Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Short Story: Solitary Morn

It was a slightly dim and crisp morning when the young boy silently departed from the warm and cozy companion of his blankets and bed.  Thoughts of fighting large bass and walleye gelled inside his small head.  With small pattering footsteps to the kitchen, he used all his might to pull the fridge door open and reach for the foam carton of nightcrawlers’ that sat deservingly next to last evenings supper leftovers. The fridge’s strong luminescence of heaven-like light, made him squint as he slowly lifted the container cover to peek and ensure an ample number worms to last an outing. He was so proud of his squirmy, slimy, and juicy offerings that he had handpicked last evening after supper.

The boy simply loved to catch worms -- he loved to nightcrawl! He loved to wet the large manicured grass lawn before supper. At supper, he tried to hide his anxiety while slurping down enormous servings of mom’s mouth watering spaghetti – ironically thinking of the worms at hand, while squeezing long wet noodles between his tiny puckered lips. Then with a full stomach, into the darkness and under the glimmering North Country stars, a flash of light off the wine colored, segmented worm flesh that lay fully in the open as if espied upon a secluded beach was as good as Yukon gold! Others were not as liberal, and the boy had to quickly grasp, feeling the segments, tugging and pulling the worm from its gravel burrow. He so loved to be alone in the darkness, just him and this simple sort of hide and seek game.

Slowly and carefully closing the door behind him, the boy set off on foot -- a fishing adventure, which in all truth was all too familiar with him. Traversing the hill that overlooked the massive blue lake, the ground crunched beneath him, still hardened by the morning’s frost. His footsteps – soft but firmly placed -- mimicked a native warrior carefully stocking his unaware prey. He did not want to startle the unrestricted, loosely owned dog that occasionally guarded the home that lay at the pinnacle of his walking path. Clearing the home without conflict, the boy looked down on the small, still sleepy lakeside town -- not a soul was stirring, not even a dog.

It was in the small town that the boy would rather not be seen. There was really no rhyme or reason for it – although he was somewhat shy –  he just sort of had a preference for carrying out a task without the utmost resistance. Approaching the still seemingly immobile railway station, the vigilant boy slid out of view by using stationary rail cars to obscure himself until he felt confidentially out of sight. He was always quite suspicious of the gruff railway workers, as they may have unwavering opinion that no pedestrian should exploit the privately owned tracks for their own benefit. Moreover, the boy often worried that the railway men would begrudge him and permanently curtail the important passage way to his favorite haven, “the rapids” fishing grounds.

The boy’s view of the old magnificent lift bridge was monumental especially when the great black truss was angled and pointing to the north east sky, disconnected from then strange land it served. The boy cherished the idea that the disconnection was an impediment to those other people, those people that were candidly known as “Limey’s” by his fellow countrymen. The boy remembered the time he was fishing on the granite finger-like adjunct when three “Limey’s” capriciously threatened him with hurled stones and screamed obscenities. One boy screamed “We will get you! You damn Yankee!” The boy struggled to restrain himself from casting a stone, obeying his conscious and the voices of his mother citing the Bible verse “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.

The boy relished the fact that an uplifted bridge extinguished the calamity of the crossing train, its reverberating horn,  the clacking wheels and the creaking cars. Not to mention, no trains meant also an elimination of the possibility of being seen, hence reported by the train conductor. Ultimately, the boy only longed for tranquility and the sound of the once placid lake water turned to a glorious chuckle as it transformed into a great river. He also loved the sounds of the scavenger-like, brazen calls of wing-beating gulls and of course, the occasional graceful but crying loon.

The lone boy distinctly preferred the early morn, since the narrow channel of rapids were nearly void of motoring boats that sometimes rudely created disturbing, maddening sizable wakes and an unwanted intrusion of the boy’s earned silence.  He was actually quite fond of the boats that puttered by at a more reasonable speed, since he had time to reel in his line, in fear of it being cut by the propeller.  On one occasion, after casting a large Daredevil spoon for Pike nearly across the channel, a fast approaching speed boat took the boy by surprise.  The boat, not giving up any speed, caught the mono-filament fishing line, quickly peeling it off the reel and nearly jerking the pole out of his hand prior to the line end breaking.

 A miniscule mixture of slime and guts splattered upon the boy’s fresh face as he baited the half miserable worm to a sharp looking bronze hook, shadowed by a large bright foam bobber. Subsequently, the boy scurried ever so quietly down a small granite shelf and leaned his pole to cast just upstream of the bass inhabited sunken rock crib. Just as the foam bobber twitched, suddenly the boy, now a young man, woke from a deep sleep!  He slowly pushed up his worn suede hat, slowly stroked his mustache and rubbed his blue eyes that squinted from the bright light. Looking upon the nearby swift, clear, running creek and the surrounding greenest of mountains he knew so well, he surmised that he had vividly dreamed about his youth.

Prior to his slumber, the young man had been fishing a creek adjacent to private lands when he overheard a deluge of utility trucks via an old dirt logging road,  that were seemingly encroaching in on his piece of sought out solitude. A trailing wall of forthcoming dust resembled a grand stampede in the arid West. He queried whether he could be considered a trespasser and if any of the working men would even ponder the thought of him being a menace.  Regardless, and still not of the trusting sort, the young man laid tight to the unseen bank as the vehicles rushed by and a cloud of road dust hovered over him. And then followed, a tumultuous afternoon breeze, which flowed through the skinny valley, carrying distant sounds of machinery accompanied by inscrutable groans and creaks followed by muffled explosions.

The young man grew frustrated as he had purposely tried to find solitude in the mountains on such a beautiful day, only to be followed by hurrying working men.  He remembered not long ago, when the forest was free of such men and the inhabited wildlife was free to roam, without strife, which he now solemnly encountered. Still vexing, the young man did divine that the hurried men probably had families, which depended on paychecks too; and that it was not completely their decision that caused them to make such a disturbance. He contemplated a possible paradigm of corporate greed, environmental neglect, and an ever increasing population. While he pondered whether he would ever find solitude again, his now deceased mother's spirit whispered a Bible verse: "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry".

 Still slightly aggravated, the young man shuffled carefully to a more tranquil spot near the creek.  Now farther away from the buzz of the busy road, he could only hear the cascading creek as it dropped several shelves and glided into a large striking indigo pool just below.  Laid out there comfortably on a soft bed of moss, the young man had grown weary from his long trek and the heat of the mid-summer day was upon him. Just before dozing off, the young man reflected on his day and how it was unfortunate that he belatedly started his fishing adventure. Now, in the midst of things, the bees were buzzing, the fish were mockingly indolent and the young man was pestered by the thought of having to sneak back home without much trace in the evening. The young man could only reflect back on those glorious solitary morns he so loved as a boy.

Story by Darren Dunbar

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Advent of an Oarsman

Sitting next to the slow trickling creek, I caught myself daydreaming again and thinking of how everyone remembers there first time of something. For instance, do you remember the first time you kissed? or the first time you loved? Maybe the first time you danced?  But how about the first time you rowed a boat?  I continued to ponder and began to focus on a slow drifting dried leaf that struck a tone, conjuring warm thoughts of my McKenzie drift boat. The old but sturdy aluminum frame appeared to me like when I first pulled her home on its trailer with no taillights. Yep, I made it home!  I remember how excited I was, dreaming of all the new water adventures in store. Nevertheless, I will admit that the boat acquisition is noteworthy; however, what struck me the most was the remembrance of how I learned to row the oars, and navigate a mountain headwater stream, an adventure I’ll never forget.

Prior to actually floating down a raging river, I wanted to get some time on the oars in some water that was nothing but placid. In fact, this was the advice of the former boat owner that I took all the way to a nearby Dorena Reservoir. The boat launched, I sat awe-inspired by the beautiful mountainous surrounding, drifting quietly on the smoothest of morning glass-water. Rounding my shoulders, I drew the oars and pulled my boat a good three miles from the landing. My little excursion was so grand, until a strong consistent wind came from the northwest, turning liquid glass into a frothy chop. Struggling like hell to make it back, a ski boat full of bikini clad women happened to pull aside my gunwale and with an ever-so concerned voice yelled “you wanna tow?” Like the two idiots in the comedy film Dumber and Dumber, I stuck to my guns and replied “I’m good! Not far to go!”

After the lake excursion, I had decided that it was time to “just do it”; besides, a swimmer doesn’t swim without getting wet!  But I didn’t know anyone that had drift boat experience and I didn’t know a soul that wanted to take a chance as a drowning passenger due to my lack of water skills. Not to mention,  I was  pretty much clueless about river navigation and what kind of hazards, twists and turns may lie ahead. Nevertheless, I conducted my own research and turned to several books that covered essential navigable drift boat techniques. With the help of Google maps and some word of mouth, I settled on a slower flowing portion of Oregon's famous Willamette River just after the confluence of the wild and scenic McKenzie River.

On a crisp and clear autumn morning I arrived at the boat landing with some caffeine induced nerves and accompanying stomach butterflies that I hadn't really experienced since my first varsity ice hockey game. My trusty Diamond Back mountain bike sat disassembled in the boats stern to serve as my shuttle back to the truck.  The narrow landing, somewhat blocked by a large rock, was a challenge to say the least as I jockeyed the truck and trailer for what seemed like an absurd amount of time. Backing so far as to cover the tops of my trailer tires, I had forgotten that the flat and rockered drift boat bottom allows it to float freely in about 2 inches of water. Well anyways, after a little shove off the trailer, I pulled and drove the boat's hull into a nearby gravel shoal -- looking around sheepishly to see if anyone had noticed the "new guy" at the landing.

After getting my paddles and gear set, I looked out to the narrow channel that would take me to the main flow of the river. As I started to row away from the comfort of the landing and its safe harbor, the boat suddenly slipped past an obvious current seam and I unexpectedly started to drift in an uncontrollable manner. Moving faster,  instant panic set in as I firmly gripped my flailing paddles. Focusing on back rowing away from the eastern bank, I failed to notice a large downed tree, otherwise known as a strainer, coming up quickly on the opposite bank. I suddenly felt a large thud that seemed to emanate from the boats bow. As rushing water began to pin my boat against the tree, thoughts of impending doom flashed in my head. Somehow, I was able to calm myself, and using the wooden paddles like levers, I was able to wedge the boat off of the slightly submerged tree and back into the fast moving channel water.

Unconstrained at last, I finally found the main channel and looked ahead in wonderment of what other surprises may be presented. Still keeping my eyes on the water, I quickly grabbed my printed out river maps to try to gauge my location. Still trembling, I witnessed a pod of rising trout in some soft misty water near the not-so-far bank. Wanting to cast a fly or two, I looked back at my anchor, only to find a tangled intricate mess of knotted rope, which ultimately denied a boat yielding anchor drop. Truthfully, the smooth surface of the water was quite deceptive as the strong currents carried me further down the Willamette Valley and farther away from the trout catching chance. As my frustration with my lack of preparedness and experience began to build, I assured myself that there were plenty of more fishing opportunities downstream.

Further down stream, some small riffle runs would challenge my rowing skills. I began to grasp the fundamental concept of ferrying -- back-rowing a boat at roughly a 45 degree angle to avoid obstacles. I started to comprehend why an angle is preferable, while noticing and feeling less restriction and easier rowing as the boat seemed to slip effortlessly across the river. The feeling is unique to say the least when compared with v-hull designed boats. All the more, I was starting to harness some confidence as I progressed: my new found faith, allowed me to anchor at several points, to drink a beer, eat some lunch, and catch a few average size trout. Any doubts I had previously about the boat were instantly erased, as I relished the new floating aluminum addition to my fly fishing tool box.

Approaching the 3/4 mark of my float trip, I drifted upon a confusing point of three channels. Looking at my map, it seemed that all three channels could be navigable. I unfortunately opted for the eastern most channel, which happened to look very inviting and fishy. Halfway thru the channel, the waters began to slow and the river bottom became more and more visible. The boat eventually was slowed by bunches of slightly submerged thick vines of what looked like kelp. Unfortunately, I was too far in to back row back to the main channel, so I opted to get out and pull the boat over the clinging vines. Sweating profusely in the heat of the day, I finally reached deeper water near the main channel. I remember thinking back about one of the drift boat books I had read and the quote "when in doubt, always follow the main flow".

My journey was nearly complete as I approached the boat landing, nearly eight miles from my starting point. I was suddenly overcome by relief and realized that the only challenges that remained was a bike trek and the loading of the boat. Packing my backpack, and reassembling my mountain bike, I guzzled my last beer, already thinking about my next trip. Slightly buzzed, the pains in my lower back and shoulders were virtually non-existent -- all I could feel was a sense of victory as if I had conquered some instrumental quest. Pedaling on the size of the road, cars buzzing, I imagined that my fly rods jutting skyward from my back pack served as flags signifying the end of a great conquest. It was truly the advent of an oarsman, a glorious event in which I will always remember.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Holding Hands in the Creek

I still enjoy reminiscing about  my childhood fishing experiences -- my dad handing me a five foot fiberglass Shakespeare rod with a Daiwa Closed face reel -- strung with the thickest of monofilament line tied to a lead jig head, heavy enough to knock out Mike Tyson in his prime.  Those were simplest of times don't you know? You could go to a big lake;  take a ride in a motor propelled boat;  park next to a bunch of other boats and then drop your fluorescent mini - bomb jig, baited with a bloody but still frisky shiner minnow to the dark and deep lake bottom. Truthfully, I never did understand why a group of 20 fishing boats would care to congregate around one little rock reef that took up less than one percent of a 300 square mile lake -- so much for solitude! I remember the Walleye, those slimy Jacks (a.k.a. Northern Pike), and the Perch that somehow always ended up as Seagull bait. Most of all, I remember being together with dad in a beautiful lake setting, feeling the gentle breeze against my young skin, listening to the enchanted sounds of small waves lapping against the side of boat and especially experiencing the not so sad but beautiful cries of the Common Loon.

Although we have lived in almost perfect harmony on a fairly reliable trout stream, my son, still in the rock throwing years, tends to beat around the bush when it comes to fishing. Some of you fishing parents can probably relate, as the youngster's fuse tends to burn short while fish are not being caught. Consequently, this situation generally heeds a barrage of large and small stones into the finest of trout holding spots with the harboring thought of the need for my hockey helmet. And yes, my son seems to have a system in place as the stones get larger in size with time. Not to mention, there are also the rock skipping sessions, which generally require a thinner and flatter rock that often requires my help to find. Oddly enough,  I always wonder what the trout may be thinking as various sized stones and boulders, normally set on the stream-bed are now hurling towards them. They're probably saying "damn we just got done fighting six months of spate and now this!" At any rate, I'm just happy he picked up the rod a little bit -- it's better than nothing at all!

One fine summer late afternoon, I received a tug on my shirt and heard a little voice. " Hey Pa, let's go fishing". I was almost is complete dismay, since I usually have to sugar-coat everything before he will even pick up the fishing rod. Nevertheless, I did not want to bore him with another one of our countless bank fishing stints from the property creek, so I thought about other nearby holes that might be productive. The only downfall, is that some of the nearby town's finest, seem to like to inhabit these areas when the weather is especially tepid. And by the way trout, you might think a large sinking stone is scary, but you just wait until 280lb. Mary-Joe flies off that rope swing! Regardless, we hopped into my old, not so run-of-the-mill truck with one rod, a small box of flies and a will to get my boy hooked on fly fishing. Somewhat differently, this time I wanted him to feel the rush of the water against his legs, which seems to instill a sort of connection with the river and the things in-which depend upon it -- that's just my opinion.

The big old V8 with 350 horses softly gulps as we arrive at one of my favorite but popular fishing holes, noticing a late model Blue Astro Van packed to the rafters with the all to common and inclusive savage mutt peaking its scruffy head out the sliding door, which happened to face the creek entrance.  I glanced over at my son, trying not to reveal my disdain, and plainly but quietly murmured " dam bums".  Moving on, we drove up stream about two miles to another spot with good access only to find a parked Durango; the topper window artfully inscribed with the words "Just Got Married". Well then... wouldn't want to bother the newly weds! I kind of wondered why they chose such a spot following such a significant event -- it's nice but not that nice!  Glancing over at my son again, I just shrugged my shoulders and kept driving, thinking of a third option. Finally, there it was: an obscure trail, partly covered with brush, the gnarliest of bramble thickets and the itchiest looking of poison oak.

Slightly embarrassed, I conveyed to my son, who now seemed confused -- that good fishing awaits - once we complete this small trail from hell. To be frank, I didn't  really plan on such an expedition, as we tromped on top of thick bramble with our "spur of the moment" sport sandals to avoid the stabbing thorns. I led the way down the path very Indiana Jones - like, trying my best not to discourage any future trips, until we got to about a three foot drop that would get us to the still slightly submerged rocky stream bank. The plunge into the stream was an awakening for sure;  it was cold but not so cold that it was uncomfortable. I could sense some slight fear and nervousness from the boy, as these were unfamiliar surroundings. The cast shadows from giant fir trees muted any natural colors, turning the stream into a visual parade of black, slow  moving mirrors.  From this vantage point, I pointed out the most popular fishing lies seen in the distance.

Holding hands in the stream, we slowly slipped and stumbled upon thick algae covered boulders. The first fishing hole seemed so close, but so far away. I started to wonder why my sandals were sold as "fishing sandals" instead of ice skates. While exclaiming a WHOOOAA and OHHH SHHHIII... the controversial felt boot bottom ban thing haphazardly seethed into my memory, only wondering if the negative environmental claim justifies all the fishermen cracked skulls, broken bones, gashes and torn ligaments caused by dramatic banana skin - type falls. For those who don't know -- the concern is that an invasive species of sort may adhere to the felt -- taking a free ride to perchance contaminate another stream. Fortunately, here in Oregon, we are still permitted to wear these felt soles, which to provide ample traction to get you where you want to go in the most slipperiest of conditions in the world! Finally, arriving at a series of small but rapid riffle sections, I glanced down and was glad to see that my little one was not the least discouraged.

My favorite way of fishing small creek riffles is to swing a lightly weighted wet fly from upstream. For a beginning child, this method is ideal, since the current of the river takes care of a lot of the work, moving and giving action to the fly. Generally, the "takes" or "hits" happen once the fly line becomes taut and a fish can be hooked without any sort of set. Not to mention, fish will also sometimes take a fly on a slow strip or retrieve. The stream side foliage was thick and overhanging with little to no area to back cast; therefore, I suggested letting some line out and using a little of the rod tip to position the fly. It did not take long until my boy got one hooked on a #16 Hare's Ear wet fly; and watching him standing unattended, rod bent, with such excitement, bestowed upon me the warmest of feelings.  After landing the fish, my sons eyes grew large as saucer plates; we admired a fair sized, deep colored native Cutthroat which are prime but not the only fish in this creek.

As the evening progressed, I made some adjustments due to the decreasing light and increase of bugs on the water.  I changed out the fly to a #12 Stimulator floating pattern, since we had witnessed a number of trout rolling for fluttering Yellow Sally Stoneflies. Ole' Yellow Sally prefers to deposit her eggs in the evening hours by dipping her pointed butt into trout frenzied waters.  Splashes and airborne trout surrounded the drifting and sometimes dragging fly, only mushrooming our excitement. We happily fished below a setting sun, hitting several other similar pieces of stream and landing some frisky but smaller sized trout.  At this point, we had pretty much burned out our chances on the three nearby holes and all I could think about was that trail from hell back to the truck.

Thoughts of the fishing experience with my son flourished inside my head while a few juicy stoneflies splattered upon the trucks windshield, making our way home. Staring at the windy road, I wished my conscience could answer the questions of whether my son really enjoyed fishing that day and if  I would receive another request to share the passion of fly fishing with him. Fishing in general, is a great sport, in that it promotes a greater appreciation for the environment,  it's inhabitants, self well-being and  family togetherness. Just the fishing stories culminated and left to tell another day are far worth more than any amount of gold! I owe it to my dad for taking the time to go fishing; he should be proud that his son has passed on a fishing tradition to live another day - a day wading knee deep and casting a fly while we're holding hands in the creek.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Fly Fishing Short: Old Man River

A light creamy white covers the azure of the sky, while we launch the McKenzie drift boat onto a swift flowing and mesmerizing gin. GMan settles into the boat's bow with all excitement and announces "man this looks good!" Floating calmly, tall ever-so-green fir and cedar lean from a heavily wooded bank while an osprey is seen diving for a not so elusive fish. Musical sounds of birds surround us amid the rivers soft whisper. Mainly, the river speaks to us as we study its wonderous surroundings; and we listen like astute sons to a great father.

A McKenzie River Dory or Drift Boat
We ground the boat on a gravel shoal, near a large, wide riffle and cannot help but notice a small river - dancing parade of yellow dun mayflies.  Still gazing, reflections of light bounce off the glassy pockets of water that are mingled in between boulders. I blurt out "there's gotta be some fish in here!"  As cold and pristine white water crashes into naturally painted river stones, we pick our way from bottom to top, pelting the surface with flies. After our brief separation we rejoin, thus conjure and conclude that we ought to move on to a fishier run.

Double D Casting
After little to no success, we approach lunch time, picking at fancy prepared sandwiches and sipping on the finest of Microbrews. Life is good! Not surprisingly, our conversation turns intimate as perhaps our minds are tired from the overall guesswork of landing a fish. We talk about our families, friends and even pets. We catch up on to what's currently happening in our lives. Interestingly enough, at that moment in time, the river seems to take the back seat.

We press on our river journey and remain optimistic regardless an unproductive morning. A vibrant sun temporarily peaking through the clouds is a welcomed sight, candy greening the surrounding mountains and warming my slightly chilled bones. A lingering alcoholic buzz from our lunch time brew encourages some playful talk and senseless jokes. Regardless our tom-foolery, GMan manages to pick up a few average size trout on dry flies off the bow of the boat as we approach the near-end of our day long float.


Approaching the final rapids, I wonder what may have been the facet of our misfortune. And please don't suggest that old adage "a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work!" Broken in thought, I advise we ground the boat off the far tip of a nearby island where another channel adjoins the main flow. Glancing over at GMan, I make a look that exemplifies "one more chance?" or a chance to redeem ourselves perhaps?

Flies strung, our initial casts were followed up by heavy takes. A large Redside screams into the fast water, dragging my line and forcing me in pursuit. Looking up for help, I could see that GMan was busy and in the midst of his own trout fight. Fortunately, I was able to steer the broad shouldered fish into calmer water and bring her majesty to the net. Finally, after we both bring more than several nice fish to the net, I exclaim "this is what we have been waiting for!" And I think to myself, "Old Man River's lesson today is about patience".

Native Oregon Redside

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Non Fictional Hemingwayesque Account...

Sitting, blank in thought, staring into the glowing screen, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. "Pa what are you doing?"  I turned and said "thinking of what to write". "Why don't you write about a big fish you caught?". I was instantly reminded of the great Hemingway short story "The Old Man and the Sea" and the grueling three day battle between Santiago and the enormous Marlin. Additionally, I remembered a  similar unexpected non fictional battle between me and an extraordinarily large fish that still appears in my dreams from time to time.

Feeling Heminwayesque

It was another rare but glorious Oregon day in March. After what seemed like weeks of endless rain, on my way home, I could not help but notice the "greening" of the creek below that had been running chocolate brown for what seemed like an eternity. The sun sparkled thru the branches of the grand Douglas firs and the water looked every bit inviting.  Glancing at the clock on my dash, I figured that I might have a slight window to grab my rod and wade-to-play some trout to the net.

Returning to the creek, I began to put together my rod. Shaking from excitement, I struggled to tie on my flies - the site of fishy looking waters did not help. The plan was to run a bright floating indicator above a heavy anchor fly with a lighter fly hanging on a dropper about 16 inches above. I knew I had to go deep, since the water temps were still ice cold. Once my rod was strung, I cautiously stepped into the icy cold waters. I was glad that I remembered to put on extra layers and especially my thick wool socks.

Standing waste deep, I found a good seam that flowed into a  deep trench. After casting, my eyes fixated on the small fluorescent pink floating bobber that held my two flies. I waited out two drifts and towards the end of the third, the bobber suddenly disappeared under the surface. Fish on! From the rods bend, and the feel of its weight, I knew that it was a smaller trout. Surprisingly, it gave me a good fight and it was now visible from my fixed position. Suddenly, from the corner of my right eye, an enormous dark shadow emerged from the bottom. As my mouth opened and heart now pounding the shadow transformed into a silvery bullet, drifting to the surface and shockingly swallowing my trout!

My God! It was an enormous steelhead! I was now faced with the challenge of fighting possibly a record weighing steelhead on a 5wt. rod with nothing more than 6lb. line. I instinctively new that I would not win the battle, so I reached for my flip phone-camera to at least have some sort of evidence. The dance went on and on as the suns color changed from a bright piercing yellow to a subdued orange color. After jumping with such grace, she would take a run, which made the reel scream like it had never before. I put the phone back in my pocket as I started to ponder on the possibility of me landing such a magnificent fish.

I could see she was tiring, as I tried to roll her on her side. The battle had now placed me in fairly swift chest high water and I wondered how I would beach her without any net. A quick glance behind me, only revealed deep cut banks with thick overhanging brush. What was I to do? The fish was closer and closer, but as I started to reach for the tail, she took another run. Everything was being tested at its limits, including my arms that had been holding this sliver of a rod for at least forty minutes now.

Similar to the Hemingway classic, I befriended the fish with all due respect to her beauty and grace. It was not until I spoke to her that she finally came to my arms. The silvery chrome color with bright hues of pink and blue are unforgettable. I was in awe. Even my hand was too small to grip her around the tail and I could only hold her for so long before she began to struggle. Her girth and strength was too much for me as she slid back into the cold green glaciated waters, line now broken.

Truth be told, I was not upset that the fish escaped my embrace. With encroaching darkness and my heart still pumping, I was just thankful for the dance with such a great partner. I loved it much like Pushkin loved his Anna Kern. Nevertheless, unlike Hemingway's Santiago, I did not want to harm the fish, but only spend some quality time to admire her all in her grandeur. Hopefully, we will meet again and she will perhaps tell of ocean going tales. (Waking up) However, next time I gotta make sure I bring the friggin' net!

Not me but Similar Size of Fish from Betts Guide Service

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fishing Stereotypes: Fly Fishing v.s. Bait Cast

Ah yes, I remember the days...impaling thousand of shiner minnows with a deep trebled lead jig head hook with the hopes of getting that 10 pound walleye to bite at a depth of about 30 feet. Jigging on a reef miles offshore with little to no wind, the stillness so prevalent, you can hear your own pumping heart. It was bait fishing at its finest. and the methodology religious to say the least in those parts of Northern Minnesota. We not only fished for fun, but to bring home a stringer of eaters for a tasty Walleye fish fry.

A Young Double D with a Nice Smallie

During those years of innocence, I can honestly admit to the lack of a sense of reality and an isolated existence that was a result of Northern Minnesota cultural norms. Fly fishing? The closest I came to even acknowledging the sport was when our Californian neighbor failed to garage sell a large 10 foot fiberglass Fenwick fly rod with a click and paw fly reel. Frankly put, I'm guessing they gave me the rod because they knew I liked to fish or maybe to just satisfy my cute boyish curiosity.  Unfortunately, the rod never did see any water and was mostly used to whip-crack fly line at my younger brother or at the hovering telephone lines above. Simply put, I was a lion tamer with a 10 foot whip!

A Young GMan with a Good Sized Walleye

It was not until a move to Oregon in my early twenties when I first learned of fly fishing. Sad but true, I immediately stereotyped fly fishermen as rich, metrosexual types frolicking near a frothing stream, joyfully stroking and releasing their so delicate and beautiful caught fish. I could not fathom why they would let such a fine fish go! Fly fishing to me was repulsive - the sight of men communing with nature, layered in ever-so expensive sporty looking waterproof gear, fixed with so many shiny gadgets! And how about that $800 top-o-line Orvis rod they're holding? My goodness! I'm so jealous! How could that be fun?... whilst grabbing my 6 foot Shakespeare, blue-light special, outfitted with an open-faced Shimano reel.

Walleyes Waiting for a Coat of Beer Batter and a Searing Oil Bath

As my time progressed in Oregon, I got to know a few fly fisherman.  While my eyes fixated on their growing noses,  I remember the stories that rolled off their tongues and the constant claims of the improved catch rates when compared with use of a bait fishing rig. Truthfully, I was a bit still smitten with the idea of the societal transition or being someone that I really was not. Besides, I didn't support the notion that some close-minded fly fishermen look down at bait casters for numerous reasons not to mention. Regardless, my boyish curiosity got the best of me once more when I purchased my first fly rod and reel set-up at Cabelas for under $200.

Since, that first rod purchase, I've learned many things and ultimately have a greater appreciation for fly fishing. In my opinion, fly fishing takes more skill and smarts to land a fish than bait cast fishing. Moreover, once you begin fly fishing and become successful, you gain a greater appreciation for conservation that to me was somewhat missing in bait cast fishing. For instance, how many times have you seen styrofoam worm cups and emptycans of Bush Lite on the shore of your favorite stream? Hence, fly fisherman are generally not known to unethically Eli Manning any unwanted fish once caught. OMAHA!  And how about the endless lengths of unsightly monofilament line that hangs from riverbank trees?

Modern Day Double D Frolicking on the Row River Oregon

It's important to note that the cheap beer drinkin', pollutin', and uneducated stereotypes don't fairly serve all bait cast fisherman. And the same applies to the stereotypes that most fly fisherman are rich, biased, metrosexual, tree-huggers. I've seen it from both sides and I can attest that there is goodness in people no matter what method they choose. Truthfully, I don't believe I would be the fly fisherman I am today without my bait casting background. Nonetheless, next time I'm passing an uneducated hillbilly bait caster from the shore in my girly-boy boat, I'll make sure I wave hello and offer them a Bush Lite. After all, we're all after the same thing!

Best Wishes!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why I Gave Up Dry Fly Fishing

The sparkling clear bluish green McKenzie water was in view as I reached for a rod outfitted with a large Stimulator dry fly pattern holding a small dropper pheasant tail nymph off the bend of the hook. As I made my first cast, I confessed to my bud Gary that I am not a dry fly fisherman while fighting a brisk wind with probably a way too long leader.  Unfortunately, the large fly seemed to be absorbing water as we reached faster currents and eventually sank subsurface without stimulating anything but my nerves.

Sparkling McKenzie

 As I reached for the small plastic bottle of Gink fly floatant in my vest, I experienced a bit of nostalgia relative to the great success I have had in the past fishing nymphs subsurface; great quotes about the advantages of using nymphs over dry flies by such fly fishing greats as Gary Borger flowed through my head. I could not take it anymore...I finally reached for my 10 foot 4wt, which was loaded with a long french style leader, a curly-q indicator, 3lb, fluorocarbon tippet and two Prince Nymph Jigs in #10 and #14.

The boat now anchored upon a good flowing riffle, I lobbed the flies a few feet from the stern and not far from the side of the boat. I could tell that Gary was new to the method as his eyes fixated on the bright chartreuse colored slinky that drifted just about the surface. "What do you call that thing?" Trying to explain, I was still getting use to straight-lining from a boat. Thus, I could not help but wonder if there is a visual advantage compared to when your body is sunk in the water. Nonetheless, after only a couple casts, my reel's drag gave a scream and thereafter I landed my first fish!

I had continued success throughout the day as we jockeyed around fast water, in which the method works best.  As I swung my arm from East to West, I felt that the weight of my jigs were just right, pulling and bouncing off the rocky bottom -  I felt like I was in total control. Throughout the day, I thought about all the dry fly fisherman who may have passed up the same spots, since the rough water has the capability to sink the most floatable of flies. I thought about the river guides and how they feel about 40 feet of fly line whizzing past their ear connected to a size #6 barbed hook! I thought about all the energy that goes into a long dry fly cast compared to a short lob of leader and tippet.

One of Many

Thinking back, for some reason, I thought I would give my dry fly rod another chance to prove me wrong and it failed miserably.  As I type this sentence, I see it, my first rod, sitting lonely in the corner probably not to be finessed in any sort of way in the near future. Sure...I may use it for the occasional casual jaunt down to the nearby creek. However, when it comes to getting down to business, I will with no hesitation grab the nymphing rod. So to the dry fly purists, the long casters and the fisherman wearing out their copies of "A River Runs Through It": This is why I gave up dry fly fishing.

Trails End

P.S. Thanks Gary for the great trip! I hope to row a boat like you someday. Regards ~ D2