My wife Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and I motored north to Rocky Ford Creek, near Soap Lake, a few days ago.
I whetted my angling skills against the rainbow trout released into that spring-fed stream by the Trout-Lodge, Inc., hatchery.
The wide-bodied fish run up to 6 pounds, at least.
Over the years, I've had good days and bad days along the fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release, bulrush-and-cattail bordered stream.
Anglers may hook fish on pinky-nail-sized flies called midges and chironomids (imitating small insects that resemble mosquitoes), scuds (shrimp imitations) or San Juan worms (like red worms from the San Juan River).
They may use just about any other pattern.
We reached a pullout off of the dusty road below the hatchery, beneath the harsh mid-morning sun, and I rigged the near weightless five-weight, 9-foot rod.
Nora watched patiently from the back of the wagon while I attached a reel with a floating line, tied on a fresh 3-foot-long tippet and added a tiny scud.
I folded a stick-on orange strike indicator around the tippet 3 feet up from the fly.
"I may take a walk," Darlene said, indicating the boulder-strewn grassland behind us.
Nora and I crossed the road to a path toward the stream.
Two anglers tossed out flies close to my favorite spot at the bend in the creek.
Upstream, five white pelicans floated on the slow, wind-riffled current.
Nora, chin up and legs flashing, trotted ahead and turned toward the first angler who was barely visible above the tall cattails.
"Nora, this way," I said, and we hurried past.
Then, alas, the other angler moved downstream ahead of us and stopped at my spot.
Nora scooted over and sniffed around his feet as he worked out a cast.
"Hello, pooch," he said as I called her away.
We moved around the bend, and I worked out the first cast of the day.
Sunlight glinted on the water, and a breeze gusting upstream made casting easy.
I dropped curls of line at my feet, worked out high back casts (to avoid the cattails), tossed the line onto the breeze and it slicked through the rod's eyelets.
I tossed often and well, unless Nora stood or sat on the line at my feet or somehow got the line wrapped around a leg or her neck, which often happened.
We fished our way toward the aluminum bridge half-a-mile downstream.
At one spot, the wide tail of a feeding hunk cleaved the shallow water near the shore, 20 feet upstream. I threw the scud above it and floated it past a few times.
I changed to a small (No. 16) bead-headed pheasant-tail nymph.
After 20 casts, we moved on.
We passed an angler on the other (south) side of the stream and another one heading upstream near the bridge.
Seven dark forms lurked near the bridge. I cast, and Nora dozed in the shade on the bridge. Swallows, or martins, fluttered around the bridge for her to watch.
After half an hour, I tied on a "stimulator" fly, a green-white-and-black pattern with rubber legs, used when regular choices fail.
On the next cast, retrieved with quick jerks, all Hades erupted. A shadow torpedoed from the bottom and smacked the strike indicator (huh?).
I froze and a shadow (the same?) chomped the fly, stretched the line tight and churned the water's surface. My pulse thumpty-thump-thumped.
The lithe rod vibrated for 14 beats before the line fell slack.
I reeled in with trembling fingers. No fly. The knot pulled loose.
I bemoaned my carelessness, and carefully tied on the same pattern.
In the next 30-40 minutes, I hooked two semi-behemoths and leaned over the bank to slip the hook from their lips.
Nora never ventured from the bridge to watch the action.
She preferred the birds, I guess. Or the shade.
Then I quit. I'd spent nearly four hours tossing flies and sweating.
Nora led me back to the car.
"How did it go?" Darlene asked.
"It was a good day," I said, and lifted Nora into the back.
I put away the gear, and Darlene described walking among the boulders as we drove to Ephrata for buffalo burgers at DK's Drive-in.
Contact Don Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.