This was one of those days that I almost didn't go fishing. The drive to up to the Devil River is long and it would have been real easy to just stay at home and tie some flies. Knowing what I do now it's hard to believe that I had to make myself go fishing. But even then I realized that if I didn't go today I would be kicking myself in the ass come January. In January the trout streams are too low and cold for the fish to actively feed and elsewhere the Dollies have moved down from the small tributaries that fish so well with a fly.
Dollies, Dolly Varden; my quarry for today. These members of the char family were named after a colorful character from a Dickens novel. Dolly Varden (the Dickens character) wore dresses that were brightly colored and adorned with polka dots. For most of the year Dolly Varden (the char) are grey and green with light colored dots along their flanks. This stealthy color scheme blends almost perfectly with their streambed environment. Sometime in late summer these subdued tones transform into fiery oranges, bright reds and brilliant a white which runs along the tips of their fins. Resplendent in spawning dress these char truly live up to their name.
Before too long I found myself driving along banks of the Devil River. I took my time looking for a good spot on to fish. My jeep crawled through the wet forest on roads of exposed roots and stone. Ferns and moss grew along the sides of the track. The river was beautiful and after awhile one run looked as fishy as the next so I pulled over in the next turnout. As I rodded up I wondered about my chances of success and decided that even a small chance of landing a fish was better than staying in town.
Armed with a #4 Dirk Diggler (aka The White Wonder) tied onto a long leader off of a floating line I waded across stream feeling better about my chances. I walked upstream along the bank looking for bear tracks hoping that the bears themselves had already began their long winter sleep. Looking at the surrounding mountains I noticed that the snowline was only a few hundred feet above valley bottom. The river itself showed some snow in its color. Visibility was only about three feet, perfect for the Dolly fishing. The fish would feel hidden within the blue green water and more apt to stay in their lies than to spook at any streamside movement.
I made my first cast straight out into a tongue of current that fed into the head of a slow run. My fly swung downstream into the slower water along the river's edge. There were some chum there, between the fast water of the main current and the slow water along the bank. Ghostlike in appearance they were spent and ready to give their lives to the stream. I cast out again and again moving a step or two downstream before each cast hoping not to hook one of the dying salmon. After maybe the fifth cast my fly swung behind where the salmon were then came to an abrupt halt as my rod tip bent into a pulsing arc. Fish on! Through my flyline I felt the size of the fish as he slowly shook his head back and forth. I just hoped that it wasn't a chum. Early in the battle I managed to bring the fish close to the surface just long enough to see that it wasn't one of the dying salmon. After a few minutes of giving and taking line I finally landed a kype jawed buck that would have measured two feet in length had I brought a tape measure along. Briefly I admired his size and shape before pulling my fly out of the corner of his jaw. Then I released him into the easy flow of the soft bank water.
I was able to land three more Dollies that day on the Devil. I had hooked another but it tossed the fly before I could get a handle on him. I reeled in my line to inspect the fly and found that the hook was bent which probably happened when I pulled it out of a tree that an errant cast put it into minutes earlier. Just then I reminded myself for probably the hundredth time to check my fly after snagging it in trees or rocks and such. That's how I learn by making mistakes a hundred or so times.
Driving home that evening I got a phone call from the wife wondering If I could pick her up earlier than scheduled. I told her that I was just leaving the river and that I would do my best. She said that was fine then asked me how the fishing was.
"It was good babe, It was good."