Our final day on the river found us cooking the last of our eggs and diving into some instant oatmeal. The black coffee as always helped to prop our eyelids open. Knowing that some of the best fishing was behind us and that most everyone was all stacked up on this section of river, we decided to take our time, enjoy the river, and not push ourselves too hard.
Just downriver of our camp, Eric anchored the boat mid-river in a gravel bar, which gave us an opportunity to fish a great looking riffle section. We pulled a couple of decent fish from the riffle and then pointed the boat down river.
As we continued to work water, less and less fish were coming out to play which we had planned on. Most of the guides were ahead of us and we figured we were fishing water that was already stressed. So we (and when I say “we” I mean Eric) put the oars to work and pushed on ahead.
At the beginning of our trip, Eric imparted some wisdom on me. He said, “Two things can kill you on this trip. Whitehorse rapids and rattlesnakes.” He went on to warn me that he does not ever go a trip without seeing at least one rattler. So the whole trip in the back of my mind, I am conscious about watching where I am stepping and overall just being careful. By day 4 though the last thing on my mind is snakes. After securing the boat, Eric and I made our way through some tall grass to fish one of the fishy looking spots in a riffle when Eric stops dead in his tracks. He points out a coiled rattler sunning himself in the tall grass. Warily we move around him to encounter another snake coiled and rattling at us in a menacing tone. We did not have much choice and fished the water that was in front of us, but getting out was going to be a trick. The eddy was too deep to walk through back to the boat and the entire bank was covered in this tall grass and large woodpile, where presumably the snakes were living. These snakes held two grown men at bay while we planned (read “worked up courage) to walk through the snakey habitat. After arming ourselves with a couple of stout sticks we beat the grass and hopped, skipped, and jumped our way though and joyfully climbed back into the boat.
We started to eat up river miles and joined a train of boats headed for the take out. As we drifted, we rounded a corner and saw a couple of boats leaving the bank a couple of hundred yards ahead. We figured they had just fished the bank but has we floated towards the bank where they left, we could see and hear fish rising to the surface and sucking down on some sort of bug. Deciding that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, we backed ourselves in and started working the bank. There were midges on the water and some other small bugs, but the fish would not come up for anything small we offered. I worked through several other flies and then opted for some foamy stonefly patterns. Bingo.
I pulled five fish from the pocket water and lost a monster. Once I hollered down to Eric what the scoop was, he started bringing fish in as well. I inevitably filled my waders again when I stepped on what I thought was a rock, which turned out to be a four foot drop. There is nothing like slopping around with a couple gallons of water in your waders, while happily pulling big rainbow trout out of the river. It truly was a great ending to the fishing and we both felt this was a the best way to end our float.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and as we broke down our rods and stowed away gear, I could not help but smile, thinking back over the previous four days. It was a remarkable trip filled with good fish and great memories. The river will not be forgotten and I look forward to the next time I can get back out in the drift boat. We opted for a greasy burger, fries, and extra thick milkshakes at a local joint in town before heading back to bend for a shower, a real bed, and more fishing.