Friday, October 26, 2012

Fortune & Misfortune

-It is three in the morning and I am going eighty on I-81 north towards the Salmon River. Two friends and I had just stopped for coffee outside of Syracuse, where we were pretty sure we drove in on a drug deal. I reached for my coffee and was about to take a sip when the lid broke sending super hot coffee collapsing all over my groin area. I basically took a huge deep breath preparing for the absolute worst (think Kramer in Seinfeld after trying to smuggle a hot latte into a movie). Luckily, I was wearing water resistant pants that spared me from burning myself and finding my very own Jackie Chiles. However, they were my only pants of the trip.

-I opened the door and in the 25 degree temperature the front seat of the truck was steaming. Coffee saturated the ruined front seat. I found myself naked on the side of 81 putting on someone else's long underwear. In my haste, pain, and fits of laughter, I forgot to close the back of the truck. We got back on the highway for a few miles before realizing the mistake. All our gear, rods, sleeping bags, pads, and reels miraculously stayed in position. Even so, we found ourselves back on the side of the highway, head lamps on, looking for anything gone astray.

-During the first hour of light, all three of us had the chosen section of river to ourselves. Slowly, people started to come and box us in on all sides. You could look upriver and downriver and see a line of people, with more on the way. Adam and I held onto about a fifty yard section of real estate where we were swinging flies. We decided to switch spots. As we passed each other two guys took my new spot downstream and two guys took Adam's new spot upstream. Just like that. No more room to swing. No etiquette. No respect. No courtesy.

-As my fly began a fast swing, I felt a bump. It was either a fish or a wad of leaves. However, it ended up being a snag. The worst kind of snag. A snagger's thick monofilament from a surf rod. Unbreakable stuff because if you try and pull it to break your own tippet, the line attached to the snag gives. This particular line was attached to a large branch mid river. I had to wiggle it out or risk going for a swim. In the process of getting the line out, my favorite rod of all time snapped in half. My only switch rod, my baby. Gone. First hour of the weekend. I was speechless and couldn't understand why it happened. It just did.

-Topping it off, the broken section of rod slid down my MOW tip into the middle of the river and by some divine intervention freed my fly from the snag. I lost the broken section to the river. I was left with a twenty minute walk of shame back to the truck to grab my back up rod. Laid atop the back glass of the truck behind the head rests laid the Eagle Claw Switch.

-After half a day of fishing, we decided to switch spots and headed back to the truck. Sometime during the day, or perhaps when we locked up that morning, my window had collapsed into the door frame. Meaning that two GPSs, two iPhone 5s, a few rods, two gear bags full of reels and assorted goodies,  three wallets, and the keys to the truck were free for the taking the entire day. Nothing was missing.

-It was a good thing I had the tool kit in the back of the truck. For those that have Ford F-150s, I am sure you have experienced the dreaded window motor failure and know of the utter pain in the ass it is to take off the door panels and prop up the windows. It took three of us about an hour (even though I have done this several times) to sort that problem out and use a part of a kayak paddle and some cardboard to keep the window up for the rest of the trip.

-The next morning I followed Adam's lead into the Devil's teeth as we headed into town to fish above the DSR. I hate unfamiliar territory especially via headlamp in pitch blackness and rain. We settled alongside a deep hole and my first drift of an egg pattern resulted in a plunging indicator. I set the hook into what I thought was a fish. It ended up being a rope. Someone's lost stringer. It had three fresh king salmon on it. The eagle claw did mad work bringing that fiasco in. Adam and I cut the rope and released all three salmon back on their journey upriver. I had no idea how they were so alive. I remarked that if there was such a thing as karma, the weekend was about to get a lot better. I was wrong.

-Adam took up shop in a familiar run ideally suited to a swung fly. He got three casts in before being rudely interrupted. Below Adam, as far as you could see until the next bend in the river was open real estate. No other fishermen. Two fly fishermen thought it would be a great idea to cross the river in the middle of the run that Adam was swinging flies in. Not being deterred by a few choice words or a skagit head attached to some t-14, the two guys pressed on. Only when they reached the heart of the run did they decide that it was too deep and they couldn't cross. They had a few hundred yards of river to find a spot to cross but it had to be the exact spot that Adam was fishing. Sadly, this happens every time we fish the SR. I can't make this stuff up.

-I am in the latter days of my wading boots and wader's lifespans. Before heading to the SR, I spent a sleepless night stitching my wading boots back together using Maxima leader material and then epoxying them for good measure. I also took out rusted spikes and replaced them with brand new ones. At the end of day one, I lost six spikes.  By the end of day two, I had lost 11. The five minute epoxy apparently doesn't cure fully even after eight hours and began to fail. For good measure, I was wading through a riffle and unbeknownst to me, I got hung up on someone's lost line and kept walking until a Tiemco 600SP tarpon hook sinked into my waders creating a gash directly on a seam. I spent the rest of the day with a wet leg.

-That afternoon, I left Pat and Adam fishing a good spot and headed downstream to find my luck. I found only the cold shoulders of several snaggers and came back. Crossing a section of river, my foot slid sharply on a rock and before I knew it, I was doing the doggy paddle in a riffle. Back on shore, I did a pike press to the let the water drain out of my waders. Now, I was completely soaked from head to toe and the temperature was dropping.

-I took off a few wet layers and watched Adam and Pat fish for a little bit. I even found some time to take the fourth, fifth, and sixth pictures of the entire weekend. Pat broke off a fish by clamping down on the fly line. A rookie mistake he kept repeating. They let me have a shot at the hole and I hooked into a large male steelhead on my first cast. Finally, something went right for a change. That thought crossed my mind a split second before my brother's 8 wt. snapped in half. Unfazed, I kept fighting the fish. It broke off in the landing attempt.

Soaking wet, we left the river and found the truck. I was low on dry clothes and borrowed some sweatpants. The 7.5 hour drive back to Delaware went by in a blur. I found myself sitting at work at 7 a.m. contemplating the weekend. I realized that despite all the misfortune, I still had a good time. I was more worried about the prospects of the next few weekends. With it getting cold outside, I need to get a new switch rod, a pair of waders, and new boots. The truck window needs to be fixed and I need to find a way to get a large coffee stain out of a seat cushion. As of right now, my prospects aren't looking so good.


John Montana said...

I fee for you man! That is a rough trip.

Mark Kautz said...

The joy of combat fishing.

Swamp Yankee said...

Did you add up the total length of the three fish? Might be a new state record .. haha. Effin snaggers.

Manhattan Usual said...

Fun read. I'm about to try my hand at Steelhead for the first time, and the Salmon River for the first time. Now that you've crushed my expectations, I'm pretty sure it will be a great trip!

Unknown said...

I used to think I had some bad luck fishing, but now.... I honestly don't know how you guys out east do it, but keep on regaling us with tales of combat fishing, snaggers and other assorted mishaps so that I can keep on counting my lucky stars that I live out west where you can always find some uncrowded water to fall into.

Snuffit said...

Bad angling manners appear to be a universal phenomenon... snaggers? Are people really that desperate?

Mr. P. said...

That's a great story Mark! Glad your electronics and your wallets were still in the truck and that you were not injured in the spill. The rods and the waders? Well, it looks like you get to go gear shopping.

Scott in PA said...

Thanks for keepin' it real fellas. We all have those days, but not many have the river stones to document it for the world, and posterity. Nothing makes a fisherman feel more fortunate than hearing of the misfortunes of other fishermen.