I called out for a killerI looked for a knife
I drank from this river
It ruined my life
I saw him comin' at me
Empty and so cold
I never knew emotion
Till he caught me in his fold
Part III; Last Days
It doesn't take much to change the entire mood, outlook, perception of a trip. We've all been on either side of the tracks at one time or another, the beneficiary or victim to a minor shift in events that starts gaining momentum, for better or worse. Averaging less than one fish per four angler-days, our once bright armor was starting to show the wear and tear of frustration. Sure, we were having fun. To this point, it was a very successful vacation. It's hard to complain whenever you can do what you love for an extended period. In terms of an overall angling experience however, we were rapidly approaching failure mode. Hitting morning thruway-rush-hour at Rochester, approaching Syracuse, and then turning north, I wondered how much gas I had left.
By the time the first Exit 36 sign came into view, the play clock had reset to zero. Warm-ups are over, we're in Pulaski now. We met B-mar at the shop halfway through Day 6 and I couldn't help but absorb that new-familiar vibe. I wasted no time, donning my waders while the others farted around inside.
Ain't nothin' over...and even if it is...I prefer denial.
The weather was a bit too nice, but at least there were promising reports and open waters.
"Got a couple...buggers...drifting and swinging...."
"Landed a nice brown, she just lost a big steelie...yup, eggs...nope, go ahead...."
Here we were again. Same old river; new, colder water. White flags of past-due kings waved in the currents while trout and no-longer-silvers porpoised the pools every so often. I fitted and strung the switch rod for the first time after single-handing it for the past 3 days. Screwed around with some buggers and speys until Joe showed up.
"The trout will sit in the faster water on this side behind the boulders and on the back-side of that bar where the bottom drops off and the current heads under the tree. You hit those areas and I'll swing down through the run...if you want to follow me through, just wait until there's room then hop in above."
Joe didn't exactly take my advice. Fair enough. I was trying to figure out how to get him to step downstream a couple yards when the rod tried to jump from my hands. This was a legit hit and run, not the soft, deceptive takes the Catt fish gave me. Couple headshakes and it was gone. Such is the life swinging a tight line. Drop the loop next time moron...been reading and repeating that phrase for months and still can't get it right.
"Just got a grab. A GRAB! Just got a hit! You know, fish...those things that swim up here from the lake and supposedly try to eat flies?"
Yup. We were back where we belong. Mojo risin' and whatnot. Turned a corner. Specifically...down Cemetery Road. I took two and lost two Thursday afternoon. All on hot-orange/olive ESL. Can't say I remember anyone else's stats, but there had to be some hookups at least. Thursday night was a celebration. After dropping our gear at Patrick's we hit wing night where "...there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet," adding on a couple steak sandwiches for good measure.
Cranking out ESLs back at the lodge, re-grouping for the next day. The late-night tying session is all part of the journey. As much as anything, this is why we make these trips. Just bein dudes, jokin, sippin, hangin out...holding onto immaturity. Real life is gonna suck come Monday morning. Gotta make tomorrow count.
Stumbled in the darkness...
Hard to beat an empty pool at dawn. Couldn't wait for everyone else to gear up and was just working line out when I looked up to see Joe finally loping down the trail. A heavy tug brought my attention back to the river. We had a good morning up high, but knew the crowds would be pulling in shortly. Avoid the crowds...always.
B-mar...chasing Joe...chasing a nice fish through the pool.
Even the big man landed a fish Friday. Now finally convinced that 1) fly-fishing is an enjoyable endeavor and 2) fish can be caught this way, he would return to his mammal-quest.
We eventually left to scout downstream beats, new and old, but found only only whipping winds. Once again we faced the perennial dilemma; crowds and fish or the the open unknown?
As if you didn't already know, we chose the crowds.
Saturday's final count, if I have it right, was 5 quality steelhead and rainbows (I can rarely tell the difference), 7 decent (or better) browns, several small atlantics, 3 baby 'bows, a coho and a small spikehorn. Legendary? Maybe not. But a helluva good day in my book.
Finally...at dawn...day 8 of 9...the fish I'd been looking for.
A short rest and 5 casts later. It wasn't crowded yet, but it would be soon.
Brown buggers today. Nearly all my fish came on this fly.
To catch the fish, you must "think" like a fish...watch out for the barbs tho.
Brown on brown. Hit the side channel while nobody was looking, played with this guy and some babies.
Looks like we interrupted big mama. Wasn't the biggest brown we saw landed, but it was the biggest hen.
One of the more typical "smaller" browns we landed.
"That's no salmon..."
Dawn 'til dusk. Brian called this one while it was 20' from the bank and barely visible in the fading light. I didn't believe him. Still not sure I believe it. My 4th species for the day...nice way to wrap up.
Sacrificed for a worthy cause. Shaq can keep his "micro-brews."
The epic was coming to a close. Back at the ranch we took stock of our experiences while packing, hoovering pizza bites, dealing cards and polishing off our remaining soldiers in the most appropriate, tried and true fashion we could muster...beer-pass. Tomorrow we would return to civilization. What would become of us? Would we be able to rehabilitate and assimilate back into society? It mattered not, we had a half day left of fishing (and hunting) ahead of us.
Sunday was a typical Sunday; river-bullies and over-pressured fish. There were some nice fish landed throughout the zone, but overall it was much slower and much more crowded than the same time the day before. We were winding down, and so was the fishing.
Most room they had all day, and it didn't last long.
I had my frustrations with a particular spey angler early in the day. Suffice it to say, in stark contrast to nearly every single other angler I met or ran into the entire trip, he was a bit less than courteous in choosing his spot. By the time I circled through all the available water on the north side, closed up shop for the morning and joined Joe and Brian up top, there were 3 other anglers crowding them out as well. Such is life.
A nearly-dismayed Brian offered me his rod and the top slot when I got there. I don't think he was enthralled with the fact that in doing so, he gave me the last fish of the trip. I guess I couldn't help myself. Nobody wanted to leave. Nobody can wait to go back. With all the ups and downs, if any of us weren't bitten before, we certainly were by then.
I love the beast ya'll