Northern Idaho – Day 3 – Bluelining

I am a fool for small streams. I love them. I can’t get enough of them. I’ve got to fish them whenever I get a chance. So of course I had a day planned on a tributary to the river system we were staying on and day 3 was that day. The idea here being that the tributary may be colder than the main stem of the river and perhaps we’d have a better opportunity at a bull trout there due to it being a sort of thermal refuge for the juveniles. I would have been ecstatic catching a bull trout of any size on this trip.

An empty parking lot is always a welcome sight on any of my fishing trips and, expectedly, that was the scene when we pulled up to the trailhead that morning. The idea was to hike up a ways before we hit the creek and that’s what happened, but I cut my hike off much shorter than I expected to after I came across the hole pictured above right off the trail. I had visions of big bull trout sitting under all that timber, but I was only able to pull two small cutts out of that spot. Unfazed, I continued fishing my way upstream from there.

Fish were on the smaller size to start as Blake and I played a loose form of fisherman’s hopscotch working our way upstream. Fish size, for me, increased as we kept moving on up. I began the day fishing an oversized dry-dropper and had several fish just nose the dry. Downsizing resulted in far more committed strikes and hooked up fish on both flies.

At some point after my next fish I would lose my net. I don’t keep it on a zinger, just tucked behind me into my waist pack, so I’m not sure if an overhanging branch snatched or if I just left it on a rock after netting that last fish. Either way, I didn’t have it for the rest of the trip and probably need to ask for a replacement for Christmas (hint, hint to whomever wants to make that happen).

No matter the trip, there are always the “fish that got away” stories and mine happened just upstream of the big rock in the pic above. The creek had split and I opted to fish the side with less water as I could see there was a big tree laying down in the creek making a deep pool, ideal habitat in a place like this. I cast my dry as far up and as close to the tree as I could get and sure enough a monster fish came out in a flash to eat it and instinctively I set the hook far too quickly and pulled that fly away from the fish too soon. I never got a hook in him, but he never gave me another shot either as every subsequent drift came up empty. It looked like it could have been bigger than the big cutthroat I caught the day prior, but we’ll never know and because of that it will probably keep growing.

We ended our blueline day trip at the nice hole that Blake pulled his fish he’s pictured with from. Blake caught a few in that spot and I managed one there as well after catching a couple of nice cutts in the runs leading up to it. Unfortunately we didn’t come across any bull trout in this stream. Maybe they were higher up or maybe we just didn’t throw the right flies, I don’t have any experience with them so I don’t know. After busting my leg earlier in the day while wading I was just happy there was a trail running alongside the creek that we could take back down.

Wading can be dangerous and I had a scary moment earlier in the day. I was trying to work my way up above a rock ledge from one pool to the next and I took a step in the wrong spot and had my leg punch threw some loose rock and settle much further down than I anticipated. I was briefly stuck with my leg lodged in the rocks and I had to holler at Blake for a hand. Once I handed off my rod and backpack I could focus on pivoting my foot to the right angle that I needed to slip it out. It came out once I applied enough force. I’ve been wading for a long time and that was a first. My shin was bloody and would stay that way the rest of the day. I applied bactroban later back at camp, but had I been taking my time I could have avoided being in that situation altogether.

2 comments
  1. andrew said:

    If you ever make it back there, I can point you to where I found a bull trout on my similar trip from NOLA to Idaho. I can’t see a way to contact you directly, but if you’re interested, email me at andrewmcox at gmail. Maybe some tiny repayment for enjoying your writing all these years.

    Liked by 1 person

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