|Garden Variety Hoback River Cutthroat|
An icky work schedule required an early morning launch and was further complicated by unusually cool temperatures, deflating my enthusiasm for a dry fly extravaganza I had hoped for on this historic stretch of water. On the way to Astoria, our put in, I was bouncing along in the guide mobile alongside a characteristic inventory of flies I've never seen before decorating its interior, an organized collection of boat bags, fly boxes, safety equipment, and rods. After getting acquainted, I hesitantly suggest we probably wouldn't get much dry fly action with these temperatures. "Not exactly," Bruce immediately responded. He goes on to describe a peculiar September stone fly, Classinea Subulosa, that hatches in the pre-dawn hours this time of year. This hatch kicks into high gear during September, but sometime starts in late August, and can last into early October. The females can fly, but the males have much shorter wings and are flightless, skittering around the banks until mid-day or so. Confidently, Bruce lets me know that we'll be moving #4-6 tan/brown Chernobyls, Chubbies and Snake River Water Walkers to draw fish to the surface. Relieved, I'm back in candy store mode.
Over the course of the next few hours, I enjoyed the company of an expert, slipping through one perfect piece of water after another, effortlessly breaking down a large river into manageable pieces of juicy holding water. In between targets, I'm calmed by what I can only describe as profound depth, knowledge that bubbles to the surface, easily recalled from years of experience in dealing with all manner of guest. One story after another, perfectly placed to fill the space between fish, but always aware of what's just beyond the next log jam, riffle ledge or eddy.
We take a few fish. I miss a few more. We pull over to rest for a few minutes on the insistence that I should take some time to look up. The richness and color of this place at this time of year is brilliantly intoxicating. The cadence of the river is in step with my cast. Quietly, my skill is appraised, and then the boat unknowingly adjusted to please my ability. My pace is slowed, concentration corralled, yet Bruce is always thinking just ahead, fabricating in his mind the next string of casts.
Wisdom is defined as the power of judging rightly and then being able to follow the correct course of action based upon knowledge, experience, skill, and understanding. I define it in terms of deep awareness and the gentle ability to quietly insist that others around you take a moment to look up from time to time and soak in what's really important ..... oh, and perhaps a subtle reminder to not forget my camera before stepping into the boat.
For more information on fishing the September Stone Hatch on the Snake River, WestFly has some more detail here.