Ever since Thanksgiving, I have been excited to go to my hometown of Moses Lake, WA. Not necessarily to visit family, (though they are great), but to fish a fantastic spring creek called Rocky Ford! Last time I fished at Rocky Ford I caught a nice fish that shattered my largest trout record, weighing in at 6 pounds, 26 inches. Little did I know I was going to break that record this time.
When we first arrived at Rocky Ford, every part of me wanted to jump out of the car and run to the creek. The first sight was so exciting, both my brother and I started whooping and applauding as we pulled in to gear up for streamer fishing. It was no surprise that when we were just about to start fishing, my brother says, “Okay, Brother! I have a new 9’ 6X leader on!”
“No, brother, no.” I said, stopping in my tracks.
I explained to him that we were fishing with big streamers, which required something a bit stronger than 6X. I fixed him up with a 2X leader, and off we went to fish!
Feef began fishing off of a boardwalk not far from me. We wanted to stay in ear-shot of each other so that we could help each other out if needed. And sooner than expected, help was needed!
“Brother! Brother help!” I heard Feef yelling and laughing. From where I was, I could hear the distant thrashes of a fish.
“Brother!!!” I yelled back to him as I ran to help, “I’m coming!” But it wasn’t fast enough for Feef.
“Well take your time, Brother!” He yelled back at me as I slowed down to be more cautious on the slick boardwalk. He wrenched back on his rod to keep the fish at bay, as I laid on the deck and slipped the net under the fish.
“Yeaaaaah!” Feef yelled as the fish was brought up for a picture.
The first fish of the day was caught, and that only fueled my determination to get the next fish. Feef followed me to fish another part of the creek.
“This spot looks real good!” He said as we pulled line out of our reels. At Rocky Ford Creek you are not allowed to wade, so the longer you can cast the better. I double-hauled my Dalai Lama streamer out and started to retrieve it slowly; keeping the tip of my rod as close to the water as possible to avoid slack. That’s when I saw it: a disturbance that could rival the wake of a submarine charging just under the surface. A wave of adrenaline shot through my body at the sight of the disturbance, but to change the speed of my fly would be a rookie mistake. I kept the slow pace of my strip as the wake drew closer and closer, then I felt the full weight of the fish as it took my fly.
“This is a big one!” I yelled to my brother, who was taking video of the entire event.
“It’s a big one?!” He yelled as he made his way over to help me out. “Oh, Brother, it’s a monster!” He growled with excitement!
“This is so good!” I managed to say as we netted my first fish of the day.
We could see big fish where we were, but there was still more creek to fish. Both of us walked further down stream to another section and followed a trail through the cattails to the water’s edge. Casting here can be vexing, as every little twig, weed, or dead nettle remaining grabs your fly line. In the thick of it all, Feef lost his streamer to a greedy cattail.
“How can you cast so far?” Feef complained as I rocketed my Dalai Lama to the other side of the creek.
“I guess I’m just good, Brother.” I said, modestly.
“Thats messed up.” He replied, as he grabbed one of my Dalai Lamas. The ability to cast far paid off here, as another fish inhaled my fly. The fish was ripping out line, but with the 9 1/2 foot 6wt. Helios 2, Ryan let me borrow, I had the leverage. The rod arched as I applied the torque to bring in a nice fish.
As a spring creek, Rocky Ford is very clear. With the overcast you can see your fly from all the way across the stream. Watching a fish strike at your fly, and lifting your fly rod to set the hook would be a rookie Rocky Ford mistake; this usually results in tearing the fly away from a hungry fish. Not that this has ever happened to me, of course, but it is a lesson my brother was becoming annoyed with.
“I keep missing them!” He yelled. “And I can see them chasing my fly!”
“You have to strip set.” I said, “The fish will more than likely hook itself!”
This is easier said than done, after all, you can’t blame a guy for reacting when a 23-inch fish strikes his fly.
Walking along the path we met up with my Dad, my wife, Gracy, and my little brother, Bryan, who all came to bring us some hot chocolate and a bite to eat. I asked if they would like to stay and watch us fish for a little bit. My dad loves taking pictures, so no matter what Gracy or Bryan wanted, they were going to be here until one of us caught a fish. I could hear, Feef yelling at my dad to watch out for his back cast, as I began to cast. It was only a few cast later when I felt the glorious tug of a fish.
“Dad! I got one!” I said as I wrenched back on the rod.
From a far, Bryan came running to watch the excitement My dad had his camera, taking pictures like mad. I brought the fish in, and Feef was there, net in hand, to help land my fish; but right when I had it close, the fly flew right out of its mouth.
“NO!” I yelled as the fish bolted to get away! Only the fish made a mistake; it swam in towards shore where I dove to grabbed it! It slipped through my hands easy, as I scrambled to get a hold.
“Got it!” I said, as I lifted the fish for Gracy to snap a picture.
After the excitement the family took off, leaving both Feef and I to fish for the rest of the day. “Be sure to be back at the house by 6:00 p.m.” Gracy said before taking off.
“This means we should be at the car by 4:30 p.m.” I told my brother. He had just graduated from Boise State in Construction Management, and the family was celebrating this evening.
Feef continued to miss fish after fish, not to mention he was on his fourth fly.
“I’m bleeding flies here, Brother!” I said as I handed him another Dali Llama.
“Well, all of these damn cattails, Brother… They’re killing me!” Feef said, taking the fly.
“Yeah? Well they’re costing me a fortune.” I said, as he started laughing.
I had brought in a few more fish, while my brother kept hooking up, and losing his fish. I could hear his colorful language as he missed fish after fish, and to top it off, he miss calculated his cast and snapped off yet another fly. His frustration echoed across the silent creek, as I muffled my laughter.
“Tell you what, Brother. Come take a picture of this fish, and I’ll give you another Dalai Lama!” I yelled over to him, as if he had a choice.
Bridges at both ends mark the start and finish of the creek, which are a little under a mile apart. Our plan was to cross the bridge and fish our way back to the car from the other side of the creek. We had reached our halfway mark, and fished around the second bridge for a while. I hooked into a nice fish, but it came unbuttoned right near the end. “Damn! It came off!” I said.
“Well, I feel really bad for you.” My frustrated brother said.
The light was slowly fading, so I asked, “What time is it?”
Feef pulled out his phone, and shot me a worried look.
“It’s 4:28!” He yelped.
We had spent over five hours walking from spot to spot, only to reach our halfway mark, with no time left!
“Okay, here’s our plan!” I said while Feef listened. “We are going to run from spot to spot, and fish only the best spots along the way. Okay?”
“Okay!” He agreed.
And off we ran!
Nippers and forceps clanked around as we ran upstream to the next spot. A few casts, a hook up, a long distance release, and off we ran again. Before we knew it, we were half way to the car. We stripped off line feverishly, and shot it out as far as we could. My streamer got nailed, and a fish thrashed in the distance. We had little to no time left, so I was on my own for this fish. Feef continued fishing intently as I released my fish.
“I got one!” Feef yelled. I could tell by the way he was fighting it that he had managed a solid hook-up. Though the sun was quickly fading, his smile could be seen from space.
I grabbed the net and laid on the ground, reaching out as far as I could with it. This fish was not happy, as it thrashed its head to and fro. For a second it gave up, and just then, Feef applied the torque needed for me to get the net under his fish.
“YES! This is a nice fish!” Feef yelled, all smiles!
It was now 5:00 p.m. and we were sill at the half way mark. Feef had clipped his fly off so he would not be tempted to make another cast. We arrived to a spot on the path where I had never been before, and with the low light, it was hard to see the dark jagged rocks that tripped us up every so often.
“Where the hell are we?” Feef asked, as we came to a dead end on our trail. The trail ended at a small concrete dam, that opened up to a pond with no bank to walk on.
“Great!” Feef yelled, frustrated, right before he looked to his left and found the path. “This way!”
Time was not on our side, and the last thing he wanted was to be late for his own party. I looked out into the big open pond. It seemed dark and deep, and with no bank, the water’s edge looked like it dropped off immediately.
“Brother, I should make a cast…” I said stopping on the path, which had turned into a larger road leading to the car.
“There’s no time!” He protested, then sighed… “Why the hell not?!”
I quickly stripped off line, and launched my Dalai Lama out into darkness. I stripped it back in, and noticed a structure out in the pond. I stripped off even more line and blasted it further out. A steady strip caught the attention of something in the water, as a large wake rapidly approached my fly! I didn’t feel a nibble, or a bump; this fish SLAMMED my fly.
“Woah!” I yelled, as my 9 and a half rod doubled over.
“BROTHER! BROTHER THIS IS A BIG ONE!” I cried, not holding back my excitement!
“THIS IS THE BIG ONE!” I screamed!
“AHHH HA HA!” I laughed hysterically with excitement, as Feef ran to help. He did not have waders on, and with the hard dirt, it was too slick for him to get close to the water’s edge for the opportunity to help land my fish.
“You are going to have to get it yourself.” He told me, as he backed away from the drop toward the water.
“It’s fighting like a steelhead!” I yelled as I inched closer to the water, trying not to fall in. I had the net in my hand, and wrenched back on the rod while I reached as far as I could with the net. It was not going to be that easy. My forearm quickly fatigued as the fish made another run.
“It’s too big to land this way!” I told Feef, “Here!” I thrusted my fly rod in his hands, “You have to fight it, as I land it!”
As soon as I handed Feef the rod, he felt the power of this fish!
“Oh my God!” He yelled, as the fish fought back.
Feef stood right behind me as he lifted the rod tip high into the air. It was just enough! I slid down the embankment, caught a rock with my foot that kept me from sliding into the water, and jabbed my net into the water, under the fish.
“I got it!” I yelled as I lifted the fish out of the water.
The fish completely filled the net, as I, on both knees, tried to lift it. The weight of the fish pulled me off balance, and I almost fell on top of it. Finally, I lifted the fish for this picture of a 26” 9 lb fish!
“Ooooooh, Brother, look at this PIG!” I yelled, as Feef continued to snap pictures. There was no way for me to dip it back into the water to take a breath, so just as fast as I pulled it out, I had to put it back. But not before Feef snapped off some shots, mid celebration!
The fish bolted from my hands, and I saw the wake disappearing into the dark.
“Well Merry Christmas, Brother!” Feef yelled to me, as I clipped the fly from my leader, and reeled in the line. It was 5:30 p.m. by the time we arrived back to the car. We geared down quickly, still laughing from the excitement of the last fish caught, and drove off. The car ride back home was one to remember, as we relived the moment. My forearm ached from the fight. We had previously decided to only fish one day while in Moses Lake, but we convinced ourselves that fishing was too good, and the real crime would be to not return the next day!