The phone rang in the morning. It was Caveman on the other end. “Man, we gotta get out on the river. I just floated it with my kids yesterday, and you should have seen what I saw. We’ve gotta throw some flies.”
I’d checked the flow gauge that morning, and knew that the level had dropped to around 2000 cfs. Still pretty high for float fishing, but after the extended runoff, the river was finally clear, and the fish were bound to be hungry.
“I’d love to, but I’ve gotta work today. Maybe later in the week.” I silently cursed in equal measure the laws of economics, and the Puritans and their damned work ethic.
“What time do you finish? I’ll meet you at Salida East,” came the reply.
I thought for about three seconds: wife and kids out of town, no domestic duties, lawns are mowed, cat has food. “Good idea. See you at four.”
Anglers normally expect to lose the best part of the month of June to high water, but not since 1995, to my recollection, have levels stayed so high for so long. So the sight of the river finally clearing and dropping had me happy as a clam. I threw my gear into the back of the car and headed to the office, hoping that no one would walk in the door at 3:55 wanting to buy a house.
Luck held, and by 4:15 my rod was rigged, I had a cold beer in my hand, and it was time find out how often I could cast close enough to the bank, and how hungry the fish really were. The answers to those questions proved to be: sometimes, and pretty.
The tough part about float fishing at these levels is trying to get a drift of over five seconds duration. The river is moving so fast, and the fish holding so tight to the edges, that often there isn’t even time to mend before the current has taken hold of your line and dragged the fly out from the narrow strip of slow water along the bank. A fast action rod is a real plus, the ability to deliver the fly where you want it quickly really helps.
At least it isn’t rocket science figuring out where the feeding fish are holding. They are riding out the deluge in whatever slack water they can find, hanging on to the willows and brush piles along the bank, mixed in with all the Nalgene bottles, baseball caps and tevas, testament to several weeks of high water rafting carnage upstream. You’ve got to be prepared to cast your fly in there after them, and not be afraid to lose a few in the process.
Trying to slow the boat down isn’t easy either. On the oars, you’ve got to pick your battles, knowing when to put the brakes on for the slower water, and when to let the current take you where and when it wants.
As the river continues to drop, I’d expect the conditions to get easier, and the fishing to get better and better. We caught a decent number of fish, turned a few more, and got spanked by several. All in all a great day, with the prospect of many more on the horizon.