Friday, November 15, 2013

Saga of a Cutthroat Trout and Chinook Salmon

Lewis and Clark River
            The Lewis and Clark River is a tributary of the Columbia River, and its source originates from the Saddle Mountains. From there it flows for twenty miles until it enters Young’s Bay, a part of the Columbia. Like many coastal streams it’s a small, brushy stream that requires careful and stealthy wading. At different times of the year it harbors a variety of fish including Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, and also Rainbow and Westslope Cutthroat trout. I was primarily interested in catching, photographing and releasing the handsome, multicolored Cutthroat, but I was in for an unexpected surprise. 
Westslope Cutthroat Trout
            I rigged up my 8-foot graphite rod with a 5-weight floating line and tied on a 7 1/2-foot leader, which was set up with two flies--a #12 wet fly on the tippet called the Stewart Caddis and a #14 dry fly called the Elk Hair Caddis. The better part of the morning was memorable in that many trout and Cutthroat were caught and released, and although they were not very large they were very aggressive for their size. A nine to ten inch fish can jump and fight with aggression. After a few quick photos I headed downriver to another hole.

            The water I planned to fish riffled over a rocky shelf and into a long pool which deepened and flowed 40 yards downriver. The right side of the run featured a steep five- to seven-foot clay bank, which in heavy rain would periodically erode and muddy the water. As I made a few initial casts at the top end of the riffle a large fish exploded from the water and streaked up and back down to the pool. In the shallow water I could see that it was a large salmon, and as I stood with my mouth agape, another salmon shot by like a torpedo. Without hesitation I instinctively cast my tandem trout flies into the riffle again and I felt a slight pull on my leader. Suddenly, a 15-pound, mint-bright Chinook salmon jumped and cartwheeled back into the water. I was totally unnerved and sat down to collect my thoughts. I had hooked salmon with small flies before but that was using a 9-foot 8-weight rod and a sinking line with # 6 and #4 wet flies. So I wondered, did that salmon really take one of my trout flies, did he just strike at it and miss or was he just playfully jumping as they often do? I would never know for sure, but in my mind’s eye I could see myself playing and landing that Chinook on a small dry fly. 

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