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Nothing Better Than When Nature Puts It Together

A friend’s wedding forced me indoors Saturday during what may have been the year’s ultimate outdoor weekend.

I endured the indoor obligation only by putting my suffering in perspective to that of the groom.

At least my confinement was finished in 5 hours.

Pity to anyone who didn’t see the light of day last weekend. Honeymooners included. The natural events that came together in a few days were no less phenomenal than the alignment of sun and planets that creates a total eclipse.

The crescendo that was building for a month peaked with nature’s rendition of cymbals and fireworks.

No serious skier, river runner, angler or nature lover could have missed it.

On Friday morning, Mike Guilfoil and I found supreme corn on Mount Spokane, and we were the only skiers there to feast on it. With the lifts closed, we used climbing skins and hiked to the summit. Cool evenings had firmed the snowpack. Morning sun then softened the surface to a velvet consistency that made for effortless telemark turns.

The day was perhaps the best of the season for skiing, not to mention another good excuse to stop at the Rocket Bakery in Millwood.

I take vicarious pleasure in hearing that other friends made good advantage of Saturday:

Hilary found shirtsleeve weather, blooming flowers, singing songbirds and sunning rattlesnakes while hiking canyons of the Grand Coulee.

Dan hooked a 4-pound bass in the warming waters of Chatcolet Lake.

Keith hooked a limit of schooling kokanee at Lake Roosevelt.

Bob found perfect flows for canoeing the Coeur d’Alene River.

With only 2 hours to myself on Saturday, I set out for the Dishman Hills Natural Area, which was exploding with the color of arrowleaf balsamroot.

Wildflowers were primed by last month’s record precipitation. Then came the sunshine. Blossoms were popping open so fast at the end of last week, you could virtually hear the hillsides going snap, crackle, pop.

A unique attraction is the serviceberries - now fully decked out in white blossoms - between Interstate 90 and the Spokane River near Sullivan Road.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Nowhere in eastern Washington is there such a stunning stand of serviceberry - a God-made garden of native plants adapted to this area and requiring no special care or irrigation, even during the toughest drought.

In recognition of this distinction, the serviceberry stand is the proposed site of a shopping mall.

Last weekend was the peak of the transition to spring runoff. Rivers were up, but cool nights have subdued the raging that will come with the first good rainfall in the high country.

Spokane River kayakers were drawing crowds of gawkers along rapids at the Bowl and Pitcher.

Insect hatches were attracting crowds of anglers to Montana rivers.

Dave Moershel and I were among them. On the Clark Fork. Rods in hand at the moment cosmic, physical and supernatural forces came together and turned large and otherwise wary rainbow trout into blithering idiots.

A hatch of March browns was under way by noon. Adult skwala stoneflies were fluttering and whipping portions of the river to a froth by 2 p.m.

The skwala’s are nearly 2 inches long.

Big bugs make big trout stupid.

One rainbow gulped Dave’s fly and ran UPSTREAM and into his backing.

“I can’t remember when I was into my backing,” Dave said. “There was a knot that could have been there for years. He broke off.”

Neither of us had all the latest rage-of-the-river fly patterns for the hatches. Indeed, I had only one Stimulator to equal the size, shape and color of the skwala. But deep in my fly pouch was a film container full of Tom Thumb patterns left over from my last visit to British Columbia’s trout lakes during the traveling sedge extravaganza.

They were too long, too tan and too fat. But Clark Fork trout sucked them up as though they were candy.

I’m sure the purist flyfishers will snicker at such crude attempts to match a hatch.

But on the rare occasion when all forces come together for the ultimate outdoors moment of the year, you don’t have to be an expert.

You just have to be there.


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