One of the biggest trout he caught was a German brown taken from a watery hole in the Spokane River below the Post Falls industrial park where Buck Knives has its international headquarters.
The fish was taken before the knife maker moved to Idaho, and I presumed before the Centennial Trail pushed west through Spokane with the help of Washington Congressman Tom Foley and Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus — a reasonable fisherman who knew the importance of maintaining accessible river corridors.
Anglers anchored up near the hole and dropped big hooks capped with worms to the trout, the man said, but he was unsure if the hole, or the browns were still there.
Most of the anglers who spend time on the Spokane River’s Idaho side are pleased to hook smallmouth bass. The smallies, as anglers like to call the voracious predators with the up and down stripes, aren’t very big, but they are fun to catch.
So a guy in a fly shop on the Washington side listlessly remarked one Sunday morning while dust specks danced in the shafts of July sunlight through the windows and traffic on nearby I-90 lightly hummed.
I figured he wanted to be on the water, not cooped up inside, so his lack of enthusiasm was excused.
A guy I know from Hayden often fished the Spokane River below the Post Falls dam by using a trail that meandered from the parking lot past rock walls before falling steeply to a deafening place of mist and plummeting water where he hooked rainbow trout.
The trailhead has since been fenced off, he said. It is part of the ever-increasing No Trespassing enclaves meant to guard a growing population of air-headed humanity from itself.
The river’s warm surface water spilling over the dam gets churned in the plunge pool, adding dissolved oxygen, one of the elements that fish in the nearby tailwater require to make life easier. But it’s six mostly unshaded miles from the Post Falls dam to the Washington state line where the river flows past farm banks and ag berms that have given way to suburban dwellings making the upper reach, for the most part, a warm-water fishery.
Farther downstream, the river’s clear current pinballs off boulders smoothed, we guess, by the massive tumbler that resulted when the ice dams of glacial Lake Missoula breached several times between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago sending a wall of water west to the Columbia and the ocean.
This is where the Rathdrum aquifer recharges the river by adding cold water that seeps in furrows around boulders and under them to meet the Spokane’s clear flow.
“The round rocks are big as Volkswagens,” said an angler who occasionally fishes the river.
“It can be treacherous walking,” the guide at the fly shop said. “You just have to carefully pick your way along.”
He held in his palm a red, bead-headed jig, a big dry fly and a tinsly streamer, all of which I already owned and which were precariously stowed in the stuff that littered the back seat of my pickup truck. With the chances of finding any of them in time to fish the river at little to none, I laid down a 10 spot and we traded.
He vacantly laid the bill in the cash register and I tucked the flies in my shirt pocket with a smile, because I wasn’t far from the river at that point.
I anticipated picking my way down the slope through ponderosa pine and buck brush to the boulders on the river’s shoreline and wading its shallows, dropping the big fly into the eddies behind boulders, holding my stick high, smelling the river air as an eagle chuckled from a high limb. Thrushes and warblers skittered in the shiny-leaf ceaonothus and the air as Rexroth said, would be atoms of quicksilver.
The traffic on the interstate would be in its own flow, and tying on the big dry fly, I would be in mine.