Usually, there is only one way to fish pressured water alone. Wake up earlier than everyone else. To increase the odds of having a stretch of blue ribbon water by yourself, wake up earlier than everyone else, do it on an ugly day, and make sure it is a weekday. That is a recipe for solitude and peace of mind.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
I spied this at a bookstore and perused it once or twice before finally purchasing it as a paperback immediately before I moved here. Some of the selected excerpts I was able to read and enjoy, taking away a few memorable quotes or phrases that throw some light onto the more unknowable or mysterious parts of fly fishing, illustrating feelings that we've all felt in a more eloquent way than I would be able to convey them to anyone else. I read one selection at a time and spent more time between some than others, for I was reliving the scenes described as if I was there.
Hemingway was huge on fishing the gulf stream for seriously big game. In a piece entitled "The Great Blue River," Hemingway describes the allure of fishing down deep in the gulf stream, where unknown monsters lurk, and you never know what has taken your line until, hours into the fight, a fish exceeding quadruple digits erupts from the deep blue with impossible grace.
He had a few choice words for bonefisherman, as well. "Bonefish angler, on your way! You never saw a bonefish in mile-deep water, nor up against the tackle striped marlin have to face sometimes. Nor did you know how your bonefish would act after he had jumped forty-three times clean out of the water. Your bonefish is a smart fish, very conservative, very strong too. Too smart by far to jump, even if he could... Also, bonefish angler, your fish might be as fat and as short of wind as some of the overstuffed Nova Scotia tuna are. But do not shoot, bonefish angler. At four-hundred pounds, your fish might be the strongest thing in the sea, the strongest fish that ever lived; so strong that no one would ever want to hook into one. But tell me confidently, would he jump? Thank you very much, I thought not."
He hits it all, from trout fishing small streams, to hiking into the backcountry and harvesting a few brookies for your shore lunch, to leaping rainbow trout and marlin. In a few of the selected texts, sentences detonated in my brain, a smile spread across my face, and I had to pause for a moment to let the words sink in. There are more than a few sections where you know exactly what he is talking about. Although he took fish, lots of fish, lots of big fish, and you can argue with his conservation ethics and whether or not you enjoy his writing style, you will probably enjoy reading about the experiences he describes. Memorably, one short exchange between a few characters in "Islands in the Stream" kept me up at night.
The excerpt describes a boat of seasoned gulf stream fishermen who take two of their young sons, brothers, along for the trip. The older boy, Davy, about 12, grabs the first singing rod and reel of the day, and so begins an epic battle.
Hours in, he is exhausted, the fish is still unseen, and his younger brother is seriously worried about his older brother's well-being. As I read this, my heart began to beat faster as I felt like I was on the boat, willing the boy to hold on a bit longer, shaking my head in disbelief as he summoned some untapped inner reserve of fortitude and began to pump and reel, pump and reel, gaining inch after precious inch of line, only to watch the line peel off of the reel as if what was attached to the end was merely toying with the hearts and minds of those on the vessel above, as if this retaking of hard-won line with such ease would be enough to cause the alien force pulling on it from above to realize their efforts were futile, that severing the line would be the better option.
Each uttered word of caution or instruction is delivered with perfect awareness of the fact that saying the wrong thing could jinx the future. As Davy gains on the tiring fish, the leader eventually appears, and with it, the men on the boat glimpse the fish for the first time. The fish is described and I could not help but feel the same sense of awe for the fish that I was imagining as the people on the boat did for the fish they have been privileged enough to observe. The mate on the boat sees the leader and says "It's been cutting, it's just holding by nothing," causing the tension in the story to reach an unbearable level as it draws toward it's inevitable conclusion.
The boy's quivering muscles, the straps of the rod harness cutting into his back, the bloody pads of his feet, the incredible fish on the end of his line causing all of this pain and suffering are all described eloquently.
I will not ruin the ending, I will not give away if the fish is eventually boated or not. You can find that out on your own, please do.
After the drama on deck ends, the exhausted boy is carried below decks by his father and laid on a bed to recover. His younger brother asks him what it was like, fighting a fish like that for as long as he did.
"Well," David said with his eyes tight shut. "In the worst parts, when I was the tiredest I couldn't tell which was him and which was me."
I can't and probably never will be able to experience that feeling, but I really wish I could. Because isn't that the moment, just after the big hookjaw rises to your dry and takes a sip, just after you see that lumbering carp inhale your damselfly, or just after the tarpon engulfs your fly and turns away in a blinding slash of quicksilver and you set and strike and feel the pulse of life throbbing of survival and a million years of evolution beat up your line and through the flimsy rod in your hand and meet with your own reverberating in the opposite direction and everything around you goes away and your not cold or sunburned anymore and the line singing off of your reel is the sweetest sound you've ever heard and the fish you're connected to is the most beautiful thing that you've ever seen... Isn't that the best part of all of this, anyway?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
After a long day on the water I gave an old friend from high school a call to see if his offer was still on the table. It was, and I followed the GPS to his apartment. Arriving, I found out that his place just happened to be right next to where I would have been staying. The local Walmart. Instead, I am trading in the rigid bed of a pick up truck for the spare couch. Topping it off would be internet access, a glass of cold water, and the newest episode of South Park. For the offer, I promise to take Bednar out fishing in the morning. He is new to the sport and eager to learn. I am happy to oblige.
In the morning we fish the paradise section of Spring Creek. We head up and into the wadeable portion of the stream and into some of the pocket water. I give him a crash course in casting, reading the water, and presenting the flies. We start off with a double nymph rig under an indicator before transitioning to a dry dropper combo. We end up working a small stretch of water in between other anglers and catching several beautiful wild browns. Its not long before he must leave to head off to class. College kids...
Friday, April 23, 2010
It's around six o'clock when the skies become dark and the first sounds of distant thunder are heard through the trees. After a long day of intense heat, a cold front is rolling on in. The dense new air pushes underneath the lighter, warmer air producing cumulonimbus thunder heads. Wary eyes occasionally break their focus from line, fly, and water. They peer to the horizon worried that their afternoon siestas may be cut short. Their worst fears are realized as the roars get closer and closer and the first taps of rain fall on unprepared shoulders. The rain gets heavier and heavier until they can't take it anymore. Hoards of afternoon anglers pack it in and head for the car. The diehards stay.
With the first cracks of lightning nearby, even the diehards head for cover. A small pavilion brings three generations of anglers together. One, middle aged and ill prepared for the spring showers sporting a fresh Lamson reel. Another, retired, sporting tweed, a modern bamboo rod, and an Orvis CFO reel. Then there is me, the outcast of the group. Young and out of place in a gentleman's sport. Not much is said between the three. It seems we are all enjoying the smell of fresh rain and the first signs of green on the trees. As the rain begins to die down, we go our separate ways. The old man heads downstream from whence he came. The middle aged man heads upstream looking to probe the depths with a streamer. I head ten feet straight ahead into a shallow run anticipating what is about to begin. BWOs.
For the next hour, I work my way upstream, looking for consistent risers. Several wild browns come to hand. Their rich colors disappearing as they re-enter the green water back to their camouflaged abodes. Darkness begins to creep in. Earlier than usual due to the inclement weather. I make my way farther upstream into a long glassy flat looking for something, anything. My eyes strain looking for tiny dimples on the surface. The action has stopped. The last fish beat me and I don't want to leave the stream with a twelve inch brown refusing a perfectly presented parachute BWO. I head farther up a well worn path into the rapids that feed the calm stretch below. A small eddy resides along the bank but I casually walk by too focused on the next pool. Out of the corner of my eye, I see them. Two golden bones. How convenient.
The situation presented before me has a lot of love and a whole lot of hate. I love the fact that there is barely any light left peeking over the horizon. I love my elevated position that provides much needed visibility. I love the fact that I have a thorn bush to hide behind. And lastly, I love the fact that one of the carp doesn't spook after a failed first attempt. That is when I know the piece of gold yards away is mine for the taking. However, I also hate the current situation. The thorn bush is thick and wide. Overhanging branches hang above the thorns and a downed tree is in the water immediately downstream of the carp. The water is shallow, less than a foot. I am using a 10' 3 wt. with a long tapered leader to 5x. The odds are stacked against me and so is time.
I stick to what I know, a tried a true damsel nymph. I stick it in the mud at my feet and to my oily smelly hands off the materials. I grab the fly and pull the line taunt. I choose a slingshot cast. All I can fit into the available window. The damsel lands three feet to the left of the cruising carp. I casually pull the fly in and drop it ten inches in front of the carps face. The unweighted fly sinks slowly and carp closes in. It stops. My heart stops. It's thick lips protrude slowly sucking in a descending damsel. I simultaneously stand and set the hook. The carp bolts directly into the rapids and out and around the downed tree. I jump three feet down into the muddy eddy and give chase out into the rapids. The carp has all the advantages and I am careful to apply too much pressure. The ends comes a hundred yards downstream. In the last light of a long up and down day, I once again end on a high note. After some admiration and one self portrait, I head back to the truck in darkness, grinning ear to ear.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
It is a peculiar feeling hopping behind the wheel in the wee hours of the morning. The vast majority of people are asleep, the road is wide open, and it is devoid of blinding headlights save for the occasional eighteen wheeler. Usually, I have company on spontaneous road trips to distant streams but on this particular night, I am going it alone for the first time. A few hours and a few Red Bulls later, I find myself stream side along a muddy pull off. In the ravine I am all alone. To my left a long, slow, and deep bend in the river has sporadic rises in all the right places. I take my grand ole time rigging up. No need to rush.
First Fish of the Day.
Missing His Chops.
I Need To Travel Here More Often.
Next, I find myself walking down a well worn path deep into an old deciduous forest absolutely alive with sights and sounds. The wind is ripping on this lovely morning making me question all the old dead trees I seldom walk under. Streamside, I struggle finding the right technique. Dry fly, euro, dry-dropper, indicator, or streamer? After a few miscues I settle on a double rig indicator. All I can control on the surface of the water. The next struggle comes with the food source. Several rigs later, I finally settle on an old reliable pattern and an old familiar strategy for smart fish. Go small, or go home. Despite the wind, despite the high flows, and despite the large fish, 6x and a size 20 fly is the ticket of choice. The first fish of the day comes on the first cast. A deep side channel gives up a 17 inch wild brown. It's a perfect start to a great day.
After a long walk, several nice fish, and a fresh farmers tan, I began walking my way back upstream and into a new stretch. A large boulder is a resting point. Walking upstream and into a strong current can be harder than a stair master at the local gym. Topping it off is a pair of waders, gear, and a fly rod. A few seconds later I picked up a dark mass with my peripheral vision. That can only mean one thing. Bear. A hundred yards upstream a large black bear makes its way out into the current. I am downwind, and somewhat camouflaged by the rock I am on. It meanders out several feet, stops, turns, and lets out a grumble before going another ten feet and repeating it. The bear continues the act all the way to other side before turning around. I am confused and then it all sinks in. Then I hear them. The sounds resemble crying children and I recall a favorite childhood movie, The Bear. Three cubs are on the opposite bank unwilling to go into the water. Mother bear makes her way back. For half an hour I watch as she crosses repeatedly, each time in a different spot, only to have her cubs refuse to enter the water. She even disappears for several minutes at a time on the opposite bank trying to bait them into crossing.
After awhile, I decide I need my camera. I make a long walk back to the truck and grab my DSLR. I make my way back and she is still trying to get them to cross. Now, I can document the event. I am tentative getting closer than 50 yards. If the young cubs happen to enter the water, they will surely be swept downstream towards me. The last place I want to be is between a mother bear and three newborn cubs. It has happened before while mountain biking and having a mother bear stand on her hind legs 10 yards away is not a fun scenario. I get as close as I comfortably can, snap a few pictures, and decide to once again head back to the truck and drive around. Who knows if she ever got them to cross. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. Maybe they are still there repeating the same scenario.
The latter half of the day is slow. I am worn out from a short nights sleep, a full day of power fishing, and an empty stomach. I start taking breaks, resting in the bed of the pickup eating my only food source. Trail mix. I then wade a small section, catch a few trout, and then take another break. By nightfall, a small hatch is occurring but there is little surface activity. Regardless, I try convincing one to rise to a biot body BWO. I finally settle on a consistent riser and after one reach cast, the small wily brown falls for my presentation. It is a capstone to a fine day on the water.