Fly Fishing Tailwater Canyons

(Al Hassal artwork)

This text was initially titled “Tough Canyon” from the Seasonable Angler column within the Oct/Nov/Dec 2016 problem of Fly Fisherman journal.

Lengthy earlier than reaching the mouth of the canyon, I start catching glimpses of the river. I pressure to see previous farmhouses, by way of cottonwoods, and over willows, attempting to guage its shade, stage, and promise. As soon as within the canyon, I snatch glances whereas negotiating the twists and turns of the canyon street, a street designated on the map as a two lane, however that’s both an outright lie or anyone’s thought of a joke. It’s open vary, so I preserve my eyes peeled for cattle, vehicles pulling horse trailers, and mounted cowboys who greet me with stage, no-bullshit gazes and a nod.

The turnouts are sufficiently big to park a truck, however provide the feeling the entire cha-cha might slid off into the river, which is a 30- to 100-foot drop relying on the place you park. So far as angler entry, I simply stroll backwards and forwards alongside the street searching for a means down until I lastly make the leap at a spot I’ve already rejected not less than as soon as as too dangerous.

I first fished right here 30 years in the past. A river information instructed me in regards to the place, and I drove half the evening in a driving rain to get right here. Arriving within the wee hours, I discovered a turnout, laid down on the seat, and went to sleep. I woke to seek out I used to be parked in a slide space. I noticed it proper off, due to the massive yellow signal I used to be parked subsequent to that learn “SLIDE AREA.” I stood within the rain, trying down on the river, questioning what I’d performed to piss that information off.

I seldom see different anglers right here. If I see anyone it’s often climbers. They name it “bouldering” and are available from all around the world to climb. Even if you happen to simply fish right here, you find yourself climbing boulders. The climbers come geared up for climbing with climbing footwear, chalk luggage, and even a crash pad they place down below their climb to interrupt their falls. Fly fishers do their climbing in waders and vests, juggling their rods from one hand to the opposite because the scenario dictates, trusting in a fisherman’s state of grace to interrupt his fall.

The boulders typically have well-placed hand- and footholds that look simple sufficient to scale, however you often discover a sheer drop-off on the opposite facet with no option to go however again the best way you got here. Taking place is more durable than going up, and I’ve needed to toss my rod down into the willows with the intention to unencumber my arms.

A few of the boulders are in free piles that shift below your weight, presenting the potential nightmare of getting trapped between shifting rocks. There are pitfalls—locations the place deadfall collects that look strong, however aren’t—that conceal holes 6- to 8-foot deep.

The colour of the water is a placing aquamarine, and I’ve been instructed the colour comes from a heavy limestone content material. Deep bend swimming pools are separated by stretches of quick water which might be misleading as to depth and energy. However the river’s cobblestoned backside affords good footing, besides subsequent to the financial institution the place a skinny layer of silt collects throughout runoff, making the rounded stones slick as a intestine.

The amount of water will depend on the wants of native farmers and adjustments from each day—the place you crossed yesterday might not be the place you cross at present and even later the identical day. The DNR web site has a disclaimer: “Fishing might be hazardous within the spring when giant volumes of water are launched from the reservoir. Anglers ought to train warning.”

A good friend of mine was sitting on a rock, casting to risers, when his foot slipped off and he was dragged into the water. His waders stuffed and he was pulled below and swept downstream. He managed to seize a rock and crawl out, ripping his waders to shreds within the course of. I might see the concern in his eyes and listen to it in his voice as he instructed the story a number of days later. He refuses to fish right here alone now.

Selecting which rod to string up relies on the wind. The wind is all the time an element when fishing within the West. I’ve discovered bamboo rods made with a Phillipson taper work finest in windy situations. I additionally favor a rod that’s lengthy sufficient to maintain my fly above the willows. A 9-foot 6-weight has the size to maintain me out of the willows and the stones to buck a stiff head wind and land the occasional hog you run into right here.

Right this moment the willows are swaying to a light-weight breeze, however there aren’t any ensures it would keep like that. The wind right here adjustments, going from a whisper to a 20-knot gale, and from gusting up the canyon to down the canyon in a heartbeat.

Pulling on my hip waders, I’m struck by the raggedy-ass imaginative and prescient I have to current to the younger climbers. They’re extra like reminiscences of waders, offering not one of the features usually related to the merchandise, being worn merely for the footing gained by their felt-bottom soles. They’re the outdated canvas waders, made when males have been males and most popular waders made within the USA. They began out chest waders, however ended up hip waders after I lower them down one evening in a match of genius that appeared like a good suggestion on the time. Despite my virtually every day efforts to restore them, they leak profusely. However they’re noble waders—every gap, splotch of sealant, and blood stain obtained truthfully by crawling into casting place, climbing over rocks, and busting brush in pursuit of trout.

The descent to the river is regular—I bust my ass as soon as—and I head for the tail of a very productive pool. I transfer into place, false-casting and feeding line till I believe I’ve obtained the space, after which promptly dump a tangled mess into the center of the pool, placing down all of the fish within the decrease half. I select the wind knots, take a deep breath, and angle ahead till I’m according to the face of a large boulder that makes up the entire left facet of the pool, discovering the rhythm of the rod as I transfer. This time I handle a good presentation.

Fly Fishing Tailwater Canyons
(Al Hassal artwork)

My Adams lands gently on the head of the pool, driving excessive on glowing grizzly and brown hackles. The present carries the fly into the slower water and spins it right into a again eddy. I make an upstream mend on the similar time the fly disappears with an audible gulp. Elevating the rod tip to set the hook, I get the acquainted feeling that I’m both too quick or too sluggish—till I really feel the load. I take a second to observe the rod work, its ripened wheat shade throbbing towards the darkish inexperienced background of a ponderosa pine.

The fish makes a run upstream, turns again at a rocky fall, runs previous me into the quick water on the tail of the pool, and dives for a sunken snag by the correct financial institution. I flip my rod reel-up and handle to show the fish again into the quick water midstream. The trout, drained now, lets me information it onto a rocky level under. It’s a good looking 13-inch cutthroat, and I take a second to admire its colours earlier than releasing it, telling it how fantastic it’s and the way glad I’m to see it. Watching it disappear into the depths of the pool, I really feel a way of loss.

I discover a spot the place I can eat lunch, scan the river for rising trout, and look ahead to thunderheads shifting in over the canyon’s lichen-stained rim. The climate turns quick right here and might go from a sunny 50 to a snowy 30 levels in a matter of minutes. The climate modified so quick on me as soon as that my ears popped. It began with a light-weight drizzle, turned to pounding sleet, then to driving snow within the time it took me to stroll 500 yards. By the point I had my rod down, the snow was 4 inches deep. The slopes are lined with house-size boulders; scattered stands of willow; tufts of grass; a mixture of ponderosa pine and cedar; and free clay that turns into slick when moist, making felt-sole boots worse than ineffective. It’s a slim canyon, so whenever you see a storm peeking over the rim, you’ll want to begin climbing out.

After lunch, I transfer alongside casting to risers till I see a spot to make my climb out. I zig-zag up the slope, ending the climb on arms and knees by tossing my rod above me, crawling previous it, and reaching again to tug it ahead. I attain the street exhausted. The truck is a white speck within the distance, and I do know if I concentrate on it, it would seem to be I’ll by no means get there, so I look down on the river.

I see fish mendacity in swimming pools neglected, causes to come back again. And I’ll come again to this tough canyon. I’ll come again as a result of it’s exhausting, and it’s solely within the exhausting locations I discover the wild. I’ll come again to persuade myself I nonetheless can, as a result of every time I come away just a bit unconvinced.

Robert Robinson lives in Worth, Utah.

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