Alexander's 26 foot Swiftsure - Week Three
We wanted to check out a West End creek Eric had recommended so we could report back on the Thursday visit to Lee Shore. Called a creek, but more like a river, it flows at least 15 miles into the Pacific and probably carries well over a thousand cfs during a good rain. Tuesday night Cezanne took our 1980s elk hunting map and together with topographic USGS maps off the internet and Google Maps was able to sketch the logging roads to be followed (meaning the forks to be avoided) to reach the two access points of the creek. The remaining 99% of the creek appears to be inaccessible to all but the most hard-core of bushwhackers.
Thermos of coffee, jerky, apples and pumpkin bread packed; we hauled our fishing gear and cow dogs off to the woods.
Attempt One - the short cut
- the road was rather overgrown, so that young alder branches worked at eliminating our rear view mirrors, antenna and paint job the several miles we drove to the dead end. The GPS said we were within a few hundred feet of the river and a 1/2 mile from the main bridge, but the forest said ?impenetrable?. Thick windfall and several hundred vertical feet guarded the river and what once was a road was a blockaded clear cut overrun with brambles. We turned back, consulting the map sketch for another route. Had we been amiable to a secondary mission, we would probably have found ourselves surrounded by the elusive ?Pine Mushroom?.
Attempt Two - the back way
- Much nicer gravel road for quite a few miles. The sketch suggests we are about to connect with a major logging road which should take us straight to the main bridge. Arriving at the intersection, there is nothing between us and success (ha, ha) but a massive locked blue gate. Foiled again, as we back up to a turn-around. We'll have to try the main route another day.
Attempt Three - how about a different bridge
- There is another bridge. Perhaps we can find it. This next logging road looks much like the others, gravel, moss, firs, cedars, ferns, waterfalls, dead end. We stop at one of the more scenic falls for a coffee break.
Attempt Four - so close
- Backtracking all the way to Hwy 101 we can either punt on this whole adventure and head to a known fishing spot, or continue to search for the other bridge. Heh. Several miles down logging road number 15, counting miscues, spurs and backtracking, we soon found the Billy Goat Gruff bridge. Not the one we were looking for, this spans the very upper end of our target creek. More than a trickle, but not exactly what we were looking for. The bridge however, was worth a look. Four large old growth trunks lashed with cable are topped with rough hewn planks. Crude, but certainly not phased by our little Suburban. Onward. Perhaps 20 minutes later after several hills and valleys, the GPS declares we have been within a few hundred yards of this exact spot. No kidding! Except on the other side of the creek. The GPS suggests we merely cross the ?bridge?. We can't even see a creek. But, beyond, the road takes a sharp and definite turn in the wrong direction, so we turned around, following the GPS to its best guess on stream access. Got out, looked around, put on the wet gear and headed north. Sure enough, we found the remains of a bridge and, of course, the stream itself.
Very heavily wooded, with cedar and fir to the banks and alders meeting over the creek. Branches down to the water in some spots. 15 ? 30 feet wide. A couple hundred cfs of perfectly clear water riffled and gave way to a deep pool. Naturally, we fished. Up on the riffle tail-out Cezanne was hooking beautiful cutthroat, but we were hearing some mongo splashes as salmon leaped and rolled down around the corner, in the pool, where the deep water was black with tannin. What colors, though subdued.
Weapon of choice: our 12-1/2' two-handers. While hard to handle with all those low hanging hazards, they roll-cast a heavy fly so much better than a nine-footer. Seriously constricted, it was darn near impossible to drift a fly deeply through the zone where the coho were hunkered. Alder branches, with the last of 2010's leaves hungered for our flies, and didn't end up empty limbed. We worked the pool from river right, above the fish, below the fish. No action. I crossed and worked river left, starting well above the spot where they seemed to be holding. Still no success. Over a steep bank and hanging on with toes, just above their spot (conveniently below low-hanging cedar branches) I was just able to make a cast which should drift the fly towards their spot as it sunk to the bottom.
It was a tiny, dark pool ? hardly a sound above the riffle's gurgle. When suddenly a huge fish, in spawning colors, took my fly and jumped way out of the water, landing with an enormous splash. The dogs were simply amazed. A few more jumps and runs, then nothing. It threw my hook. Gasp. Out of the blue, my line goes real tight a second time and a different salmon, this one chrome bright, makes a spectacular jump ? with my fly on its lip! With no space to move the rod and keep tension on the fish, it was ordained that I would lose this one too.
No problema. Mission accomplished, Eric. We found the creek. It was populated. We hooked up.
Another fun morning at Woodcock Demonstration Garden. Pruned a photinia and attacked a small overgrown bush, enjoying the OJT and good company. Cezanne remained in Beaver, dog sitting, so I could get Costco to mount the winter tires. My new Kindle 2 saved the tire visit from seeming interminable. Discovered the Secret in The Woman in White ? considered one of the first mystery novels. What should I say? A Tour de Force? Anyhow, a good book.
But, there wasn't much time left for the Lee Shore visit. Which was too bad, as they had gotten a lot done. After what looked like a hundred ?plug welds? the deck is on and securely attached to the stringers and bulkheads. The bow is complete, though still rough and the strakes are on. Tomorrow they'll start on the gunnels, then the house can be built.
No longer the gaping jaws of the James Bond space vehicle. Check that bow. And here is evidence of the huge welding project mounting the deck must have been. Forepeak looks complete.
The above bulkhead is between the location of future transom-mounted outboards and the cockpit. Keeps the boat from getting pooped and helpful in repelling boarders.
The chine looks hardy, but the picture isn't close enough to show off the attractive weld. I'll get a better close-up next week. Stay tuned.
And, Friday, after further studying the massive amount of obsolete map information available, we gave our creek another try.
Attempt Five ? good citizens or scaredy pants?
Took that main logging road the locked gate had kept us from. About six miles from our objective we encountered an open gate. But it was labeled with a ?red? dot which means ?no motor vehicles? and an additional warning threatened to lock the gate at some unspecified moment, probably after we were on the wrong side of it. So, we drove all the way around to the other outlet of the main logging road ? about 40 miles.
Attempt Six ? curses!
Up we went, passing hunter encampments and loaded log trucks, for which we bailed out for the ?soft? shoulders or the rare turnouts. Crossed a beautiful tributary of our target creek, but just beyond we were once again forbidden further access. Same gig, open gate, but ?no entry?. I wonder if we'll ever make it to the bridge. We fished the tributary for a while. Beautifully bordered with the biggest, greenest sword ferns it was a little more wide open than our Wednesday's creek. The salmon were cavorting in the pool and Cezanne was catching cutthroat in the riffle tail-out, once again. But, the coho refused our flies.
In the meantime, several thousand coho arrived to hunker down in the deep water on the bend just below our house. So far they have not been interested in our various offerings.