with all he has.

We stayed on the water about three hours having the time of our life. The sun was warm, a slight breeze now and then - a perfect morning on the water. In all we probably landed around 100 fish between us. All cutthroat trout, ranging in size from eight to fourteen inches. And we know who caught the big ones!

I hated to leave the water, but camp needed to be set up and we were getting hungry. Oh no! The trip back to shore! I have never in my life seen a lake bottom as soft as this one. Getting through this muck took an act of Hercules. To say the least it was worse getting out than it was coming in, but we did finally make it. Oh, by the way. . .the two guys in the boat, they never caught one fish the entire time they were there. I think I may have scared them off with my echoes?

After setting up camp and having lunch, we did a bit of hiking to check out the area. We had the small campground to ourselves. We found the boat launch area and trails going around the pond. Beautiful tamaracks as tall as 100 feet, lots of other large firs and pines.

About 2:30 we decided it was time for some more fishing. We noticed the trout had never stopped hitting the top of the water. There was no obvious hatch that day. We saw fish jump from the water and catch a spider that was floating overhead on his silk string. The water was clear with no algae or other debris floating in it. The entire edge was covered with the muck, then water lilies before dropping off to depths of at least 10 feet to who knows how deep.

We decided the boat landing might be a better way to forge our way out to deep water since there was a bit of a trench there. No such luck! Still the same struggle through the muck. We chose to fish the other end of the pond which was a larger water area and much deeper. We caught fish all afternoon just like before. Almost every cast produced a hit and many were missed. We hooted and called nice fish! We stayed on the water right up to 5:00 p.m., and believe it or not, the fish turned off! No more anything, complete silence. Banker's hours. . .hum?

We did some sight seeing before having dinner. The evening cooled off quickly, so we headed to bed with visions of trout dancing in our heads. Boo Hoo! It rained all night and was a wet and chilly morning, so we packed it up and headed home early. We were disappointed we had to leave, but what a trip is was! One we will always remember and you can bet I'll be taking my Dad with me the next time I go pond fishing.

Good fishing. ~ Liz Conrad


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