Quest for 20 – Part XVII – A Challenging Day

Although we had held out hope that this particular river would hold its height after watching the last river of the day yesterday rise rapidly, it didn’t help us (Quest for 20 – Part XVI – The Late Runs). We arrived early morning after we had told Kitty of how awesome this river was the day previously. It had come up well over a foot. Being the determined bunch we are, we decided to go try below the canyon to see if any fresh fish had come in on this bump.

The first wade was pretty sketchy going across on the down angle, but we made it (not really thinking we would have to return this way). We fished all the way down to the next wade with nothing, and found ourselves cut off as this one would be too deep today – so back to the top wade we went. Unknown to us, the river had continued rising while we were over here. The wade back was one of the scariest I’ve ever done. I was taking water over the top of my waders on the upstream side, and Kitty was floating – hanging on to my arm – as we jumped in well above where we had waded earlier (I knew we would need the room). We may as well have been swimming across on the angle. Luckily, although deep, the tail out wasn’t moving terribly fast and I was able to bob across fairly confidently. The only concern was the sweeper about 50 feet downstream that we had waded below earlier, but we made it with a lot of room to spare.

After that wade, we were reluctant to go further, but we pushed on anyway. We eventually found access into another section lower down. There was spectacular water all the way through, but the fish were either moving through fast or hunkered down, and therefore nothing was hitting today. We did find out though that this river is terrible to walk and wade when it’s high (it turns into a pretty brutal bush crash with some sketchy wades), so we won’t be doing it again any time soon at these heights.

It was now 11 am, and we wanted to salvage the day. We bush crashed out to a road I could see on my MyTrails app on my phone to head back to the car. What started out as a great little trail turned into thick bush pretty quick. I ended up taking a short video of it. This little clip is pretty typical of what we do on a regular basis. If not for the MyTrails app, I can honestly say we would probably get lost in these situations more often than not.

Once back at the car, we had a decision to make on where to go next. I suggested a river that we had done well on last year around this time. Marc and I both weren’t sure if that one would be wade-able, recounting on some of the wades we had done last year. What did we really have to lose though? Off we went to see if this next rivers held the silver treasures we were seeking.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR8035.
Marc with one of the bucks from last year during low water. As you can see, the fish were already starting to get fairly dark at this time, so we weren’t sure if the run would still be entering with this high water today in the lower river. We would soon find out!

As we arrived at the river, we were happy to see that the colour looked good and the height actually looked fish-able. Excitement mounted, up until we saw a vehicle that was obviously fishing; that was confirmed when Marc recognized the vehicle as one of his buddies who often fishes this river. Luckily, he was in a section lower down than where we typically fish, so we hoped he hadn’t worked up and went in at our usual spot.

We arrived at the first sandy beach at the end of the trail and there were no fresh foot prints… maybe luck would indeed be on our side to end the day. The very first run is one we found fish in last year, but it appeared to be too high today. As we worked up, we approached a nice log jam pool that just had to be holding something. Kitty’s first cast through with the pink worm produced a vicious float down. Soon a large bullet chrome fish was blazing all over the run, and eventually he found his way into one of the downed trees (the situation was made worse by Kitty’s reel falling off mid fight, in which she obviously lost all control of the battle that was ensuing). As Kitty re-tied up, Marc went through with a trout bead and picked up another fish on the backside. He had it right near the beach and I went for the scoop. A successful scoop, but the fish jumped out and popped off as it escaped my grip. Marc and Kitty just looked at me and shook their heads. A rough start at 0/2 (second was a net job/leader touch so it probably could be counted as 1/2!).

We continued up. The next run up looks amazing every time, but we’ve never hit a fish here and today was no different. We eventually made our way up to the next run about another km upriver that was productive last year. Sure enough, the fish were using this hole again to rest. Marc managed to hook up a beautiful chrome doe on a BnR mottled red trout bead behind Kitty’s pink worm this time (what else is new). This time I didn’t mess up the net job and our first fish of the day hit the beach. Confidence restored.

MARC - chromer doe good
Marc with an absolutely stunning doe in front of an awesome B.C. backdrop that is typical of the canyon style rivers we fish.

We continued up with vigour, especially since it was obvious fish were holding in the same runs as last year. There was one more we knew that we’d be able to access before being cut off. We finally arrive there and surprisingly, no fish were found in that particular spot. The water was most definitely higher than last year, and although I was able to make the next wade on my own, the one just a little further up would most definitely be our cut off, so we turned around and headed back down. We were now discussing whether or not the fish we encountered earlier in the lower river would bite again…

We arrive back at the next run where we had encountered two fish previously. Kitty threw the first cast again, and again a fish annihilated her 6 inch pink worm. Another large chrome buck. Again he went crazy and headed for the submerged trees at the top. This time Kitty put the breaks on him – a little too hard. POP. Everything was gone. Soon we could see her float swimming around the run. I decided to see if I could hook the loose line/float and hand bomb the fish in while she was tying up. To my surprise, after all that commotion, I hit another fish on my R&B orange mottled 12 mm trout bead.

underwater bead
An ever effective trout bead from a different perspective. R&B lure co. has recently gotten into the bead making game. I have to say, the beads were very effective for me in the latter part of the season when I got my first few samples – just as effective as their spoons!

While fighting that fish, I did indeed manage to find the fish towing her float around. Soon I was fighting two fish at once as the float had become wrapped up on my line while my fish darted around the run. As both fish flashed around the run, often times trying to go opposite directions, Marc and I just laughed as we pondered what to do. We nearly got a hold of Kitty’s fish again, but the bobber stop had finally slid far enough to allow the float free, and her fish once again disappeared to the depths. The positive though was that my fish seemed to tire out faster after fighting both me from one direction, and a fish larger than him from the other. The small buck eventually slid into the net. The other funny thing? It appeared to be Marc’s buck from earlier that I lost for him. Regardless, the small coloured specimen was good enough to mark off my 19th river of the year!

river 19 buck
Closing in on the end! This specimen marked off my 19th river of the year and put me within “easy” striking distance of finishing “The Quest.” Only one more to go!

At this point, Kitty was pretty disappointed with how her day had gone. I assured her that we would be able to fish one other section that typically held fish, and to not give up hope on her river #8 just yet. On the way out, I told her she should take a quick cast in the run right beside the trail head. It’s a run I’ve always looked at as we’ve walked past it. I’ve always thought it looks great, yet I’ve never fished it – probably because it’s a near impossible spot to land a fish as you are fishing at the top end of the run with a large cut bank directly below on your side. The wade across to chase it wouldn’t be an easy one either (one that I’ve never really thought possible due to depth and the straight/fast shot it is from the run above). Regardless, I got her to take a cast, and of course her float goes down the second time through.

What appeared to be a small fish at first most definitely wasn’t. Soon it was around 60 yards into her reel and going out the bottom of the run, while also tangled in some overhanging ferns off the cut bank when she hadn’t dropped her rod tip fast enough on the fish’s second big run. I told Kitty it was gone and to break it off. Marc refused to accept that, and to my surprise, jumped into the water that appeared to be too deep to do so. He nearly went over his waders, but didn’t quite. Kitty handed him the rod to try and pop it off the ferns. He couldn’t do it, and I knew we needed a different angle. Soon I was in on it too, wading down from the top of the log that was just above him. I took the rod and took a few steps out into the run and managed to pop the line from the ferns. I now had direct contact to the fish, and realized just how far down it was. I would need to wade. I didn’t really think, I just went for it. It was a pretty bad idea – it wasn’t an easy wade (as I had thought). It was about 4 inches over my wading belt, and pushing hard. I bounced across as I yelled at Marc to take Kitty to the tail out half a km above to bring her across. Before Marc and I even knew what was happening, and before I had finished my sentence about where I wanted Kitty to wade, excitement got the best of her and she jumped in to follow me (probably because she had just heard the first part of the sentence about bringing her across). Some interesting moments ensued, but it’s amazing what adrenaline will do for people and Marc was able to grab her and float her across. Soon all three of us were on the far bank. Kitty took the rod back and was now chasing her fish down to the next run. We get to the next run down and Marc and I finally get our first look at it — a big, chrome fish.

The fish wasn’t done somehow. It went on another massive run just as it neared the beach. This for sure would be the end of the battle if it managed to get out the tail out of the second run. There was a massive log jam in the bottom end, and this next wade WAS impossible. 10 minutes of tug of war ensued, and it seemed as if the fish would win. Marc was now waste deep 20 feet above the logs going for his last shot at netting the fish. Kitty was so far upriver that she couldn’t get a good angle on it to swing it towards Marc, so I went running down to try something new. I grabbed her line, and “guided” it towards Marc holding the net. I see Marc go for the scoop, and hear the dreaded POP when I put a bit more tension on it to swing it in that last little bit. The line went slack in my hand. I had blown it – put too much pressure on it… or had I? I look up with surprise as I see Marc lifting the fish from the water in the net. It turns out that the line had broken when it hit the rim of the net as the fish slid in. A spectacular net job. Probably one of the most memorable fights with a fish I will ever witness or have. Kitty was elated as she ran down the run to claim her prize. She hadn’t actually seen the fish up to this point, so needless to say she was indescribably happy.

Hello beautiful
Kitty’s first look at her prize

What a way to end the trip. All three of us had landed a fish. Kitty and I had both checked off another new river each, and we were both that much closer to our goals. We had ended the day with a perfect specimen of a fish. It was a triumph after a rather difficult day. We had managed to work together to accomplish what had seemed impossible, and now Kitty was able to lay her hands on a fish that will most likely be engraved in our heads for years to come.

Kitty river 8
A picture perfect doe on a rainy, wet, difficult day. The perfect ending to an otherwise challenging trip. Kitty’s 8th river of the year, and her 4th new one – pushing her well within reach of her goals of the “Quest for 5” new ones, and her “Quest for 10” different ones.

Unfortunately, that was the last highlight of the entire trip. The next day, everything was completely blown. We drove around for 4 hours checking out 4 different rivers before calling it quits and heading back home. Although I didn’t quite reach 20 on the trip, it was still successful. We caught a memorable fish, Kitty checked off a new river (bringing her close to both of her goals), and I had checked off two that brought me very close to what I had set out to do three months ago.

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5 thoughts on “Quest for 20 – Part XVII – A Challenging Day

  1. There is an old saying that goes; “You have to climb the tallest trees to pluck the sweetest cherries.” Sounds like you guys worked hard and took some calculated risks to come so close to your goals. So go for the gold !

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    1. Indeed Tom! We don’t often do things like that. I rarely do them at all with Kitty. In this situation, we were pretty stuck and had no choice. I would have never made a wade like that one to get to a spot, but getting back is a much needed priority, especially while still rising/raining.

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  2. Great fish story and congrats to Kitty (and Mark and you) for the team effort. I have read your journal with a mixture of keen interest and growing unease as you recount your wading tales. I’m much older than you folks, but historically was an aggressive (and poor) wader who did a lot of swimming and ate one sweeper which scared the bejeebers out of me. These days I wear multiple wading belts (three!) and I have a low profile CO2 horse collar PFD on over my fishing vest. It doesn’t get in the way as I feared it might, and it offers a better floatation profile than a belt pouch model (which I wore for years previously). Another strong recommendation is to always wade with a stout stick in hand. It makes a big difference.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Brad. As I said to Tom above, I rarely take wading risks, especially when Kitty is involved. I’ll do slightly riskier stuff alone or with buddies like Marc since I have been around water my whole life (and we’re heavier/stronger waders than Kitty obviously), but even then careful consideration is given and a game plan is made. Before each wade, we always go over what we are going to do if something does go wrong (where to swim to, what to avoid, etc).

      As far as wading with a stick, I will if I deem the wade to be difficult. We always wear wading belts too. My wading belt saved my arse last year twice when I went for swims. The life jacket is a good recommendation and I’ve often thought about getting them. I think rather than a life jacket though, I’ll be investing in a throw rope in the near future. Life jackets can get hairy in some smaller water by getting hung up on stuff, and you have less manoeuvrability I find. I’ve also taken swift water rescue so that I know what to do in dire situations. Overall, I’d say we err on the side of caution – it was just one of those trips where misfortune (and excitement at times) took over!

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