I guess it was about 1975 that I first picked up a
fly rod. It was something new and different to try.
For a couple years prior I had been fishing mostly
in search of the ever elusive Steelhead in the rivers
surrounding the Seattle area.
The Green River had become my home away from home and
countless hours were spent beating the water to froth
with egg clusters and spoons in hopes of drawing a
strike from one of the most exciting fish to grace
a river. My success was limited. It took two years
before I managed to get a fish to the beach and I
was in complete awe of my brother Mike who managed,
in one year, to fill two punch cards.
Of course I rationalized his superior fish catching
ability by telling myself that he was unemployed and
had more time to fish. Today I know that he is just
a pretty good fisherman and if it were a contest he
would probably win, one of the many things I have
had to come to grips with as a mature adult. Fortunately,
for me, my competitive nature has given way to the fact
that the outdoors is there for all to enjoy despite
the fish count at the end of the day. The thrill is
truly in the journey and not the destination.
It was curiosity that that led me to embark on my next
fishing venture. I was dreaming in a sporting goods store
in search of the next sure-fire addition to my growing
pile of fishing accoutrements, when I happened upon an
8 ½ foot fiberglass fly rod. Now fly fishing was one of
those intriguing pastimes that I had always thought to
be above me. My low self esteem already telling me I
can't catch as many steelhead as my brother, how could
I ever expect to become a fly fisherman.
I have always been a great starter and a little short
in the finishing department. I believe that is called
an underachiever. While I had not yet reached the
pinnacle of my avocation as a steelheader, at the
time I saw nothing wrong with acquiring another fixation.
It was with great satisfaction that I walked out the door
with a new Wright McGill Denco weight 7, fiberglass fly
rod. I was already visualizing all the fine fish that
would be brought to net, as I effortlessly cast and
retrieved till my arm fell off.
You can imagine that my dreams were trying their damnest
to come true in the arm falling off aspect. Flog and flail,
I would practice in the relentless pursuit of a tight loop
and an accurate presentation. It was hard to believe that
I actually thought bait casting for steelhead was fruitless
knowing that I could at least get the lure in front of the
fish with a bait casting reel.
It was a couple months later that during the course of
conversation with Jan Bratton, a co-worker, I discovered
he was also a novice fly fisherman. Over the next few weeks
we contemplated taking a trip to eastern Washington for the
trout opener and trying our hand at fly fishing in a new
locale. We had heard of a place called Rocky Ford Creek
that was a rather well known fly only fishery. The decision
was made and on the opener we found ourselves parked at the
end of a gravel road with the creek but 50 yards away.
We actually were situated only 150 or so yards away from
Highway 17 and could watch the cars pass as we cast to
the unknown waters. My father had been a county deputy
for about 20 plus years in Grant County and we had arrived
at our destination due to his directions. I tell you this
to set up a fall guy for my soon to be known transgressions.
This fabled creek was rumored to hold large rainbow trout
and I was chomping at the bit to get a hookup and beach a
monster. Jan and I did our best to cast to every nook and
cranny, every possible bit of holding water. Neither of
us was a great caster but it was our good fortune that
the creek was but 25 feet at its' widest along the
stretch we were fishing.
We had started fishing around 8:00 and it was about 10:00
before I hooked what was to be the only trout of the day.
A Rocky Ford hog of about 7" (I may be stretching the truth)
took my #10 Teeny nymph on the lift at the end of the swing.
To this day, I don't know what would have been worse, to
catch a 7 incher in the land of hogs or to get skunked.
So I was once again on the prowl for a trout. I was still
holding onto the dream of something in excess of 20 inches,
for I had heard tales, I had read reports in Hunting and
Fishing News, and I knew in my fisherman's heart that
my dreams could come true. I just didn't know how long it
My reverie was broken by my friends screaming. I about
dropped my rod and ran for cover. When I looked to where
he had been fishing I saw him screaming, yelling, cursing
and running up the hill waving his fly rod as if he was
assaulting San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders. It wasn't
the Spanish army he was attacking; it looked to me to be
a flock of sheep. Now I was getting really perplexed. He
succeeded in chasing the flock away and stood at the top
of the knoll, reveling in his conquest, victorious over
all he surveyed, or so it appeared. He took a new position
and looked as if he was praying to the Gods of War, giving
thanks for his courage in facing the less than monstrous
Needless to say I was rather curious at this point and I
started walking to the scene of the bloodless battle with
hopes of understanding what brought about this conflict
between man and mammal. As I approached Jan I could see
he had set aside his rod and was gently stroking the head
of a lamb. The lamb was frozen in what I can only describe
as a fetal sheep position, and the rest of the flock was
about twenty feet away milling aimlessly as one that appeared
to be the Momma bleated as only Momma's can. Still puzzled
as to why Jan would want to separate the lamb from the flock,
I listened as the story unfolded from the Hero's mouth.
It seems Jan had been fishing with even less success than
I and that boredom was fast infecting his attitude. As he
was aimlessly taking in the scenery rather than watching
for the take that never came, he zeroed in on the spectator
flock of sheep. Whilst he watched, a coyote had crept into
the middle of the flock and nabbed a young lamb by the head.
Jan, at that point, went on the offensive and sprinted to
the rescue. It was all coming into focus know, and my image
of him had gone from crazed lunatic, to angel of salvation.
I mean, those little fuzzy guys are so cute. How could one
not go into protective mode?
So we ministered as best we could to the little fella, and
after about 15 minutes he was able to get up and wander over
to Momma, who had remained at the scene with her friends and
family, anxiously awaiting the release of her baby. It seems
the lamb had been in shock, a protective state to spare them
being cognizant of a horrible death. Jan, having done his
good deed for the day, and I, meandered back to the creek
to continue our fruitless efforts.
Within 10 minutes we were under attack by one of the old
Bell 47 helicopters which circled and landed near our position.
It was the owner of the property who kindly suggested we
might be fishing on his land. After apologies and laying
all the blame on my Dad, (remember the set up?) he said
he knew my Dad and it was OK to stay if we made sure our
car couldn't be seen from the highway. He also had to
throw a wet blanket over Jan's hero persona by informing
us the lamb would probably die from infection. We all
said our thank you's and as he flew off we discovered we
had lost our interest in the creek and decided to maybe
give another venue a fighting chance.
So it became a search for new water that brought us to the
NW end of O'Sullivan Reservoir and a little side pocket of
water that flooded the trees in the spring. Only about 5
feet deep amongst the sand dunes, with the afternoon sun
warming the shallow water it looked like a place that
could hold sunfish. As Jan stretched out on a near sand
dune to soak some rays I attempted to fish small poppers
under the tree branches. I can't remember where I learned
the technique, but I would cast under the limbs and wait
for the rings to disappear, then with my first twitch a
small hole appeared in the surface and the popper fell
into the gaping maw of an 8" Bluegill. My first cast
here, and already the biggest fish of the day.
Now I was stoked. What followed was an exercise in pure
enjoyment. The bluegills were as ready for a fight as I
was and more than co-operative. The real beauty of this
was that every three or four casts, the hole in the
surface would become much larger and rather than the
ferocious bluegill I would end up with a largemouth
bass bulldogging it into the trees. I am honestly
unsure how my friend could sleep but twenty feet away,
with all the shouting I was doing. I was at this for
about two hours before I surrendered to fatigue. We
had left Seattle rather early in the morning and still
had a 3 hour drive home. I was grateful Jan got a nap
for that meant I could let him do the driving.
I have often heard it said that one of the best ways
to get children into fishing is to take them somewhere
they can catch lots of fish and not get bored. I believe
this is also true of getting adults interested in fly
fishing. Had it not been for two hours of fast action
I may have let my hours of fruitless casting at the
Ford dissuade me from further excursions with a fly
rod. Instead it only inspired me to try the long rod
to fish for anything I could entice with bait or hardware.
It had started out as the opener of trout season and
ended up being the opening of a whole new fishing
experience in the world of fly fishing. I now reside
in eastern Washington, and the bluegill hole is but
a 20 minute drive, so come the spring trout opener
I am compelled to drive down that old sand road and
make a few casts under the trees to see if they still
hang where I left them. ~ CM