When we left off last time, we were finishing up our day on a small mountain stream that held a good population of Westslope Cutthroats and Bull Trout. The allure of these beautiful species kept us captivated a bit longer than we had planned and thus ate into our allotted time for the next stream we had planned on fishing. Looking at my watch, I found that it was already about three in the afternoon, so we hustled to get to the next stream which according to my calculations should have been about 45 minutes away.
As it turns out, it took us a bit longer to get there. We got back to a small town and made a quick stop to grab a snack knowing that we would fish until dark (approx. 10pm)...gotta eat right? We would have about 5 hours to fish the next section of water as we calculated it and when darkness settled in, we would head to the east to stage for day three.
As we start driving, we hit blacktop, then a nice stretch of gravel, then dirt, then a two track through the sage brush.....then a cow path. This is where it became challenging!
LOOKING UP THE VALLEY THAT LED US ON
ONE WILD STREAM CHASE!
As we drove and the road narrowed, we tried to navigate with our limited maps and intel that we had gathered from others in weeks prior. I can still remember saying, "This has to the be the road," and thirty minutes later we would find ourselves at a dead end with an endless expanse of sage brush in every direction and the stream still a mile or two off in the distance. So we would backtrack and look for the next best avenue. Time and time again, this would happen as one cow path after another would lead us astray.
ONE OF THOSE ENDLESS EXPANSES OF SAGE BRUSH
THAT WE BECAME VERY INTIMATE WITH IN OUR TRAVELS.
MEETING THE LOCALS ON OUR WAY UP THE VALLEY
Eventually, we found ourselves on the right two track and a whopping 3 hours later, finally came to a stop and parked in the sage overlooking this awesome piece of water. With only 2 hours of light it was time to forget about the clouds of mosquitoes that had encompassed us and get to fishing. Thank God for a buff and gloves....they kept those pesky mosquitoes at bay as we made a dash for the stream!
Within minutes, I was streamside trying to penetrate the dense willows that guarded the stream and at times made it completely inaccessible! Regardless of the dense riparian zones, I would not be hindered in scoring the fish we had come for, so I encouraged the guys to follow me.
After hitting several locations and not getting any sign of fish, I came around a corner to a beautiful slot that was quite large in comparison to what I had seen so far, and I knew that it would hold fish. First cast and a nice fish rose....missed him...and it looked like a Bull. Second cast, another nice fish rose...again, I missed! This time it looked like a Rainbow, but maybe it was a Columbia River Basin Redband? Only time would tell. Ben Barger was looking over my shoulder this whole time and I think his anticipation was building as fast as mine! One more cast and the fish rose....SCORE.....FISH ON! He ripped through the hole with the tenacity of a bulldog and I eventually coaxed him to my hand. It was a nice small stream fish and the fight I had won brought to me my very first Columbia River Basin Redband.
PATRICK ROBINSON HOLDS A NICE
COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN REDBAND
These Redbands sometimes make a run clear to the ocean and become part of the wild species of Steelhead that return up the Columbia and into the Snake River drainages. When they don't become anadromous, they remain in areas such as this to be caught by blessed anglers like me : )
A CLOSE UP OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN REDBAND
Quickly the guys jumped in and started pounding the hole with me as the sun was setting quickly. In short order, Don and I were standing side by side with a great Idaho double.
DON AND PATRICK HOLD A COLUMBIA
RIVER BASIN REDBAND DOUBLE
BEN BARGER PUTS A NET ON A FISH FOR DON
Following a few fish in the net by Patrick and Don, Ben was chomping at the bit to get his fish. I reluctantly stepped aside and let him slide into my spot knowing that his patience and help shooting photos and film demanded it be done. I handed him my rod that was already rigged and took one cast and BOOOOM! A fish slammed his fly and had no intentions of letting go. It was a tenacious fish...it was a Bull Trout! Although they get much larger than this, we were stoked to say we had got one! Char in the lower 48.....it doesn't get any better than that!
BEN BARGER HOLDS HIS FIRST BULL TROUT
IN THE MOUNTAINS OF IDAHO
A CLOSE UP OF A RESIDENT MOUNTAIN BULL TROUT
What really had us charged was the thought of a large Bull Trout taking our flies! We knew that they were there, and had the proof in our hands when the following fish was brought to the net wearing the notorious scars from the teeth of a large Bull Trout. The fish in the photo was in the 12 inch range which leaves us believing that a 20-30 inch fish must have left these scars. (look for the scars between the dorsal and pectoral fins)
A BULL IN THE NET WITH SCARS
FROM AN ATTACK HE SURVIVED
Although our time on this creek was very short, it was oh so sweet. We caught a great number of fish in a short period of time and they were all new species that we could add to our life list. The experience was wild and definitely an adventure that we will not soon forget!
In time, our truck will find its way back to that location to spend a couple of days hunting the big boys and the plethora of wild upland birds that frequent the sage brush of the area.
Next time, we will head for the famed Henry's Fork of the Snake area and another small stream. Until then, tight lines!
Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Steelhead Alley Outfitters