Monday, August 15, 2005

Fishing the Middle Fork Feather River, California

My cousin Joey and I fished from Hanson's Bar to Hartman's Bar last week. It started off less than ideally. We dropped bikes off at the Hartman's trailhead and drove back to Hanson's, five river miles downstream.
In our hurry to get to the water, we lost the trail and ended up bombing straight down the mountain. It worked well until we got to the river, when Joey found that the upper half of his pole was missing. We clawed back up the incline for half an hour before giving up and deciding to share a pole - the lower half of his pole didn't even have a guide on it.
We ran upstream a ways to make up for lost time and were headed further when we saw a good looking pool. We decided to start fishing. The fast water ran along a wall on the opposite side from us. The good fishing looked like it would be in the pool at our feet.
When the pool failed to produce, I looked over to where a small eddy twirled at the head of the pool, on the other side of the rapid and near the far wall. I threw my lure several times before I managed to get into it. When I did, to my disappointment, the weight of a small fish took my spinner and darted toward the white water.
When he hit the faster water, he pulled with ten times his weight, much more than the current accounted for. Either Pop Eye had just eaten his spinach or I was hooked into something else.
My rod bent and my drag gave to my bewildered looks. Further downstream, I pulled whatever it was from the run and continued the fight in the pool. My line cut through the water away from me as the fish neared the surface. I pulled hard to get a glimpse. Sure enough, there it was: an eight-incher biting remorsefully to my shiny blade. And there another was, free of the line and my hook, clamped with Moby Dick determination to the hind end of my eight incher. A giant brown, a shark of a trout, irreversibly committed, not letting go.
He dove. I pulled him back. He dove again. I kept reeling. When he was close, I swiped down the net. He thrashed his whole body and sent the rainbow and my Panthermartin rocketing away in two directions, but I had him. "What a machine you are," I said. I will never look at brown trout the same. For all I could tell, neither the line nor the lure was ever hooked to him or pulling on him. We measured his 19-inch body before sliding him back in. I'm sure he swam straight out and pounded that scrawny little rainbow.

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