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Will They Ever Find a Cure?

“A hook and a worm is what’s been working best for the trout on the river.”

Those are not words avid fly fishermen like to hear. Just those Micheal Graham with a spin-caught Rainbow Troutwords alone usually send a shiver down my spine and make every nerve in my body cringe. Heck, it even makes the IQ level of the fishing store employee questionable. However, this day I bit the bullet, acknowledged the man and kindly replied, “We’ll take a large earthworms with a serving of size 10 bait hooks please.”

Why did I stoop so low? After all, over a decade ago I had pledged allegiance to the fly fishing gods and took the holy oath of never dunking a worm again. Heck, I’d rather dunk my manliness in glacial water all day before I’d dunk a worm in a wild trout stream.

Today was an exception however. I had my girlfriend along and she hadn’t fished in quite a long time. Not knowing her skill level, casting ability, or knowledge we did the safest thing…went with the local advice. I had never ventured out this way before. We were really close to the ocean and I had no idea what to expect on this river. The young man at the local tackle shop said most people had been catching rainbow trout, but this was the same guy who recommended dunking worms. Being a head strong fly fisherman, I didn’t believe him. The regulations listed every salmon species imaginable, winter steelhead, and a plethora of trout species. I day-dreamed of coastal cutthroats rising to my well-placed bushy dry flies, big dolly varden slashing after my double bunny streamer and slamming it so hard the fly practically bleeds. “Hey, we’re close to the ocean,” I thought to myself, “what about those big salmon?”

Spey Rod and Reel...ready to hit the riverDaydreams turned into night dreams. I had visions of a perfect 200 foot cast that would make Gordon Armstrong’s casting ability look questionable with my recently purchased spey rod. At the end of the cast which sailed well across the river, there were stacks of giant Chinook salmon anticipating my fly hitting the water like a lion anticipating a tasty steak. “Today is a gonna be great,” I whispered to myself in my sleep. Reality kicked in when I woke up on a half-deflated air mattress to the noise of those damn ravens that can wake up the living dead and often sound like a squeaky air horn that’s run out of juice.

“How was your sleep?” I asked my girlfriend.

“Not good, you were moving around all night long,” she replied.

“Excellent, how was my casting?” I fired back.

“Huh?” was the only response I got.

Wiping the sleep outta my eyes, I fired up the stove. If I was going to be tangling with big salmon all day, I needed a breakfast A Camping Breakfastfor a king. Eggs, bacon, oatmeal, toast, coffee and a shot of whiskey for good luck were all in the works. We put everything away and locked up the tent, just in case some Vancouver rowdies came through to steal electronic bug swatters and other camping valuables.

With everything we needed, we hit the road out of the campground and up the river. Knowing she didn’t have any waders, we looked for a spot which both of us could fish properly without her having to freeze in knee deep water. Of course I had my waders with me, heck I put them on before breakfast. After all, I might have needed that extra 10 feet from shore to reach those 40lb salmon. We pulled up to a nice run and got out.

“Okay, I have my rod and those hooks we bought yesterday,” she informed me, as she was already walking towards the river. She then asked, “What’s the hold-up?” Only to turn back and see me fumbling boxes, packs, rods, nets, reels and packages of various fly fishing products.

“What on earth are you doing? And what do you need all that for?” she asked.

Not wanting to explain to her how I needed nymphs, dry flies, streamers and everything in between, a spey and single hand rod to target the various species, a floating line, type 6, 9 and custom sink tips, along with 3 or more different reels, I kindly replied, “I’ll just be a minute!”

To most fly fishers, this obsession of bringing their whole collection of equipment in order to adapt to any situation is seen as normal. Others find themselves with a box of pink wooly buggers on a spring creek wondering, “What the hell am I doing?”

In a pair of jeans and sneakers, and an ultra light rod, she made her way to the river. With an overflowing backpack, full fanny pack, waders, net and a 12’6” rod in one hand and a 9’ 5 weight in the other, I followed. Being a gentleman, I ignored my sickly high adrenaline levels to fire that perfect 2-handed loop, and instead showed her how to toss the bobber onto the current edge and let it drift through the hole.

“Hey, I got one!” I told her with excitement. It felt like a smaller Beautiful Streamtrout, but since it was the first cast of the day, this was an exciting start. A nice little 10 inch rainbow slid into the net. With sudden memories flowing back to me of being a kid fishing with this set-up, I threw out another cast; you know just to show her what to do one more time. Deep down I really wanted to see what else was swimming in the hole. Bam! Another small rainbow came to the net.

After giving a bit more instruction I felt I had fulfilled my duty as a gentleman and fishing hero, and moved slightly downstream with my newly acquired spey rod. I rigged up to get down deep where the salmon would be, lined up and got ready to deliver the perfect cast like I had dreamed about. There was a nice deep run along the other bank that I was sure had to hold fish. I swung the line up-river forming a loop, swung back to create my “D” as spey casters call it, and pushed the rod forward. Like it was happening in slow motion, the line started to unravel and then….ppffflltlttt! Sounding like a thousand pebbles hitting the water, my line made the noise every fly fisher hates.

“What the hell was that?” A female voice coming from upstream asked while laughing.

Andy dreamed of Chinook salmon like this one, but was disappointed on this trip...Pretending to ignore her, I rested my rod against a sign and started to untie the knots in my leader. Glancing up as I untied the knots in my leader, I read the sign. My heart fell into my stomach and every little bit of false hope I had was lost. It was early August and the sign said the only species typically caught at this time are rainbow trout. Heck, the salmon weren’t even running yet. My hopes of catching a salmon were gone and so was my dream of going against all odds and catching a winter run steelhead in summer with “just the right fly”.

Feeling like a bit of a fool, I did a slow walk upstream with my head down, not wanting to show my face. I folded up my rod and sat on a rock watching my girlfriend reel in small hatchery rainbow after hatchery rainbow. With an uneasy voice I said the words a fly fisher never ever wants to say, “I should have listened to the man who sold me the worms.”

-Andrew J Tchir

Andy Tchir, WesternSportfishing.ca

Written by: Andy Tchir