May 7, 2012

Mother's Day Caddis Hatch

One soft lit evening, T and I walked up from the mouth of the Deschutes to fish for some steelhead. I can’t remember if we landed any or even hooked any, but a few memories from that particular evening I can't help but recall:  On our hike back downstream as we neared the parking area on the west side we heard a jet boat screaming upriver. Having logged a few hours running this stretch of water for my day job, it became clear to me that the skipper was likely checking out some new territory and unaware of the fact that this river eats boats and sometimes people. Sure enough, having set a course up the ledge-laden side of river at a pretty good clip, they crashed savagely. What we saw was a boat bumping and skidding to as an abrupt a halt as would be allowed and two bodies launching from the boat into the air and then the river. It was like one of those TV shows – “When Good Times Go Bad” or something like that but we had the experience of witnessing it live and unedited. It was a ferocious turn of events.

The dudes were visibly shaken but otherwise, not seriously harmed. They were both able to make it back to the ledge where the boat set like a beached whale. We helped them heave and ho for some time until the hull was finally able to slip free of the rock and they could pitter putt back to the ramp. As T and I walked back up the trail I had the image stuck in my head of this pair of sandals setting alone on the deck of the boat. The one guy was wearing them when they struck the ledge and they were there waiting for him to return from his catapulting.

When we got back to the parking lot, there was another set of guys fiddling nervously around a white SUV. One guy was patting down all his pockets while the other was peeking in the windows. Come to find out, they were from Seattle on an annual steelhead pilgrimage and the keys to the rig had vanished. Now I keep a coat hanger for this very reason, so I grabbed it and began the task of snaking it inside towards the electronic door lock lever. It’s a weird process as many do know – one that can be extremely frustrating because it’s all just right there inches from your face and your efforts can often go unrewarded for quite a long time as the hanger shifts uncontrollably and the lever lay in wait. So this went on for a while. The cheering section pressed faces to the glass and chimed in advice and support and the one guy kept mumbling about how, “Those keys got to be in there. I’ll bet they’re right there in that gear bag.”

Darkness had settled into the canyon and I was making some progress but I just couldn’t get the leverage needed to move the lock lever. I could sense that morale was fading and this sense was confirmed when the owner told me to stand back and then he heaved a small boulder through the back window. Glass sprayed throughout the interior and the guy got to grabbing the gear bag so he could pull out the keys. The minutes wore on and no keys. After ripping apart the interior, the keys did finally show up, but they were actually in the guy’s fanny pack that he had been fishing with the whole time.

The guy gave me a fly rod for helping out. I couldn’t believe it – I stood observing this beautiful 5 weight bamboo rod that this guy from Washington had built by hand. I felt so fortunate but a part of me felt like I really didn’t do anything to deserve such a thing; after all, if the fella had just checked that one interior zipper pocket in his butt pack there would be no jagged hole in his window and no fuming wife to douse. Anyways, I thanked him profusely and we went on our way.

And then, many days later, I stood with this 5 weight bamboo rod on the shore of the Yellowstone River as fish heads and backs and tails cut the surface of the current.

Aren’t mothers so generous? They give you life and care and treasures… Treasures like this boisterous hatch of Caddis Flies that pop like heated kernels across South Western Montana every year near the day when people are reminded to show their appreciation for those who have mothered them. Well, just yesterday amid thoughts of how best to thank my mother, Rita, I was interrupted while I had my waders and boots on with my 5 weight bamboo rod in hand, by the sounds. Before I could look to confirm, I knew what that sound was and then when I lifted my eyes to see I knew my beliefs to be true – that sometimes you are in just the right spot at just the right time to witness something that will capture you. This day, it was the gift of flies, of Caddis Flies – hordes of them from our most encompassing Mother, and all on the river, in the air, on the rocks - everywhere they were, and gobs were ending up in the mouths of trout who dined without fear on this fluttering meat.


Folks in the area are always wondering when it will happen on the ‘Stone because when it does one can toss dries blindfolded and get their rod bent. It makes heroes of people, but even more so- it creates witnesses who can’t help but be inspired by the raw happenings in nature.

I apologize for the route taken here, but I couldn’t help but be taken by thoughts of how I came by this particular rod as it casted line and shook wildly as the trout picked my fly. And then greedily, I couldn’t help but speak of a boat crash and people in air. And now I can’t help but speak of the flies and the trout, just so many of them flaunting themselves without the inhibitions that a different day would allow.


I hooked rainbows and browns and cutthroat on a size 14 tan elk hair caddis. Everywhere were mouths and often I fooled them. But as the hatch progressed towards climax, I couldn’t tell where my fly was. The river had turned tan and everywhere I cast my caddis, it must have landed on the back of another. Fish kept rising, pressing their faces into the flittering blanket and all I could do was stare and listen and be astonished while feeling the line load from back to front and then over and over again until it all went back to normal and I took my boots off and drove north.


It is a delicate balance, The Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch. Too cold and the bugs do not hatch. Too hot and the river will blow out. When the stars align, you have cold nights with a daytime high in the low sixties. And this time of year, when you are standing by the river when the water temperature hits say, 53 degrees, be ready to accept a very special gift from your mother. This year’s unveiling should reach its pinnacle on the Yellowstone throughout the first half of this week.

Have a good time,
-Duffy

1 comment :

  1. One year I might get lucky enough!

    Pdiddy

    ReplyDelete

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