We didn’t kill ourselves getting out of the Bay Area by any means and rolled into Eureka sometime around noon.
We made a leisurely stop at the fly shop where Jeff cleaned out a few fly bins, then we hit the drive-thru for some healthy “road food”, topped the gas tank off, picked up some celebration cerveza for the cooler, turned the truck inland, and headed over the hill.
Once through Arcata, Blue Lakes, Willow Creek, Hoopa, and Weitchepec, we finally made it to the campsite. I’d say sometime around 2 or 3pm.
It was Labor Day weekend which I’d previously considered too early in the season for this section of river, but the reports over the past few weeks had suggested that they were running early and the brief conversation on the way up with Mike at the fly shop had confirmed it.
The sun was still high and bright so we casually took our time setting up camp (or should I say, Jeff set up his tent while I admired the comfy confines of my bear-protective, carpeted camper shell).
The usual show & tell routine took place, while we rigged up. First on display was Jeff’s first spey rod, a fine, new, CND 13′ 6/7wt he’d just scored a great deal on ebay on. Next, recognizing the opportunity, the Hardy Bougle Mark IV Brandon gave me came out (I love that thing)!
The item that took the cake was Jeff’s latest gear bag. Finally, a real, grab-and-go flyfishing bag. You can load it up with reels, spools, fly boxes, leaders, and best of all, numerous 4 piece rod socks! I could see a future trout bag, a Delta/San Luis bag, and even a nice “all your eggs in one basket” back of the jeep baja bag. There’s only one thing preventing me from ever owning one though… the danged thing has an embroidered Orvis logo on it.
I put the rod racks on the truck and we made the 5 minute drive to the first run of the trip. Considering the 3 day weekend I’d already drawn up plans “b”, “c”, and “d” as back ups in the more than likely event there was already somebody in it but when we came around the corner, it was empty!
The afternoon wind was cranking pretty badly, and directly up stream and in your face, especially once we hiked over the rocks and into the canyon. The only thing that could have made this a worse place for Jeff to cast his first 2-handed rod would be if the run put your back up against a brushy bank with over-hanging trees, which thankfully, it did not.
I started up top and Jeff began in the middle. My original plan was to leave him alone for the first evening and let him just focus on roll casts and getting used to handling the longer rod. With the sun off the water like it was the fish should be shuffling around throughout the entire run and not require lengthy casts.
On my 2nd or 3rd cast I felt the first tap, and then another. Half pounder or smolt? I continued to get “tapped” every 3 or 4 casts by what I figured must be smolts, when suddenly one yanked and ripped my loop out and then went airborne and dropped the hook mid “Woo-Hoooo”!
We continued working down through the run and I got into a couple more half pounders on some of the longer casts and Jeff hooked up at the very bottom of the run.
Only Jeff’s wasn’t a HP. Reminded of the first fish caught on Brandon’s first spey rod I told him not to feel too bad, at least he was the one to catch its first fish (sucker or not). Brandon’s poor virgin spey rod was violated in the hands of a Washingtonian fish bonking gear slinger on a Sandy River sucker while “trying out” the first monster 14′ fly rod we’d ever cast. Come to think of it, was that the last time Brandon fished with Jerry?
After that I showed Jeff the crossed-the-body snap-t cast and he started back in at the top of the run. The wind hadn’t backed off any but the breaks between gusts were improving.
It took Jeff all of about 3 casts before his river-right snap-t was boring straight through the wind like an arrow. That’s the quickest I’ve ever seen anyone pick up a spey cast!
We finished the evening off with another pass through the run and a handful of surprisingly hard striking half pounders. Most of them dropped the barbless hook on the first jump or two, but a few were landed.
Once back at the truck, we loaded up some driftwood for a quick fire, and drove the 5 minutes back to camp, anxious to get back to the river in the morning.