Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eventful Blue.

I hurt my hand.  I'm not sure if it's tendinitis, carpal tunnel, or masturbator's wrist.  It's painful to do simple shit like turn the keys in my ignition, unscrew a lid, type blogs, or tie a fly on the end of my line.  I'm not sure when or how I damaged it, but it's getting kind of bad.  I solely blame this condition for my poor oarsmanship today.

I, along with a couple of friends, float-fished the Blue River today.  It was fun.  It was eventful.  Not necessarily "bad" eventful (we didn't flip the raft), and not necessarily "good" eventful (we didn't catch a ton of fish.).  Just eventful.

The day starts off with the alarm going off at 3am.  Yeah, 3.  Meet at the fly shop by 4, make the haul up the mountain, shuttle the trucks, and we're in the water by 8.  That's a lot of prep.  The launch is sketchy.  We hafta lower the boat by rope down a 30ft cliff to get to water.  Boats are heavy.  And plus, my hand hurts... 

Temperatures dropping down to 43 degrees greeted us in Silverthorne and shot up to a balmy 45 degrees at launch.  Ben gave us a quick "What to do and what not to do in the boat" speech before we waded out into the frigid water (in flip-flops) and heaved off.  Ben was excellent at maneuvering through the rapids, sharp rocks and drop-offs.  Several fish were spotted, some were missed, and a couple were landed.

Although sharp pains shot through my phalanges like electrical shock, I continued pounding the banks with my double streamer rig thrown with an 11ft, 6 weight switch-handed rod.  It really hurt.  Really.  Ben switched spots with Graham, who is fairly new to fishing and rowing, and proceeded to get a little fishing in.  Graham is pretty dang good himself with the oars--especially for a novice.

I have been float-fishing before.  It's a blast.  The fishing part is, at least.  I've never had to row, but figured when my time eventually came that I would be good at it.  Either that, or I'd be terrible at it.  One of the two.  You see, I'm a more than capable canoeist, so I figure the transition would be a smooth one.  That, or an extremely rough one.  One of the two.

 After an hour or so, I got the call.  The guys went over some basics with me, I plopped down in the center seat, and off I went.  The boat starts spinning instantaneously.  I start pinballing off every boulder in site.  Backwards.  I'm struggling dearly.  Two minutes into this lesson, my forearm veins are seconds away from exploding, as are my forehead veins.  I continuously go the wrong way.  Immediately I start screaming and cursing about how horrible I am at this and how miserable this is making me feel.  Instead of letting the boat gently drift downstream while easily and accurately positioning it, I try---I don't know what I tried.  It didn't work.  It made me say "fuck" a lot.  My instincts were battling me--I am trying to paddle this 500lb boat through boulder fields and waterfalls like it's a fucking canoe.  I'm a very capable canoeist, by the way.  And my hand hurts...  After a solid 10 minutes of absolute mayhem--the boat going every place it shouldn't be going--falling sideways down waterfalls--running into very sharp, dead, dangerous trees--oar handles jabbing me in the kidneys--spinning the boat through very fishy water while slapping the oars violently on the water like I were having a strong seizure...Ben finally says sternly, "Holy fuck, Matt!  I've got to take over.  You're going to kill us."  Or something along those lines.  He was wise in his decision.

After the stress fades, and a capable oarsman is in charge, we start seeing enormous rainbow trout rising to feed.  It didn't take us long to realize that they were feeding on dog chow.  Yep, dog chow.  One of the local landowners and owner of this particular section of the river likes to feed his pets.  His pets are enormous rainbow trout.  Mixed feelings shower the boat.  All three of us appreciate a wild fishery, where streambred trout feast on insects and baitfish indigenous to that watershed.  We appreciate a natural stream, free of man-made processed crap that attracts fish like a Big Mac to a fat kid.  But...landing a 30" fish didn't sound too bad.  We quickly notice that there are literally bucket-loads of food pellets floating on the water.  We're bumping 25" trout on the head with the nose of the boat as they boil and frenzy.  Since we don't have a food pellet fly or some variation, we plug on.

Then Ben catches one.  It's big, maybe 23".

Then we see a moose.

Then Ben catches another one.  It's bigger, maybe 25".  Here's a movie of it.  You'll have to cock your head to watch it because I can't figure out how to rotate a movie.

Then my hand hurts even worse from netting that stupid fish.  It's a sore hand.

Then we see another moose.

After all the fish and moose hijinx, it's my turn again on the oars.  It went about the same as the first one.  Spin, spin, splash, splash, stuck on rocks, sideways down falls, in the trees, jabbing ribs, scaring fish.  I'm horrible.  Absolutely horrible.

After spotting two more moose (that's the same amount of moose spotted as fish boated, which is kind of cool if you're going to have a slow day...), a deer, about getting decapitated by diving bald eagle the size of a mule (that's no shit--swooped down right over my head.  My thinking is that he was offering magical, mystical healing to my extremely sore hand), we finally approached the take-out.  Assisting us in pulling our raft up the ridiculously steep embankment were several weed-smoking hippies.  I think they were just kayakers, but I'm sure "weed-smoking hippies" isn't too far off.


I plan on taking Ben's raft to the YMCA pool to practice up before attempting the Blue (or any other river with rocks, sharp trees, falls, and a current) again.

After my hand gets better.