“I have to tell you…” Eric Bacon said, as we started our drive to the South Fork of the Boise. Eric was visiting the USA from France, and the other day, out of the twenty years he has been fishing here, was the first time he had ever encountered a prime trico hatch.
“…After getting back so late from the river the other day, it was so hard to wake up at 5 a.m. When my alarm went off it felt like I had gotten no sleep, and I wanted to press my snooze so bad, but then I remembered… the tricos are coming.”
“Was it a good day for you yesterday?” I asked.
Eric just smiled… “It was better than good, it was fantastic. Even better than when we went the day before!”
“I am happy to hear you say that.” I said back clearly, because another reason for his visit the United States is to keep up on his English. Although most of the time Eric spends in the United States is alone on a river, so there is little English being practiced.
“This is the spot.” I told Eric, as we drove along the river. Eric pulled over and we started to put our fly rods together.
“Do you think we will see any rising fish?” Eric asked.
“100% sure!” I said.
“I love your confidence.” Eric said, as we finished putting on our gear to walk to our spot.
The heavy gusts of wind disturbed the water so badly that it was almost impossible to spot rising fish, but they were definitely rising.
“They will be feeding on a midge or a blue-winged olive.” I said, as we caught glimpses of rising fish in between the bursts of riffled water.
Seeing the fish was hard enough, but presenting a fly was even more difficult. I would get my barring down and make my cast only to have my fly blown too far downstream to catch the fish. Furthermore, when we did get a good presentation the fish were refusing the flies we were offering.
I was running out of midge and blue-winged olive patterns to try as the sun rose over the eastern canyon wall, and I looked over at Eric who was also struggling.
“Screw it!” I said, mad at the fish, and tied on a size 26 midge. The small midge was hard to get ahold of as I plucked it from my box. A size 26 midge is so small that I bet you could fit ten of them on a dime, and it was not a fly I wanted to fish with today because it was so hard to see.
“Refuse that!” I said, and casted my fly over to the rising fish. My line turned over nicely, but my fly disappeared as it hit the water. The only thing I could do now was guess where my fly landed and set the hook if I think a fish ate it. A fish did rise, but it was a little further downstream than where I thought my fly was. I shot my rod up to recast, and to my surprise a fish was attached to my line.
“Eric, I got one!” I yelled, as my fish made its presence known. All the commotion my fish was making on the surface of the water had me concerned it would spook the other rising fish. I tilted my fly rod off to the side to bring my rod tip parallel to the water to keep it from thrashing on the surface. I scooted over towards Eric as I brought in my fish so he could see the fly I was using.
“Oh my goodness.” Eric said, as he strained to see the small fly, barely visible on my fingertip.
“I do not have anything that small.”
“Well, I can give you some.” I said back, while I released my fish.
“No, I cannot see something that small on the river.” Eric said, and pulled out his fly box in search of a small fly.
“I will try this one.” He said after some digging, and tied it on.
“Do you see the fish rising over there?” I asked, pointing to the spot where I just was.
“Yes, but those are your fish.” Eric said.
“No, it’s okay. I want you to catch one.” I said, and Eric smiled.
“When it comes to fly fishing, you do not need to tell me twice.” Eric’s smile got bigger as he calmly approached the fish and got more serious. I stayed back to observe his approach to the fish, and it wasn’t long before he had hooked into one.
“What fly did you use?” I asked as Eric brought in his fish.
“It is a small Blue-Winged Olive fly that Christian tied.” Eric said, keeping his focus on the fight as he unclipped his net to land the fish. The fish was tiring, so Eric lifted his rod high and slipped his net under the struggling fish.
“There you go!” I yelled, as Eric’s fish flopped into the net.
“This is a very pretty fish.” He said unhooking the fly from its mouth, and holding the fish in the water before it kicked away.
The fish left Eric’s hands slowly, and we both watched as it swam out of sight.
“That is the best part.” Eric said after the fish was fully out of sight. He gathered his leader and redressed his fly to go back to fishing.
Fish were still rising, and the wind had died down a bit but was still present. In the center of the river a fish rose more aggressively than the rest, causing a slight splash. A fish feeding on a caddis usually causes this kind of feeding behavior, but it had only happened once so I didn’t switch my fly. Eric, on the other hand, did switch his fly and launched a nice cast out to where he had seen the aggressive rise.
“There!” I heard him yell, and looked over to see he was fighting a fish. By the time I had reached Eric, he already had his fish landed and was ready for a picture.
Eric dipped his fish back into the water, and it kicked away.
“That one took a caddis.” Eric said, so I opened my box of caddis flies to select one to tie on.
“I will try that over here.” I said, and walked back to the fish that I was working before Eric caught his fish. The fish were still feeding when I returned, and I pitched out my caddis fly and watched as a head came up and ate it.
“The Caddis fly!” I yelled for Eric to hear, and he gave me a positive thumbs up as I fought the fish. Though the fish was not very big, it was putting up a hell of a fight. The little fish was ripping out line faster than a snow-speeder taking down an imperial walker. The fish tired after a few runs, and I scooped it up in my net to unhook my fly.
After my fish swam off, I immediately went back to fishing. With the sudden success of my caddis, I figured the next fish would be hooked very soon… I was wrong. Sometimes this happens: you pick a fly, it works once, and then it never works again. I call it a one hit wonder, because it makes you wonder why it even worked the first time.
“I got one!” Eric yelled, taking my attention away from choosing a new fly.
“Looks like a nice one!” I yelled back.
“Yes, this one is bigger than the rest.” Eric said, as his fish thrashed on the surface.
“Oh my goodness, this is a very nice fish.” Eric said again, as the fish took off for a second run. I stayed quiet while Eric’s fly rod doubled over as he fought to control the fish.
“Again!” He said, after he had brought in the fish, and it bolted away for a third run.
“Were you able to see it?” I asked.
“Yes.” He answered back, but was distracted when the fish went for a fourth run. Lucky for Eric, the fourth run was the fish’s last. Eric’s arm was getting tired, but the fight was over. He brought his rod tip high to scoop up the fish, but I was able to get my camera underwater to capture a cool shot.
“Nice job!” I said, after Eric had scooped it up.
“Yes.” He said back, “This is a very nice fish.”
“Well, let’s get a nice picture of it!” I said with excitement, as Eric held up his prize.
Although we could still see some rising fish, we decided to go check out a new spot on the river. Eric had fastened his fly to his fly rod to start walking back to the car, when I hooked into a fish.
“This always happens right when I decided I want to leave a spot.” I said, fighting the fish.
“I know what you mean.” Eric said, as I netted my fish.
I quickly dumped the fish out of my net, and after a quick glance back to the rising fish to wonder if we should leave or not, we decided it was worth checking out new water.
We got back to the car and started heading upstream when we saw something crossing the road.
“A snake!” I said, as Eric drove by it.
“Let’s take a look.” He said, stopping quickly and pulling off the road.
“Is it dangerous?” Eric asked, as he walked up to the snake that was crossing the road.
“No, it’s a bull snake.” I said, turning on my Go-Pro to get some footage of the snake. Despite it not being as dangerous as a rattlesnake, we both kept a safe distance as to not aggravate the snake; that was until I stuck my Go-Pro in its face.
The bull snake pulled itself back from the Go-Pro, which I thought would make for a cool shot; and then I heard, WACK!
The bull snake had just struck my Go-Pro, and I jolted back like I had just gotten shocked… only more clumsy. Eric started laughing at the situation, as I looked to see if there were any marks on my Go-Pro. Seeing none, I went back to filming as the snake slithered off the road and into the bushes.
Sadly, the snake incident was the most action we had while looking for a new place to fish, and after a while of fishing our new spot we went back to our original spot to finish off the evening. We knew immediately it was a good choice, because Eric ended up catching a nice fish after no more that ten minutes back.
“What fly did it take?” I asked Eric after he let his fish go.
“The magic fly!” He said with a smile.
“That’s fantastic! The magic fly strikes again!” I said.
The closest thing I had to the magic fly was a small midge I tied on, but it wasn’t working as well. Further downstream, Eric was hooked into another nice fish, so I made my way down to get a picture.
“Ooooh, that’s a nice one.” I said, “Look at the spots on its lips.”
“Yes, it is a very beautiful fish.” Eric said, before he slid the fish out of his net. I headed back upstream, and before I could make a cast Eric had on another fish.
“The magic fly!” He yelled up to me, and I started to make my way back downstream to him.
“No, no! Don’t worry about me, you fish.” He said fighting his fish. I didn’t waste any time getting my fly out in front of some rising fish, and to my surprise one took.
Eric was hooking into fish like he was a human gill net, as I continued struggling to get a refusal. I kept thinking that I needed a magic fly, and that I will never come out here without one ever again. Eric hooked into his last fish of the night, and decided to head back to the car to gear down. I had to catch one more fish before I headed in, so I stayed a little longer. There were a few more fish starting to rise, but nothing prepared me for what happened after the light left the canyon. To say fish where rising everywhere still wouldn’t be a good enough description as to how many fish were rising. It was as if an entire legend of trout piled into this long stretch of river, and all started feeding at once. There was no timing the fish and no selecting a single fish, because there were too many to keep one in sight. Fish were leaping completely out of the water to eat, with no fear of being picked off by a raptor overhead. This is what I live for, I thought as I was in complete awe at the sight of so many fish rising. I snapped out of my trance, and pitched my fly in the middle of the action. BLAM! A fish completely came out of the water to take my fly, and I set the hook fast. This fish was pissed at the world. It leapt out of the water again and again, then bolted downstream so fast that I had hardly had time to adjust my drag to keep it from getting away.
My line was nearly in my backing, and the fish was too far to see as it jumped out of the water. The distant sounds of splashing cracked through the breeze as I scrambled to follow the fish downstream. I was now reeling in fly line fast to land my fish, but it wasn’t giving up that easy. It pulled me further and further downstream, almost to the point where I was half way to the car before I could stand my ground. After an epic battle, I was able to net my fish in almost no light at all. I pulled out my camera to get a picture, but it was too dark: every shot I took came out too blurry to see anything, because the fish was still squirming to get away. I was able to get my fly out of its mouth, and the fish did not hesitate to escape when I dipped the net into the water.
“Did you get one more?” Eric asked as I approached the car.
“Yes!” I said, and told him the details of the fight. The night temperature had dropped significantly, so we geared down fast to get back to Boise.
“So, tomorrow we try something new?” Eric asked.
“Yes, I will take you to an alpine lake near McCall… I know you will love it.” I said.
“Will Gracy come with us?” He asked.
“No, because we will go too early for her.”
“I would like Gracy to come with us, so let’s leave later so she can join us.”
“I am sure she will like that.” I said, “She will be happy to meet you. She hasn’t seen you ever since you arrived and is starting to think you do not exist. She tole me the other day, when you went to fish the Owyhee on the second day, that I had made you up as an excuse to go fishing for a few days straight.”
Eric started laughing at this, and said, “Well tomorrow she will know for sure, and we will all go to the alpine lake together.”
“Sounds like a good plan.” I said, and we drove home safe and sound.