Fishing on Borrowed Time
Fishing the mountain creeks of Washington in late September and early October is one part rolling the dice, one part refusing to let go, and one part saying goodbye to an old friend. While the fishing can be spectacular because of the rejuvenation of the fish and the rivers by the first small rains after a hot, dry Summer, the inevitable also looms over every cast and every trout released: every day and every fish could be the last one of the season. By now it is usually apparent that Fall is barreling towards us like a freight train, and with it will come the sustained rains and snow that will render these waters unfishable until July.
The evidence of this inevitable change is all around you. Gone are the blue skies, long days of warmth, and the smell of new life that comes with Summer. In its place are metallic clouds and rolling fog, a biting chill in the air, and the smell of decay that comes from a combination of falling leaves and dying salmon completing their journey. It is certainly a time where one cycle is coming to an end, giving way to the start of another one. During this time you live in the hope that you can get out one more time before the cycle is completed.
Our intended day on the water this past weekend was supposed to be the fourth of seven straight days of rain, but when the first three rolled by with minimal rain and an insignificant bump in water flows, our expectations rose. Even the light rain that fell on the morning’s drive was dismissed as inconsequential because of how low the rivers still were anyways. This was confirmed when we pulled into the first pull-out of the day and found a river with an almost perfect flow. We geared up in what had become a steady rain, and then stepped into a river full of weary salmon and eager trout looking to load up on food while it was still plentiful.
Over the course of the day we landed several nice fish, hooked and lost several more, and got to see the process by which a single species (salmon) simultaneously gives life to their next generation and to the river as a whole. By the middle of the afternoon, the rain had set in on us with heavy, fat drops that chilled the skin in a way almost forgotten. As we watched the river rising around us, we begrudgingly decided that we needed to call it a day….and maybe, therefore, a season.
The river spiked heavily over the next 2 days because of that rain, topping off at levels that are far from fishable. With any luck, the rains will spread themselves out over the next few weeks, allowing the rivers to drop back into shape, and opening the door for one more chance at casting dries to the native fish of these beautiful rivers and creeks before their closure dates. If not, I will turn my attention to the Fall and Winter fisheries that exist here, all the while counting down the months until I can once again greet these old, dear friends on the other side of a long, cold Winter.