Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall Cast-n-Blast with Sting

The annual Cast and Blast took place last weekend.  It was way more cast than blast. Chukkar were few and far between for the second year in a row.  Now bass were another story. We fished slow and a bit deep for those slippery crawdad eaters and were able to pull in a nice dinner's worth.

My Steelhead, just before release.
Our trip started at Pine Bar where we put on at around noon, give or take an hour.  The party consisted of five boats at the ramp and one boat catching up later on in the evening.  When everyone was together our party totaled 10 humans and six boats. This combination made for nice boat weights and plenty of room for fishing and shooting.
Our rogues' gallery was enough to scare even Jack Reacher: Steve Fitzgerald, Mike Fuhrman, Jim Fuhrman, Connor Fuhrman, Paul Harris, Jared, Nick, Rob, and bringing up the rear Mike Beckwith; A great group of guys that have fun and always pitch in with the camp and boat work.

Paul Harris and Mike Fuhrman running Snow Hole Rapid.
We floated from the launch down to Killer Goat Beach (Packers Creek) giving us about 10.5 miles for the day. With the river running at 3700 CFS we had to work through the twists and turns of the river. Everyone did well on the oars; we were a bit rusty but it all comes back real quick.

On the way down I floated into my favorite area just above the Rice Creek Bridge. There is a big eddy on river left that I never pass up fishing.  I usually catch big rainbows in the foam line and I will always catch something there. This time was no exception.  I was casting a light weight rod for bass and had a green twin tail jig on.  I tossed it in the foam and let it sink. I felt a tug and set the hook.  It was big, I could feel right away. I played it for quite some time and finally got it to where I could see it. It was a big rainbow and it didn't want to be caught!

Paul and Mike in the tail out waves.
I worked it in and it would run, in and run. As I did that I readied my net.  The fish was tired and I was finally able to bring it into the front of the boat where I netted it! It was a steelhead! The fin was cut off so it was a keeper; the only problem was that it was exactly 19.75 inches long. I had read that steelhead must be over 20” to be a legal catch. I thought about it and tried to justify keeping it because it also says in the regulations that all hatchery fish with cut fins must be kept. In the end I lowered her into the water and let her swim free. Maybe my buddy Mike Wassmuth will catch her upriver some time. The river temperature was still warmer then past floats; it was about 63 degrees, so catching steelhead could be a bit harder.  Warmer water keeps the fish grouped up down river waiting for changes.The excitement of catching a big fish is always one feeling that I love and remember so every catch is worth an entry in the blog.

Happy boaters!
The camp was big and we had more than enough room to tie up, spread out and relax. Dinner was served up by the Furhmans. We had pork loins, a rice dish and Caesar Salad; more than enough for everyone.

After our meal everyone faded off and sprawled out on their beds which turned out to be about as far as anyone made it.  Three of us stayed up until 9 PM, the others never returned. I guess the sun going down at 7 PM was invitation enough for them to hit the sack.

Mike Beckwith in Snow Hole Rapid.
Morning came and everyone packed up for the big water day. We ran all the big white stuff with no mishaps.  Snow Hole Rapid was exciting because of the low water levels, but proved to be no problem for this group.  After the Snow Hole rush we ran across our first chukkar sighting. We spotted them the same time as a jet boat so they got the first shots off.  Paul was able to bring down one as it flushed away from the other shooters.  We collected the bird and were on our way.

We planned to stay at Maloney Creek but it was taken so we went on down through China Rapid to the beach across from Bent’s cabin. (River Mile 35) It was taco night and so we threw everything together and had a feast.  We built a fire in the fire pan and once the sun set it only took about an hour before folks were off to bed.

Every morning I woke to laughter.  This group got along so well there was never a time when someone wasn't laughing.  As we sat on the beach everyone searched for deer and other game.  Rob noted some otter swimming upstream.  I ran and got my camera and was able to get a few good shots and then they were gone.

Two Otter heads.
With the boats packed we launched and floated to our last camp site at Wapshilla Creek about 8 miles from the confluence of the Salmon and Snake. The beach was the same one we camped on for our last night as a group on the trip in July.
Group photo on the rocks.
There was, however, a dramatic difference in the view this time.  During the time between now and our last visit the Big Cougar Complex fire had swept through and blackened the vistas around us. Check out the two photos and you will be able to note the difference.  The fire was massive, but as you look around you see that there really wasn’t much in this panorama that couldn't be burnt. Cheat Grass, Star Thistle, and small brush were about all that went up in smoke.

Our beach camp looking Northwest in July. 
We all were in bed by about 8 PM. Of the past nights, this one had provided the most drinking entertainment. I figured that some of the boys would not feel as pert in the morning as they had in the past.  As we slept the clouds rolled in and by about 11 PM we were seeing some lightning.  It should have been a forewarning of the rain that followed, but we ignored it and slept on.  At about midnight or so it started to rain.  Everyone did the big dash to gather their tents and for the next fifteen minutes it was a rush of tent cloth and pole clicks as the shelters were set up.  Beckwith could be heard saying, “Turn it 180 degrees.” about ten times before he and everyone else got settled back to sleep.
It rained for a while and then stopped, and then it rained hard for an hour, slowly fading away to nothing but a cool breeze.

The same beach, same shot in September.
We woke at sun rise and went about our morning routines.  Packing was wet but it was our last day, a quick eight miles to the confluence and then the long motor out. Everyone worked together and we were on the river and to the takeout by 3 PM.

There is nothing much to say about our trip down the Snake River.  There was a big blow out of Cottonwood Creek that was cool to look at.  (See the photo) and we were still following the burn down river right. Steelhead fever was in full swing and the jet boats were clogging the confluence.  We saw several of those beautiful fish boated as we floated our way out to the ramp and our waiting trucks.

Great trip is all I can say.  We would have enjoyed seeing and shooting more chukkar. It would have been nice to catch more steelhead. We are so lucky to be able to get on that river as much as we do; it is a gift.
Contrasting colors of the river, bank and burn.
Down river of the burned hillsides.
Blowout of Cottonwood Creek on the Snake River.

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