a bamboo flyrod community
Joined: 22 Nov 2007
Location: Cape Town - South Africa
|Posted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:09 pm Post subject: The rivers we fish
|The rivers we fish
My photos take me back to the rivers I long for when I am caught up in the day to day rut. The places visited over the years, the places where the fishing was good, but at times also very humbling.
In a way, thinking of these rivers, it is not so much about a specific fish; to me it is more about having been there… and dreaming when I can go back.
Each river holds memories – you remember specific runs, rapids and glides better than others, you remember certain trees, boulders and other features.
Over time the river change, as we do, and as time moves on, only 15 years in my case, the rivers of yesteryear might have been replaced by damming, climate change or some other form of human intervention / or neglect – in some cases it did not change.
Think of the rivers in your life…
The ones where you caught your first trout, the ones fished with friends on a good day, the ones you maybe walk through twice a decade.
My favourite water is small streams; pocket water – just deep enough to give cover to trout – it varies from a foot to two feet in depth, and you can pick out the most likely spots the trout will hold – the water could be slow, lazily flowing between the rocks, or it could bubble and turn as it cascades downstream – choose your fly…a dry fly, or a slightly bigger terrestrial, fished just subsurface…
The following places are engraved in my memories for ever.
Olifants river (transl Eliphants)
Upper Kloppershoek - close to Lesotho border
Witte River (transl White) - casting over shallow water
Brown from Witte shallows
Berg river (transl Mountain) - the bridge is gone, a kilometer downstream the river enters into a newly formed dam
The Witte on a cold, stormy, rainy day - half an hour of sun on this stretch produced a brown for a friend of mine.
Pniel - Vaal River - with friends, discussing the mornings fishing
Pniel, Vaal River - putting a fly between the reeds.
…I always feel like, Tony is watching me…
Joined: 22 Nov 2007
Location: Cape Town - South Africa
|Posted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:20 pm Post subject: Dragons, wind and lilies
It starts with the trek…
A good couple of kilometres hike into the mountain. You climb over the fence at the car park and start the track between the fynbos. It is early spring, and although the track is still crisscrossed with small water streams and puddles from the last winter rains, the fynbos is coming alive. This indigenous group of plant species growing on the slopes of mountains in the Western Cape comes to life this time of year – flowers are opening up everywhere, and wildlife shyly appears while birds and dragonflies roam the air…
I am a brother to the dragon…
The climb gets tougher, I can feel it as the crisp morning air hits my lungs – it wasn’t like this 10 years ago – I’m not getting into the mountains often enough…
A cool breeze hits us as we turn towards the river
I am a brother to the wind…
The sounds are picking up, wind, birds, and the sound of rushing water
I feel the air, and in the wind I hear your voice
The path takes us across a wooden bridge, cutting through dense vegetation, still wet with the morning dew
And as I pass through the valley of life but once, I will stop to smell the flowers, to look at the birds and to feel the wind
We are on the river. The rods are rigged, flies are chosen – it will be a small dry fly, cast, and lightly the fly drops in the tail of a run. The fly drifts through… no hidden browns willing to expose themselves from under the undercuts. We work our way slowly up the river – run for run, pool for pool. Each piece of the river special
And I will gather the memories, and hold them close to my heart
We move further up the river, observing, planning, casting - some days the browns take the fly, others they send you home humbled. It always is a good day on the river. We will be next year, and fish the river again, as we have done for so many years, and hopefully for years to come
And when I am in the twilight of my life, I will reach in, and touch the memories – and in the wind I will hear your voice…
I am a brother to the dragon
I am a brother to the wind
I AM A BROTHER TO THE DRAGON
I AM A BROTHER TO THE WIND
AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF LIFE, NEVER TO RETURN AGAIN
I WILL PAUSE BRIEFLY TO ADMIRE THE BEAUTIFULL, THE LILIES, THE WIND AND THE WATERS
THE MOST BEAUTIFULL I WILL GATHER AND HOLD TO MY CHEST
AND IN THE SONG OF THE WIND I WILL HEAR YOUR VOICE, I WILL
REACH FOR IT AND HOLD IT CLOSE
AND IN THE TWILIGHT OF MY LIFE WHEN I HAVE GROWN OLD, AND LONG FOR THE DAYS OF
MY YOUTH, I WILL REACH IN AND TOUCH ALL THE THINGS I HAVE GATHERED -
I WILL FEEL AND HEAR MY MEMORIES- THE SONG OF THE WIND, THE LILIES AND THE
WATERS...AND I WILL SMILE, FOR THEY WERE GOOD.
I AM A BROTHER TO THE DRAGON
I AM A BROTHER TO THE WIND...
ROBERT H VOOGT
…I always feel like, Tony is watching me…
The Great Mosquito King
Joined: 28 Dec 2007
Location: Mosquito County, Florida
|Posted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:10 am Post subject: Zac's First Entry
|Zac sent this one to me months ago and I forkin' lost it in the electronic fog. Stumbled across it today, hiding in plain sight. He will be posting a couple of new entries in the next few days but is a little busy right now, fishing East Slope Rockie Waters in warmup for his birthday next Saturday. Anybody else here jealous??
The Beaverhead, Bamboo, Two Bums, ---and a girl
by Zac Sexton
He hadn't been fishing in quite some time. He muttered, "I'd love to go with you. I haven't been since, well, let me think…" He had to think about the last time. It had definitely been too long since Jerry Kustich had been in the company of a river.
I fish just about every day I don't work—which works out to most the year, as I am unemployed. I felt bad for Jerry always working in the shop. I could see his want of rivers in the way he stooped over rod blanks. He just didn't radiate the way he used to, smearing glue on bamboo.
I drove to Twin Bridges from my home in Buffalo, Wyoming, to visit the "Boo Boys," pick up a rod from Jeff Walker and fish as much as I could. The rod I was to get, is an unbelievable fishing partner, eight feet long, in three pieces and prefers to cast a five-weight line. The "Boo Boys" donated the rod for me to use during the Cuttie-thon, a 27-mile, fly fishing marathon I do to raise money for native fisheries and diabetes research. I am a type I diabetic.
The first cast with Jeff's rod, before the Cuttie-thon, made me smile. "Oh my god. Look at that loop! I don't even have to do anything. Wow!!!" I still smile casting Jeff's rod. Besides being a great caster, the rod was the first one Jeff built for himself, in his early years in the Winston shop. He told me, "When I finally got time to sit down and make a rod for myself--to make a rod the way I thought a rod should be--I made this rod." I loved the rod so much, I was able to talk Jeff in to letting me buy her. I had no choice.
I got to the shop, and visited with the Boys for a while, and looked over their shoulders while they worked. I had built one bamboo rod and am working on others, so any bit of advice given by the 'Boo Boys was like a drink of ice water in a burning desert. After learning all I could in a day in the shop, I planned to fish Jeff's rod with Mojo, my English Setter. But Jerry looked at the clock just as I was preparing to leave the shop. "Well, how 'bout we go fish the Beaverhead. We'll just walk up from the shop."
"Are you serious?" I asked. "You sure you can leave?"
"Yeh," Jerry said. "I've got done what I wanted. Besides I haven't fished in months."
"What the?…" Are you serious? Well let's go."
We walked briskly outside to get our gear and go. Jerry had a rod ready in the back of his rig, and was ready to fish in about five minutes. That included the time spent B.S.ing with me. I had my stuff packed in the back of my car and took a good twenty minutes to get ready—B.S.ing the whole time.
Jerry wasn't sure how the fishing would be, but said it would be good to be on the river, anyway. We might catch a few. We climbed the steep bank to the river and started working our way upstream. Jerry suggested I try a run on the far bank, under some willows. He would go upstream a bit.
"That's usually a pretty good run," Jerry said. "You should get at least one out of there."
I waded down a bit and began to work my stonefly dry, under the willows. Nothing happened. I put a beadhead dropper below the stonefly, walked back to the head of the run and tried again. Nothing. Now I was feeling kinda inept: Jerry's words, "You should get at least ONE out of there…"
But, the rod cast so sweetly. It wasn't an easy cast to slide my two-fly rig under the willows. I brought my back cast up a bit, and dropped my forward cast, sliding my rod parallel and just a couple feet above the water's surface, to get the line to flip just perfectly under the willows. Some weren't perfect—I assume, but I don't remember those casts.
Even with the wonderful rod action and good-looking cover, I wasn't catching anything. I gave up and waded upstream to catch Jerry. Mojo followed along, checking the slack water for minnows and frogs. He seemed to be having more luck than me. Afteral with years of drought now decimating the area's rivers, I shouldn't expect fish to be everywhere — right?!
I found Jerry around the next bend. "Catch anything?" I asked.
"Yeh got a few," Jerry said. "Not real big but I got a couple."
"Well, at least there's fish in here, eh. I didn't get anything."
"Really? Well, let's work upstream — there's some nice holes up there."
Scandalous clouds began to roll in off the Ruby mountains, bringing a welcome cool breeze. The next series of river bends brought promising, deep holes. Jerry and I had both switched to wet flies. Jerry used a black wooly bugger, and I used my Marathoner pattern, in brown and yellow. We both started to catch fish regularly. Most fish were healthy Rainbows and Browns in the mid teens. Jerry said he landed one that was a bit better than 18 inches.
"Wow," Jerry said. "I haven't had fishing like this on the Beaverhead in years."
"Really?" I asked. "Fish aren't in every hole, but I can usually get a couple every other hole or so."
"Yep, that's how the Beaverhead usually works, it seems."
We continued alternating holes upstream, and worked to a point Jerry had only been once before. It was so long ago, he had forgotten he'd been there. The water twisted through a number of holes enticingly. Jerry stopped on a deep green hole, and I watched as he pulled two fish from it. I wandered upstream and fished a smaller hole. I twitched the Marathoner behind a boulder in the hole's middle, on my third cast. My line paused and I set the hook. Instead of immediately pulling the fish in, this fish ran to the head of the hole, then back to the tail. I worked it with side pressure trying to slow it down. My rod bent fully and reverberated energy from the thrashing fish, to my hands. Jerry walked up behind me while I fought the fish.
"Looks like you got a nice one," Jerry said.
"Yeh," I gasped. "I think it is. Can't git it in. Might be the fish of the day."
After a few minutes I finally got the fish to me in slack water. It was a beautiful Brown around 17 inches. After getting Mojo untangled from my fly line, Jerry took a couple pictures of the Brown and me. That Brown made my day. I think it flushed a little pink as I kissed, then released it.
The evening continued with many fish falling to our offerings. Jerry fished below me a bit, and mentioned off-hand, "You know it's not often you have two writers from Buffalo (Jerry's from Buffalo, New York), fishing the same river."
"And they both have beards," I added. "And they both love cutthroat trout. And they're both kinda funny lookin'. It is strange. Or, we're strange."
Jerry and I do have similar lives—at different life times. We fish as much as possible and love writing and bamboo. And as much as I love bamboo and fishing, I had a dilemma. I had a date with an attractive woman in Bozeman later that evening.
I was torn between finishing the evening catching fish on the Beaverhead with Jerry, or meeting a very attractive woman at a bar in Bozeman. And I still had to get back home to northeast Wyoming. Think, think, think…I stayed a half hour longer than I should have.
"Well, Jerry, I hate to do it, but I think I better get back and see about catching a woman for an evening."
"Yeah. Well, if you don't mind, I'm just going to stay here for a while."
"No, I don't mind. I'd rather fish, too, but I get about four dates a year. I better go see what happens. Besides I fish way more than you do."
"Thanks for reminding me. I haven't had fishing like this…well, this might be the best fishing I've had on the Beaverhead."
"Well, take care, Jerry. Leave some for me would you?"
"You too Zac, it was good to fish with you. If it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't have gone fishing."
We said our good byes and Jerry kept casting his way upstream. I trudged back to my car, in a hurry to make my date on time. The whole way, I thought about the great fishing, how sweet my/Jeff's rod is, and wondered how many more fish Jerry would catch. I thought about those things through most the date, too.
# # #
The rods you guys are making today would cause Hiram, Edwards and the Paynes as well as Fred Devine to crap their pants then giggle like boys peeking into the girls' locker room as they strung them up and laid out the first casts.
Joined: 27 Jan 2009
Location: Native Cutthroat habitat
|Posted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:18 am Post subject: Flowage by Zac Sexton
|It was the summer of 1997, and I had just arrived from Wyoming’s Bighorn mountains to the north woods of Wisconsin. My first semester of college was just beginning at Northland College. I was to partake in five days of canoeing and fishing on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage with fellow freshmen and transfer students, as our orientation. Yes, it was a liberal, hippy school.
Our first day on the Flambeau's flat water was a long stretch of paddling to get to an island our trip leaders had planned to camp on for a couple days. We had two leaders, Jeremiah and Nancy. Jeremiah was a large guy with long curly, blonde hair and smoked a pipe. Nancy was a muscular gal with reddish hair. Jeremiah liked to fish, and told us he knew the water well. Nancy liked to paddle canoes, but said she was interested in learning to fish.
We had paired up in canoeing groups, generally an inexperienced canoeist with an experienced one. I teamed up with Tim, from a military school in Chicago, as he had canoed a couple times before. I had only canoed once, when I was in second grade, and got tired of paddling in the white-capped lake after about ten minutes. Therefore, Tim sat in the back to steer, and I sat in front to set the pace. Both Tim and I were fishermen. Tim had brought a decent selection of bass and pike lures time-tested in the brown water of Illinois. I had only read about Pike fishing and had tied dozens of bass and pike flies before the trip. I borrowed a 7 wt. bamboo fly rod from my hometown game warden. He felt bad I only had light, trout rods, and let me use the old rod he had built years ago, and hardly used. He warned me to be careful with it, reminding me he had a gun on his hip at all times; he first reminded me of this when I started dating his daughter in High School.
I was the oddball fly-fisherman. See, Midwesterners aren't as smart, sophisticated or sexy as us westerners, so they don't really know how to fly-fish like we do. We got to a large bay lined with lilly pads after about a half hour of fishing. Matt and Wes, both basketball players (sissies who bounce little balls around), got out their short spinning rods and started casting to likely water. Tim and I looked back and noticed them fishing. We slowed down to look for a place to try. But, Nancy kept paddling, telling us, "No fishing! We have to get to that island. Let's go."
Matt and Wes ignored her and kept fishing. Everyone else kept going, so Tim and I went along thinking we'd just fish around the island. Matt and Wes became dots on the far horizon as Nancy kept yelling, "Let's go! No fishing!!!" every few hundred yards. Finally after no bites, Matt and Wes traded poles for paddles and caught up to the group.
We got to the island, set up camp and most of us hurried off to catch the first fish of the day. Everyone went to different water. Matt and Wes quickly hit the water and left a wake behind as they rounded the nearest bend. Matt could be heard at camp, yelling, "No fishing. We have to paddle. This isn't a fishing trip. No fishing!!!" (We chuckled to ourselves in the irony. We were on the Iron River.) Tim and I went to another island surrounded with submerged tree trunks partially sticking out of the water. We caught nothing. The sun sank low and we decided to head back to camp for dinner. Nancy and Jeremiah had cooked up a bunch of noodles and some sort of sauce, which was damn good after a tiring day of paddling and catching no fish. After dinner we headed back out. The action was once again slow.
Tim and I worked a logjam in a shallow bay. I tossed my weedless Dahlburg Diver in an opening in the jam, pulled a couple times on my line to pop the fly in the water and, "Smack!" a fish jumped on the fly. I quickly lifted up to pull the fish out of the jam. It wasn't much of a fight before I landed my first Northern pike—all 14 inches of it. It was a small pike, but Tim and I were quite happy to finally find fish. We kept working the loggy shore and picked up a couple more small pike between us. We got back to camp after dark—the last ones to camp. Apparently everyone else experienced poor fishing, too. Matt and Wes had got a small bass and a few panfish. That was it. The sun set behind a dark forest in the west. A Screech owl called out madly, seeming to set the foreboding feeling of the next couple days fishing.
We stayed around the island for another day, but fished harder and farther. Our results were about the same: a few small fish for each angler. Later that night around the campfire, Wes told us about Jeremiah's fishing for the day.
"Matt and I were just taking off, and we saw Jeremiah get out his pole and cast. He pulled in a big clump of weeds and cast again. He had a bunch of weeds again. He tried again and caught more weeds. Then he just looked at his pole, threw it on the ground and walked off. He got out his pipe laid down, and just smoked his pipe, and laid on the bank all damn day."
We laughed at our fishing guide's lackluster fishing skills, but worried a bit how we might fare ourselves. Our spirits were shrinking with the size of our fish.
The weather got pretty rough the third day and we decided to move to another spot. We paddled for a few hours to another island near where another crew of canoers from Northland would be camping. It was a cabin where one of the other trip leaders, Zack, had grown up. We would meet up with them in a couple days for a big dinner and sauna (sow-na).
Tim and I decided to fish a sheltered bay on the north side of the island. We worked several weed lines with no luck. Matt and Wes came around the far point in a couple hours. We met just off a reef of grass and each picked a side to work. Nothing there, either. Tim and I drifted off a bit, talking with Matt and Wes about how shitty the fishing was. I tied on another fly, a chartreuse and white Clouser Minnow, and flipped the fly just over the edge of the canoe while I stripped line off my reel to cast.
I looked up and watched Wes cast for a second and heard a splash just to my left. I looked down, saw several rings bouncing in the water where my fly had been, and it took a while before I realized a fish had taken my fly.
"Holy fuck!" I yelled as I stripped up the line I just peeled off. I picked up the slack after a few seconds. I thought I lost the fish because I didn't have a chance to set the hook. But, as I lifted on my rod to cast, my rod bowed down under the weight of a fish. The fish ran, pulling line screaming off my Ross Reel, a graduation present from Charlie, my employer at Just Gone Fishing—"screeeeeeeeeeeeeee…." Went the reel. "Holy fucking mother fucking shit…fuck…holy fuck!" went the Zac.
"What?!" asked Wes who was about 30 yards away. "I got a fucking big-ass fish."
"What is it?"
"Fuck if I know. It's fucking big though. I can't get the fucker in."
"Well, don't horse 'im."
The fish ran several times, but I managed to hold and reel him in a bit. He kept zigging side-to-side. The canoe drifted toward the fish, closing the gap a bit. Tim pulled our net out from under our gear while I got the fish a bit closer. It made a last run, jumped two feet out of the water and splashed madly back in the lake.
"Holy shit, it's a fucking bass!" I yelled.
"Well, catch the fucker," said Wes.
"I'm fucking trying," said I
"Well fucking, fucking, fucking," said Wes in a high-pitched, gayish voice.
I finally tired the bass and Tim netted it next to the canoe. Tim, Wes, Matt and I all yelled some expletive in unison with such joy you would think we had blown our loads in a circle jerk at the same time. Maybe we did. It was a long time ago….
I held the bass up and told Tim to take a couple pictures with my waterproof, disposable camera (this was back when people still used film, remember). Wes asked if I was going to kill it. I hadn't thought about it. My normal, purist, trout fly-fishing ethics had taught me to release all fish I caught.
"No, I was going to put it back."
"Why the hell for?" asked Wes.
"I don't know."
"Keep the fucker so we can eat him tonight."
So, I smacked him over the head with a paddle and killed it. I had no idea how big it was, as no one had a tape handy, but it was by far the biggest Smallmouth bass I had ever caught. It was also the biggest fish of the trip so far. We all paddled back to camp to show off my catch. I was the trip's hero. Everyone talked about how big my fish was. We were all excited to eat it for dinner, as we were sick of three days eating noodles with various toppings. I left the fish at camp and Tim and I went to get him a big fish.
We fished a cattail swamp for a few hours. I stood in the boat's bow casting to every other likely piece of cover I could find. Tim sat in the back and cast a weedless lure to the cover I wasn’t hitting. We didn't have any luck there, and were getting ready to head back to camp when we saw a motorboat head our way.
"Oh, God damn it," I said.
"What?" Tim asked.
"A fucking boat is coming our way. We should move, maybe."
As we got ready to head somewhere else the boat turned alongside us, and we saw the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) logo on the side of the boat. We let it get close and talked with the warden. He introduced himself and said he weighed and measured the Smallmouth back at camp.
"You must be Zac?" the warden asked.
I thought—what the hell? What did I do? Is this guy gonna arrest me for killing that fish?
"Jeremiah told me about the fish you caught. He said I'd know you when I saw you—fly fishing."
Guess I stuck out with my long, bamboo rod in the air.
"Yeh," I drawled, still not sure if I was in trouble. "Well how big was it?"
"18 ¾ inches, 4.25 pounds," said the warden.
"Is that big?" I asked.
"Yep. That's the biggest Smallmouth I've seen pulled out of here this year, anyway. This flowage doesn't produce many fish that size, because it's so shallow."
"Wow, cool," I said.
The warden just kinda looked at me, surprised I could catch a fish that big, out-fishing everyone else with their hillbilly gear. The attention this fish was getting me seemed strange. Good, but strange. Actually, great but strange. I started to think that maybe ol' Rebecca, the cute girl in our group who played the guitar, might enjoy my company in her tent that night. My head (and another thing) began to swell.
We headed back to camp and I made up a dinner of rice, noodles and fried Smallmouth bass. Everyone was impressed with my cooking and happy to have some fresh fish for dinner. The next day, we met up with the other canoe group (after I snuck out of Rebecca's tent before sunrise). Every time I introduced myself to someone, they asked if I was the guy who caught the big fish. My reputation preceded me. And that's what I've always loved about Wisconsin: the big fish I could catch there, and the women who loved me for it.
# # #
Joined: 27 Jan 2009
Location: Native Cutthroat habitat
|Posted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:15 am Post subject: "Fishing for answers" a play in four parts
|Fishing for answers
A play in four parts
By Zac Sexton
Introduction: I wrote this play to explain events that happened several years ago. It was a weird couple days. I didn't think a regular story would work. I had been reading plays by Anton Chekov, and suddenly saw this story as a play. A couple names have been changed to protect the guilty. So, here you have my first play. Enjoy.
Characters in the Play
Zac Sexton, micro-brew snob, angling expert and bamboo fly rod building novice, aged 28
Mike Peck, whiskey and Coke drinking expert, quiet bamboo fly rod building master, aged 28
Travis Kern, micro-brew snob, biking expert, hydrology technician, moved to Buffalo the previous weekend, aged 38
Bill So-and-So, shitty beer connoisseur, construction expert and hobo, name has been changed to protect the guilty, aged 28
Mojo Workin', angling expert, Sexton's male, English Setter, aged 6 ½ human years
Drunk Guy 1
Drunk Guy 2
The action takes place at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains
Zac, Travis and Bill sit at a bar in Sheridan, Wyoming. It's early December and a cold front is blowing over Cloud Peak. A waitress has just served their draft beers: Zac a 16 oz. Newcastle, Travis a 16 oz. Easy Street Wheat with orange slices, Bill was in the bathroom when the beers were ordered. Zac ordered him a 25 oz. Coors light, knowing he needed to drink, and liked shitty beer.
Bill: (Points to his beer mug looking at the waitress) What's this?
Waitress: What? It's your beer.
Bill: I wanted it in a bottle. (The waitress is quiet for a moment.)
Zac: (to Bill) I ordered your beer since you were off playing with yourself. I thought you'd want the most beer possible.
Bill: I did. I'm just kidding. (Turns to waitress) This is fine. Thanks. (Waitress walks off.)
Travis: So, this beer's pretty good?
Bill: Yeh, it's brewed in Colorado. It's about the only good thing that comes from that fucking state.
Travis: (Sips the beer and sets it down) It tastes like water. Water with orange slices. Is it supposed to taste that way? Maybe their taps are off.
Bill: Well, I don't know. Let me taste it. Mind if I drink out of your glass?
Bill: You're not afraid of germs—Like I am? (drinks Travis's beer) No. It tastes right.
Zac: Yeh, the beer around here isn't quite what you're used to in Oregon. You have to head north to Montana or south to Colorado before you'll hit a good brewery. So that's what you're stuck with. Sorry.
Travis: Oh well, I'll keep trying. So Bill—what the hell was the deal with your wife when we left?
Bill: You mean does she always freak out like that?
Travis: Yeh. What the hell?
Bill: Yes. I don't know. I mean, I'm not home much, but shit. She always is bitchin' at me about something. It never ends. So, I just be sure to be home less and less.
Zac: Yeh, but Jesus. She parked right behind my car so I couldn't get out. She wouldn't fucking move until I was scraping up against her fucking bumper trying to get around her.
Travis: That was weird. She just wasn't going to let you go.
Bill: Didn't help that I come walking out of the house holding four beers in my arm just as she pulls up in the driveway. I was embarrassed. I just wanted to get out of there. I knew what was coming.
Zac: Does she always scream, "Go ahead, tell them. Tell everyone. You're an alcoholic!!!" with the kids and your friends standing right there? She looked demonic when she lunged at you and screamed in your face. I thought she was going to bite your nose off.
Bill: No. But she screams like that all the time. I'll just be sitting there and she starts screaming about something with the kids in the other room.
Travis: Do you say anything back?
Bill: No. I just sit there and want to disappear.
Travis: This is what you need to do. You just walk in the house, slam the door and start screaming at her. See how she likes it.
Bill: You haven't been married have you?
(It's quiet for a moment while all three take a couple gulps of beer. Another waitress walks by. Zac recognizes her as "the hot girl who fly-fishes." He has heard rumors from other bar patrons. She stops when she recognizes Zac.)
Waitress 2: Hey, how are you guys?
Zac: We're doing quite well. Did you get out to fish this weekend?
Waitress 2: No. I catch so many fish so often, I'm taking a break for a while. I'm going to see if I can make it a bit harder for myself. I need a challenge.
Zac: Wish I had that problem.
Bill: (to Waitress 2) Can I get another one? This one has a hole in the bottom.
Waitress 2: Sure. What are you drinking?
Bill: Coors light.
Waitress 2:You want another one that big?
(Zac and Travis order another 16 oz. Beer. Travis tries a Newcastle)
Zac: Well, should we finish the next round and go somewhere else? Can't just stay in one bar all night.
Travis: I'd like to see what else is around.
Zac: O.K. (to Bill) What's the nearest bar? The Mint? We can walk to that can't we?
(The three finish their beers in short order. Bill pays the tab for the last round and they walk through a back alley in lightly falling snow, to the Mint. The Mint is assholes-to-elbows in people. Baseball, cowboy and King Rope hats top most heads. A few clusters of women are surrounded by mobs of drunk men. It's another Wyoming paradise. Bill heads straight to the bathroom in back while Zac buys beers.)
Zac: (to the female bartender in long, black hair and scowl.) Can I get a Coors light in a bottle, a…what's on tap? No, never mind. I'll keep this simple. Three Coors originals in bottles please.
(The bartender puts three beer bottles on the counter with the labels facing her.) Thanks. (He leaves a tip. To Travis) Here you go.
Travis: Thanks. (He takes a drink and gets a funny look on his face. Zac takes a drink.)
Zac: What the hell? This is fucking Coors light. As if Coors original wasn't bad enough. I thought I ordered original.
Travis: You did, I heard you.
Zac: Shouldn't have fucking tipped her. Oh well. It's beer.
(Bill returns from the bathroom.)
Zac: Here you go (hands him the third bottle). It's Coors light. I asked for original.
Bill: Sweet. Thanks man. I didn't want a Yellow Belly, anyway. I like the Silver Bullet.
Zac: You have no taste.
(Travis leaves to get another round. Two guys start yelling behind Zac. Drunk guy 1 pushes Drunk Guy 2 toward the front door while pulling Drunk Guy 2's jacket over his head and punching him in the ribs. They bump in to Zac and Drunk Guy 2's drink spills on Zac's arm. The two guys push and fight their way out the door on to Main St. The front third of the Mint looks out the door to watch the action.)
Zac: Holy shit!
Bill: What the hell were they fighting about?
Zac: Hell if I know. Fuck 'em. Stupid drunk fuckers. Now I'm covered in liquor. That'll smell great when I get out of here.
Travis: (returns from the bar) What just happened?
Zac: Some guys got in a fight. Life's rough out West.
Travis: I guess.
Zac: Get any beer?
Travis: No, I couldn't get the bartender to look at me.
Zac: Maybe if you didn't have that long hippy hair you'd have better luck. That, and hold up some cash.
Travis: Maybe I should get a hair cut, then. I don't have cash. I just have my card. Maybe they don't take cards.
Zac: Hell if I know. I've got cash. I'll get the next round.
(Zac gets the next round by talking a woman from Sheridan in to standing at the bar to get the bartender's attention. She gets the desired beer in five minutes. Zac Thanks her, and they split ways. Zac is a smooth talker—smooth like a porcupine. Travis, Bill and Zac spend the rest of the night watching drunk cowboys dance, and talking to women with chewing tobacco in their lips. Travis and Zac decide they need to get home for the fishing trip the next morning. They tell Bill they're ready to leave, but Bill says he's staying.)
Zac: Come on, let's go. Travis and I need to get up to go fishing tomorrow.
Bill: Well, then, go. I'll stay here.
Zac: How are you going to get home?
Bill: I don't know. I'll get a ride or something. I can get a motel if I need to. I don't care. I don't want to go home.
Travis: You can stay at my place. Let's go man.
Bill: No. Go ahead. I'm tired of being told what to do. I just want to do what I want to do. You guys tell me to go, so I'm going to stay here.
Zac: Well, O.K. But fucking call us if you need a ride. I'll come back and get you. It's no big deal to drive to Sheridan and back. I got 4-wheel-drive. I'm not afraid.
Zac: See you later. We'll probably be able to pick you up tomorrow when we go fishing, if you don't get home tonight.
Travis:Good luck, man. Sure you don't want to go?
Bill: See you later. I'll be fine. Leave me here.
(Travis and Zac walk back to the car through the dark alley and more densely falling snow. They drive uneventfully back to Buffalo on snow covered I-25. Zac swerves a bit pointing out the reservoir he just got permission to fish for Largemouth and Rock bass.)
(8:30 a.m. Saturday. The temperature is 16 F with a bright sun covering Buffalo in a warming yellow blanket. Zac drives his '86 red Subaru Outback around the soccer fields by Meadowlark Elementary. It was on those fields some 15 years ago he was shown the magic of fly-casting by his friend Joe Larson. Zac watches the dead grass nostalgically and stops at the next intersection to Mike's house. He makes the turn but his car dies one house shy of Mike's.)
Zac: God damn it! You gotta be fist-fucking me. (He gets out and pushes his car, uphill and to the curb.) Well, guess I'll see if Travis can come pick us up. (Zac calls Travis on his cell phone and Travis agrees to drive for the day and pick Mike and Zac up. Zac talks to himself.) Well, fuck. Guess I'll go bullshit with Mike, and show him the wrap job on my new rod. (walks to Mike's front door and walks in without knocking) Hey Mike! Alright, time to check out my rod. No, my bamboo rod, you pervert.
(Mike takes Zac's rod out of the metal tube and looks closely at the wraps.)
Mike: Need to put another coat of varnish on the wraps. Might need to sand them down and then varnish. Might need to just put another coat on, but I don't know if it will stick to the dried varnish. Just have to try it and see. Looks pretty good though. It will impress people that's your first rod.
Zac: Are you serious?
Mike: Yeh. It's a good rod for your first one. Just need to fix the varnish on the wraps.
Zac: Thanks man. My car broke down—surprisingly. Travis said he could drive, so he's on his way here to pick us up.
Mike: Jesus. What's wrong with your car?
Zac: Fuck if I know. It's old and I drive it. Glad it didn't die on the interstate.
(Travis shows up ten minutes later. Zac introduces the two and then gives Travis the bamboo rod workshop tour. Travis is impressed, as are all intelligent people when they see bamboo in the various stages of being turned in to a rod. They load up, Zac sitting shotgun, Mike in back behind Zac, and Mojo behind Mike with his head resting on the seat back by Mike's head.)
Zac: Thanks for driving, man. Damn car. Though I don't think I have it as bad as Bill.
Travis: No kidding. I wonder if he made it home last night.
Zac: I doubt it. He just didn't want to go home. I'm sure he got a motel, but I don't know what the hell he's going to do now.
Travis: Guess we'll find out.
(They pass over a ridge on I-25 toward Sheridan.)
Zac: (to Travis) That ridge we just passed over is Lodge Trail Ridge. It's the ridge Fetterman was ordered not to go over in pursuit of Indians. But, he did, and you can see the monument where he and his cavalry made their last stand. Red Cloud camped out on the Tongue River, where we're going fishing, before making the attack on Fetterman.
Travis: I don't see the monument. But, that's pretty cool.
Mike: (pointing to a prominent hill to the west) Isn't that Massacre Hill where that radio tower is?
Zac: I don't know. I thought it was back to the left a bit—not as big as that hill.
Mike: Guess I don't know. There's those soldier and Indian silhouettes on top of it.
Zac: Oh, that's what those are for? That's pretty cool. I just thought they were a decoration. You know Charlie's wife is psychic. And she and a couple friends sometimes go to battlefields to release spirits trapped there. She was walking back off the Fetterman battlefield when a spear landed right in front of her. She turned back and told her friends they can't leave, because there are still sprits trapped. They went back and Charlie's wife found a soldier with a rifle. He told her, "I'm tired of fighting. I just don't want to fight anymore. I'm tired of fighting." So, they told the soldier to go toward the light and some other stuff, and the soldier disappeared.
Travis: Wow. Is that for real?
Zac: I guess. I wasn't there, but she's definitely got psychic abilities. I don't know why she'd make it up. That's one of the weird things about this area. There were a lot of battles and there's a lot of dead people still wandering around. You can feel it sometimes. That's one of the reasons I named my rod Red Cloud's Shadow. No matter where you go around here, it's just like you're in his shadow. This was the last stronghold for the natives. They had it for another 10 years before the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Then, they had it for a little while after before settlers moved in on them. The Little Bighorn has some big damn fish in it.
(They continue to drive for 15 more minutes and arrive in Sheridan. Zac calls Bill, but gets his voicemail right away.)
Zac: Bill isn't answering his phone. Damn. Well, guess we'll check on him when we get back.
(Zac's phone rings. He sees it's Bill's number calling.)
Zac: Where in the hell are you?
Bill: I'm sitting on a bridge over some river, drinking beer and trying to figure out what to do with my life.
Zac: Which river? Goose Creek?
Bill: Fuck if I know. It's next to…the O.K. Corral liquor store where I bought my beer.
Zac: Oh, I know where you are. It's Goose Creek. Want to go figure your life out, in Tongue canyon? I hear it's easier to do there.
Bill: Where are you guys?
Zac: Just north of town by the weigh station. We can turn around and get you.
Bill: No, just go fishing and pick me up when you're done.
Zac: O.K. we'll give a call when we get in to town.
Bill: Well, my battery's low. So, when will you be back in town so I can turn my phone on?
Zac: We should be in town from around 4:30 to 5 p.m. It gets dark in the canyon by four. Turn your phone on by 4:15/4:30 and we should be in town.
Bill: O.K. Good luck fishing. I'll be sitting by the crick drinking.
Zac: Don't fall in. (Zac hangs up the phone and turns to Travis). He has just given up. He doesn't care what happens. He's just going to sit around town all day, with no car, and think by the river. Guess that's what we're kinda doing, but at least we've got bamboo fly rods to play with.
Travis: Oh my god. They need to get that shit figured out. He didn't want to go with us?
Zac: Nope. He just doesn't care. He'll be fine. He can get a motel or stay in a bar if nothing else. We'll pick him up on the way back.
(Mike, Travis and Zac stand next to the Durango getting waders on and gear ready. Mojo runs around pissing on bushes and sniffing for any animal brave enough to show itself.)
Travis: I can't believe all the bamboo rods. That is cool. I've never seen so many hand-built, custom rods in one place.
Mike: Yeh, that's what happens when you build your own.
Zac: Yes, it is cool. I can't wait to try this thing out. I hope I don't break it. I break everything. I bet I trip on a rock and snap the tip before I even wet a line. Oh well. We'll see. (to Travis) Do you want to drive up the canyon and look around while we get ready and fish? There's a trail up a ways you can check out.
Travis: Can you bike on it?
Zac: You can mountain bike on it. But you gotta be careful. This girl I knew when I worked for the Forest Service was biking up the trail with a couple other guys. She slipped off the trail and fell like 40 or 50 feet down the canyon.
Travis: Was she clipped in?
Zac: Clipped in to what?
Travis: Did she have toe clips? That can make for a nasty wreck with those.
Zac: I don't know. I do know she broke a few bones and didn't work for a month. She was beat up pretty well. So, you want to watch where you're going on that trail. But it's cool.
Travis: I'll do the trail another time. I want to watch and learn.
Zac: Well don't watch us, then.
Travis: I just want to see how you guys do this stream fishing stuff with a fly rod. I've only fly-fished on lakes for bass and bluegill with poppers.
Zac: This is a bit different. It's cold and the water moves. And the fish are usually smaller. But it's fucking cool. I love it.
Travis: I can take pictures while you fish.
Zac: That would be great. Here's my camera.
Mike: (heads to the river ready to fish) You guys ready?
Zac: In a minute. We're bull-shitin' god damn it. I just need to tie on my flies. I'm going to fish my Marathoner. I got up early just to tie one of these, as my supply was out. It's been a killer pattern for me.
Travis: What's that? What's a Marathoner?
Zac: This. (holds up the fly) I designed it to look like a stonefly nymph on a dead drift, but it has a rabbit tail, so you can strip it in like a streamer and it looks like a minnow or leech. You put some smaller nymph on as a point fly and it works bad-ass. This is my last one, though. I hope I don't lose it. (Zac shows Travis how he ties knots and rigs his line—using a 7-foot leader of straight 2x material. The straight and short leader sinks quickly and is easier to manage line). Well, let's go give 'er a go. This is my favorite hole in the canyon.
(Travis and Mike stand behind Zac as he crawls through alder to the stream bank.)
Travis: (whispers to Mike) You gotta be stealthy. Sneak up on the fish?
Mike: Well, it helps. I think Zac's over doing it a bit, but the water's pretty clear and it's easy to spook 'em.
Zac: (get's his line snagged in an alder) Yeh, you gotta be real fucking sneaky, and not catch your line in the trees before you even get a chance to wet your line. God damn it. Oh well, There weren't any fish there, anyway.
(Zac untangles his line and hops a couple boulders and stands on a big boulder in the stream's middle. He casts several times, but catches nothing.)
Travis: What do you think of the rod?
Zac: It's amazing. It does this perfect. I can't believe I made this thing. Holy shit! This is awesome. I'm so happy I could drop my waders and start jerking off!
Travis and Mike: (in mock shock) O.K. then.
(Mike heads upstream to fish near the diversion without saying anything, after a few more minutes. Zac keeps working his way up the hole he started at. Travis takes pictures of him casting.)
Travis: The camera battery just died. Do you have another one?
Zac: I used to, but I lost it in South Dakota taking pictures of Geese. I haven't replaced it, yet and it's pissing me off, that I don't have a back up. This cold weather is hell on that stupid digital fucker. You have a disposable don't you?
Travis: Yeh, but it's in the car. I'll go get it.
(Zac casts a couple more times, getting a good drift just to a fish's left of the thalweg, or deepest part of the channel. A fish takes Zac's fly.)
Zac: Fish on! Mike I got a fish on! Travis! I got one! (Zac can't see anyone nearby and shrugs his shoulders, continuing to fight the fish. The fish jumps). Woo-hooo! Sweet, it's a Rainbow. I thought for sure my first fish with this rod would be a Whitefish. Not bad sized, too. (Travis runs up to where Zac is fighting the fish).
Travis: Got one, eh.
Zac: Yes. Can you get some shots of me fighting the fish, and get the bend in my rod? Look at it! It's fucking sweet. Look at the fish jump! Woooo-hooooo! Fucking sweet!
Travis: (takes a couple pictures) Got it. (Zac lands the fish).
Zac: Can you get a picture of me with the fish?
Travis: Yeh. Cool. Nice fish.
Zac: Yes it is. It's the perfect fish for this rod. About 11 or 12 inches, not huge, but good-sized. And it's what this rod was designed for—small streams and smaller mountain trout. And I caught it on the same river Red Cloud, my rod's namesake, camped on before killing all the soldiers. It couldn't be more perfect. (Zac kisses the fish on top of its head, instead of the usual tongue action he gets from fish, and lets it go). There she goes. And I couldn't be happier. This is awesome. I can't believe how sweet this is.
Travis: Nice. I haven't seen anyone all day. And we're here catching fish.
Zac: I know. That's why I come here in the winter mostly. No one's here.
Travis: They're not even thinking about it. "There's nothing to do." They're just sitting at home watching TV or something.
Zac: I know. I love it here.
(Mike and Zac fish for another hour without catching anything. They try a hole farther downstream and still don't catch anything. Zac decides they should try the river farther downstream in Ranchester at the park where fish will likely have migrated to hold out for the winter. They park next to a cable bridge that leads to the campground also a state park.)
Mike: There were a bunch of Indians camped here once, and a bunch of soldiers came and killed them all. Now it's a park.
Zac: That's great. "Ooohhh, look at all the dead Indians kids. Isn't that cool? Let's pitch a tent and grill some hot dogs."
Mike: Yeh, but it's good fishing, though. (Mike leads the way across the bridge, then Zac and Travis).
Zac: Jesus. I feel like I'm drunk on this thing. I've never been on a bridge that moved so much. I'm surprised I haven't fallen in. (Travis jumps on the bridge and swings it severely). Thanks, Travis. That helps. This is kinda fun. I might just swing on the bridge all day.
Mike: I see some fish.
Zac: Nevermind. Where?
Mike: They were there, but you scared 'em.
Zac: Oh. Well, I'm going to find my own fish.
(Mike fishes downstream while Travis watches Zac fish a hole upstream. All three head upstream after 20 fishless minutes. Zac and Mike leapfrog holes for a while, then Mike walks with Travis pointing out how Zac is fishing and why, because Zac, being the one who helped introduce Mike to fly-fishing, fishes how everyone should fish. Zac gets to a sunken log and a deep hole.)
Zac: There's gotta be a fish in here. This is too nice of a hole. (He casts around the log with no hits. He begins to work his way upstream fishing the hole thoroughly. A few minutes later, a fish takes his fly.) Yes! Woo-hoooo! (The fish jumps out of the water) It's a Rainbow—a twin to the other one I caught! It took my Marathoner, too. Sweet! (Zac gets the fish to his hand, takes the fly out, kisses and releases the fish.) Nice.
(Mike fishes a bit on the bank opposite Zac but catches nothing. Zac catches another Rainbow, 12 inches long, under the bridge on the park's west boundary. The sun is just dipping below the Bighorn Mountains and the air is noticeably cold.)
Zac: Well, you guys want to get going?
Travis: Yeh, sure.
Zac: Good. I got beers back in the car.
Mike: I hope you brought three of them.
Zac: Oh, I did. One for each of us.
(The three drink beer, standing behind the Durango, on a high river bank. Mojo lays on his blanket, shivering and watching a couple muskrats swim by. A Kingfisher darts past. Surrounding Cottonwoods blaze yellow-orange in the setting sun's light.)
(Mike, Travis, Zac and Mojo drive on I-25 to the 5th St. exit. Zac can't get a hold of Bill on his cell phone. It's dark with no moon visible and a few snowflakes falling in a light breeze from Montana)
Zac: I can't get a hold of the fucker. Let's see if he's still sitting on the bridge.
(They drive to the bridge, the store where Bill bought beer, the two bars they were in the previous night and can't find him. They walk by a sporting goods store returning from the Mint.)
Mike: They have bamboo fly rods in there.
Zac: No shit? Well, let's check it out.
Travis: (sarcastically) Yeh, to hell with Bill. Let's look at bamboo fly rods. They're more important. Bill can fend for himself!
Zac: Yeh, no shit, eh.
(The store had sold the last bamboo rod two weeks ago. The three leave sad they didn't get to fondle another bamboo beauty. They get in the Durango, giving up on Bill's whereabouts.)
Zac: Well, let's stop by the jail first. It's on the way out of town anyway.
(at the locked doors in front of the Sheridan County Jail. Zac picks up a red phone, it rings and a woman answers)
Jail Operator: County Jail, can I help you?
Zac: Yeh, um. Uh, well, I've been looking for this buddy of mine and I can't reach him on his cell phone. I think the battery might be dead. Have you picked up a guy named Bill So-And-So?
Operator: Let's see. (typing can be heard in the background) Nope. No contact with a Bill So-And-So.
Zac: O.K. Good. Thank you. (goes back to the car) Well, he's not in the jail.
Travis: Well, let's go then. I guess.
Zac: I guess. (Zac's phone rings.) Bill, where the fuck are you?!
Bill: I don't know.
Zac: Are you serious? Well what buildings or rivers are you near?
Bill: I'm at the bar with a motel.
Zac: Which one?
Bill: I don't know. The one across from where I got my beer.
Zac: Oh, I know where you are. We'll be there in a few minutes to pick you up.
Bill: Then where are we going to go?
Zac: You don't have to go home. You can stay with me or at Travis's. You don't have to go home.
Bill: O.K. I'll see you in a bit.
Zac: (hangs up phone) How about you guys come in the bar with me to get Bill—just in case.
(The group walks in to the bar. Bill is bellied up to the bar talking with a middle-aged man with long graying hair and missing a tooth. The group finds Bill, and talk him in to leaving.)
Zac: Well, you ready to quit hitting on old men and get outta here?
Bill: Shut the hell up. Hold on, I gotta go get my backpack.
Zac: Your what?
Bill: My backpack. I'll tell you later.
Zac: I'll go with you.
(Travis and Mike get to the car, Zac goes with Bill beside a dumpster where Bill lifts a sheet of plywood and grabs a gray and tan backpack from underneath. They get to the car and on to I-25. The snow has quit, stars are everywhere, as the moon has yet to appear.)
Travis: (to Bill) So how'd your day go?
Bill: Well, I sat on the river drinking beer and I got cold after a while. So, I walked to K-Mart and bought a backpack, a hooded Wyoming Cowboy sweatshirt and some gloves that you could flip the mitten over so I could use my fingers to crack my coldies.
Zac: (laughing loudly) Jesus. I can't believe you bought fingerless gloves so you could sit on a riverbank and open your beers! That is fucking funny.
Bill: Yep. I was bum today. I got tired, so I slept by the railroad tracks, but a fucking train came by every 15 minutes. "Hoooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk, trackle, trackle, trackle, Hooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!" It was fucking loud. Then I'd wake up 'cause I was cold. I didn't get much sleep. I was going to buy a sleeping bag, but I was embarrassed enough with the backpack. I didn't want to look like a real bum. I might see someone I knew, "Hey look at that. It's Bill sleeping by the railroad tracks."
Zac: I can see the headlines in the Bench Sitter's column now, "Bill So-And-So was seen with a bunch of bums, sleeping near the railroad tracks. Is this a sign the housing market in Buffalo is finally slipping?"
Bill: (laughing) No shit. I tried to find some bums so I'd have someone to talk to. I thought there had to be some by the railroad tracks for sure. But, I didn't see any. Then, I was going to hitch a ride on a train. They weren't going by very quick. I thought I could just jump on and go. But then I remembered they don't go to Buffalo. They go to Gillette, and that's 70 miles away instead of 30.
Zac: Well, I think it slows down in Clermont. I think that's only 20 miles away. That's doable in a day.
Bill: I was going to walk to Buffalo, which is why I bought all the clothes. But, I made it to the bar, got tired and said "Fuck this." My back hurt, my legs hurt. I'm not in the shape I used to be. I wanted to walk to Buffalo and I couldn't even make it past the middle of Sheridan. I thought I could stop somewhere along the way. But, then I remembered there isn't nothing. It's just the interstate for 30 miles. And I couldn't make it past Sheridan. So, I just went in the bar and started drinking.
Travis: Well, it would have been an interesting trip.
Bill: My life's too interesting as it is. What am I doing with my life? I fuck everything up. Jesus.
Zac: I wish I could relate, Bill. But, honestly, today has been the best day of my life, since the accident. This is has been a great day for me.
# # #
Joined: 22 Nov 2007
Location: Cape Town - South Africa
|Posted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 11:29 am Post subject: Slowly does it
|Slowly does it
You slip the tippet through the eye
Your eyes darting between run and fly
Tie the knot, slide it down and pull it tight
Slowly does it
Your eyes now focussed on the run
It holds its place, gently swinging side to side to intercept its prey
The line flicks out
The fly drifts down
You see the rise from the streambed, the trout now holding just below the surface
Drifting below your fly
Then it sips it in, turns its head and you lift the tip of the rod
Slowly does it
You gently play it in
A wet hand slide under the fish, the hook almost falls away
A tail flick, a swirl of water and your quarry slips back…
Slowly does it
…I always feel like, Tony is watching me…
The Great Mosquito King
Joined: 28 Dec 2007
Location: Mosquito County, Florida
|Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:25 am Post subject: "A Hen for the Smoker" by Hexamaniac
|A Hen for the Smoker
The friends gathered at their campsite on the West Branch of Maine’s
Penobscot river, as they had for many years. The first order of business was to
set up the huge tarp that covered the social area of their campsite. About
twenty by thirty feet, it covered two picnic tables, one for cooking, and one
for tying flies. The tarp’s one weakness was that in a downpour the it would
collect water until it reached a critical mass, then the water would roll to the
front edge of the tarp and a couple of gallons would spill in one spot and all
at once. This year the tarp was set up in a drizzle, which, at the time, worried
The drizzle got heavier as they set up their tents. By the time the tents
were set up they were all cold and wet. That first evening none of them fished,
they sat around under the tarp catching up on news and all turned in early. The
next day the rain and cold continued, as they did for the next week. The mood in
camp grew grimmer by the day. To leave was unspeakable, it was not unthinkable.
It was a disparate cast of characters, but true friends for whom the
gathering with each other was as important as the landlocked salmon in the
river. They had all known the river for over thirty years, though their
gathering as a group was more recent.
The oldest of the group was Les, a wiry man in his seventies. Les had been
part of the camp’s group for close to twenty years. A keen fisherman with a
quick accurate cast and the reflexes of a predator, Les was also the camp
curmudgeon. An avowed atheist, he wouldn’t allow the use of his real name,
Deacon, or even Deac, though no one new how he came to be Les. He was normally
given to ranting against right-wing politicians, capitalism in general, and the
stupidity of the brainwashed public. He did this with the remarkable profanity
of a Navy veteran. The rain and cold this year had made him much worse, now the
fact that his camp stove had a rivet where “any moron could tell it needed a nut
and a bolt” would send him off again. Cheap wine was what Les would bring to
drink, but generally he mooched from his companions’ better fare. A frugal man,
he bought his clothes at the Goodwill store but made sure he had good fishing
equipment with a spare of each rod or reel that worked well for him.
Horse was the group’s high roller: He hunted elk in Montana, pheasants in
the Dakotas, wild boar in Germany and quail in his native Georgia. He also
fished for tarpon in the Florida Keys as well as taking part in dolphin
tournaments. Horse drank rum and tonic when it was hot, single-malt scotch when
it was cold, and smoked Cuban cigars to the tune of three or four a day. His
real name was Horace, and he detested it. His friends called him Horse or Hoss;
divorce lawyers called him Horace just to get his goat, others called him Mr.
Woodrow. Owning his own consulting business, he had plenty of free time as his
sons stayed home to sweat the details while he managed from afar by cell phone
and Wi-Fi. Normally he would have taken the weather in stride, but ex-wife #2
had hired a new lawyer, the recession had made him curtail his lifestyle, and a
bum knee was limiting his mobility as well as causing considerable discomfort.
It was easy to peg Mitch as the resident effete dilettante snob. A writer
wannabe who went by his middle name, he wore waxed cotton outerwear and fished
bamboo rods. The initial image was dispelled by a constant cheap cigar, crass
humor and extraordinary flatulence. The newcomer in the group, this was his
fifteenth year at the camp. He drank good bourbon if it was cold and cheap gin
if it was hot. His was probably the foulest mood, as he’d just had another story
rejected by Gray’s Sporting Journal, broken his favorite bamboo rod, and due to
the economy was no longer going to retire this year. Now he was watching his
precious time off wash away in the spate, seemingly at the rate of his 401K.
Gramp was actually the youngest of the group, but he had the longest time
fishing the river, as well as a grandfatherly demeanor, the name suited him. He
was a politician, though he worked out of the public eye. He worked at this
because he loved the fight and the scheming, and because the legislature’s
schedule allowed him two yearly trips to the West Branch as well as two to the
Keys where he chased tarpon with Horse. Gramp knew how to defuse arguments and
assuage hurt feelings; he was the glue that helped made the varied group
cohesive. A natural cheapskate, he used the cheapest tying vise to tie the best
flies, and the cheapest rods and reels to catch the best fish. His fishing
clothes were slacks and dress shirts that had become too stained and worn to
wear in the halls of power. A dry fly purist, he drank beer when it was hot and
cheap white wine when the day was done. Usually nothing could dampen his
spirits, an eternal optimist his favorite saying was “It’s going to be a big
night on The Eddy tomorrow, big night! He’d yet to say that this year. The
senator he worked for was having problems in Washington that Gramp was powerless
to help with, and on the second rainy night the rain-fly blew off of his cheap
tent leaving him soaked and shivering, trying to sleep in his van.
In camp each man had his own tent, that way no one was disturbed by
another’s nocturnal noises, nor by their asynchronous circadian rhythms and
ageing prostates. The normal camp routine was to tie flies and fish the water by
the campsite during the day, then in the evening the men would put their canoes
in on the Big Eddy and fish the evening rise. When it became dark, and only
then, they’d quit the water and gather about the campfire, always made by Gramp.
Once the fire was going Horse would grill something, then they’d eat, drink, and
joke until the spirit led them off to bed. This year was different. The canoes
were still on the vehicles, as there was no evening rise. During the day they’d
either read in their sleeping bags or gather under the tarp, but rather than
tying flies would light a Coleman lantern to warm their hands. While the weather
was too cold for mosquitoes, the black flies were out in such force that the
cigars and DEET were going fast. A couple of nights there was no fire as Gramp
and Horse went the thirty miles of back road to a cheap motel in the nearest
town, where they warmed their bodies and dried out the sleeping bags. Les
wouldn’t spend any money on such a luxury, Mitch stayed in camp with Les, partly
out of loyalty, partly because his tent was dry and his sleeping bag warm.
On days when the rain was less intense Les and Mitch would struggle into
waders and raingear to fish streamers or nymphs, but they only caught a few
small fish. The other two men rarely bothered. Finally, on the eighth day in
camp, the weather warmed a little and the rain lessened. They waded out to fish
tha river by the campsite. It was still too cold for insects to be out so they
were still casting streamers or dredging nymphs. Then Les did what he hadn’t
done in years: a normally cautious wader, he slipped and fell in. Mitch, who was
quitting the soonest, was passing behind Les and helped him regain his footing,
but not before Les was in up to his eyebrows. Les emerged with his face beet red
and as he raised his rod with the intent of smashing it across his knee a fish
struck his streamer. Les brought it to net, a fish that was visibly large enough
to keep without having to measure it. Caught by accident, the fish was then
killed in anger. Les took the fish into camp and hung it on a nail in the big
tree by the tarp. Les did this somewhat defiantly, as he had violated one of the
few camp rules: he had killed a hen-fish. However, no one else had come close to
providing meat for the smoker and in his anger Les didn’t feel the least bit of
guilt. Horse just shook his head in disapproval; Gramp reminded Les that it was
bad luck to kill a girly-fish. Mitch said nothing.
That evening Gramp had gotten a good fire going, but then the rain
increased Gramp had to add lighter fluid and more wood to the fire just to keep
it going. The men all stood under the leading edge of the tarp, trying to get
some warmth while still staying out of the rain. Some thunder rolled and then a
bolt of lightning struck a tree directly across the river from them, seconds
later they smelt the smoke. This was enough to get Mitch going, and with the
foolishness only a higher primate possesses, he lit into his friend. “See what
you’ve done Les? You killed a hen and now the gods are after us!” Les, no less
angrily, shouted back at Mitch, who was standing right next to him, “You
pissant, I catch better fish by accident than you do on purpose.” This was too
close to the truth, and Mitch retorted, “Hell, I gave you that fly ‘cause you
can’t tie a decent streamer and if I hadn’t helped you up your sorry ass would
be at the bottom of Big A falls.” Gramp said “Lighten up you two,” but he went
unheard. Horse was preparing to step between them as Les reminded Mitch just how
much he had taught him and that “If it weren’t for me you’d still be casting to
bluegills on a farm pond.”
As Mitch tried to come up with an answer the ash from his cigar fell into
his shot glass of forty-bucks-a-bottle bourbon. He just stared, his knuckles
whitening as he gripped the glass. He was preparing to down it, ashes and all,
when the tarp, with the wisdom held only by inanimate objects, dumped a gallon
of water onto Mitch, dousing his cigar and emptying the glass of any trace of
bourbon. Had feelings not been so high they would have all laughed, but not this
time. Mitch screamed at the heavens as he threw his glass out into the river.
He stood still for a second, then walked back to the kitchen table and picked up
his long filet knife. Eyebrows went up, then down as Mitch took the fish down
from the tree and turned on his headlamp, then headed down to the river to clean
it. Gramp and Horse breathed sighs of relief. Les was silent as he pumped up his
Coleman lantern, then he picked up his big umbrella and went down to the shore
to give his friend some protection from the rain and to illuminate his task.
Gramp and Horse looked at each other. “Think it’s time to get out of here?”
asked Horse. “I’ve enjoyed as much as I can stand” Gramp replied, “and I hope
this truce is for real.” I dunno answered Hoss “I’ve never seen Mitch that
As was camp custom, the salmon’s digestive tract was brought up to the
light and dissected on a white paper plate to see what it had been eating. As if
on cue the wind shifted and drawing their first warm breath in days, while still
raining they all looked up at the sky and then smiled at each other. Shoulders
hunched for days relaxed, hands came out of pockets, coats unzipped as they
proceeded with the dissection. The lower digestive tract held little, but the
stomach had caddis pupae and in the gullet were a few emergers. “Look at that”
said Les, “Would you look at that.” As Gramp poured Mitch another bourbon he
said “It’s going to be a big night on The Eddy tomorrow, big night.” “Yes
indeedy” said Horse happily as he handed Mitch a Cuban cigar, “Yes indeedy!”
Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Location: Phoenix, AZ
|Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:47 pm Post subject:
|I miss Robert's writing very much.
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