Three old Japanese men from Hawaii and two haoles drifting down a northern California river in rubber rafts. Hmmm, what is this?

We’d been fishing in murky water since we arrived a few days prior, so on this day we were stepping in a few miles down river. I’m looking down into clear water as Herb tries to convince us that we shouldn’t worry about the class 5 and 6 rapids down river. While he’s not kidding about the rapids, they’re actually just down river from where we plan to end our drift, hopefully they’ll remember where to stop…

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Escape, has brought us here. The details may be different, but, ties to our urban lives keep the fires called escape alive. We’ve all known each other for a long time and while the paths of our lives have taken each of us down different roads. Somehow, these roads have brought us back together and led us here to this river.

You can feel the “aahhh” with each breath, a light breeze pulls the chill off the water to cool us as we slowly drift down river. It’s a unique feeling, that of being drained of urban stress and energized at the same time. Every turn in the river brings another “magazine shot” into view. We’re on the Trinity, classic fly water, as good as it gets!

Drifting, a style of navigating trout streams where a drift boat or rafts like we’re in use the current of the stream or river to move us down in search of fish. A pair of oars controls the speed when necessary or guide us to spots in the stream where we can jump out to wade and cast to rising fish. Dean’s riding with Herb, while Daniel and I are with Kit. Herb is hands down the best guide on the Trinity and among the very best in the entire region, but, today, Herb is insisting that Kit is the better, he’ll certainly have his hands full with me and Dan today!

I watched Dean catch and release a beautiful wild Steelhead on a dry a couple of years ago and getting my first steelhead has been on my mind ever since. I don’t have any delusions of busting multiple trophy sized steelhead on dry flies today. I just want to get one, nymphing, wooly bugger, what ever, I don’t care.

Kit pushes us off and jumps in, Herb and Dean will give us a few minutes before setting off behind us. A hundred maybe one fifty down stream we come up on a little funnel that’s pushing the water to the right accelerating the flow, creating a fast lane that catches Kits eye. We pull up on the left bank and jump in. He ties us on some nymphs and calls out how he wants each of us to play the section he’s put us at. Before long Daniel gets a bender and lands a little Bow to get us going! Aahhh yea!!…..you feel that?

We work a few more sections trying different things, not much happening so we jump back aboard and slide on down a bit.

We’re alone on the river, the canyon walls and trees keep civilization far away. The echo off the walls allow Kit and Herb to keep in touch. A few whistles and shouts when needed, are used to keep each other abreast of any action going on even while out of sight around a bend. Their knowledge of the river, their craft and each other allow them to communicate most things with a whistle or a few key words. I don’t think it’s something either has ever consciously thought about, fishermen just talk fishing a lot, so much so you get to that point of familiarization that phonetic or grammatically correct sentences are not really necessary.

We’ve swung around a bend on to a wide, straight section of the river.  Kit sees a rise way down ahead of us, a shrill whistle back up stream lets Herb know. They refer to this stretch as the “football field”. Kit pulls us over to the bank just ahead of a little feeder steam that’s pushing through just enough energy to create a few lanes in the flow down river where we saw the rise. A couple of drys get tied on our lines and Kit directs us into spots where we can cast into the lanes where fish are rising. I get a little scolding from Kit for trying to cast too far! I guess it’s the Hawaiian shorecasters mentality kicking in, I can’t help myself! (I actually think that Kit and I were looking at different fish!) Anyways, I eventually get with the program and dial it back to “delicate” and drop my fly in the correct lane. I’ve always believed that some people learn and see things differently and feel like I’m one of those. Kit keeps on us and things are finally beginning to click for me.

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It’s a little blurry as far as who took the first fish at the football field, but, we all did manage to take some Steelies. Daniel and I got our first ever! After a break for lunch on the bank we work the football field a little longer before moving on down stream.

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As we drift along, Kit suddenly swings his head around! “Hear that?” he says, Daniel and I are clueless. “I heard a fish rise behind us!” says Kit who starts paddling madly back up stream. So, he heard a rise, but, not just behind the raft we’re talking 50 yards behind us!!

The section is narrowed by a gravel bank pushing out from the left. Kit jumps out and tells us to stay in the raft, he’s our anchor holding us against the current with the back side of the raft against the gravel bank. There’s a tiny feeder coming off the opposite bank that’s pushing pretty firmly into a deep pool. Kit tells me to cast just upstream of the joint on the top of the riffle. “Feed it, Feed IT, FEED IT!” I’m frantically waving the tip of my rod while stripping line trying to keep the drift drag free! The fly stays dry and drag free, but, no take. “Pick it up and toss it a little higher and closer to the bank”. I make another cast and somehow manage to drop it right in the slot and start feeding line madly again. This time we get a pop and fish on! It makes a short, hard run down stream with the current so feels like a good fish. Not quite a beast , but, enough to put up a good fight on 5x.

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Dean and Herb slide on downstream ahead of us and find a shady riffle that produces another healthy steelie for Dean.

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It was a fun day, on some gorgeous water, we’ll be back……

(This trip back in April of 2015, it’s taken me a while to get this up here! Now I need to start work on our trip two weeks ago…..)