Klamath 1995
 
Having re-entry problems after a weekend on the Klamath.
Cold and idle in my cube and feeling very dull.

Newspaper reports and gossip from the local fly shop (fly
indeed) led me to weight the rumours of halfpounders on the
Klamath with a burden of hope and expectation. Knowing
quite well the odds against this, still fishing is better than
sitting indoors. I thought the numbers would be exaggerated,
as it turned out it was the size that was stretched. All the
references to half pounders indicated an average of a pound
or so, many larger. Actually they do weigh in at half a pound.

Too busy all week with somethings I can't remember to tie
flies for the trip. At least I had several days of anticipation,
often the the best part of the trip. Left at 6 pm and drove
north. In the moonlight Mt Shasta seemed a lapse of reason,
too big and high to be there. Ate fast food and filled up in the
town of Weed. A small but distinct gratitude for one thing at
least that is easy, not requiring a fight and a struggle to
achieve. Tinctures of both relief and disbelief in the emotion.
It's a lot of mileage to get out of a Big Mac. Over the
mountains and down into the Klamath valley, me and all the
hunters in a variety of pickups, jeeps and trucks. Didn't see a
single Japanese car all weekend, just the autos that real men
drive. Rolling steep valley road, the water a sheen of
moonlight glimpsed between dealing with one corner and
another.

The Portugese creek access shown on the map is not there on
the ground. The Fort Goff campsite is one campsite, and was
taken. By now it's midnight, I'm shaky from sleeplessness and
nerves. Drove up and down severally, a recurring theme for
the weekend. Slept very badly in a pullout above the river.
The river's purling was a comfort, but I couldn't keep it in
mind, overpowered instead by nerves and wild hunter fears. I
don't like to sleep on the road.

A relief to be able to get up and do something in the morning.
Tackled up, fought through the bushes a short way upstream.
Some fish splashing in the dusk of early morning, never
identified them. Fished slowly in the chill. Caught a small
trout, a pull and a splash in the current just like in the books.
Unfortunately it was only 10 inches. A happiness at the take
not wholly extinguished by the size of the fish. Sun rose,
shone down into the forest and tannic waters. Big old salmon,
red with age, leapt and splashed mightily in the tailout.
Abandoned this, and had a roadside breakfast of dust, tea and
cereal.

On to China Point access. A good long riffle below the
parking area. Numbers of small trout with parr markings in
the fast shallow water at the head. Further down, throwing
long casts above the reeds behind me, reaching for the
shadows of trees on the far bank, I caught an actual
halfpounder. Just 12 inches but with the colour of clearwater
fish, bright sides and dark back. Passed by a baitfishing
couple with three small trout. More old red salmon in the
tailout. A chainsaw started up, fouling my mood until I could
get down to the fast whitewater to drown out the whiny
racket. Many small trout, no more steel. Fishing on and on,
the clear morning, far from the road. It became hot, I was too
tired to go on; climbed a small bank and found a shelf of
ground in the steep canyon slope, shaded, carpeted with pine
needles. Took off most of my clothes and slept. Woke in the
sun again. Fished a little but without heart. Turned a decent
fish on a skated dry fly, in some heavy water. Hiked sweatily
back to the van.

Drove through Happy Camp, down Elk Creek road, looking
for the Allen Ranch Game & Fish access point. Drove up and
down severally, hotter and angrier each time. Angry with
what I can't quite say. Decided it must be the gate with
'Posted No Hunting' signs, since nothing was said about
trespassing or fishing.Went into a flat stretch of grasslands,
the old ranch - parked above the riffles of Rock Garden,
muttering. A fine view, upriver into the canyon, down over
the ranchlands to a rock wall beginning another deep stretch.
Lots of interesting currents to fish in the rock garden. Lost a
12" steelhead in the first one, missed many subsequent takes.
Two fish in two casts from just above an island splitting the
current,as the water turned gray and gleamed. The first 12"+,
released. The second of 15" fought long and solid, never
showing until the end. Killed that one for Frank and I to eat
this week. Sun setting, the rock wall turning colour. An
osprey beat heavily for home. Went down to the deeper pool
for last casts in the twilight. Strong caddis hatch, the small
trout splashing happily at them. No response to my various
imitations. Climbed out to the van, weary, at about 8. The
moon was just rising over the ridges, an old pine tree in
silhouette showed fractal, ragged.

Drove 40 min to a Forest Service campsite at Dillon creek.
Parked in the trees well off the road, unpacked and started
dinner. The strangest thing, it felt like coming home. I felt
quite at ease and entirely comfortable. Ate by lamplight, with
a book to read, since I didn't feel like thinking about fish,
tiring myself with plans and stratagems for the morning.
Slept the sleep of the just.

Leaden early morning, intractable water. Fine steep rapid into
a long pool, fed by the creek halfway down. Small trout all
the way. Breakfasted as the sun made it into the campsite
trees, then went on to Rock Creek access. This is a trail down
from several hundred feet above the river, giving protection
from the idle spectation of passing cars. The river bent
around a wide gravel bar in a series of riffles. I walked to the
head of the first of these and began. Morning clear again, and
warming. Some larger trout, one small steelhead. On down
through the pleasant water, releasing a few more small
halfpounders. At the end of the riffles, before attempting the
deep pool below a fierce run of water, I stopped for lunch and
contemplation. A swim, with definite ritualistic elements,
then sat in the warm sand and was quiet for half an hour. I
remember how the steelheads jumped, small fish with great
vigour; the side of a fish flashing in the current, filtered
yellow by the water.

A hot wind began to blow. The deep water was bordered by
scrub and steep banks. Too bright for any confidence. Began
driving home, planning to stop once more for half an hour of
last casts. Tried down the Gordon Ferry road, but there was a
'New 49er' claim there: old men with white hair and wrinkled
mahogany faces, their dredger pump running as they pursued
their own rumours of gold. Fished a roadside pool after that.
It was full of salmon but no fish.Left at 5 pm, to be home at
11.

Rain as I passed Mt Shasta on I5. Sunset in the rainclouds
above the mountains put on a brilliant show, curtains of red
above the last light on lava and evergreens. For about 5
minutes later that night, as the moon rose over the central
plain, there was a stretch of road without traffic, giving a last
few moments of quiet.

In the fast food place where I dined - well, scarfed down a
burger, really - there were quite a few hunters. One was
bragging that he'd actually shot at a deer that weekend. The
others had just shot off their guns at nothing in particular. I
wanted to tell them that I'd seen about a dozen deer, just by
following Walton's dictum 'Study to be quiet', but I thought it
might enrage them, and they were better armed than me.