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!

D2