KEITH’S CREEK

“Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin.  Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.”

-Ezra Taft Benson

It had been three years since I fished this creek.  The last time I fished it was in July of 2013 with my Dad, Keith Wayment.  Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I responded: “To go fishing with you!”  Dad agreed and showed up early Saturday morning with a box of his hand tied flies and a twenty dollar bill for my birthday.  While the gifts were appreciated, I was just glad to spend the day fishing with him.

Dad at Birch Creek
Dad fishes with my Brittanys on Birch Creek in 2012.

Our first stop for the day was a large creek on the Idaho-Wyoming border.  Anywhere else, this creek would have been considered a river.  However, like all the creeks in the area, it was overshadowed by the goliath Snake River downstream.  This creek has a proper name, but I like to give small creeks nicknames just like my grouse coverts to protect them and to endear them more to me.  At one time, I kicked around the name of “June Creek” because in the month of June bigger fish run up this creek and you can catch them just as the runoff drops and the creek clears.

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Keith’s Creek

In mid-June of 2013, a friend and I caught numerous nice trout on this creek.  However, Dad and I went there mid-July and, by then, the bigger fish had moved back downstream.  I caught a few skippies, but Dad got skunked.  Before he could figure things out, we had to abandon the area because of a black storm cloud and rain.  We stopped at a few other creeks on the way home and Dad finally caught a cutty on a creek I call “Siren Creek.”  This was one of the last fishing trips I had with Dad before he passed away the following spring.

Life got hectic over the next three years and I never could seem to find my way back to this special creek, until yesterday.  My law partner, Aaron, asked me to take him and his son David fishing and this seemed like the perfect place.  Since it was June, I hoped that we would still find some of bigger fish.  Also, with it being Father’s Day weekend, I thought this would be a good place to go and remember Dad.

Upon arrival, we found that the creek was a little off-color which—I thought—was perfect conditions.  However, the big fish were not as abundant as in 2013.  I’m not sure what made the difference, but we had a harsher winter this past year.  Unlike the last time, however, there was not a cloud in the sky.

I strung up the 2 Weight St. Croix Ultra Legend fly rod that my Dad built and tied on one of his Red-butted Double Renegades.  This seemed like a good combo to begin with.  When I fish, I like to keep moving upstream.  I call this “running and gunning.”  I’ll stop and fish the better holes for a while, but if I don’t get a strike after numerous casts, then I keep moving and searching for the primer spots.

As I headed upstream I caught numerous small cutthroat, but no big ones.  I worked up to the head of a long, aqua-green run and skittered a Renegade across the seam between two currents. A beautiful yellow cutthroat rose, but missed the fly.  That is a bigger fish!  I thought to myself.

I tried dead drifting the fly, but the fish ignored it every time.  After skittering the fly cross-current four or five more times, the aggressive fish finally got ahold of it and he was on.  This cutty gave me a good fight on the two weight and I ended up landing him about 20 yards down river.  I was excited about the nicer fish and thought how cool it was to catch him on a rod built by Dad and a fly that he tied.

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Snake River Fine Spot Cutthroat on Dad’s fly rod and Red-butted Double Renegade. 

I then went back downstream to check on Aaron and David, who stayed near the vehicle.  In my absence, Aaron had caught a big cutthroat on a rubber leg.   Since the fish were biting dry flies, I decided to switch over to Tenkara and a Renegade, which was the perfect combo.

As I worked my way upstream from where I had earlier left off, I thought a lot about Dad.  I wished he could have experienced this creek in its glory.  He would have loved its boulder strewn runs and pockets, though he may have had some trouble wading the slick, boulder-laid bottom in some areas.  Although he never heard of it during his lifetime, Dad would have liked the simplicity of tenkara.  A man of faith, he would have appreciated that tenkara means, “from heaven” in Japanese.  Of all people, Dad understood the strong spirituality that is connected with fly fishing and the outdoors.

June Creek” is a little generic of a name, I thought to myself. Maybe I should name this creek after Dad.

As I was thinking about these things, I came upon a dark green hole that just screamed of fish on the left bank.  I cast the Renegade into the run and the biggest cutthroat of the day rose and engulfed the fly.  Upon setting the hook, the fish gave me a wonderful scrap and just as I was almost ready to land him, my tippet snapped.  I knew there was a knot in my line that I should have fixed when I tied on my fly and that was my undoing.  I had just lost the fish of the day and all I could do was smile.  Dad, who had a great sense of humor, would have appreciated that.

Having been away from Aaron and David for a while, I decided to go check up on them and made my way across the stream to an area shaded by big pine trees.  I then saw a small swing with a wood plank seat and looked up and noticed a metal plaque secured to the tree, which read, “IN MEMORY OF DAD, 1-20-24 to 3-10-02.”

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As I reflected on my own father, I was amazed that I stumbled upon a memorial that another family had posted for their dad.  Somehow, I don’t think this was a coincidence.   I resolved right then that the name of this creek should be “Keith’s Creek” in honor of my Dad.  I thought this was the perfect tribute to my hero and father. 

My hero
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

 

 

 

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BENKARA

My wife and I named our son, Benjamin, after the great founding father, Benjamin Franklin.  We later came to find out that the name means “son of the right hand” or “son of the old age” in Hebrew.  Since he is the last of our six kids, I figure that both meanings are appropriate, especially since Ben inherited his old man’s love of the great outdoors and fishing.

Last Friday, I took off from work early and Ben, who is almost five, said, “Dad, let’s go fishing!”  I asked him a few times to make sure that he really wanted to go and he was resolute every time.  So I donned my shorts and wading sandals and Ben put on his wading shoes.  Of course, we stopped by the store to buy a few treats, Gatorade and Nut Rolls, before we headed to our destination.

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Rule # 1: When you take kids fishing, you have to get treats!

Not far from home there is a tiny spring-fed creek loaded with Yellowstone Cutthroats that I dearly love.  While it has a proper name, I call it “Trickle Creek.”  I have found that when the runoff just starts to drop and the creek begins to clear, this creek really shines and you can catch a cutty in every likely spot.    I often fish it with little fly rods, but it’s perfect for tenkara as there really is no need for a reel.  The biggest fish is no bigger than 13 inches, but most are 8 to 10 inches. I figured this would be a great place for us to catch a few.

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Trickle Creek is a special place.

When we reached our destination, I extended the Tenkara USA, Rhodo rod that is adjustable to three different lengths, 8’10”, 9’9”, and 10’6”, which is perfect for the tight conditions of Trickle Creek.  Our fly for the night was a Renegade.   Ben and I started catching fish almost as soon as we reached the water.  Little Ben giggled with every fish and loved wading in the creek. He even didn’t mind brush bustin’ to get to some of the holes, although a few times I had to put him on my shoulders to avoid the stinging nettle and other scratchy weeds.

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Ben’s smile reminds me why I love fishing so much. 

 

Our deal was that I would hook them and Ben would let them go.  Of course, he had to name every fish before he let them go.  Let’s see, there was Skippy, Flippy, Ringo, Chubby, and Roly, and so on and so forth.  After landing numerous fish, I decided to let Ben bring them in and it was fun to see him fighting a fish on a rod that is easily four times his height.   And he did just fine.  I even let him try to cast a few times, but we need to work on that.

 

Ben’s enthusiasm and sheer joy was contagious.  I have fished this creek dozens of times over the years and I can honestly say this was the funnest, most memorable night I’ve spent on Trickle Creek.

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Little Ben brings in the last fish of the night. 

 

As we drove home sharing the last of my grape Gatorade, I told Ben, “I had so much fun fishing with you buddy! I’ve got a new nickname for you.  You want to hear it?”

“Yes, Dad!” replied Ben.

“You are now Benkara.  You are welcome to fish with me anytime, buddy.”

I’m looking forward to fishing with my little buddy into my golden years!

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Dad and Benkara fishing for fun on Trickle Creek.

 

 

 

 

BAD WEATHER, A BRITTANY AND BLUE WING OLIVES

“The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As the Honda CRV turned up the mouth of the valley leading to our camping destination, I experienced a little disappointment as I noticed a dark rain cloud further up the valley.  I had hoped for sunny skies and warm temperatures, but it looked like we were in for the opposite.

That morning, I left early with my Brittany, Misty, in hopes of getting our coveted camping spot for our annual Memorial Day camping trip and to fish while I waited for the rest of my family and friends to show up.  When I arrived at the campground, however, I found the camping spot already occupied and it was raining and cold.  My mood soured even more under the circumstances.

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Gray skies over the creek.

Trying to stay positive, I quickly picked a decent camp site on a bluff overlooking the little river and—despite the inclement weather—decided to don my waders and a raincoat and try fishing anyway.  I chose the Tenkara USA Rhodo rod and tied on a nymph and a foam indicator.  Fortunately, the fishing was good despite the cruddy weather, but I got scared off the river a few times due to the booming thunder overhead.  I never saw lightning, but understood that the two usually go hand in hand and—with a graphite lightning rod in hand and standing in water—I did not want to wait to find out if the lightning was coming.  Misty didn’t seem to care one iota about the rain or the thunder, but enjoyed being outside chasing whatever critters she could find.  At around noon, we were forced to take shelter in the car while an inch of pea-sized hail covered the car and ground around us.

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Misty, my soaking wet fishing companion for the day.  

“Sheesh, this stinks!” I stated out loud to Misty as we sat in the car.

After the hail let up and the skies shifted from black to gray, Misty and I again braved the elements.  We hiked clear up the creek and I caught numerous rainbows and brooks on nymphs.  The storm again turned for the worse and rain began pour.  As I walked back downstream to try and get out of the slop, the river began to boil with trout as they feasted upon the abundant hatching blue wing olives.  My attitude perked up immediately.  With my numb fingers, I tied on an Adams, which worked okay, but I knew I had some patterns in the car that would be killer.  So I hoofed it back to the car as quickly as I could and soon found a Harrop’s CDC BWO pattern, tied it on to the leader, and doped it up with floatant.

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A chunky little rainbow in the rain.
 When I made it back down to the creek, the hatch was still in full force and it seemed that every fish in the creek was feeding.  I have never before seen such a prolific blue wing olive hatch anywhere.  Harrop’s fly pattern worked like a charm, the tenkara rod was effective for casting and getting a drag free drift and I caught tons of fish.  To try and make things a little more challenging, I actually started fishing the skinniest, clearest water I could find and still caught fish.  The tenkara rod was no handicap whatsoever this day.

 

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Beautiful brookie.

All said, in spite of the bad weather, time flew by as I fished from 10:30 am to 5:20 pm.  Misty had been a good fishing companion all day.  While I did not keep count, I believe I caught more fish on this day than any other day before.  What I thought would be a bust turned out to be a special day astream.  Though the weather improved and the fishing was good the rest of the weekend, it was not epic as on Friday.

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We had better weather the rest of the weekend but the fishing was not as good.
Later on that weekend a friend from a neighboring campsite asked me if I was the crazy man his family watched fishing in the rain and hail all day Friday.  I laughingly replied, “Yep, that was me and the fishing was amazing!”