Now for the test drive. Father’s Day weekend I wanted to take my oldest daughter to experience the Salmon River for the first time. Summer is the ideal time to take a younger person to experience a river of this nature. The crowds are down, the flows are too, and if you happen to take a slip the water is pleasant. All of these played true that day. It also gave her a chance to work on getting some distance with her cast, and she is still very new to fly fishing. I really wanted her to experience the pull of a fish on a swung fly. I worked with her extensively to get the casting to improve, which it did. Feeling the pull didn’t come so easy. I fished behind her trying to give instruction to improve. I could tell she was feeling the pressure and I tried to back off. I was switching flies often and put my new bat wings on to try it out. As our trip was winding down I had hooked one fish and gave her the rod only to have it come unhooked. I pointed out a likely spot to her and myself moved away a bit to give her some room. I made a couple of drifts near one of the bridge abutments when the grab happened. My daughter seeing that I was hooked up again wanted to reel it in. I said “this is a good fish, here you go”. I coached her through it telling her to let it run if it wanted to as the 4 weight switch rod was bent over. She listened well and it took her a while, but the fifteen inch smallmouth bass was soon at her feet. I could see the adrenaline filled smile on her face and I knew we were both sharing the same feeling. We took a couple of quick pictures, even though she was unwilling to touch the fish. Something to work on later. The ride home and the days to follow were filled with laughing and re-living that summer morning and the bat wings that swing.
Test drive number two. I took a solo trip to try out some new-to-me patterns and re-swing the bat wings. By now it’s summer time and the driest it’s been in years. Low and clear are an understatement, but the targeted smallmouth should be cooperative. My foam bomber wasn’t the floating machine I had hoped for, but the fallfish attacked it nonetheless. Need to find a lighter wire hook for that one. The next was a hair wing fly that was modernized by tier Wild Bill, I add my flare to it, and again the fallfish inhaled it. I went back to the bat wings to see if I could muster up something bigger in the catch column. It didn’t take long and I was into a small bass, not as big as I was hoping, but the change of species was welcomed. Next came a bigger bass and worthy fish for this river. As I moved to the next spot I had some tricky fast water that plunged into a nice pool with some boulders inter mixed. The initial swings were with large bellies and would swing the fly too fast. I mended as needed and moved down the small pool. Right about mid pool the drift was perfect and the swing was slow, spooky slow. Then the rod jolted and I connected to much better fish. The fight was on and I was starting to gain the lead, when the fish darted down stream and wrapped around a boulder. I was stunned at the quickness that the battle went south on me. I tried to un-wedge the leader, but the current was giving the advantage. I attempted to wade out and free it, but the water was quickly going to be well above my waist. I was not about to take a swim for a leader and I had assumed the fish was long gone. I tried to break the leader off when after several tugs, It came free, leader intact and the fish still thrashing for freedom after having time to rest while the leader was tangled. Adrenaline took over as I was elated to see the fish still hooked. I tried to quickly maneuver the fish into the shallows but as I made my attempt the fish darted back toward the depths and turned a 180 degrees and hid between two rocks. This time he was hidden in knee deep water. I was able to grab the leader and work my way down. I could feel the eye of the fly and with some difficulty I tried to grab the lip of the smallmouth, but he wanted no part of it and swam from his rock crevasse. I quickly put the brakes on him and turned him back around and slid his fourteen inches of determination in to the shallows. I quickly snapped a couple of pictures and released him. Any fish with that much determination deserved to fight again. Never have I experienced so much fight and trickery in a fish. The bat wings keeps making memories for me and is deserving of a spot in my fly wallet. Bring on the steelhead, it’s time to dance with the bat wings.