The gods do not deduct from man’s allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
Once or twice a year I get out to visit my brother, Don, who lives in Sandpoint, Idaho. We usually come out once in the winter to ski and once in the summer. Stephanie loves picking raspberries, collecting wild huckleberries for baking, taking the dogs for a walk in the woods and other outdoor stuff we can’t do in London.
And if we can, Don and I sneak off for a day or two of fishing. This time we drove up into the Bitterroot Mountains and the Clearwater National Forest to fish the North Fork of the Clearwater River. The Clearwater, besides its name describing what it looks like, is famous as one of the rivers that Lewis and Clark negotiated on their epic exploration of the uncharted American West between 1804 and 1806. Their story is a real life adventure of courage and vision and has been captivatingly described in the bestseller, Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose.
The Clearwater holds a native trout called the Westslope Cutthroat, which has a beautiful red-orange colored slash near its throat area. There are Rainbow trout in the river as well. The river is fairly wide, clear and filled with rocks and boulders, good structure for fish to hide behind. The river is teaming with caddis fly larvae and the riverbank is a haven for insects which fall into the river and are gobbled up by the ravenous trout. Since this land is buried under 20 feet of snow for many months the feeding season for the trout is short and they feed voraciously.
We mostly fished with nymphs (imitations of insect larvae) and a few times used surface flies that imitated grasshoppers and large ants. It is difficult, technically challenging fishing with the need to get the fly at the right depth in the river, moving at a natural speed and of course to be able to tell when a trout has inhaled your fly before he spits it out, since it isn’t a real meal.
The Grave Marker
As we were walking along the bank of the river looking for a good place to fish, we came upon a curious sight. A wooden cross with an old straw hat stuck to the top piece and the initials DM written on the wood. We were too far from the road for this to mark a car accident and after some discussion it occurred to us just what this stream side marker might represent.
It is our opinion that this shrine marks a much-loved section of the river to an avid flyfisher who put in his will that we wanted his ashes scattered near his favorite river. We assume his fishing friends built and placed the cross and used his favorite hat. It looked like new construction and would certainly not survive the winter snows and the spring high water. We both looked at each other and the same thoughts passed through our minds. “Not bad for a final resting place”!
We left the river at 5pm and were back in Sandpoint by 11pm, a 6 hour drive, most of it on circuitous dirt roads built and maintained by the US Forest Service. We were definitely exhausted, but more from the driving than the fishing. Somehow the brisk mountain air, the soothing sounds of the river and the sight of the little grave marker had healed those parts of the soul that get bruised through city living.
Tight Lines . . .
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