Like every trip I take, the excitement gets me jittery, and it was hard to sleep the night before, so I was running on maybe 3 hours of sleep. We stopped to get a quick breakfast on the way there, and before we knew it, we hit the "Stream of Dreams."
He was amazed when we were in sight of the water. "Those HUGE rainbows come out of here?" I grinned with excitement. We scaled down the steep bank and fished the big pool first. It was still cold, humid and dark. I couldn't see fish because of the angle we were at, but could see light spots in the riverbed, which were redds. I was hoping the fish hadn't finished and left yet. The forecast was rain all morning so we had the rain gear on (He put his gear away so I had him use one of my rain jackets and my G3 vest which he thought was sweet)
We crept up behind the fish and kept a low profile and walked slow. I put my rod down in the bushes and told Jerry, "You get one first." With a smile on my face. I sat and waited as he rigged up in anticipation. As I sat on the bank watching him, I could see a glimmer of disbelief in his eyes, like it hadn't kicked in that he was about to get into a huge wild rainbow and was about to wake from a dream.
I grabbed his line, pinched his barb and told him have at it!
His first cast was dead on, it landed at the top of the pool and his weight was just enough to have the current drag his bait without hitting bottom. 5 seconds after hitting the water, with rod pointed at an angle toward the fish (he's a great learner) he set the hook perfectly and kept tight on this fish. It was another one of those BIG rainbows, not just some 17-20", this was one in the 22-23" range.
His disbelief vanished as the fish jumped the first time and we both hollered in excitement. While the pool the fish was hooked in was relatively small water, it was darting all over, jumping, rolling and rubbing on the large boulders on the side of the pool. A lengthy fight ended with me netting his fish. This was Jerry's biggest rainbow ever, and a wild one at that!!!
We sat and chatted about his fish and all things for a while until I felt the hole had settled a bit. We saw other fish darting as he was fighting his, so we knew there were more.
It took a little longer for me to get into a fish, but after changing flies quite a few times my line went tight and zzzzzzZZzzzZZZZZ fish on!
After my fish, we let the hole sit again and Jerry went back at it. He had a few takes but things didn't work out in his favor. His hooksets were fine but lady luck wasn't on his side. After a few missed fish I gave a whack at it again, this time landing yet another beautiful chunk of silvery pink chrome.
Just immeasurable excitement!! The hours had passed, and it was time to leave the big pool and head upstream to see what we could do. The water was VERY low, but pools still held fish. Conditions were far from ideal since the low water made for an impossible drift on many holes. We had to walk past a dozen fish before we could find a fishable hole without overhanging trees and logs.
The next few hours were full of grief! We were seeing fish, but they were all hiding underneath downed trees and it was just impossible to fish for them. The first fishable hole was holding one big bow, who seemed to be already spooked. He took a look at my fly, got scared and hid under a rock. We shrugged it off and hit the next spot. For the next hour we both tried getting fish to even take a look at what we were offering, but they all had lockjaw. We approached a set of small waterfalls with small pools in a ladder-like arrangement. In the middle of the falls in one of the bigger pools, an absolute MONSTER rainbow was surrounded by smaller fish. The smaller fish were all riled up, chasing eachother while the behemoth of a rainbow just held the same spot. I was utterly amazed at this fish that was at least 8 lbs. I tried to get a picture of it in the water, but the pool it was in was eye level with us since we were standing on lower ground. I told Jerry to have at it, and he got on his knees and blindly casted to the top of the pool this fish was in. The first drift looked good, but no takes. His second cast wrapped right around an overhanging branch directly above and in front of the fish. He noticed right away and decided it was time to go.
tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh the monsters tail swishing through the water....the sound resonated throughout the valley this stream was in..this fish took off upstream and flew threw a few waterfalls and pools like it was nothing. He stopped under about 6 trees laying on top of eachother, now a lost cause not only because he was spooked but because of the location. The smaller fish acted differently, and just stuck their noses under rocks. After we got over the disappointment of seeing the big one take off, we got a good laugh at the smaller ones and their tactic for hiding.
A little while later, I spotted a few active fish above us in a pool and told Jerry to have at it again. After 5 or so minutes, he got a good drift in front of them and set the hook on a big one again! It was about 5 seconds before the fish realized he was hooked, and then tsh tsh tsh tsh tsh! A crazy fast run upstream right into a colossal pile of trees underwater. I tried to run on the side of the stream to get in front of the fish so it would turn back downstream but it was too late. The fish lodged itself in the mass of trees and was a lost cause. I held Jerry's rod while he wiggled the big trees and sticks the fish was hiding in to see if it'd spook back downstream. After a few minutes - a fish darted out from underneath it and I reeled up his line with an empty hook. This fish had won fair and square,but I could tell Jerry was humbled.
The rest of the afternoon at the Stream of Dreams was the same way. Spooky fish and very tough conditions...we took our leave around noon with smiles on our faces.
Our next stop was the lake spillway, which I actually think is a tributary of one of the bigger rivers in the NEK. Ater a 45-minute drive, we arrived and hopped out the jeep. The water was much lower than I'd seen it on previous trips. I could now see bottom of about 60% of the pool, and immediately spotted a few perch, and a rainbow about 14".
Again, I let Jerry fish first but he just couldn't get a good drift through the pool and was getting hung up quite often. I grabbed my rod tied on a double bugger rig and began to dead drift the pool with a bit of weight, making sure to get down deep. It didn't take too long until Jerry was netting this beautiful rainbow!
I still can't get over how beautiful this spot is.
While fighting this bow, a monster smallie came out from undernear a huge log to the left of this picture. I was amazed to see a smallie in this water...must be it's in here for the Spring spawn. Makes sense that these bows are in here to spawn from the river this one runs into, and not fish from the Lake that Chris and I originally thought Although both is possible, I'm convinced this river has a Spring run of bows and smallies.
I released this light-colored bow and watched it swim off and disappear into the riverbed. It was Jerry's turn again, and he was determined.
20 or so minutes later after letting the hole cool for a bit, we both started fishing. Jerry had made the huge mistake of casting out, setting his rod down and then running to the jeep to grab his phone. "Shouldn't leave your pole here Jerry!" I told him. He hadn't gotten a take for a while so he felt comfortable leaving for 2 minutes. Shortly after he left, I set the hook on a chunky bow in the 12-14" range. At the same time, I could see a much bigger rainbow struggling in the shallower clear water...huh??
I look over, and Jerry's rod is going nuts. I landed and released my fish as quickly as possible (sacrificed my fish pic!) and picked up his rod - but it was too late. The fish had broken his line.
He came back and didn't believe me (I still don't think he does) but that's how things are when you leave your gear unattended! I hope he learned a valuable lesson there.
We made the decision to hit one more river - the Barton, on the way home. So we took our leave from the spillway and headed to the Barton. 10 minutes before arriving at the spot, it started to downpour, HARD. We almost had to pull over. I pulled out my phone and checked the weather which said 0% chance of rain, and partly cloudy. Hmmm....what should we do? We got the spot and sat in the jeep for 10 minutes in pouring rain. We decided we didn't have the time to wait for the rain since we only had a few hours of daylight and the drive home was over 2 hours. We left, but miraculously, the rain stopped and the sun came out just minutes after pulling out. We looked at each other with, "Lets go back." faces, and before we knew it we were heading back.
We geared up, walked a little bit to the river and just as we were about to walk downstream to the holes we were going to fish, Jerry saw a fish rise at some water that was less than ideal looking. I thought it was something falling into the water but when we got close enough to the water we were amazed. There looked to be about half a dozen fish - all BIG near the top of the water column. Must be the heavy rain just a few minutes prior that turned these fish on, and they were feeding.
We walked down the bank to the water and I suggested to Jerry he threw a spinner. He put on a silver spinner and ran it across the pool in all different spots. It seemed like every retrieve was followed by a fish, but it just wouldn't commit. It was awesome to see them follow it for 10-20 feet and then turn at the last minute! He tried different colors, but they seemed to stop chasing after a while. He switched to bait and hooked up almost right away. I was convinced they were light colored browns since that's what the Barton is known for, but I was wrong. This fish looked like it was possible a steelhead from the Willoughby that made it up some really difficult water to get to this area.
After releasing this fish, we witnessed a pair of browns stroll up into shallow water for a few minutes....MONSTERS! At least 24" each. They turned and slithered back into the deeper part of the pool. We were psyched to see those fish and kept fishing. I was standing behind the pool drifting over it, and jerry was standing quite far away from the pool behind and to the side. We did what we could but I think the fish were spooked after the steelhead.
We didn't have time to let the hole cool so we opted to fish the water below this. We made the sketchy descent to the holes downriver without breaking any bones. We fished half a dozen good looking holes without a single hit or even sign of any fish. I was surprised since the first hole we fished (the first hole after Jerry's steelhead) is the same one I landed 3 nice browns in on opening day. Maybe all the fish moved upstream into the slower water since the temps were rising? Or maybe they just didn't like what we had to offer.
We fished for a good hour and ended up calling it a day. A very successful day in my eyes and Jerry's as well. The ride home was long, but sweet. We were both exhausted - and drenched in water and sweat. The air temps were in the low 70's, but with chest waders on and rain gear along with very high humidity.....walking miles along the rivers really made me pump out the sweat all day. I need to invest in some wading pants!
I'm so happy I could bring Jerry up there to get into fish, he doesn't get out on the water much, but thoroughly enjoys it when he does. Like most people, he has a hard time finding free time, especially for an entire weekend day. I'm glad I was able to spend it with him, and even more glad he got into such nice fish.