“Oh, it doesn’t look friendly out there at all, Brother.” I said to Kris, my brother, who was driving over the Caldwell Dam flanking Lake Lowell. Whitecaps topped every swell as if the lake was waving goodbye as we approached.
“Yep, doesn’t look good.” Kris said back, not even looking at the water. He was more concerned that the car in front of us was actually going the speed limit.
“Come on!” He said to the car as we continued to our destination. This particular spot on Lake Lowell will be sheltered by the wind, and this information was something we knew before driving out to the lake. In fact, we chose this terrible day to head out there because we knew nobody else would be there, and when we pulled in to park, we were right.
There is something about fly fishing amongst the sunken trees at Lake Lowell. For me it’s a close destination that appears to not belong in Idaho, but the greatest thing is that it doesexist here; but for only a short amount of time.
Kris pieced his 6-weight rod together, and took some time picking out which reel to use. His delay allowed me to hit the trees first.
Armed with a red popper of my own creation, I flicked it gingerly in between the trees. The subtleness of the casting helps with these tight casting situations, and it also helps with accuracy.
“Oh there it is!” I turned to see my brother looking at me with a smile, sloshing in the water towards me. He unfastened his fly from the rod and held it in his hand.
“Is that a nice one?” He asked.
“It’s just a little one, but the first one of the day!” I said happily.
The little fish put up as much fight as it could muster, but it was no real match. Still the acrobatics displayed by its young heart were a fun thrill, especially on a day that seemingly wouldn’t provide a thing. I quickly unhooked it and placed it back into the water facing me. I like to release bass this way: slowly lowering them into the water tail first, and removing the grip of my thumb on their lower lip. The fish is suspended in the water, looking right back at me for a second before discovering it’s free to go. A quick flick of its tail and it disappears amongst the sunken trees.
“I left that side of the water for you to fish.” I said, pointing my fly rod to the opposite side from where I was fishing.
“Oh, nice!” He said, and made a cast.
Kris was fishing with a heavy sinking line, which is hard to manage in tight quarters. The fast sinking line requires a bit more power to roll forward due to it sinking, not to mention the weight of the fly. And casting it requires a large D-loop to build the momentum to fling it out. It was no surprise when he got it snagged in a low hanging branch on one of his first casts.
Kris saved his fly from the branches and quickly went back to fishing, skipping lots of trees in his approach.
“Are you going to fish these?” I asked, pointing to the trees he walked by.
“No.” He said, making a cast out into deeper water.
I slapped my popper on the water within the trees and pulled the line to make it pop. Every BLOP it made with the tug of the line was like ringing the doorbell to see if anyone was home… and there was.
“Damn it, I knew it!” Kris said, looking back to find the source of the commotion.
This bass was smaller than the first one, but it fought like a cholo on the streets of L.A. The red popper was almost the width of the fish’s mouth. It was a wonder that it fit it in its mouth, and even more a wonder how I was going to get it out. As I jostled the popper out of the fish’s mouth, another bass presented itself further out by making a commotion near the surface.
“Did you see that?” I asked Kris.
“The popper seems to be working… want to throw my rod?”
Kris got into a good casting position and launched the fly out to where we saw the commotion. A few pops and nothing came up… After watching for a while I figured I would give Kris’s outfit a spin. I quickly discovered why he had skipped over the tighter trees: the accuracy of casting this heavy rod in such tight quarters was tricky due to the sinking line. I had suspected this so I held the fly and slingshotted it in the tight trees. I knew I had to retrieve it quickly due to the fast sinking line, and as I did something took the fly.
“Oh, Brother, you are going to be pissed…” I said.
“Why?” He asked, turning my way.
“DAMN IT!” He yelled, seeing his fly rod with a fish attached at the end of the line.
“Nothing took over there, huh?” I asked, bringing in the fish.
“Nothing!” He said spitefully.
It was easy to tell at the end of the line was another smaller bass, so I lifted the rod to bring in the fish fast; and right when it was at arm’s length it shook the fly out of its mouth and bolted.
The rain was falling in large droplets from the canopy of trees that sheltered us, but fishing in the sanctuary was over. With no fish to count for, Kris went back to the truck for his float tube and had started kicking out to open water. I quickly went to grab mine too and followed him into the outer edge of the trees.
On a nice sunny day, it can be fun to spot schools of carp lazily swimming by in search of food. In the past all you needed was an ice cream cone chironomid presented in the path of these carp and one might take. It’s always a fun ride with a carp, but I saw no such thing today. The rain pelted my jacket as I came out of the shelter of the trees, but to my surprise the wind was not too bad. It seemed if we stayed close to the trees we were still protected from the wind by them, but looking back at the lake merely fifty feet out and the wind would carry you to the northwest end of the lake.
“Whooo, there we go!” I heard faintly. I could only make out the silhouette of my brother in his float tube with his rod bent over with a fish. Even at a distance I could tell it was double the size of anything I had hooked in between the trees, and putting up ten times the fight. Kris had the fish at bay, and was looking to lip the fish with his thumb, but it wasn’t happening. It was clear that the hook of his fly was in a position where if the bass shook at the right time the hook would also end up in my brother’s hand, and from a distance the fish was not coming in easy. With the bass still hooked onto the fly, Kris reached back and grabbed his net. With one big scoop the bass was netted where it still thrashed around. The forceps were out and with a quick tweak the hook was out. Kris held up the fish in the net for me to see, then dumped it back into the lake.
The sink tip was not the trick in the trees, but out in the lake it was the ticket. Kris was into another fish as I frothed the water with my popper. Once again, even from a distance, I could see it was a nice-sized bass. It flew out of the water like a pole-vaulter going for Olympic gold, but landing with much less grace. Splashing all about tired the fish, and with one last haul Kris lipped the bass.
Although we were tucked away near the safety of the trees, large waves still gave us quite a ride. After being kicked around enough, we decided to leave the lake and check out the canal that emptied Lake Lowell.
The canal can be spotted if you drive over the Caldwell Dam, and I was still armed with a popper that I rocketed to the other end of the bank. Water was flowing swiftly down the canal, so it took me a few tries to angle my line in order to get a decent presentation that paid off.
Kris was also into a few fish. He had spotted a few rising carp just upstream from him that we tried to approach, but they sunk out of sight as we closed in.
A bright flash of light only a few miles away suggested this rain and wind was about to get worse. The sound of thunder soon was overhead, and both Kris and I looked at each other.
“Let’s get the hell out of here.” He said, and I was right behind him.
“Well, at least we can say we fished this.” I said, pointing to the canal as we drove away from it.
“I guess…” Kris said, unimpressed. Just then another flash of light, but this time we saw the lightning in the distance. It hit the ground and thunder clapped hard, rain pouring down with even more intensity.
“Well we got out of there in time.” Kris said, but we were still cold and a little wet.
“Hey…” he said, “…let’s get some food. I will buy.”
I looked over at him with a cheeky smile.
“I have just the place…” He said. We drove until we reached Nampa, and Kris looked over at me with a smile. I know what that means: we have come within sight of our destination. I looked ahead and saw the large sign that read “Los Betos”. Los Betos is the Mexican restaurant we used to go to back in college… when we could afford to go.
“BROTHER!” I said with approval.
Inside we were greeted by a person that obviously did not want to be at work, and took our order with as little eye contact as possible. Kris gave me a weird look identifying how little we were wanted in the restaurant. I held up my drink and he did the same, tapping the end our of large Styrofoam cups.
“Just like nothing has changed!” I said. Kris nodded and we both sipped down some horchata to end out day at Lake Lowell.