March 22nd, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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The Perfect Hatch
By Jeff Ehasz, circa 1971

I remember the anticipation of opening day of trout season in the winter of 1971 very well. I had spent many a cold winter night up until 3 or 4 in the morning tying every fly listed in "McClanes Standard" in sizes 10, 12, 14, Drys, Wets, Nymphs, Streamers, some Salmons and Muddlers. I set myself up a tying room in the basement for the sake of uninterrupted workspace. Had my bench, a simple four-legged pine stand that stood about hip high above the ground. A small iron vise that clamped onto an exacto knife was my tying vise of choice and wallet in those days.

I found that as I started tying larger sizes first by the time I got down to the 14, I was starting to get the hang of it. The smallest would sometimes turn out to be the best of all three. Fancy that! Somehow it seemed to work out in threes.

Transportation back then was foot power, either a bike or sneakers. Not much for distance but surely kept you in shape. Just about every weekday after school and weekends I'd be working the local creeks or fishing for bass from the farm pond up the road apiece. Had pretty good spring that year, was catching trout on Gordons, Hare's Ears, Parmachene Belles (what a job that was to tie in a 14) and Coachmans. All were on wets or nymphs though. It was well into June or first week of July and I was armed with a split cane, the best of my hand tied flies and enough enthusiasm to win the war I was out to catch trout on a dry this time. How hard could it be right? My best efforts couldn't get a trout to rise all spring but odds have got to catch up with me sooner or later.

Money was really tight back then but I somehow managed to buy, borrow or construct just about every new fly fishing item to be found in the catalogs. Yup, I was dressed for success, had enough fly boxes in my vest pockets to avoid the need for a life jacket. Hell I even had hip boots! Whoa, the real thing too, had to give up on the idea of car tire "wader tubes" cause the glue never held. They where going to be stockin' foot mind you, man was I ahead of my time or what. Now that I think about it there was a big blue B.A.S.S. Anglers Sportsmen patch I had sewn on the front top pocket too. Toenail clippers dangled from on a short piece of backing attached to another pocket. Must have been a quite the beacon in the sun.

It was eight-o clock in the morning when I set out that next day. To thwart the cunning of the other local trout confishertos I decided to make a go of a little known spring fed natural trout stream that had it's start nearly on the top of the mountain a few miles from our farm. I knew there were trout in that creek, lots of trout, brookies that would fight in a dual to the death. They may not get to be big enough to bring home to mama, but let me tell you what; till' you've had one on, you don't know what your missing.

About two miles down the road from our house a side road skirts the stream up the mountain. It was too steep for me to ride up with the boots and other luggage so I had to walk the rest. It's a very modest body of water not that deep or wide really. It's a boulder-strewn creek that cascades all the way down the mountain. Every ten to fifteen feet I would pass another miniature waterfall feeding another promising pool. You couldn't help take in the beauty of it all, seemed to be more white water than anything else. As I pushed on I got the feeling that there was magic in the air today. In the shadows of the mountain I was glad to have a bit of relief from the summer sun but I knew it was early in the day to expect a hatch. That was all I needed now, one good hatch.

Must have been about 9:00 or so when I got to where the stream split into feeders. There were remnants of a long forgotten railroad tie bridge on the bank and I remembered a nice pool there so I parked the bike against the guardrail with the hip boots slung over the frame. Man it's great to have a real pair of hippers, I thought as I rigged up my pole, standing on the rocky bank just five feet from the roadside, tippet clinched in my teeth, eyes peering into the dark glassy pool before me. A small square tail starts to come into view just past the foam of the "v"-shaped center current. OK, come on, success is just a hatch away.

I scanned the surface of the calm areas of the pool for signs of movement; a few moments go by, then wait, what's that? Ah just surface debre, twig or something. OK, hatch or no hatch I'm tying on a Light Cahill. On a stream this small you don't cast really but rather pull out a bit of line and do a half a roll, sort of flip it to 'em. Half a roll you say? That should put you in the trees won't it? Yup, sometimes, my rod was a 7' 6" three piece and would reach the far bank with its tip. This was tough fishin' not for the meek or weak of heart. Every so often I would feel the flat rock I was standing on teeter with the forward momentum of the cast. That was not helping either but I didn't want to move now that the trout have forgotten my barging in.

Just as the sun clears the treetops illuminating the surroundings it seemed like the whole stream came alive. The trout at their stations were clearly visible now and so was I. With the stance of a heron I held my pole high pointed to the head of the pool, the Cahill dangling just above the water. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, just past my right elbow a small blur hovers! IT'S A HATCH!

With my neck cramped, my eyes blurred from strain and adrenaline quaking my casting arm, I lean into a foreword thrust to execute the cast. I almost fell face first into the pool, as the rock teetered again, clickity clack, clickity clack, Damn! Truly the stealth of a freight train in the woods at night. Wait a minute there's another one to my left this time and here's another wonder which ones they. . . Ouch! Man!

Up the bank I sprang, cartwheeling over the guardrails, slapping the back of my calf with one hand and the back of my head with the other. Arms flailing, legs kicking, body spinning totally out of control. Yup, you guessed it, they weren't mayflies at all they where bald faced hornets. Seems they must have had a nest under that flat rock I was standing on. In my haste the fly rod did a splash down right in the middle of the pool, my foot somehow caught on the pedal of my bike and sent it flipping end over end sideways on down the road. Guess I needed an obstacle to trip over and dodge as well as trying to out run a kamikaze that was hanging onto the middle of my back.

I didn't stop running down that mountain road until I reached the bottom. Think I got stung at least 5 or 6 times, walked on home, showed mom the welts (Houston we have a problem) and asked her if she could drive me back up there in the morning cause I didn't want to go back until they settled down.

Next morning mom dropped me off and watched from the car as I made a wide semi-circle around the pool and picked up my rod, no apparent damage done, man was I lucky. I walked on down the road a bit and found my bike just under the guardrail, no one had bothered it.

Standing there, looking back at the pool for a second, I pondered the end of that summers trout fishing, but it only took me a moment to come around, there are times when less is more. A smile broke into laughter as I thought about how I must have looked like a crazed mountain man running down that same road the day before. Ah yes, if anyone asked about it I could tell them I saw a bear. Yea, that's it, a bear, a big, big bear wearing a pair of "wader tubes". Hey that's a good one!

Maybe I should call them "outer tubes"? ~ Jeff Doerner "jeff98390j"

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