The white stuff has been piled up outside my front door for going on two weeks straight and the driveway that my lazy ass neglected to shovel is just now beginning to melt enough to discover last weeks newspapers. As much as I really wanted to be a good neighbor and clear the foot and a half of snow from my sidewalk and pick up two weeks worth of soggy dogshit out of the yard, the weather guessers had my mind wandering another direction with the prediction of several 50 degree plus days coming up.
A quick call to one of my miscreant friends who I knew would have no moral issues calling in "sick of work" and hitting the water and a fishing trip was in the works. Just two weeks prior we had planned on hitting the NFOW but bad weather and other last minute issues derailed those plans , this time mother nature be damned , we were deadset on getting some river time in.
The plan was to meet down at Sunburst Ranch on Friday morning , camp Friday and Saturday nights and head out sometime Sunday. We took the pontoons with us and planned on floating the river both Friday and Saturday. I was so damned excited to get on the water I couldn't sleep half the night Thursday and ended up leaving the house around 4:00 Friday morning, pushing the legal speed laws in most of the municipalities I passed through in my haste to reach our destination. I pulled into Sunburst Ranch right about 9:00 and stopped in at the house to introduce myself.
Justin came out and met me and after getting the lowdown on camping spots we talked fishing for a few minutes. It's great to have a knowledgeable guy like Justin right on the river every day and then so willing to tell you what he knows. Standing there in the driveway looking down at the sweet riffle right below the house and hearing Justin talk about the fishing recently had me anxious as a whore in church to get down on that river.
I picked a campsite down at the far end, one with electric so we could use our small tent heaters at night. I was just finishing up with my tent and getting ready to start assembling the pontoon when Kevin pulled up. Camp was set , boats were assembled and plans were made to float from the ranch down to Patrick Bridge that afternoon.
After eating a quick sandwich and getting the boats loaded for an afternoon float we shuttled Kevins truck down to the access at Patrick. The water was lower than I've ever seen it and looked incredibly clear.
This river always looks sweet but I don't think I've ever seen the water look quite so inviting. The weather was just as forecast for once and we enjoyed lower 60's and sun while floating that first afternoon. We encountered two other fisherman just as we got to the takeout but no other boats on the water.
The fishing that first afternoon, while maybe sub-par for some, was satisfying for two guys who hadn't seen this section of water ever before and hadn't even been on the river in over a year.
I finished with seven rainbows , with about half of those being small parr marked fish. Kevin got the real trophy of the day with an 18" brown off one of the islands.
I was lagging behind but one of the gentlemen fishing up there was kind enough to snap a picture for him. His fish probably could have eaten a couple of mine! We finished the day the best way we knew how, sitting around a campfire and throwing back a few beers telling stories about the ones that got away today and the ones that we planned to do battle with tomorrow. We retired to our tents anxious to get the next day started and see what the float from Kelly's Ford to Sunburst would have in store for us.
After a quick breakfast of sausage and egg biscuits we loaded the boats on Kevins truck and headed for Kellys Ford for the second day of our adventure. The sun was already starting to crest over the surrounding hillsides and it was evident that today was gonna be a great day.
After making sure we were loaded up with everything we'd need for our 6-7 hour float we pushed off once again and got back into that wonderful mode I like to call "river time".
Something about floating down a river , self sufficient and in need of nothing but a slight current to push you slowly along, time seems to be unimportant and it's these times that I find I can truly enjoy the fishing experience.
We fished the same nymphs that'd been successful for us that first day , Rubber legs...BH Hares Ears...Psycho Princes...eggs , and fished the same type water that seemed to be most productive which were the riffles and tailouts.
We both had big smiles on our faces before leaving the first set of riffles and I don't think either of us lost them all day long.
The fish just wanted to cooperate, and between that and the unbelievable weather which ended up being in the 70's, it was the best day I've had on the water in a long time. I can't say enough about how beautiful these fish are , I only wish my photo equipment or skills could do them any justice at all.
Some of these fish had the most amazing burnt orange gill plates and stripes while others had the classic rainbow pinks and greens, but all were just the most perfect specimens with not a fin out of place.
Both of us had our best days ever on this river and lost count of how many fish we caught.
Nothing was big by normal standards (the 16 inch mark wasn't in question on that second day) but some nice fish were caught and I'm not ashamed to admit that my standards are set a little lower on a river such as this that has kicked my butt more than once in the past.
We only saw one other canoe on the water all day Saturday and then we saw a single fisherman at the Blair Bridge Access.
Neither of us could believe that there weren't more people out taking advantage of the weather but their loss was definitely our gain.
That night we dined on a homemade campfire jambalaya and washed it down with more cold beers than we probably should have.
Mental note to self : when the nearest facilities are a 10 minute drive away think twice before taking that second heaping helping of jambalaya. Let's just say that when I awoke the next morning I had to hit the ground running.
Sunday dawned cloudy and blustery , a rude awakening compared to the previous days tropical influence. We disassembled boats and packed them away, broke down camp in our usual orderly fashion and cleaned up around the campsite. I needed to be on the road by 11:00 but still had about two hours to kill after getting all the gear loaded up in the blazer. Kevin had planned on fishing but the cold blustery conditions led him to decide to finish his weekend with the pleasant thoughts of yesterdays outing instead of the stocking cap and gloves that today would require. I on the other hand am a glutton for punishment and and couldn't wait to get another crack at that run behind the island. I must have gotten a little cocky cause for some reason I decided to fish without an indicator and just swing my 2 nymph rig through the runs. I know this works great for some folks , most of them better fishermen than myself I assume , but I just never really have given it a shot anywhere. Let's say the results were mixed , I did manage to land 3 more fish in just under two hours but I felt as though I missed a lot more than I would have with my indicator rig. I guess I'm still not there yet...but it's still fun to experiment.
This was one of the best trips I've had in a long time, maybe it was just the cabin fever but regardless it was one hell of a trip. I can't say enough about the hospitality of Justin and Amy at Sunburst Ranch. All of the good things I'd read about Sunburst online were certainly true and I'm going to make sure it won't be as long as last time before I'm back down visiting with Justin in the driveway again.