History repeats itself. We’d done this exact same thing last year, showing up one day after the WDFW closed the best part of the river to protect the dwindling wild winter steelhead run. Our guide, Ryan Smith of Arch Anglers says 90% of the run spawns in the Sauk, downriver from our drift. Very few wild fish run up this stretch. Hatchery fish are present, but few and far between. It’s a big river, there are places for them to hide. But we don’t have a choice on our schedules, so we go when we can.
These repetitions remind me of that saying about doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results being the definition of insanity. The hatchery fish (who apparently do eat swung flies) mainly hold at the mouth of North Cascade Creek, and that’s where we start, on a wide run below the mouth where the river bounces along cobbles at an attractive depth and pace. I cast and swing and step and watch bald eagles. We’re in a nesting preserve, and the raptors are everywhere, watching us from limbs of trees jutting out into the river.
I have a new fly, tied with two big orange chenille gobs on a long shank, with trailing tentacles of orange ostrich plume, jungle cock eyes and hot pink chicken feathers. It’s the fishiest fly I’ve tied in weeks, but nobody wants it.
We fish hard until dark without a grab. And I think of the echoes, the way we live in looping circles.