I left it late to “discover” America. But when I did it became a part of my fishing, as much part as my scissors or fly box. I put a pin the map of America and decided to go to Washington State and fish for Sea Run Cutthroat trout, the prime American expat fish. That was several years ago and I’ve been back every year. I was always torn between whether I should live by a river or the ocean, and have ended up with a home in Ireland on an estuary, and a heart, in the words of John Martyn, “rowing back down my river, chasing my tail to the sea.”
It’s not enough to be lucky. You have to know you are lucky too, and I do. And part of that good fortune was making the acquaintance, and then friendship, of guide Bob Triggs, the Mr Sea run Cutthroat (SRC) of the Puget Sound. You can read his blog at:
He invented the Chum Baby, a fly which imitates Salmon fry on the shores of Puget Sound migrating towards the Pacific Ocean. SRCs feed heavily on them, and Bob’s imitation.
We’ve walked miles of beautiful beach catching these pretty, feisty fish, and he’s even rowed me around in his pea-green Dory so that I can connect with the species floating above their habitat instead of wading on their doorstep. He enjoys life. His lunches are extravagant al fresco affairs. His conversation would strike sparks in the dullest imagination.
We were once sitting back on a beach after a memorable morning in the boat, just watching the tide rip, Eagles and Ospreys hover, and seals bob in the current. I’d landed and released a basket full of fish in a few luck-kissed hours. We were drinking sparkling water and eating sandwiches bursting with humus and salami and cheese. A silence of appreciation fell over us, broken only when Bob said: “I wonder what the poor people are doing.”
It’s all Catch-and-Release with barbless hooks, treating these creatures with the respect their beauty and survival demands. I don’t do Cath-and-Decease unless I know my hunter gather instincts and fish stocks are in balance. And even then…..
There is just so much fishing in America, and most of the time all you need is a State permit. Montana pulls a lot of River Runs Through It dreamers and the fishing is extraordinary, but the native Cutthroat there have all but died out and it is imported Rainbow and Brown trout that pull the anglers these days.
I’ve floated down the Madison river and had an extraordinary day in the company of an expert guide; after a while of casting, mending and casting again, the river bank goes by like electronic advertising hoardings and most guides will park the boat so that your feet touch the ground and you can make the connections standing still.
The fish grow big. Even the native (and much-despised) Whitefish can put a significant arc in a rod. Here’s a rainbow I pulled when we stopped by a deep, fast pool one afternoon. There were several more and a brown that will remain in the one that got away folder.
I was always torn whether I should live beside the ocean or the sea. So here I am in my 64th year with a cottage in Ireland over an estuary, and a heart “rowing back down my river, chasing my tail to the sea,” in the words of musician John Martyn.
But who could resist an estuary like this one, near Port Townsend in Washington State?