A Fishing Trip
Last June, I spent a couple of days fishing in Massachusetts with my
friends, Larry and Ed. The three of us had been at the American
Museum of Fly Fishing dinner in Farmington, Connecticut, when a
guided trip to the Deerfield river, donated by the famous fishing guide
Jack Smola, came up for bidding. Larry bid on it and he won. Ed and
I felt sorry for him, you know, having to go fishing by himself with Jack,
so we volunteered keep him company. The trip was set for a Monday,
so we decided to leave Sunday, fish that day on our own, and then meet
Jack early Monday morning.
The drive up was a normal highway trip - boring except for the fishing stories.
We only got lost twice, and after some discussion, we decided it wouldn't be
a true fishing trip without getting lost at least two times. Well, actually it was
three times, but Larry noticed one wrong turn right away, so we didn't count
it. And no, Honey, we didn't stop and ask for directions. My wife Kathleen
says it's a man thing - not asking for directions. I disagree. We had a map,
so why would you have to ask anybody where you are?
We checked into the bed and breakfast Jack had recommended, relaxed for
a few minutes, and then headed for the river. Jack had also given us directions
to a couple of places to fish. We found the first one without any trouble, but
as it turned out, we had parked a half-mile or so away from where we should
have. Consequently, we had to negotiate an extremely steep downward slope
to get to the river. You know, the kind of angle that makes your foot slide
into the front of your boot and jams your toes into half of the space they're
normally accustomed to. No wonder there wasn't anyone parked there.
We thought it was just good fortune. It was only about a hundred yards
down to the river and we were going fishing, so it didn't seem that bad
once we were at the bottom. I've never considered myself a tree hugger,
but on slopes that steep, the hugging does get quite literal.
Anyway, we made it without breaking a rod - or anything else. While we
were on the river's edge, brushing the bark from our fishing vests, we noticed
not far away from us, there was another angler sitting on the bank. He was
just sitting on a log, staring straight ahead trying not to notice us.
Larry made a slight motion with his head toward the bank-sitting fisherman
and said, "That's not a good sign."
Being the eternal optimist, I replied, "Well, maybe he heard us coming down
the hill, and sat on the bank to fake us out. You know, to get us thinking the
fishing is slow, so we might as well try another spot."
The three of us spread out, and walked along the river bank looking for
places hungry trout would likely be hanging out. The place I selected didn't
have much room for a back cast, so I spent some time getting my fly and leader
untangled from the brush. I could have tried a steeple cast, but I figured I'd just
get my fly caught high up in a tree, instead of right behind me, where I could get
at it. Okay, okay. Eventually, I did try a steeple cast, and just what I thought
was going to happen, happened. I got hung up high in a tree, and had to break
off my fly along with most of my leader.
I thought changing a leader was a good enough reason to wander over to
the bank-sitter and ask him about the fishing. So, that's what I did. "How's
the fishing been?" I asked. Instead of simply, How's the fishing? See,"been"
is the key word because I still wasn't sure if he was trying to fake us out, or not.
"Just waiting for the river to come down," he answered. He didn't really answer
my question, but I guess the implication was he hadn't fished yet. Um, here's
where it got sticky. I think I mentioned this was my first time fishing the Deerfield.
I knew a dam controlled the water flow, but I didn't realize the river was up. It
wasn't over the banks or anything, so it seemed okay to me. Then he went on
to explain how many fish would be rising, if the river came down.
Not wanting to look like a yuppie tourist, I quickly changed the subject. "Man!"
I said. That was a steep hill we came down."
"Next time," he said, making an upstream motion with his fly rod. " See the bend
in the river." Several hundred yards upstream the river took a sharp bend to the
right and disappeared. "The road goes right by there. Park there. Then follow
the path across the field to the river."
I wanted to make an excuse. " Well, we're members of the Huff and Puff
Mountaineers and do everything the hard way. You know, to stay in shape."
But I think I had new guy on the river written all over me. So, I said,"Thanks,"
Anyway, we talked a while longer, and I finished replacing my leader and fly.
Then we exchanged the obligatory,"Nice talking to you - same here," and I
went back to fishing. And he went back to bank sitting. Well, actually he
never did stop, sitting on the bank, I mean. Personally, I was never much for
hanging around waiting for the trout to rise - by now I was convinced that was
what he was doing. I understand you can get some serious thinking done, or
work through a fantasy or two. But we were there to fish, whether the river
was up or down, whether the fish were rising or not. I mean we traveled for
a couple of hours, got lost twice, bought an expensive fishing license, so hell
or high water (sorry), we're going to fish, right?
The break had done some good. When I got back to my fishing spot, a single
fish had started rising. The lone trout was gently sipping some bugs floating in
a foam line in the middle of the river. "Spinners," I thought. I studied the
situation and concluded I needed to make a roll cast, with plenty of slack
in the line because of the varying current speeds. After about three tries, I
got a drift I liked, and the patient fish took. The water directly in front of me
was too deep for me to step in and play the fish, so I walked along the bank
and worked the trout downstream, into some quiet water, and tired him out
there. In the meantime, Larry had noticed the action and walked down to
watch me land the fish. It was a nice, fat, seventeen-inch, Deerfield River,
brown trout. Bigger than I had thought, but what I had come for. The
Deerfield has a reputation for big trout.
"Nice fish," Larry said. "What did you get him on?"
"Number twenty rusty spinner," I answered.
"Boy look at all the poison ivy," Larry said.
"What do you mean poison ivy!" I exclaimed. By now Ed had worked his
way down to us and Ed was agreeing with Larry.
"Yeah it's poison ivy," Ed said. "See the shiny leaves and the smooth edges."
Remember me saying I had had more than one back cast in the bushes?
Well, now I knew the name of the plant I was fooling with. I put my fly
rod down, knelt down beside the river, and began to wash my hands,
vigorously. I wasn't worried so much about catching poison ivy on my
hands. What I was alarmed about was I had already been in the woods
three times - too much coffee. I mean there are places that you can catch
poison ivy that are just more or less a nuisance. Then again, there are those
areas you don't even want to think about. Anyway, I don't want to talk
about it anymore. It turned out both Larry and Ed had landed a trout,
which was a good deal, because fishing trips are much more fun when
everybody catches fish.
My friend Ernie and I were on a fishing trip in Alaska a few years ago and
the guide brought us to a place on the river called the "Honey Hole." It was
a small pool with only a couple of places that held fish. That particular day
the salmon were holding where the fast water abutted a small, but deep,
back eddy. It only had room enough for one angler. Ernie and I just
rotated through the sweet spot. He would hook a silver salmon and then
play it into the back eddy. Then I would step in, hook a salmon, and play
it into the back eddy. Then Ernie would step in, and so on. We caught
several Coho each and had a great time. The sad part of this story is that
the guide told us he had never seen anybody share a fishing hole like that
before. The other thing I remember about the "Honey Hole" is the guide
gave me a five-inch long, pink, bunny fly to try, and on the first cast, a fish,
probably a huge rainbow, according to the guide, ripped the fly off my leader.
One of those hits that haunts your memories.
It was getting dark so Larry, Ed and I decided to walk along the river bank
to see if we could find the path through the field the bank-sitter had told me
about. By the way, he was long gone. I never saw him make a cast. I don't
know what to say about that. Only I have heard of fishermen who drive to
the river, hang around for a while waiting for a hatch, and if nothing happens
they go home without opening a rod case. Isn't that what Woolly Buggers
are for? When there's no hatch, I mean.
The decision to walk along the bank as it turned out, was not exactly a shining
moment of brilliance. It was strewn with blow downs and lots of very large
boulders. Consequently, negotiating it took us much longer than we thought
it would. Short version - we were lost in the dark without a light. Somehow,
we got separated in some extremely tall weeds. I got through the giant weeds
first, found the road, and sat on the cable between two wooden guardrail posts.
Soon I could hear somebody else coming through the gargantuan greenery.
"Who's that?" I asked.
"Jungle Ed." Ed answered, sarcastically. Larry showed up a couple of minutes
later, decorated with a few leaves from the monster weeds. Of course, we came
out to the road about a half-mile down hill from the car. So, that made it an alpine
walk back. Walking back to the car, I silently concluded fishing the Deerfield was
similar to fishing in Montana. There's way more uphill than there is downhill. By
the time we H. and P. Mountaineers stumbled back to the car, we were overheated
and soaked with perspiration. Larry stuck the key in the ignition, started the car,
and then turned and looked at me.
"Sweat spreads poison ivy you know," he said.
Jungle Ed piped in,"Yeah. Makes it twice as bad," he added.
"Thanks guys," I answered. ~ Charlie Place
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