Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Katie's First Steelhead

When 2018 rolled around and it was time to renew my hunting and fishing license, my wife happened to be tagging along with me at Cabelas.
"We might as well grab your fishing license now." I said, while waiting in line.
"Ok, I want a steelhead tag too. I'm going this year, darn-it!" Katie added with determination.
"O-Kay I guess it's official. This is the year!"
"It better happen this year!"
"We'll give it our best!"

I had taken Katie on three steelhead trips over the course of 5 years. The first two were unsuccessful on both her end and mine, and the third I ended up landing 3 fish in the early morning while Katie slept in the car. Katie had put in dozens of hours on different rivers, and in my book, was definitely due for a steelhead.

We planned a trip up to the Clearwater in mid February, hoping to intercept some transitional steelhead. I watched the weather and the water flows studiously, not that it mattered, as we were going regardless. As luck would have it, the stars aligned and not only was the weather forecasted to be decent, but water flows were perfect. In addition, a large storm the week prior had blown the river out and filled it with fresh fish. If we couldn't get Katie a steelhead on this trip, I would fail as a fly fisherman, a guide and as a husband.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, and with a few hours of daylight to spare, we hit the water. 
I placed Katie on a "magic" rock and sat back to watch. It had been a couple years since Katie had done any spey casting. To my relief however, she picked up right where she left off, competently casting her flies to where the fish lay. In addition, over the last couple years Katie had dramatically improved her line mending abilities and was making some killer, long, drag-free drifts; imperative for nymphing and one of the most frequent problems I see other anglers struggle with.
I spent very little time coaching her cast and more time telling her how persistent and optimistic she needed to be.
"Any cast your indicator could go down and it could be a fish." I said, super positively. "You just have to believe!"
My cheesy optimism was enough to make someone gag.

We hit the water hard without any luck that first afternoon, but tomorrow was a new day and I just knew we'd connect with something.

The following morning we began at a location I had previously had great luck with. I put Katie in the right spot and told her where to cast. She worked the water for some time before asking for my help with her cast. I gladly stepped in and showed her a few tricks, explaining the mechanics of a water load. I performed a water load cast and showed her how to mend the line to get a drag-free drift alongside a "fishy" rock. The indicator sunk. I hesitated for a moment, realizing if I set the hook I could be "taking" a fish that could potentially be Katie's. My arm and my brain apparently weren't on the same page, because seconds later, the rod was high in the air and I felt the slow give and pulse of a heavy fish on the end of my line.
"Whoops. It's a fish." I turned back to Katie with a guilty look.
"You stole my fish!" She torted back with anger.
"I'm sorry! Here, take the rod and bring this one in."
"NO! That's your fish. I'll get my own!"
I chuckled as I fought the fish and brought it in. 
She was a hefty, wild fish measuring 32 inches. Too bad it wasn't Katie's fish. Guilt stricken, I released her. 

Katie grabbed her rod and went right back to it. Luckily, a few casts later, my guilt was absolved. I had been standing right behind her, a habit built from my summers guiding in Alaska. I told her to place a cast a tad higher in the run. She did, and we intently watched as the indicator slowly drifted downstream towards the sandy, deep hole the fish were in. The indicator hesitated, moved towards us a couple inches and then sunk. Katie was quick and before I could mutter incoherent noises (meaning set the hook) her rod was high and flexed.

The fish shook it's head, rolled near the surface and then took off across the river. I ran over to grab the net and stood in the water, ready. Katie battled the fish like a champ, and after several minutes, we had Katie's first steelhead in the net.

The colored male measured 34 inches. 
"You did it honey! You caught a steelhead!" I said proudly.
"That was pretty cool. Wow that water is cold!" Katie shuddered as she shook the frigid water off her hands.
"Ok, well you've caught one. My work is done. Shall we go home?" I questioned jokingly.
"No, I think I'd like to catch another!" She said, grabbing the rod and wading back in.

We fished that location until about noon, when we drove upstream to the pretzel hole. I placed Katie in a good location while I fished another run below her. It didn't take long before I hooked into a fish. The fiesty male put up a great fight before I wrestled him to the grassy shore. 

I released the fish and went upstream to grab Katie. Katie reminded me it was past noon and that we should eat lunch, something I frequently forget to do while fishing.

We finished our lunch and went back to the water. I made a fire while Katie fished. Katie tired of casting after a good bit and handed me the rod. Given my reputation of stealing fish, I cocked my head to the side giving her the are you sure look. She smiled and proceeded to the campfire. I made a few casts to some water I noticed she hadn't fully covered. The indicator sunk and I set the hook. Crap, I thought, as I felt a steelhead on the end of my line.

Katie netted the fish with joy and after we released the solid specimen, she resumed casting. Katie was doing an awesome job making perfect casts and great drifts, but after another hour of no fish we moved on to the next location.

It was busy upriver with other anglers. However, to our delight, one of my favorite locations was unoccupied. Katie got into position and began casting. I was beginning to assess where I could fish above her when I heard the promising "SSSHUP" sound of a rod setting the hook. I turned to see a steelhead dancing on the end of her line.
"Sweet! You got another one!" I said with joy as I grabbed the net.
"Alright!" Katie laughed. 
We brought the fish in and Katie stared at it in the net with delight. She then posed with the fish like she'd done a hundred times before.
The afternoon temperatures dipped a bit and we could tell rain was in the future. Katie bundled up and we continued to fish. No more fish came to hand that day but my task was complete. Katie had landed 2 steelhead and we were at 5 for the trip. A great start.
That night the rain came down in buckets, promising off-colored water for the following day. Despite the torrential downpour, we awoke the following day to "steelhead green" water clarity; as good as it gets for steelhead fishing.
Being a Saturday and busy with anglers, we decided to explore some new areas. We wanted to explore a bit behind private land, forcing us to asking for permission. Permission was granted and we discovered some cool places, but by afternoon we found ourselves at "The Fly Bucket", the location we had finished at the previous day. 

Katie got into position standing on a prime rock while I waded upstream of her to fish the faster, deeper slot the fish travel in to leave the run. I had only made 2 casts before I set the hook on a fish. Sadly, the battle was short lived and the fish popped off, leaving my line slack. I placed my next cast right back into the same location. My indicator dove again and I had another steelhead on my line. Back to back casts is always a great sign! This fish also had other intentions as it shook the hook as well. I reeled in and asked Katie if she wanted to try where I had been. Her reaction was predictable; no, due to the cold water she would have to stand in. She continued fishing off of her rock while I waded back to where I had been. In my opinion, Katie's spot was the better of the two and I knew it was only a matter of time before she caught another. Several minutes had passed before I heard a sound out of Katie.
"It's a fish!"
I looked downstream to see her rod high and bent, flexing with each shake of the fish's head.
"Sweet!" I shouted as I reeled in and waded back to shore.
I grabbed the net and got into position downstream of her. Katie battled the fish and soon we had a dark colored male in the net.

Katie had now landed 3 steelhead; all over 32 inches and all on the fly rod. She was quite thrilled with the way this trip was turning out, and so was I.

Katie resumed casting from her rock and myself back in the faster water upstream. The wind began to kick up and strong, cast-debilatating gusts from upstream were forcing us to time our casts. Regardless, the fishing continued to improve. I began to strip in the running line on a nice long drift, preparing to recast, and had only made about 2 strips, when I felt some resistance. I stripped harder a couple more times to free whatever my line had hung up on, when it began to pull back. Did I have a fish? Sure enough, a steelhead was on the end of my line. It must have grabbed my fly right before I began stripping in. I pulled back hard on the fish and held on for the ride. This was turning into a great afternoon! This fish too became un-hooked, leaving me with three hookups in a row with no trophy shots to show for it. 
We continued fishing, but now a steady rain began to fall, pelting us sideways with the strong, gusty wind. Katie was tired for the time being and she invited me to come fish her area. The run we were fishing historically had produced fish throughout, fish could be holding anywhere in the run, and the last couple days were consistent with this. This run also held a "bucket", a deeper hole that tons of fish held in. The fish we were currently catching were fish that were spilling over from the bucket. These fish were likely pushed out of the prime bucket by larger, more aggressive fish. This bucket however, lay on the opposite side of the river. A long cast placed just a couple feet from the opposite shore at an appropriate distance upstream of a large rock would send your flies through the bucket. With the strong winds and the heavy weight required to send our flies down to the fishes level, casting over to the bucket would not be an easy task. So far, neither Katie or myself had fished this bucket on our trip.
I waded into position, standing on a submerged rock just slightly upstream of where Katie had been fishing. I began to cast and fish the run, but with the strong winds, I was struggling to reach the "bucket". I started timing my casts in between the wind gusts, getting closer each time. Sometimes my cast would land too far downstream, not close enough to the other side or my line mend would pull the fly too far away. Finally, I landed a cast in the right spot, threw a quick mend and intently watched my small pink indicator dance down through the choppy water and into the "bucket". Like magic, the pink ball dove under the surface and I heaved back on the 12 and a half foot rod. I felt the strong pulses of a large steelhead pull back in annoyance. This was the beginning of a long battle with a big fish. 
After pulling all my fly line out twice, I finally began to make some headway on the big fish. Several times when it came close, we could see a large golden shape on the end of my line, larger than most of the fish we had caught so far.
We finally scooped the large female into the net and measured her on my rod. She was 37 inches, an above average fish for the river but certainly not my largest. I grasped her tail and with my other hand, cradled her belly. I began to lift her from the water when energy suddenly surged through the muscular fishes body. I tried to maintain control and silence her drive to survive, but I lost. The hand cradling her belly fell free as she shot over the edge of the net. All I had now was her tail as she tried to swim for the depths. The cold water and the strength of the fish were too much for my hand to hold onto. Into the river she went, as strong as a tuna. Can't get a hero shot of 'em all. 

Katie still wasn't ready to fish yet, so I got right back into position to fish the bucket. Once again, it took a few casts to finally reach the right spot, and when I did, I was rewarded with a fish.
I wanted Katie to fish but she didn't want to try to reach the "bucket" with the sideways rain. With fishing as good as it was, I wasted no time and got right back to casting to the bucket. This time, my first cast through the magic bucket did not produce a fish, but my second did. A large colored male found my crystal meth egg irresistible.

Katie was reaching her limit with the cold and the sideways rain. She wanted me to keep fishing, however. I knew better than to test her patience, so I promised her one more fish; a promise I knew wouldn't take long to deliver. The bucket did not disappoint, as if on command the indicator dove and a steelhead came thrashing to the surface. 

It was only 3:30 in the afternoon but between the weather and our success rate of 8 fish hooked and 5 to the net, I was ok calling it a day.

The last morning of our trip was upon us. Given the success of the previous day, we found ourselves back at "The Fly Bucket". We casted for awhile in our comfortable locations without any success. At 9:30 AM, without any fish to the net and the weather showing no signs of warming, we packed it up. 

Katie's determination at the beginning of the year had come to fruition. She had landed 3 steelhead! They say steelhead are a fish of a thousand casts. Sadly, it might have taken her that many to catch that first one. With Katie's skills and determination, I can almost guarantee it won't be a thousand more before her next.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Late Season on the Pond

It had been a couple years since I'd journeyed down to 'The Pond'. 'The Pond' sits next to the Snake River and is perhaps my most consistent duck producing spot. The weather had been unseasonably warm lately, telling me there was a chance the pond was ice free. It was also early January, meaning that a lot of migrating mallards would be in the area. If I was right about those 2 things, Thursday would be an awesome hunt. 

By 6:30 am, we were making the almost 1 mile hike into the pond. We stopped short a few hundred yards and listened.
"Trevor, listen." I said, haulting and holding my hand into the air.
Trevor looked over at me with wide eyes as a mischievous smile spread across his face.
The sound of hundreds of mallards and geese could be heard. They were on the pond and had likely spent the entire night there.
"That means the pond is probably open. However, lots of birds on the pond in the morning doesn't always equate to great hunting. Sometimes they just leave and never come back," I explained.

We picked our spot according to the wind direction, built a make-shift blind, set up a 9 decoy spread and sat back, waiting for legal shooting light. The birds on the pond got up and flew directly over us as well as hundreds upon hundreds of others that had been roosting nearby on the river.
"Wow, that's a lot of ducks! This is going to be good, Ryan!" Trevor exclaimed, hardly containing himself.
"Gosh there's got to be a couple thousand mallards in the sky!" I marveled, amazed at the number of birds headed out to feed.  
Of course, when shooting light finally rolled around, the skies were nearly empty. We scanned the skies intently looking for dark shapes with cupped wings hoping to meet their fate, but as the skies became lighter, so did the number of birds. That's when we heard them.
"Trevor, I think there are geese on the pond." I whispered, pointing to one end of the pond where we could now hear them honking.
"Should we sneak over there and try to get them?" 
"I think we'd be crazy if we didn't at least try. You should go over there and I'll stay here in case they fly this direction."
"Okay, wish me luck!"
Trevor took off, making a wide circle through the desert, trying to avoid detection and get close enough for a shot.
Meanwhile, a few more ducks started flying, including 2 green heads that looked very interested. They circled twice before dropping right into the decoys. Dang, that's 2 guaranteed birds right there! Trevor better get some geese. The mallards swam around for about 1 minute before flying off. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! I looked over just in time to watch a goose fall from the sky and splash into the water. The rest of the flock flew away. Well at least he got one. I walked down the pond to help him retrieve his bird. I was pleased to see him trudging through the water with a bird in hand and in pursuit of another. I waded out in the pond to help him retrieve the second goose, which was currently still swimming. A shot to the head ended the swimming and we were on the board with 2 geese! Bonus birds for the pond.
We sat back in the blind ready for action, but there just wasn't much flying. Like I had mentioned earlier to Trevor, a bunch of birds at first light doesn't always mean great action. It was looking like this was the case. Even when we would see a duck, it would give us the cold wing and keep flying. Fom precious experience, however, I knew to be patient. Many times those birds that leave early to feed have to return to water later. 
At about 9 am, a lone duck came cruising into the decoys for a fly by. Trevor quickly rose and shot, bringing the fast flyer down. I didn't even know what it was, but I suspected a drake diver of some kind. Trevor trudged through the mud and retrieved it.

"Good job, Trev. A drake ring-necked duck." I said as Trevor admired the beautiful specimen.
"He's going to be our mascot!" Trevor said triumphantly while I chuckled.

Once again, few birds in the air made for slow passing of the time. Trevor went for a walk while I sat silently in the blind. A single green head came cruising in and I rose, making a clean shot.

Trevor returned empty handed and once again we sat staring at the empty skies. Forty-five minutes passed before a pair of ducks came low over the reeds. The white crest on the drake told me these were wigeons. The pair cruised into 20 yards with feet down. Just before they landed I called the shot. BOOM! BOOM! Both birds laid motionless on the water as Trevor went to retrieve them. The drake was a gorgeous representation of the species.

Although the action hadn't been fast and furious, we were slowly building a pile of miscellaneous ducks and geese. At 11 am, Trevor went for another walk, this time to another pond. I soon heard a couple gunshots and I looked to see a lot of ducks headed my direction from where Trevor was. A single gadwal came cruising in and I shot it.

"What did you get, Ryan?" Trevor implored, returning empty handed.
"A female gadwal!" I replied, holding up the pretty little lady.
By noon I was looking at my watch, wondering how long we should stick it out.
"Ryan, I think we should keep hunting. We are getting ducks every now and then. I still think we are going to get our limits!" Trevor said confidently.
"Ok. Hopefully all those mallards will return soon," I replied.

At 12:30 we saw our next prospects. Three puddle ducks took a hard look at our spread and began to circle. We were crouched and ready, my duck call working it's magic as the birds circled. That's when we saw them. From the left, dropping out of the sky, were 20 ducks, locked and loaded, coming right into the decoys. 
"Trev, on the left. Get ready." I whispered. "Take 'em!"
We rose and shot. Dropping 4 ducks from the group.
"Sweet! Those guys just snuck in." I grinned.
"Should we go retrieve them?" Trevor asked.
"No, there are more birds starting to fly. Let's let the wind blow them in." I replied, pointing to the south bank of the pond. 

An abundance of mallards were now flying and it didn't take long before the next big group began to circle. More and more ducks began to join them and soon we had ducks flying all over the place. I waited until the largest group came straight for us with feet down. At 25 yards I called the shot. Three green heads were left floating belly up on the water. Trevor and I quickly went into action retrieving birds. I went to the south bank to grab the previous birds while Trevor retrieved the recent ones floating amongst the decoys. I looked up just in time to see a single green head begin to circle our spread. I was out of range but Trevor was already back in the blind. I crouched motionless next to my pile of ducks until I heard Trevor shoot. I looked to see the green head drop from the sky.

"Ryan, the last bird is yours." Trevor said, referring to the one bird left to reach our 14 bird, 2-man limit.
"As long as someone gets him." I replied. "Gosh I'm glad we stuck it out. At noon I was seriously thinking about packing it up. I really should have known better with all those ducks flying early on in the morning. They have to come back to water at some point."
I felt the crop of one of the mallards.
"Feel this Trev...corn." I said, handing Trevor a fat mallard.
"Wow, there's a lot in there." Trevor said, as corn kernels began to fall out of the duck's mouth.
"This is why they have to come back to water. They need to digest their meal."

It only took 15 minutes before we had our next potential victim. A lone duck began to circle. On his 3rd approach, he came low over the desert with locked wings. He cruised into shotgun range and right over the top of the decoys, slowing as he scanned the decoys below him for signs of danger. He hung in the wind almost motionless directly in front of the blind at 15 yards high. I slowly rose, placed the bead of my shotgun sight on his beak and pulled the trigger. Splash! Bird number 14, a drake mallard, lay on the water, completing our limit.
"We did it, Ryan!" Trevor yelled.
"You didn't have a doubt in your mind all day, did you?" I said as we high-fived. 
Trevor shrugged his shoulders. "That was awesome!" 

We retrieved the mallard and assembled the birds for pictures.

Now it was time for the real work. 14 ducks and 2 geese would be no easy pack out. We crammed as many birds into the decoy bag as possible. The rest would have to be carried by hand. 

This hunt reminded me how important it was to stay later in the day during the late season. Not only are birds more active throughout the day, but if you have a bunch of birds leave early in the morning to feed, they will have to come back to the water to get a drink. The almost one mile hike back was long and brutal, but we kept smiles on our faces the whole time.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Double Does

The story about my first deer with Chad Tennyson
 Late October 2011

I was beginning to think hunting curses were true and that I was the source of a bad one. As a young child I remember my dad bringing home a deer every fall, and despite my begging, he wouldn't take me with him until I could sit through a day of cold with minimal complaining. The day finally came when I was about 10 and my dad took me to his secret whitetail spot up North. Thus began the curse; not only did he not get a deer that year, but the next 3 or 4 years he took me, we came home empty handed. I even told him to go without me one year so he could actually come home with a deer. When I got my hunting license at age 14, I dismissed the big game hunting scene altogether to chase pheasants, ducks and turkeys; claiming big game hunting was just too boring. Being "cursed" and all, what was point in even trying?

In college, I met Chad Tennyson. Chad had grown up in Dillingham, Alaska hunting moose, caribou, grouse and waterfowl. He's a well rounded sportsman and very knowledgeable in all aspects of hunting. Chad and I started hunting waterfowl together and over the course of 2 years, began to kill quite a few birds. I was perfectly happy with our bird hunting endeavors and desired nothing more than to continue chasing and improving our "fowling" skills, when Chad popped the question.
"Why don't we go kill a couple deer? I've always wanted to shoot one."
I had been dreading the day my hunting partner would want more. "Oh. I suppose we could try. I've just never had very much luck at it."
"Well let's give it a go! You know a few spots, don't you?" Chad asked with an enthusiasm that was slightly contagious.
"Yes, I know where to find some whitetails. Let's do it!" I pretended to be excited, but deep down I was plagued with doubt. Hopefully my "curse" wouldn't follow us and spread to Chad.

In late October, we packed our things and headed North. West Harris and his brother Kelly joined us. They had elk tags and decided we should go to one area where there was good densities of both elk and whitetail deer. It took forever to get to the place they picked out and we were truly in the middle of nowhere.

The next day we found ourselves hiking down a steep creek bottom trail with rocky hillsides that even a big horn sheep would think twice about climbing. It looked more like goat country to me, not the rolling hills and lush vegetation of a good whitetail forest. 

After a full day of exploring the area, Chad and I both agreed that if we were to shoot some whitetail deer, we would have to go elsewhere. We split up from West and Kelly and headed back to the area where my dad used to take me. Hope crept back into us as we began to see whitetail deer on the drive approaching our area.

Chad and I set camp and schemed for the remaining 2 days of our hunt. The area my dad and I used to hunt was an old clear cut. To reach it, you had to climb up a fairly tall mountain and it sat just on the backside. It took nearly 2 hours to reach it, so naturally I wasn't chomping at the bit to go there, especially since we had seen deer right near the road. That afternoon we hunted some hillsides near camp and the following day we opted to check out some other areas close to the road. We found deer that day, but all of them were on private land. With one final day remaining, the clear cut would be our last ditch effort at harvesting a deer or two.

Chad and I were on the trail one hour before light. If it were going to take two hours to reach the clear cut, we needed to be close to it when it got light. We slowly ascended the steep trail, which hadn't changed much in the 10 years since I had last hiked it. It began to get light enough to see and we slowed our climb, scanning the forested hillsides above us for deer. We neared the top of the mountain in perfect timing; it was now light enough to see and shoot. An old logging road greeted us and we stopped for a brief moment to load our rifles and discuss our plan of attack.
"This road wraps around and meets the bottom of the clear cut." I said, swinging my hand around and ending directly in front of us, where a small trail continued to the remaining top of the mountain. "We'll take this trail to the top, where we will get a better view of the clear cut."
Chad nodded his head and we proceeded on, rifles ready.

We quickly reached the top and we could now see parts of the clear cut. We crept along slowly as we descended a trail that paralleled the clear cut. The approximate 30 acre clearing opened up before us and we halted to survey it.
"Let's sit here for a couple hours and see what pops out." I whispered to Chad, neither one of us taking our eyes off the open space in front of us.
"Sounds good. I'll get comfortable." Chad whispered back, taking off his backpack and un-shouldering his rifle.
We hadn't sat long when we heard a crash at the top of the far end of the clear cut. A cow elk thundered out of the dark forest and into the open. With a panting mouth the elk stopped momentarily in the open and turned back from where it came, assessing the status of it's pursuer. The elk didn't wait long before it continued down the clearcut and back into the dark forest below us.
"That was strange." Chad said with a quizzical look.
"I wonder what was after that elk?" I said, looking where the elk had first appeared.

We continued our sit silently hidden in the shadows, scanning the clear cut for emerging deer.
"There, on the right." Chad whispered with excitement.
"Oh, I see them!" I said, adjusting the rifle tight to my shoulder.
We watched as 5 white-tailed does emerged and began walking single file across the clearcut. I looked through the range finder and picked a spot on the trail in front of the deer.
"240 yards." I whispered, "should we each pick a deer and count to 3?"
"Yeah, we can do that." Chad said quietly looking through his scope.
"I'll take the lead doe."
"Ok, I'm on my deer."
The group paused and I centered my crosshairs on my deer. "1, 2, 3." BOOOM!
My deer didn't drop or show signs of being hit, and Chad hadn't pulled the trigger.
"I didn't quite feel steady enough," Chad said, grabbing his pack and placing his rifle on it.
"I think I missed." I said, moving into a prone position on my belly, hoping to also improve my stability.
Luckily the deer didn't bolt or seem to have any idea what was going on, and what transpired next, I'm not particularly proud of. Each time my deer stopped and I felt fairly steady, I pulled the trigger and missed. I shot 4 times as the deer walked from one side to the other and just when they were about to enter the woods on the other side of the clear cut, miraculously they turned around and began to walk back from where they came. 
I exhaled in frustration when Chad shot. BOOOM! His deer bolted down the hill and crumpled up, dead.
"Nice, Chad!" I said as loudly as I could whisper.
He handed me the backpack, "Shoot from this, you'll be more steady."
Again, the deer didn't seem to know what was going on. I steadied my rifle, this time feeling solid and as confident as possible after missing 4 shots. I placed the crosshairs on the shoulder of my deer and pulled the trigger. BOOOM! My doe hunched but remained standing. 
"I think you hit her," Chad said.
"I think you're right," I said, still peering through the scope as I watched my deer slowly begin to wobble and finally, collapse. "Wow, that was ugly. Five shots."
"Yeah...but we got 2 deer!"

After waiting a half hour, we approached our deer. The 2 deer had died about 30 yards apart. Together we dragged the two deer next to each other for a picture.

I had a moment with my deer, thanking the Lord for it's sacrifice and admiring its' beauty. We each posed with our deer.

Now it was time for the real work to begin. Luckily Chad was with me to show me how to process this animal. He had shot numerous moose in Alaska, which helped make short work of these 2 deer.

Chad had properly prepared by purchasing and bringing a pack frame. Chad was able to place his entire deer in a game bag and strap it to his pack. Myself on the other hand, out of doubt that we'd shoot 2 deer and not wanting to spend the money on a new pack, had only brought a large backpack. However, in that pack I brought a 15 foot length of rope. Dragging the deer would be my only option. I timber-hitched my deer and began dragging as Chad shouldered his over-weighted pack.

The pack out was long and brutal, but at least it was downhill. I continued to monitor the condition of the hide on my deer to make sure it wasn't rubbing off. Luckily the trail was mostly pine needles and ferns, providing a smooth surface for dragging. By 4pm we reached the truck entirely exhausted. By midnight we were back in Boise.

The following day was Halloween. While trick or treaters giggled through the neighborhood we were in the garage cutting up meat. Every time kids approached the house we were tempted to give the kids a true halloween scare by opening the garage, showing them butchers with knives and hunks of meat. Despite the temptation, we kept the garage closed and together with the help of my friend Kevin, we processed the 2 deer into packages of superb quality venison steaks, burger and sausage. Maybe this big game hunting wasn't that bad after all.

Salmon flies and Goldens on the South Fork

"The South Fork is closed." A mysterious voice said from behind me while in line at the Mountain Home Subway. I turned to see the familiar face of a regular Anglers customer.
"Hey Dave!" I replied with a smile and friendly handshake. 
"Hey, I'm Dave." Dave extended his hand towards Terry Kowalis, my fishing partner for the day.
"I'm Terry, nice to meet you. You fishing by yourself today?" 
"Yeah I'm wading. I've got some spots I know I can hit."
"We got an extra spot in the boat if you want to join us?"
"Yeah I might do that!" 
We grabbed our sandwiches and Dave followed us the rest of the way down to the South Fork of the Boise River.

The fire and slides from several years back had made launching a drift boat more challenging. But as they say, 'you can't keep a good angler down', and in this case, many anglers. Boat owners had taken matters into their own hands and began to create their own boat launch below the previous boat launch, now un-usable as a result of a new rapid. We rigged the boat, looked both ways on the road and backed the trailer down the dirt bank. 

We set off down the river, armed with big dries imitating salmon flies and golden stones. I was on the oars first, the perfect place to assess the river conditions and in prime location to heckle the anglers.

Terry tossed his chubby salmon fly to the bank and let it drift lazily towards an overhanging bush. A golden shape with a red stripe rose with purpose and devoured his fly! 
"There's one!" Terry said, setting the hook with force.
"Nice!" Dave said, starting to reel in his line.
"Keep fishing! We got this. Let's get a double!" I urged and pointed back to the prime shoreline we were passing.

Dave picked up his fly and plopped it back towards the shore. I was staring at Terry and planning where to land his fish when I heard Dave yell, "OOOH, theres one!"
"Doubled up!" I shouted loudly, hoping there were other anglers in the vicinity.

Luckily Terry had 2 nets in the boat. I handing each angler a net and found a calm spot to anchor the boat. We had to get a picture of this double.

Terry and Dave each netted their fish.

We released the two 16-18 inch cookie cutter South Fork rainbows before Terry sat in the drivers seat.

It was now my turn in the front of the boat. I began casting the big salmon fly at every likely home of a bank patrolling carnivorous trout. I placed my fly near the grassy bank and let the current float my fly into the shadows of a tree. A nose rose and consumed my fly.
"There's one!" I said as I heaved back on the rod.

The large trout battled with all it's might before we scooped it into the net for a picture.

We hadn't made it far down the river, but fishing had been great so far. Terry was up next. Terry is a master at achieving a long drift and flirting with danger. He'd place his fly in front of a bush and let it go right into the shadows and sticks, waiting until the very last minute to pull it out. Every time I'd cringe as the seconds would go by long after I would have pulled my fly out and re-casted. I couldn't believe how lucky Terry was at not snagging the sticks and he was often rewarded with a fish.

We continued down the river catching plenty of fish. This was shaping into a stellar day.

After we caught a few more fish, we stopped for lunch in a side channel. 
"Look, a pink!" I said, pointing at the small flesh colored mayfly hatching on the blade of Terry's oar.

"And a golden stone!" I said with exaggerated enthusiasm. I grabbed the crawling trout delicacy and showed it to Dave and Terry.

Dave walked up the channel and began putting on a clinic. He walked each fish down to the boat to net and to get a picture.

We continued down the river picking up fish on both salmon flies and goldens. Our salmon fly chubby was beginning to get quite beat up.

However, the fly was still in it's prime. I've found the uglier the better with chubbys. 

As we neared the take out, we approached a great riffle. A common mistake I see anglers make while floating is not looking downstream. It's easy to miss prime water by focusing on what's directly even with the boat when you should really be looking ahead. I took my eyes off the bank and focused my attention on the riffle we were fast approaching. I knew the boat would run directly over prime trout water so I placed my cast below the boat in line to intercept the mid-thigh deep seem the fish would likely be laying in. With 40 feet between my fly and the boat the fish would surely see my fly before they saw the boat. 
My fly rolled down into the faster, choppy water and a big, golden rainbow charged up to eat the fly. I set the hook and began fighting the fish. We netted it just before the take-out. 

"Wow, that was a great day!" Dave said as he pulled our boat to shore. "Glad I decided to float with you guys."
"You're welcome anytime in our boat." Terry said, shaking Dave's hand.
We made the shuttle back to the truck and trailer, pulled the boat out and said our good byes to Dave. It had been a great day of throwing big dries to big trout, a day we hope to repeat next summer!