Jim Cox, with the Western Rivers Conservancy, invited me to fish with him and his crew on the Owyhee River; but before we headed out, we had to stop and grab lunch for the day. Abe, Craig, Jimmy, Maurice, Jim, and myself were in the grocery store looking for sandwiches when Jimmy broke away and headed straight for the bananas.
After a few minutes, I notices that Jimmy was still hovering around the bananas, picking up a bundle and breaking them apart to select only the best one of the bunch.
“What are you doing?” I asked, as Jimmy pulled apart another bundle, selecting one particular banana and placing it carefully in his basket with the other prized bananas.
“I love bananas!” Jimmy said, “They have to look like this.” He held out a banana that was slightly on the green side, then went on to explain what he looks for in each banana.
Abe, who had walked over said, “I like it when the banana is all brown. That is when they taste the best.” He said. Jimmy’s face scrunched up like he ate something sour and he turned his bananas away from Abe’s view, as if to shield them with the thought that they could turn brown. Craig joined us and, on his arrival, Jimmy’s eyed got huge, as if he just remembered something extremely important. Then he grabbed his prized bananas, and threw them back in the banana bin.
“Now what’s wrong?” I asked, as Jimmy now treated his bananas like they were infected.
“Are we going to be on a boat?” Jimmy asked Craig.
“No, we are wading today.” Craig confirmed.
“Oh, thank God!” Jimmy said with a sigh, and grabbed his bananas again.
“Am I missing something?” I asked.
“Bananas are extremely bad luck on a boat.” Jimmy told me, in a most concerned manner. He went on to explain the banana folklore, as I listened in disbelief. Jimmy owns Patrick’s Fly Shop in Seattle, Wa, so he has been around. Jimmy said that he was almost kicked off a captain’s boat for bringing a banana onboard.
“Dreadful, dreadful bad luck!” Jimmy finished, as we all paid and headed out to the Owyhee River.
With six of us, we decided to split up along the river. We left Jimmy, Craig, and Abe to fish the first spot we came to. They geared up, watching fish rising along their stretch of river while Jim, Maurice and I headed upstream.
“Oh, this is going to be good!” Jim said, as we looked at the stretch of river we were about to fish. Sure enough we could see rising trout, and after 15 different rises took place we stopped counting and got to the river. Jim went a bit downstream while Maurice and I fished near the vehicles.
“Erik, I love your pico spider!” Jim yelled out of eyesight. Just around a bush, we could hear Jim bringing in his fish.
I pointed out some fish to Maurice then headed a little upstream to fish, as he insisted. A suspended midge was the fly to have this morning, and it was not long at all before I had hooked my first fish.
Laughter from Jim echoed from around the bend as he brought in another fish in no time at all. I too was picking off fish with the suspended midge, while Jim had switched to a simple Bumble Butt.
Maurice was casting towards a fish when another fish rose right downstream from me.
“Maurice!” I yelled over to him, and pointing at the water where a fish just rose.
“It looked like it took a caddis.” I said over to him. After switching his fly to a CDC caddis, he inched closer and presented his fly. Right on cue, the fish Maurice was after came up quickly. With a sudden splash, Maurice set the hook!
Maurice’s reel came screaming to life as the fish made its first run. Every attempt to land it failed because of a sudden burst of energy coming from the fish. Maurice’s arm was starting to tire. We were now on our fourth attempt, and Maurice’s rod was doubled over as the fish got near. I reached out with the net, and the fish turned to run again, but not fast enough.
“That’s a nice fish!” Maurice said, as his fish flopped around in my net. After the fish calmed down a bit, he held it up for this nice picture.
We immediately went back to fishing, and more echos of laughter came from around the bend. Jim was putting on a clinic just downstream from us, catching fish after fish. Time flew by fast, and soon it was lunch time. We got out of the river just in time to meet up with the rest of the crew.
I was happy to hear that Craig, Abe, and Jimmy had all been successful at their spot. Abe told us about the great morning he had, while munching on an entire bundle of radishes. Jimmy sat near the car with what looked like an a buffet; to my surprise, the only thing missing were his bananas.
After lunch we drove upstream, and this time I got to fish with Jimmy, Abe, and Craig. The new spot was a bit more stagnate, but that didn’t stop the fish from rising. PMDs were hatching all around, but these fish were taking midges.
I notified Craig on what fly I used, because the fish here were being snobby. As soon as he switched he caught the fish that was rising in front of him.
The fish exploded into action, jumping and thrashing. It was no surprise that upon netted it, it was a rainbow trout.
“Well not bad, Craig. It’s not that often you get a rainbow trout here.” I said to him, before he held it up for a picture.
Craig’s fish darted away, and he went back to fishing. Jimmy was way upstream. His bright shirt, hat, and sunglasses made him very visible from a distance. Abe, however, was just downstream from me, so I headed over to see how he was doing. Slightly hunched over, Abe was stalking a trout that was feeing on PMDs.
The fish was sitting in a weird location: behind a rock that created a slightly swift current, making it tricky to get your fly down its feeding lane. Abe was persistent, casting until the fly hit the exact spot he needed it to. I stood back and watched as the fish’s mouth came up, taking Abe’s fly. Abe’s rod shot up, indication the fish was on!
Abe had full control of the fish and it seemed to come in easy, as he lifted his rod and slipped his net under his fish.
“That was a nice cast you had to make.” I said as he dipped his fish back into the water.
“The fly definitely had to land in the right spot.” Abe said, as I slipped the camera under water and took a picture of his fish before it kicked away.
By the time I made it upstream to fish with Jimmy, it was almost time to get going. Jim’s crew was staying at a cabin on the Owyhee Reservoir and their ride was meeting them at 5p.m.
“How did you do?” I asked Jimmy, who was walking towards me on the bank.
“It was good up there.” He said, pointing to a riffle in the stream. “But did you hear that lady?” Jimmy asked, looking upset.
“A lady?” I asked.
“Yeah, she wouldn’t shut-the-hell-up!” Jimmy said, annoyed. In his best old-lady-smoker’s voice, Jimmy did his impression.
“The fish are over there! You need to cast further! I need sun lotion!” Jimmy took a breath, “I can see fish swimming over here! Maybe you need to change your fly! I bet I could get them with a worm!” Jimmy finally finished venting. “She wouldn’t stop!” he said.
“Well sorry you had to put up with that.” I said, but laughing in the process. We looked back over the water to see both Craig and Abe fishing.
“I don’t think, Abe is wading deep enough.” Jimmy said smiling, as Abe looked to be at his max waders depth, casting to a fish.
We all finished up and drove to the five o’clock checkpoint. We said our goodbyes as the guys geared down to head to their cabin. This time Jimmy didn’t forget his bananas. As I headed back towards the river, I was still geared up. It looked like I going to be able to do something I hadn’t done in a long time: fish alone.
I stopped at a spot that I had never fished before and flicked out a Pico spider to start things off. Just as suspected, a fish came up and nailed the fly. I brought it in quick and let it go before I flicked the Pico back out and caught another fish!
I moved further down the channel, searching with the Pico. The water was a bit more shallow here, and the shrubbery was surrounding me. I spooked one fish out of a hole, because I was more worried about the yellow-jacket that was swarming my head. It finally flew away, and I switched my fly to the bumble butt. Just upstream, a fish made a mistake and gave away its position by rising to something on the surface. I locked on the spot and moved in to make a cast. The bumble butt slapped down on the water, SMACK! Before I had time to react, the fish had hit! I set the hook fast and brought in a nice brown trout.
After my fish took off, the channel opened to the main stream. The stream dotted with rising fish everywhere and I switched to a PMD. Looking up all I could think of was the guys I just dropped off. If they could only see this, I thought, as countless fish were rising all around. After a few attempts with a PMD, I switched to a PMD emerger, and it was all over. Every fish I casted to I caught on the little emerger. It was the fly of the night!
As much as I thought of Jim’s crew, I couldn’t help but be slightly happy I didn’t have to share my fish. Stingy, I know!
It wasn’t even fair; I caught so many fish in such a small amount of time I almost felt bad. It was getting late, and I had already been on the water for over twelve hours. One more fish, I told myself, and found one that was rising nearby. Like clock work, it took my fly with no hesitation, but immediately came unbuttoned.
“Damn!” I yelled, knowing full well that fish didn’t count. To my astonishment, the same fish came right back, and started feeding again. I pitched out my fly, and it ate it again! I set the hook, and felt two good shakes before my fly came out of its mouth!
“Noooo!” Why is the last fish, always a pain in the ass?
I watched as the fish circled back around and, once more, started feeding. My buddy, Terri Kowallas came to mind, “The fish already gave you two chances. How many more do you need?” Is what Terri would say, but as the fish rose I figured, why not? I presented my fly, and like it had no memory, the fish ate it again. This time it was a solid hook up! The fish fought to get away, but I moved downstream with it and netted it fast.
The fish slowly swam away, as if it had been through the routine many times. I stood up thinking, last fish with my last cast; not a bad way to end the day. I waded back to the bank, and just when I was about to step out, I looked upstream to see many more fish rising.
“Wow!” I said, looking at all the rising fish. I went to unhook my fly from the rod, then I stopped. It has already been such a phenomenal day of catching fish, I thought as I unhooked my fly and clipped it off my line. These fish are so pressured anymore that watching them eat freely made me smile. I hooked my fly on my vest, and reeled in my line. I stepped out of the water, looked back at the feeding fish and said, “Your welcome, fish…” And geared down to head home.