Photo by Roger Phillips
I caught myself saying “it’s usually not like this.” It’s a common phrase on a slow day of fishing. It was windy and partially cloudy on the Snake River, a storm front loomed on the horizon. Not only were fish not biting, they seemed nonexistent. That was a week ago.
We returned to the river on Saturday. My father-in-law, Terry Mahan, is learning how to fly fish, better or worse, under my guidance. It’s a lot of fun watching him learn, but it makes me want the fish to bite even more. Last weekend was tough.
We launched my drift boat on the Snake under near-perfect conditions – cloudless blue sky and emerald green water steadily creeping up toward 50 degrees. It wasn’t long before Mahan hooked into his first fish of the day, and his first-ever smallmouth bass on a fly. Despite some rookie mistakes and me babbling “keep your rod up! Give him slack! Reel, reel!” He landed the fish. Optimism was high for a banner day.
Then we waited, and waited. And I caught myself saying “we should be catching more,” like the world owed us fish. We fished swift water, slow water, shallow and deep. The best I could do was coax one juvenile largemouth. When it hit, I set the hook so hard it flew out of the water and landed in a bucket at my feet. “That’s a hole in one,” I said.
Afternoon crept toward evening, and Mahan snagged his fly on the bottom, then the snag started swimming upstream. After a brief tussle, the fish spit the hook. “That was a big one,” he said.
He’s a fast learner.
As we neared the end of our float, I tangled with a smallmouth that felt heavy and stayed deep, which typically signals a big fish. I netted him and he taped just shy of 17-inches. We picked up several more fish and reluctantly called it a day, both of us tired and sporting a mild sun burn.
It wasn’t red-hot fishing, but even a few fish seem like a party compared to the dead water the weekend before. Blue skies, green water, and golden-bronze smallies are a pretty good combination for a spring fishing trip.