A THREE HOUR DRIVE

“I’m worried…” Bryan said, as he backed up his van to get going.

“About what?” I asked. 

“That we won’t catch any fish.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. We are fishing new waters and sometimes that happens. It’s always worth it to discover new places to fish.”

“Okaaaay…” Bryan said, nervously, rolling his fingertips on the steering wheel. 

The Ty River had been eating away at Bryan for a while now. Every time he has fished it, he only produced three- to five-inch fish. We had made the decision to skip a creek twenty five minutes from home that housed fish with an average length of 23 inches…to possibly catch keychain-sized fish roughly three hours away. This meant we had to get up early, but waking up at 5AM Pacific time is like my 6AM Mountain time, so an early morning in Washington wasn’t bad at all. 

The small town of Leavenworth, Washington was always a favorite place to visit as a kid. The town is set up to look like a small village in the German Alps. This small town is a two hour drive from my home town, which meant we were making great time.

The deeper we drove into Washington the more lush the forest became. The smell of a lush forest can’t be replaced by oils or candles; you have to be in the thick of it to really get the full sense of it all. As we reached our destination, I opened the door and took in the rich, fragrant surrounding.

“God that smells good!” I said, putting on another jacket to stay warm.

“Yep!” Bryan replied, as we opened up the back of his van where all our gear was placed. 

The Ty River was a fantastic sight. Granite boulders made up the entire river, and the water was gin clear. 

“Let’s see what you can do.” Bryan said. 

“What?” I asked.

“When we all go fishing, you are typically the only one catching fish. So I figured I would bring you here to see if this river is worth fishing. I heard there are bigger fish here. If anyone can find them it’s you.” Bryan said. 

“Well, then I guess the pressure’s on…” 

I perched myself on a large granite rock overlooking a portion of the river that was easily fifteen feet deep.  The water was so clear that ‘deceptively deep’ was something to keep in mind. When fishing in clear water like this it’s easy to be fooled by refractions in the water. A good example of this is when someone is standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool: look at them at the right angle and their legs only look to be a foot long, when you know it’s three feet deep there. The same concept can apply here, only I didn’t have a person standing in the water for a reference…I was just looking at rocks. If I was going to get in this water for a better cast, I decided I’d better proceed with caution in case the water was deeper than I’d anticipated. However, judging by the deeper blue color of this stretch, it was easy enough to determine it was very deep. There had to be something living here.

I, of course, started with a dry fly, then moved to euro-nymphing, then a streamer to get deep. Often times I throw a streamer in a deep pool like this and watch the riverbed come to life with the fish I couldn’t see before enticing them to move. Here in the Ty River, there was just nothing there. Strange.

Massive boulders that paved the flow of the river almost looked fairytale, but these huge stones made it impossible to view Bryan, who had moved upstream. I switched my line back to my euro set up and headed upstream toward him. 

I just couldn’t get over the aesthetics of this river. The water was like looking at the blue reflection of a diamond, and the desire to get in was just as strong. In order to get to Bryan and not crowd him I had to cross, and after a quick look around I found a spot that hopefully wasn’t too deep. Large, bulbous granite slabs were slightly distorted from the depth of the water, so I took a step. 

Zip!

My foot slid on the rock, taking my breath away. I kicked off with my secure foot completely off balance, luckily finding a rock with plenty of grip to keep myself from falling in. 

“OOOOOH!! SO THAT’S HOW YOU WANT TO PLAY!” I yelled at the river, my adrenaline spiked. “WELL NOT ME, NOT TODAY! I yelled, finishing off the rant with a few Spanish curse words I had picked up as a kid. I quickly made my way across the river. 

“HA!” I barked at the water after making it completely out and onto the other side. I made my way up to Bryan, who was just coming over a rock to find me.

“Anything?” He asked.

“Nope.”

“Oh, I thought I heard something…I got one up here, but it was super tiny.”   

“Well, it’s something.” I said. 

“There’s a good spot over here…” He said, and I pointed my fly rod upstream suggesting he lead the way.

I was empty handed after fishing each spot I came to, and each spot looking better than the last. I slouched on a large boulder, looking upstream at the water and saw it: a rising fish. I snipped off my nymphs and re-rigged with a flowing line and a CDC caddis. Caddis were the only aquatic insect that I had seen out there, so that was my best bet. I was easily eclipsed behind a rock as I carefully got into a position to cast. The fish rose again, still unaware of me. I made a well-timed cast with a 18-foot leader. The fly landed perfectly in line with the feeding lane of the fish. Nothing happened… so I did it again, BLAM! 

The sudden burst of acceleration this fish had proved it was not a keychain-sized fish. The fish bolted to the bottom of the pool, darting for safety. I applied the pressure to bring the fish around the large rock that had hid us from each other. SNAP! 

“What the hell?!” I said, as my line went slack. I brought back my line to see that the fly was gone. I found my footing and peeked around the huge rock to find a deep hole, as suspected, however it was also a small log jam.  Clear water provided a great view of the long branch still connected to the sunken log, and I shook my head.  In my attempt to bring the fish to my side of the rock, I had pulled it straight into the snagging branches. 

“Stupid…” I said to myself before pushing on. 

Bryan was approaching another spectacular looking section of water when I caught up with him. 

“This river…” I said, in awe. 

“Yep, I told you it was nice.” Bryan added, then pointed his rod tip by a small current near an incredibly large boulder.  

“I have seen them rising here before.” Bryan said, “But they all seem to be small… Shouldn’t there be bigger fish here?  You would think right”?

“It may have something to do with the granite rock and lack of nutrients in the water. We have stretches of river like this in Idaho, where a river can be nutrient deficient and therefore suffer as a fishery. But you would have to talk with a fisheries biologist for get the full scoop. I just hear this stuff.”

“Makes sense…” Bryan said. 

Coming up empty handed again pushed us out of this stretch of river to another spot Bryan had tucked up his sleeve. 

“Okay, now this spot is a “for sure” spot! We will catch fish here, I always do.” Bryan said with confidence as we walked down to the river. 

Bryan unhooked his fly from his rod and gave it a flick onto some pocket water. Pop! A small fish took a swipe, and Bryan reacted in an instant. However well-timed Bryan’s hook set was, the little mouth that hit clearly had eyes bigger than its stomach. Bryan looked over at me, as he got his fly ready for another toss. “They are here…” He said with a smile.

Bryan’s fly smacked the surface of the water, and again got hit. This happened several times before Bryan finally hooked one of the little shakers, but it had flicked itself off before it could reach his hands. 

“You try!” He suggested, hooking his fly back onto his rod. 

“Thought you would never ask!” I said, taking point. I had my euro set up ready to go, and sent my nymphs flying. The heavy flies sunk fast and there was an immediate tug on the line.

“Oh, a nice one!” Bryan said as I brought in a more sizable fish for this river.

The little fish flopped around and I went to unhook it…no net needed. 

“I knew you would find the big ones.” Bryan boomed. 

“This is it huh?” I said, releasing the little ten inch fish. 

“This isn’t Idaho Erik…” Bryan said, “…That was a nice sized fish for a Washington river”. 

Together Bryan and I brought up every fish in this pocket, and after it was over we decided to head back towards Moses Lake. 

“You know, we may have time to fish Icicle Creek.” Bryan said, buckling up. 

“Oh yeah!?” I said happily.  

Icicle Creek has been on my hit list for years now. The small creek runs right near the small German-inspired town of Leavenworth… I know nothing of this creek, other than I remember it as a kid. 

“It’s loaded with fish.” Bryan said, happily.

“OH!”

“Yeah, but they are the size of the small fish we just caught.” Bryan sounded a bit more deflated. 

“Well let’s hit it anyways! Why the hell not!”

“Yep!” Bryan chimed.

“Um… Can we get down right here?” I asked as Bryan brought the van to a stop after our arrival to the creek. 

“It’s a little steep, but we can do it.” He said dismissively, and jumped out of the van.  Our gear was already set up so we grabbed it and walked to the edge of the steep bank. 

“Mmmm…” I mumbled, as Bryan threw caution to the wind and scrambled down the rocky bluff like he does it every day after morning tea. I was a bit more calculated with my descent, muttering insults as I found my footing on rickety rocks that offered no promise of stability. 

“What the hell am I doing?” I said, clinging to a rock. 

“Risking life and limb over dinky ass fish.” My leg dangled to find a steady rock, and I let go of the stable rock I was holding onto. Thud.. Thankfully another solid rock. 

“This is stupid…” I said, taking another leap of faith.

“Got one!” I heard Bryan call. I glanced over to see the tiniest fish squirming and twisting in the air after Bryan’s hook set sent it flying. The dink hit the water with a diminutive splat, spitting the hook during its forced takeoff. 

“Ha!” Bryan cackled, flicking his fly right back out and getting another hit, sending another dink flying. 

“It’s good fishing!” He yelled. 

“Looks amazing.” I said, as I landed on a large rock which ended my oafish descent. 

“They’re taking a pico ant.” Bryan said, as if giving up the secret. However these little opportunistic fish would snap at a poorly presented cigarette butt looking for a meal. Still I wanted to be nice to Bryan. 

“These fish will eat anything!” I said. 

“Well, let’s see it.” He challenged. 

A sample flick of the fly rod sent my dry fly as far as it needed to be. SMACK! 

“OH THERE IT IS! OH THIS FISH IS A NICE ONE!” I yelled loudly, bringing in a fish I was surprised to even hook after seeing its tiny mouth. 

“See.. fun huh?” Bryan asked, smiling, hooking onto a fish himself.. “OOOOOHHHHHH!” He yelled. 

That’s what it was like for over an hour on Icicle Creek, as both Bryan and I hollered out with every hooked dink as if we were fighting a thirty-six inch B-Run steelhead. A few pedestrians gave us funny looks as they walked on the path above us, stopping to see our catch, then continuing their walk after seeing virtually nothing in our hands. To Bryan and I this activity did not get old, for lack of a better explanation we were just having fun. 

My cheeks were sore from laughing so much, and near the end it was safe to say we had, at least, hooked every fish willing to take a dry fly in that small section of river. 

“Well, I can say I fished Icicle Creek now.” I said, making my last effort to climb out of the steep, jagged embankment getting to the van.

“Yep!” Bryan concurred. 

We geared down and hopped back in the van heading home. On the way back we merge onto Highway 17, and as we drove by we both looked down the turn towards a favorite fishing hole.

“There it is… The way to Rocky Ford Creek.” I said.

“Yep!” Bryan said. 

“Tomorrow Rocky Ford?!” I asked rhetorically. 

“Tomorrow, Rocky Ford…” Bryan confirmed. 

“We are going to get you a big fish tomorrow, Bryan.” 

“I hope so.” He said, as we zoomed by the exit in anticipation for what tomorrow would bring.

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