HOW DUMB WAS THAT?
First off let me clarify something in my defense, meager though it may be. The creek was in flood, really high, quite menacing actually. There was talk of it overflowing its banks causing flooding in its lower reaches near where it flows into the lake. This is what caused us to eschew our regular camping spot situated down in the steep valley where the little creek has carved its way through solid rock over the millennia. Instead, we settled for a higher, less desirable but safer location far from its raging fury. Sadly for me, although we would now be safer in the new campground it was situated nowhere near either the small headwaters lake nor was it near the large outflow lake where it ends. In the new spot there was no possible way to cast a line and fish, and that dear friends and avid fly fishers, is why I DID NOT TAKE MY FISHING GEAR ALONG WITH ME! How dumb was that?
I know, I know. Sheer lunacy you say and I agree with you. Never should have done it. Not really in my right mind at all. It must be my new meds. I have no valid excuse for it; I just didn't take along any gear. I could have easily tossed a rod or two on the bunk, added a fly box or two, and it would have only taken a minute or so. But I didn't.
On the way up the narrow mountain road we passed several small wooden bridges that looked a bit like they might be in danger of sliding into the roiling waters to their ultimate doom. Another foot or so and I am sure the road would have been impassable. Nature has a funny habit of thumbing her nose at the puny works of man. We were in no danger of being trapped up there because the northern route out curves away from this small creek toward the main highway. The campground we had selected was situated where the road leaves the creek and thereafter follows a different path. It was early afternoon when we arrived to make camp.
We set up our digs in a nice shady and most importantly level spot. I am of an age where I no longer desire to sleep on the ground and have, over the years, progressed from tent to tent trailer, from tent trailer to my latest pride and joy our 28 foot motor home. Let the youngsters freeze off their butts while camping; I love the comforts of home. So now all I have to do is park the motor home in a level spot. As soon as my little Parsnip flower gives me the high sign indicating that we are level enough so that the ultra-finicky fridge will run properly I am free to go and explore the great outdoors.
First, like any Male of my species, I headed directly for the water. A short hike down the small hill along with 4 or 5 of my friends we go to check out the creek. I expected to see muddy water with large logs and debris zooming by. I expected to see that the current had undermined the banks of the creek, and perhaps tipping them dangerously toward their doom. Imagine my surprise when I saw that, although it was very high and barely within its banks, the dark tea colored water was clear and flowing much slower up here in the mountain meadows than the raging muddy boiling water we had encountered down below nearer to town.
In fact it looked darned fishable. I mentioned this fact to the other guys who immediately poo-pooed me. "Don't be a jerk. There are only small brookies this high up and they have probably all gone up to the little lake until the spring runoff is over."
"Yes maybe," I thought, "but damn, I think that looks like big fish water. There are big rainbows in the lower outflow lake up to 25 pounds and there are 8 pound rainbows in the upper lake and both are joined together by this very same creek so why would they not be in this awesome looking water?"
Trouble is we weren't on a fishing trip. I DID NOT TAKE MY FISHING GEAR ALONG WITH ME. How dumb is that? Thus I had no way of testing my theory that it is big fish water.
I stare at that very fishable water for almost an hour, watching where the current slowed creating seams that looked so tempting. I scanned an underwater rock for any sign of a fish passing over it until I was simply desperate to give it a try. Unable to stand it any longer I canvased everyone present for a rod or even a piece of line that I could tie to a stick. I just needed to fish. My pleas were for naught as indeed no one else had brought fishing gear either. This was to be a Quad and Motorcycle rally. Defeated I retreated to the motor home and began a frantic search. If I could find that 100 yard spool of line I was sure was onboard somewhere amid all this stuff all would not be lost. It surely wouldn't be the first time I used a willow wand as a rod. I just needed some line. After searching high and low there, tucked away in the corner of the closet, I found my sons $20.00 Wal-Mart fly rod but no reel, but the 100 yard spool of line I had been seeking just wasn't anywhere in the vehicle. However, while looking under the driver's seat I did manage to find a 5 pound test, 12 foot leader. I also was able to come up with several bare hooks that looked to be about size 12. I checked with her loveliness and bless her heart she had some brown sewing thread. I scouted around and found a feather on the ground unknowingly donated to the occasion by an unidentified species of bird. With this meager supply of fly tying material to go on and the use of a pair of vice grips firmly wedged into a crack in the tabletop as a makeshift tying vise I finally managed to fashion the semblance of a couple of flies. They weren't pretty but they were flies nevertheless.
I tied the leader onto the third guide from the tip of the 9 foot 5weight fly rod, wishing like heck that I had brought along at least a reel. Well as they say, beggars can't be choosers so I went with what I had.
My first try was a dismal failure because, as I trooped down to the creek bank to fish, I was followed by at least 10 of the other campers. Having watched me struggle for almost an hour to fashion two really ugly flies and with only a rod and 12 feet of line they were eager to see me (As one of them put it) fail miserably. He didn't want to miss being able to tell the sad story of my abject failure that night around the campfire.
With a small army of onlookers clomping down to the creek I was sure that every fish within a 100 miles would be on the lam. Cripes, you might as well have thrown rocks in the pool with all those idiots charging down to the edge of the stream. No self-respecting fish would be within a mile of the place. So reluctantly, without even wetting a line I gave it up. I made my way back to the motor home to the cries of derision from the amused onlookers. When the furor had died down somewhat I grabbed a lawn chair and went back down to the creek. I just sat there for about a half hour or so to rest the pool and to give the gawkers a chance to disperse, which thankfully they finally did.
With the maddening crowd banished, so to speak, to the hinterland and my generous profile masked by a leafy bush, I decided that the time was ripe and carefully lowered the fly ( it was intended to be a pheasant tail nymph but had ended up looking more like a large gob of belly button lint, hence my name for it the belly button lint fly) into the water. Still it was the better looking of the three flies I had made in the vise grips that day. I had decided on a wet fly because, well they catch so much more than dry flies. Sorry dry fly people but it just has to be said.
The fly plopped down on the surface of the water and barely began to sink in a small eddy when
Holy crap! Man oh man! Suddenly all hell broke loose as from beneath that dark coffee stained water flashed a giant, and I do mean giant, rainbow trout. It rolled over on the belly button lint fly gulping it down in an instant. That poor Wal-Mart $20.00 special 5weightt rod bowed almost in half. How it didn't give up its life snapping in two right then and there will always be a mystery to me. I had no time to react I just hung on as for just for an instant as the fish became airborne, it hit the end of that 5 pound leader snapping it instantly with an loud POP! The fly rod snapped back straight again with an audible swish. I stood there in awe and I prayed that at least someone else had seen that giant of a fish.
Here is where the only stroke of luck I had all day came into play. Happily, it seems, the fish's aerial antics were witnessed by at least four other people besides me. I know who I am dealing with here kind folks. If it hadn't jumped, not a one of those doubting bozos I call my friends would have ever believed the size of that monster. As it was, the witnesses' subsequent estimates of its length and girth were many and quite varied. Being fishermen size is usually in the eye of the beholder and can change from telling to telling. Initially their estimates ranged from a paltry 6 pounds all the way up to 15 or 20 pounds. Privately I guessed it at about 8 or 9 pounds because it was bigger than a Pink salmon but quite a bit smaller than a Coho. That being the case, I figured 8 or 9 pounds to be fairly accurate but what the heck, at campfire that night I went with the fellow who said that it was 20 pounds if it was an ounce.
Whew! I now had only about 7 feet of line left dangling from the rod tip. I tied another fly, such as it was, and on the first try I managed to hook and land about a one pound rainbow which I released. In the failing light of evening I tried one more cast.
I lowered the fly into a likely looking spot and watched it sink from sight. This time some unseen monster of a fish grabbed the drowned fly and with a terrific yank simply popped the line in two leaving me with nothing left to fish with. Just as well I suppose. With the little bit of equipment I was trying to fish with it was about as senseless as spitting into the wind anyway.
I headed up the bank and along with several others. I confronted my little parsnip flower as to the possibility of me traveling home for my gear. After a lot of begging I managed to secure permission to abandon her alone in the wilderness with the cougars, bears and god knows what other dangers. I borrowed her van for the trip to get the gear. You know the gear I had left at home!
I made the trip without incident and, of course, all things being equal the sun rose the next day only to reveal that the creek had muddied up during the night. This signaled that the day of the giant trout had come and gone.
My advice to your dear reader is simple. NEVER LEAVE YOUR FISHING GEAR AT HOME. "NEVER, NEVER NEVER!!" I MEAN HOW DUMB WAS THAT?
It has been about 5 years since that fateful day and as I recall it that fish was 20 pounds, if it was an ounce. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.