It was a fishing trip but also an exploratory outing. I wanted to catch some fish, but needed to see what the park had to offer for families. I arrived around 8 am and was excited about what I saw. I spent over an hour driving around the park just looking around. I located a train station, horse stables, several playgrounds, swim area complete with kayaks/canoes, and fishing piers. What I concluded, the park is great for families. It had nice clean facilities, very helpful park staff, and plenty for my family to do. Now I needed to find a spot and get settled.
My 1st warning wasn't clear at the time but while finding a camping spot, I came up on a fallen branch blocking my path...clearly a sign saying "GO HOME". I moved the branch and pressed on, ready to fish. I found a camping spot next to the river, unloaded and went back to the park office to pay for my nights stay.
Here's where it gets good. I talked to the park staff about the generation last week and ideas on the future. As I'm doing that a park ranger slides a piece of paper across the table with generation schedule. I asked if I could read it. It didn't say anything specific about planned generation so I wasn't concerned. For some reason, I felt good about the fishing, so I purchased a camp spot for 2 nights and a non-resident annual license. It's the same drive from my house to the LMF or Little Red River (LRR), figuring if the LRR was generating I had an alternative.
So far I've spent the better part of the morning just getting acquainted with the park...but I'm still at a loss on where to begin fishing. I drive back to my camp and slide into my waders. Grab my gear and start walking toward the river. First spot had someone, keep walking. Around 10 am I hear a horn, no worries they're probably going to generate from the powerhouse, but the spillway should be good. Finally locate a good place and waded into the red zone (barbless fly's only). I'm scanning for fish but notice 3 guys exiting stage left...puzzled, I stopped. The river started flowing faster and was full of pine needles...that's not good. Next thing I see are branches floating down and the color changed to chocolate milk...that's terrible. Immediately, I knew the horn was for the spillway...that's just WRONG on so many levels. 4 hour drive and not even a cast before I was greeted with 1000 cfs coming down the creek.
Not giving up, I head back to my camp, grab a beer and scanned my map. Looking for another area down stream to fish before the water gets there. Jumped in the truck (w/o the beer) and head to zone 2. 15 mins later, I find a gate with a sign..."no wading". Still not familiar, I turn around and leave. Head to the powerhouse. Of course, the flow was high...but I'm still getting in the water. It wasn't productive (find out later it never is). After 30 minutes, decided I'm going back to the red zone and wading in 1000 cfs...at least as far as I can.
Arrived and scanned the water. It was still moving pretty good but the color was only slightly stained. Appeared to be great streamer water. I grabbed the streamer box and started my hike in thigh deep water. The river was about 3 feet higher than normal, which meant it was out of its banks and covering the trail.
|Walking towards me as I scan my map|
|Not zoomed in, came right up to me. I asked him where I needed to try next...not much help|
Made it about 25 yds and came to a deeper crossing. It was the confluence of a small stream and the main river The trail went to an island between these 2. My alert went up b/c I didn't want to be on an island if more water was released. I had to come up with an exit strategy if I was going any further. Not knowing where the trail ended or what was ahead...I decided to call it a day.
I turned to leave and noticed a guy walking up the trail. I introduced myself and discovered we had the same idea, it wasn't safe to cross alone so we decided to stay together. 1st break of the afternoon, getting to tag along with a local seems like a nice break. He did a great job explaining the runs, habitat improvements and where to start. I was very thankful.
We set up about 25 yards apart. Casting was very difficult. We were basically standing on the trail with our backs against high grass and trees. Not an ideal situation but I made the best presentations I could. After snagging several trees and losing 1 streamer to another. I stopped to take a break and apply sun screen...getting sun burned wasn't part of my plan. In a rush, I got some on my sun glasses. I take my shirt and rub the glob of sun screen off and somehow managed to dislodge a lens. It falls into the river and it's gone. FANTASTIC!! I regrouped and fished another half hour...no takers.
|The 1 thing more useless than decaff coffee ^|
We talked to a few guides scouting the river and decided to relocate to zone 2...back to the gate I left earlier. What I didn't know was, you can hike down a few miles and wading is allowed, just not directly below the dam. I grabbed my 8wt with a sink tip and we start hiking. After 20 minutes we stop at a fast, deep run. I was really excited about fishing this hole...it had some great looking habitat.
|The area above the powerhouse can be waded when they generate, but not easily when the spillway is open.|
I was warned to be careful the rocks are very slippery. That's an understatement...it was like walking down hill on ice. I literally put one foot down, did a 180 and slid backwards 2 ft. After that, my means of water entry was similar to downhill skiing. My goal was to stay up right while sliding down the rocks...not stepping or picking up my feet until I was ready to exit the water.
My 1st cast...I must have hit the spool release during my slide b/c the spool falls off and the river carries it away. I had no chance of retrieving it in the fast current. I ended up getting spooled. Lucky for me I secured my backing with a good knot and I got everything back. It took about 30 minutes to clear the debris and untangle the mess but I was back to fishing and slipping. I did get a nice thump on the meat whistle but the rainbow just wouldn't commit. I pointed out where the fish was holding and let the guy I was with nymph the hole. He hooked up with a nice 15" rainbow. I was satisfied with just seeing a fish caught.
The local wanted to look at another location and I needed to set up my camp so we hiked out. I drive back to my camp and started setting up. I just want a beer, grill some dogs, and let the day end. But the day wasn't done with me. Some other campers set up beside me...all I heard was "GD" this..."MFing" that..lots of colorful language. Gonna be a long night...opened a beer. I started to connect my tent poles and snap...cord breaks! That's it...I'm DONE, I'm a QUITTER!! Put the beer in the cooler, grab handfuls of my junk and throw everything in my truck. I'll pack it later...just needed to get gone. During the drive I thought about the day and what I realized was it was a success. Sure, the fish catching wasn't productive, but the information I gained about the habitat and the park, were invaluable! We'll be back.
4 hours later I was pulling into Cabot. I checked in on my girls, kissed my wife good night and fall asleep in minutes. After 8 hours of driving and 8 hours of...we'll call it "fishing", I was eager for the day to end.
One last thing....set the alarm for 5 am...I had White Bass to chase in the morning... I FISH ON!