A NOTE TO THE REGULAR READER: You may have read this piece about two years ago. I reprint it here as an ode to a good buddy of mine who has started his own blog. Thinking about him I was reminded of a fishing jaunt he and I took to the old falls on the Blue River below Tuttle Creek Dam near Manhattan, Kansas. He hooked a ten-pound walleye, fought him for 20 minutes and made us late to Greek class. Professor thought we were quite inventive with that excuse for our tardiness. The fact we hid it away in about 30 inches of water in a four-footed bathtub our apartments mutually shared is a whole other tale of woe.
March 5, 2011
Stream fishin’ has to be God’s way of proving Murphy’s Law. The Law states: If something can go wrong, it will. Some see this as a window into God’s sense of humor. I tend to think of it more as how God flushes his plumbing on the good and bad alike.
Takin’ two boys stream fishin’ is like letting the cats outta the bag so you can herd ‘em up again.
When Carson and Adam fished with me on a lake, our schedule followed somewhat of a routine: set up the fishin’ chairs, bait hooks and cast, sit down, talk about school, bait hooks, eat lunch at 8:30 a.m., retrieve line from snag, bait hook and cast, eat the donuts before the ants get to them, bait hook and cast, talk about fishin’, retrieve line without hook caught in snag, add hook and weight to line, bait hook and cast, eat the three Butterfinger bars before 9:30, check line and bait hook, move boys’ chairs nearer to where “they’re catchin’ em”, rebait hooks and cast, walk the 40 yards back to my spot and light a cigar because the guys are far enough away I won’t kill ‘em with second-hand smoke, walk 40 yards back to the hot spot, rebait hooks and cast, 40 yards back to my chair; relight the cigar I left next to my rod, 40 yards back over to the boys, try to untangle the 50 foot Gordian Knot attached to Adam’s reel, snip off line just below the knot and explain to Adam he has to fish closer to shore the rest of the day, 40 yards back to my cold cigar, get a small copper bell out of my tackle box and attach it to the tip of my pole so I’ll know when I have a bite, open a diet IBC Root Beer and slip down into my fishin’ chair into an extremely relaxed position with the thought of a few winks, 40 yards back to the snag pit, glory be both poles are snagged on the same tree limb underwater, I’m thinkin’ I’m glad I left the lighter fluid in the tackle box or I might have built an altar and sacrificed these rods of Satan to the Dark Side.
If all of that sounds rather pastoral, then you know as I do, the possibility of a bad thing happening while stream fishin’, compared to lake fishin’, is directly proportional to the square of the amount of disaster it can cause you. Stream fishin’ is not for the slight of heart nor a poor man who cannot replace tackle in a timely manner.
Stream fishin’ is a whole other egg under the hen. Stream fishin’ requires health, stamina, keen observation and a complete understanding of the wily trout . . . but I choose to go anyway. And in so doing, I rounded up James’ two boys and blatantly involved them in my nightmare.
It is in stream fishin’ we draw upon the extension of Murphy’s Law: Nature always sides with the hidden flaw. Nature has been flawed ever since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Trout Cabin deep in Eden.
Her waters were crystal to the eye, icy cold to the touch and filled with the Lord’s trophy trout. Here, Adam could work a Royal Coachman on a 12 foot leader lightly attached to an Orvis bamboo fly rod as a symphony to creation. Dolly would rise to the dry-fly at the setting of the evening sun.
Along willow shrouded banks the progenitor of all fly fishermen could work his wet fly in such a fashion as to be totally natural in the stream’s melodic current to bewitch the erudite German Brown.
Yes, everything was perfect for Adam anytime Eve wanted trout for supper. His orchestration on the river was an “Ode To Joy” to the Creator. Never has there been worship of any higher degree than when Adam lightly clutched the handle, made his conductor’s motions of sheer mastery and landed a fly a perfect 6 feet upstream from a cresting trophy fish. Jonah wouldn’t have had nearly the troubles he had with a fish if this story had been included in the book of Genesis. He’d have known how to outsmart them and make them think it was their idea to be caught by humankind.
This weaving of the Great Tapestry of Trout lies in our genes. It runs silently, indefatigably along the dike of our humanness, looking for the smallest hole to penetrate. And like the Dutch Boy, Satan cannot keep us from our genetically empowered adoration of the beauty of creation. It is in all of us, though many have settled for NASCAR, grilling, MMA and curling (note: for definition look under Canada). Our souls reach for what is beyond. Robert Browning said it best, “Our reach should exceed our grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?” I have no doubt he was describing the inner yearning of the trout fisherman who has finally beheld the epiphany of the trout stream.
It is in to these headwaters I march my two grandsons. They seem to be 40 to 50 feet ahead of me at all times. It’s because I’m walking on “winter legs” and being led by summer aspirations. At 6,000 feet my lungs make sounds like bellows feeding a blacksmith’s white-hot fire. I curse forgetting my fishing vest as 10 pounds of tackle box hangs from one lifeless arm to my right.
Ahead the boys romp in the snow, throwing snowballs and waiting for the “Geezer” to catch up. We set on an icy piece of granite and I explain things about trout and trout streams before we make our way to the edge. For 100 yards we’ve all heard the falls and gushing water and I can imagine the semi-hidden pools, the oxygen enriched water and the soft undercurrents along the banks, carved for such a time as this. I talk, they listen like linemen dumbly trying to perceive the coaches change of plans.
We bait up and Papa makes his way to a wall of boulders protecting the stream and its rich, trout infested pools. With a surgeon’s precision, I lay myself between two of the granite fortresses, careful not to break the crest of the massive rocks and allow the sun to cast my shadow on the creek. For 5 minutes I felt the need to cry out in awe as I passed my line through little falls and pools and meandering shore lines. Not a nibble.
I thought, this is the perfect place for me to teach the boys the what and why of stealth on a trout stream. Thirteen hooks, a can of bait and several wet flys later, I backed them away from the stream again. I was certain we only needed to find a place of less foreboding, without twigs and with quiet pools. We’d cross the creek and put the sun to our front and whisk away the problem of shadows.
Having wet feet is no fun when your fishing in 45 degree air and snow blankets 70 percent of the landscape. A 150 yard obstacle course of snow, displaced rocks and fallen trees remind us of what we conquered to get out as far as we did. Sadly, the walk back to the place we wish to fish is made no more comfortable by simply having a dry pair of socks.
At the end of the day I made a mental note. “Go to the sporting goods store this weekend and replenish the tackle box. Go ahead and break the hundred-dollar bill you’ve been using to keep from buying coffee with your buddies.”
Which brings me to Norm’s corollary to Murphy’s Law: Murphy was an optimist.