Comeback

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

It was going to be an epic year. Working from home would give me, in theory, time to get employer deliverables and honey-do’s done with ease, and leave time for more weekend early AM trips to the river. Look out, thou trout! I tied flies and readied leaders and gear in anticipation.

But an early summer outing handed me a disappointing skunk — two takes that strangely broke off a fly apiece (highly unusual for me, given the typical size of the fish here), but no hook-ups. Demoralized, I reasoned that they must have been steelhead “speed break” strikes, to have parted the tippet on what felt like a minor grab…yeah, yeah, dat’s what musta happened. So I re-tooled my tactics to tempt the hypothetical big spring spawn lingerers and aimed my sights at another morning outing a few weeks later, building up expectations as I always do.

But I got skunked again, dang it, and this time felt only one weak bump on the line. Now I was mad. I got out a month later, and flogged the water for 5 straight hours using every trick I could think of. Didn’t get even a half-hearted line-wiggle from a single fish.

What the…? Things had gone from pitiful to beyond all summer long, and now, with a chamber clearly empty of both confidence and lucky bullets, I was staring down the barrel of the autumn Chinook spawn. I set aside not one but two days right up against the season close date, as close to peak salmon run time as Fish And Game would allow, and did my damnedest. But…another demoralizing skunk on that Sunday!

Four days later, the last day of the season for that river, my last hurrah there for the year, water low, Chinook still nowhere to be seen, I’d again gotten no action for interminable hours. I stood out there a nearly broken man. I confess I hit rock bottom. With no future left to plan for, instead of applying the fabricated forward optimism I normally conjure up I started to think backward across recent months. That is, I finally started to use my head.

What adjustments had I made last spring? Let’s see, nice new reel, and I cleaned the fly lines, and the patch I made to a wader leak was holding well, and…I’d gone to nice furled fluoro leaders, which were a joy to use, and…I’d tied weighted flies to minimize use of split shot, thus eliminating path anomalies between rod and fly, and…wait a minute, what was that about the leaders? I’d changed the type. I’d been using “clear” fluoro FURLED leaders all year. It seemed to me they weren’t exactly clear, of course…they refract enough light on every bend of every filament (and there are a lot of little bends when line is braided together like that) that unless it’s nearly nighttime those furled leaders look translucent white in the water…like an off-white piece of thin yarn seven feet long preceding the fly down through the current. Could I be…spooking fish? For months? I’d stepped the taper down quickly from furled portion to tippet, too, so the fly wasn’t really all that far from the furled—maybe only about three feet.

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Lost My Soul While Fishing

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

This is a tale of failure…like so many are. I desperately wanted to get out of the house and hit the water somewhere, but with so few waters available to me and with logistics as encumbered as they’ve been of late, I decided to try a new place.  And so it became a bit of a scouting trip, with all the chances for failure that that mindset ushers in.

The lower Stanislaus river is said to hold large brown trout, but that’s upstream in the constricted gorge, where wading is utterly impossible and access worse yet. In the half-mile below that, the stream attempts to traverse the wide and warm central valley of California, which means it completely transitions from the tail end of a trout fishery to a smallmouth, then largemouth, then carp bath. And where the transition occurs depends on the time of year–how high is the sun, how warm is the land. As summer warms, a wall of warm water creeps relentlessly upstream to a trout’s detriment, and with it a horde of aggressive warm-water species keen to attack even 10-inch fish and certainly to siphon up the available food. For this outing I chose to see what things looked like for trout at about as downstream a point as one could hope to find them in mid-July, which was as decisions go my own fault, but the access was good and I didn’t have much time on this particular afternoon anyway.

Figure 1.  Lower Stanislaus from the Air

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Surprise Takes

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

I was about fourteen, and after corn-on-the-cob and chicken and tossing baseball in the sun, I had become bored of the heat or perhaps the relative inaction of the family picnic. I wandered down to the midwest lake’s edge, where a short rickety pier no more than 6 or 7 feet long jutted out from shore in water that went from 2 inches to 18 inches in warm cloudy depth. I pulled a little spooled hand line from my pocket (a kid always carries one), tied on what amounted to a fuzzy little wet fly to which I had attached a tiny spinning metal blade at the hook-eye end, and began to drag it mindlessly along one side of the pier. As I watched a duck swimming far out in the lake’s middle, my flashy wet fly snagged on something, which turned out to be the mouth of a huge 6-pound carp, the largest fish I had ever landed up to that point.

Another time: I was about sixteen years old and my Dad had driven us up to Ohio’s Rocky Fork Lake one late November afternoon. It was nippy, and we got there with really not enough time to do much of anything, but as a very rare treat the family had planned to make it an overnight. November is late for fishing in those parts, but kids will be kids, and instead of helping with stuff I put reel to rod and tied one of those “L&S Mirro-Lures” to the line. There was a marina there, and a low cement wall along the top of which I could walk–the water was probably 20 inches deep at the wall. I dropped the lure into the drink at my feet and attempted to get away from my siblings, who were following me asking what the heck I was doing…so I walked away from them. They followed. I walked faster. The lure dragged along in the water. Suddenly there was a lurch, and I landed a very nice 2-pound bass, by far the largest game fish I had ever caught up to then.

Continue reading → Surprise Takes