Chapter 9: The Great Bread Hatch

Every day fishing is an adventure. Today Mauro and I went to the Slough hoping to key in on what we call the “Decker hatch,” chasing the 500,000 smolt released by the Issaquah hatchery, though Lake Sammamish, into the Slough where they are concentrated. The theory is that the big rainbows and cutthroat in the lake will key in on these tasty morsels. Last week Jason (Decker, who figured this whole thing out and thus the eponymous naming) and I tested this theory by fishing  the lake by the mouth of the creek, watched over by a family of eagles nesting nearby. I took two nice cutts (although I’m still thinking the second was kokanee, so black was its back), but after four hours of rowing around the instantaneous gratification we sought remained aloof.

I like the theory because generally fishing the Slough is maddening. The Slough, being the only west side spring creek I’ve discovered, is incredibly fecund (I wanted to use that word all day). Like most fertile rivers though, that makes it technical. More technical than I care to be. Mikey dialed it in with choronimids, which I will not fish. Craig fishes scuds, which I cannot see to tie on and it’s nymphing anyway.

Mauro tied up some very nice smolt flies and the water was high and fast. We started under the 85th street bridge where Mauro recently caught a monster trout I stalked for 5 years in vain. At one point I decided my monster was probably nocturnal, and noticed in the regs that the Slough  has no night closure.  I begged a date to let me have three casts there under the bridge. On the first cast I caught a 24″ white fish. I don’t care what  you say, they are salmonoids and fun to catch. The next cast I took a three pound smallie. The third cast I caught a tree, and true to my word we left. That was a good night of fishing.

I digress. At the island I had one hook up, but I failed to follow my own hard-won lessons on cutthroat and tried to set the hook. I missed every cutthroat for years until one day Bernard and I hiked into a mountain lake where I fished to spawning brookies on a white sand bar. A fish would come up and smash a fly. If I kept stripping it would return to its lie, if I let the rod trip drop the fish would circle once, come back and pick it up. Once I applied that in the river, suddenly I started catching fish. However, reminding yourself in that split second of hooking up not to strike is like trying to keep your eyes open when you sneeze.

We fished a bunch of flies around the island, maddening because we could see the pike minnows there and they would not even deign to notice them, and continued down to the bend where we’ve often had good luck before.  As we got there an osprey flew over us. It was so huge at first, with the white on it’s head I thought it was an eagle. I’ve never seen an osprey that size.

I was tying on a fly and heard a huge smash, when I looked up the osprey was taking off.  Mauro said “At least we know there are fish here.” To which I replied drolly, “Were fish here.” In my experience if the predatory birds are there, be they herons, eagles, or ospreys, the fish are hard to find. At any rate I walked upstream and fished a few flies through down to walking out on a log and casting to a promising seam, with Mauro graciously following behind. Twice more the osprey returned and smashed into the water in the same spot, feet from the log.  I  mentioned that if this was a regular thing, it would be more worthwhile to return with a camera than a fishing pole.

I had about given up, having pruned a few trees along the way to keep my flies. Right then Mauro mentioned “You catch fish here when you see them rising. You will look downstream and see 10 rises.”  Like magic a fish rose 150 yards away. Then, suddenly they were rising all around Mauro, many less than a rod length away, none more than three, often in less than two feet of water. The takes were so fast that I never did see what kind of fish was at it, although by size I figure they were trout (most other fish in the river are bigger than the trouts).

It took about five minutes, but finally we noticed that there was bread floating in the water, at first little chunks and then whole slices. They were collecting in this little micro-eddy we were standing in. Apparently the osprey had been chumming for fish. Twice, I saw fish come up and hit entire slices of bread. They were so excited they kept coming up despite four attacks by the bird and us running every fly we had through them. And then suddenly it was over, despite there being a bunch of bread loafing around in the back current.

Viscount Grey of Fallodon wrote:

On days of failure an angler may be said to go through four stages of feeling. He begins with Expectation: this is presently modified to Hope: after Hope has been long deffered the angler subsides into the stage of Resignation: finally as the day draws to a close he sinks into Despair.

Well I would say we expected smolts, hoped when we saw the rises, got resigned to the fact they weren’t taking what we had, and finally despaired of catching any fish. It’s bad enough when you think the river is full of fish and you can’t catch them. But when water six feet away is boiling with them and you can’t get a bite, it’s down right emasculating.

I was really hoping to get lucky with the Decker Hatch and wasn’t prepared to get technical, but I never, ever even considered casting bread upon the waters. Can anybody out there tie a good white bread fly?

UPDATE 5/25: I guess you have to be careful what you ask for:

Bread fly
Mauro knows no limits in the pursuit of trout
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