After some last minute flakes and a questionable water level, we decided to barge it anyway. 1k+ flows and emerald green waters.
Before dropping in, I was fully convinced that Jason wouldn't have a problem paddling Stefan's 8' pontoon boat. Not that the E. Carson is a real beast river with huge white water, but there are couple spots at high flows that can make you pucker for a second or two.
"You got this?" I asked him the day before the float.
"I got this," he said, " I could paddle that shit down the South Fork... I'm ready."
Hearing that implied some confidence. South fork being the SF American... you know... rapids with names like 'meat grinder' and 'satan's cesspool'... spots where I've seen people launched from their boats clearing a good 5 ft of air... With a comment like that, I had some serious faith in my boy... up till we were about to drop in, when he says, "Oh, I'm going in the drink for sure..." Whaaaa?! We haven't even put the boats in the water yet! What the hell happened to, "I could paddle that shit down the south fork...?" Too late now.
Check out Dave's dog Odin looking back at Jason right below the put in. I swear I heard the dog say, "This oughta' be good..."
Right outa' the shoot Jason had his paddling skills put to the test against a quick high flow drop in that pressed the river hard against the rock face on the east side of hangman's hole, not to mention the big rock right in the middle of the shoot... he passed... barely... but then 150 yards down stream he drifted to the north side of the old fence hole and proceeded to get pinned on the rock point. I had to watch from downstream when the water started to peel over his pontoons as they slowly got sucked under... Good thing his gangly spiderman arms could reach the 10 foot rock his boat was pinned against, saving him from an almost inevitable flippage, cause there was no way I was paddling up that current to save his ass. Somethin' was telling me that his claimed SF AR adventure on Stefan's boat would be fun to watch...
After a quick regroup just downstream, and some whiskey, Jason put on his game face and we rolled on big river.
The water was garbage with about 12" of visibility, but we still managed to rip some lip. GIANT rubber leg stones were the ticket mixed with a little red san juan action. In just about every spot we stopped at in the upper river we hooked fish. We stopped in several places and found some really good buckets holding fish. In one spot the big boat had about 12 hook-ups (unconfirmed) with a bruiser that ran Stefan into his backing (also unconfirmed). Not to mention the 4 foot rattler we pulled from the bushes.
I've been fishing the E. Carson for about 20 years and have never seen a rattlesnake in that canyon. I assumed they were there because everyone else has had some kind of run-in with one at some point, just not me... well... this trip went from zero snakes to 4 in less than 24 hours, with a nice baby rattler cruising right through our camp... unfortunately that snake got its head cut off... I'd rather the snake die than Dave's dog.
Check out this snake claiming a wild one from the drink. Tried to get a picture of this snake with the fish in its mouth, and it dropped it when I came up on it, but then 10 seconds later it came back and grabbed it again... twice... committed.
The pace was hard and fast with some good fish here and there up till we hit the camp spot. A good foot soak in the hot springs was welcomed after having the dogs in cold colored water all day.
Check out Jason's custom dry bag. Custom made by GLAD.
We fished all day without seeing a single fish rising, and then just as we were unloading the boats, we started to hear splashes and looked up to several fish working in the eddy right in front of the boat... and I mean right in front of the boat... like 10 inches from the rubber. After a quick gear change I was hooked up with the first dry fly fish of the trip. The ol' E/C Caddis again. Ralph Cutter's finest invention. I found back to back fish in the 10 ft of water right in front of camp and then Dave proceeded to do the same. Those fish made the trip. We can go home now.
Too much whiskey and bud light made for a slow morning, but Dave served up a 4-star gut bomb camp breakfast that made the clouds part a little. A good thing too, 'cause the biggest white water of the trip was only 100 yards below camp. Again, not a BIG water section by any standard, just a good drop with some big rocks sticking out everywhere.
We dropped in and both the big boat and Jason cruised through no problem. I was doing the same half way through until I look over at this other group of people in a canoe pulled over watching us, and the guy points at me and says, "Your rod!" I look back at the rod holder behind me and all I see is a tiny loop of flyline hanging off the holder... no rod... just flyline... rod's gone, in the drink somewhere, and here I am in the middle of the biggest rapid on the river. So what do I do?... well, let go of the oars of course... and try to save my $600 setup that's back bouncing down the river like a 3 ounce lead sinker. It didn't matter that my boat was spinning 360's through huge boulders and gushing water. All I could see in my head was my reel hanging up between two rocks and the boat snapping the rod like a dry spaghetti noodle, and then leaving it in the fastest water on the river... I will most definitely risk embarrassment and possibly drowning for that... I kept trying to reach back and grab the line hung up in the holder but it was just at that weird angle to where I couldn't reach it (the tossing and spinning didn't help that either). Finally, I saw an opening in the whitewater and grabbed one of the oars and kicked the boat back into a small eddy under a cut-bank. The rod was nowhere to be seen but the line was still wrapped in the holder, so I jumped off the boat to reach back and grab the line thinking it was about knee deep and plunged down in about 4 ft of water... not the way I wanted to start my day. I grabbed the line thinking I'm gonna' be hauling in a broken rod and surprise surprise it all came back in as I hand-lined my setup out of the drink... note to self: buy a 20 cent velcro strap for the rod holder.
Day 2 was a lot slower, the river and the fishing. We found fish, just not nearly as many as the upper river, but that's pretty much how it has always been. The closer you get to Nevada, the fewer the planters, and the fewer the hook-ups.
All browns in the lower river along with some sketchy rednecks shooting guns across the river... right over our heads... People in Nevada don't f@#k around. We saw some AKs, some high powered rifles, some mortars, and some of the sweetest farmer tans the world has ever been graced by.
After the first few shots went wizzing by us, I grabbed the oars and started blasting down river. I've seen deliverance, I know how these things end...
The last few miles of river were the longest. If the fishing had been epic things would've been different, but I was glad to take out early enough to make it to the forest buffet before the closed. Did you know, that if you ask for it, the person at the buffet will cut a 2" slice of prime rib?... Now you know
4 days ago