December 17, 2009

Holiday Cheer!

Check out LLBean's sale pages for some interesting discounts. I noticed previously that the Orion series of rods and reels weren't to be found on the website and that the reels were not available in-store; looks like they were discontinued?(I'm very late on this I guess) No idea of the details (some rumblings of bad blood between Bean and Loomis, their supplier), but you can reap the benefits with half-price Orion rods online (5 wt and 8 wt only available for $130 and $150, respectively, or half-price) or check a retail store if theres one near you. Bean's "top of the line" rod with their legendary guarantee for that price...think about it.

December 11, 2009

Epilogue: One More Cast

You know how sometimes (most times for me at least) you find it just a bit too difficult to leave the water? I mean, it's time to go, you know it, I know it...there's someone waiting, it's getting late, or dark, or light, or cold or hot, rainy or sunny, crowded or deserted, you're famished or thirsty, loops are getting ugly...t is for time to leave. But you can't. You're just not finished yet.

Don't quit...don't even quit.

Gotta finish out the run, or put that last decent cast/drift/swing together. Gotta get that one last rising fish in the corner to commit...or at least show him one last variation. Just one more...

Gotta end on a good note.

Never mind that your buddies are staring daggers into the back of your head from the running car or the lady is wiping your number from her phone.

Sometimes you just need one more cast.

"The Trip" still consumes me. Can't help it. Probably won't be able to do much about it until next fall. There were plenty of "one more" moments over the 9 days.

Like me hoping for a second chance while we were all hungry, tired, cold and parched after over 11 hours on the Oak. In one spot.

Or Brian fishing over the visible pod on the Catt for 8 straight hours.

Or the 3 of us doing the same on 18.

Overall, the "never-say-die" attitude we were barely able to hang onto throughout the trip.

Or that last Genny, shared by 4.

Brian's refusal to leave the fish that were "randomly" taking eggs from the 2 anglers above, but snubbing him, until 15 minutes after Joe and I reached the car.

Sometimes it's not an end-of-the-day thing, like that 2nd fish I picked up in Paradise that day...as I was getting ready to reel-in and cross.

Then there was that legitimate, mind-altering experience. The battle by which all future battles are to be measured. The catch that exemplifies the journey-over-destination mentality. My own little Brad-Pitt-in-ARRTI moment.

Nearing the end (well...after 2:30 anyway) of our big day in the Upper Fly Zone, I was exhausted and satisfied. The other two stayed up top while I began my long journey down the North bank to cross the easy water. After picking up a couple browns with them, I still had my nymphing "leader" rigged, terminating in (slightly nicked) 6lb fluoro and shot above the ESL. Figured I might as well plunk through any open water on my way down with what I had. I contemplated what had happened in April and decided I was just too tired and satisfied to worry about it. Besides, I wasn't really fishing, I was walking with a line out.

I worked my way down to the middle rapids, where a guy was drifting the first "plunge pool". I gave him a wide berth and worked my way out onto the ledges above the 2nd big drop...maybe halfway through the 100 yard plus long rapids. It's big-boulder land. The type of place you always suspect to be holding good fish, but near impossible to fish in higher water. I've put my time in here before but never so much as a tug. Starting from the rod tip, I worked out line slowly, drifting and swinging from the drop-in through the holes and channels between the rocks. A few "casts" in, at the start of the swing, with the fly no more than 15' from the tip, my rod suddenly arced directly into the water.

It was what you might call an "OH SHIT!" moment.

The studs of my boots were the only part of me under water, but one step forward and I'd likely be over my head. These huge boulders that give respite to fish are a bitch to navigate on foot and grab line never to let go at the first opportunity. Not to mention my poor worn leader or the steep banks and complete lack of soft, landing water.

What the hell was I thinking? I need a plan. Maybe I can keep her in this pool, she's frantically circling but doesn't seem too eager to run me...if I just keep the pressure d-OH HERE WE GO...

Suddenly a docile, controllable fish circling at my feet transforms into a blazing hot pissed-off she-bitch cartwheeling down the chutes 100 feet from me. I'm doing the awkward run-jump-and-stumble over and through rock and pool with my rod held comically high for fear of entanglement. She abruptly turns around and jumps back up one pool, natch, but now I'm warmed up, reactions all catlike and shit, and take the line she gives me, no prob.

We play some more give-and-take, all the while leading her downstream and to the bank as my feet slowly catch up. By the time she's ready to come in, we're just above the head of Paradise, and I've got her corralled in a tiny side-pool. Well, until she jumps over the lip and into a downed tree. Now we have a problem.

I'm lifting and jabbing my rod, trying to keep some tension on my poor leader, which is partially wrapped around a limb, while reaching for the tail and trying to hold my balance, leaning in over/under the tree, one foot on the bottom, one knee on a rock.

One headshake and she'd have been gone, but I think she pitied me at that point. I took her tail, dropped the rod, popped the hook and cradled her body for a look. She had a little bit of length and some decent heft, not too much of either, but she was my silver bullet. We were both too tired for me to dig out the camera, which would have just cheapened it anyway. Throughout the ritual glove-and-fly-rinse, I couldn't stop laughing, my knees were shaking. I was done fishing a half hour earlier. Good thing I made that one more cast.

My birthday was a week ago (Miss Hannah has always claimed I'm an old man, but apparently now it's official). After quite the birthday dinner I was laying in bed and decided to set the alarm for 3 am. If I feel like going when it goes off, I'll go. I was strung up and waiting for light by 6:30. By 8:15 I had landed a gorgeous hen. By noon I was driving back home, elated.

It's "The Holidays" now, followed by hardwater season. It's been a good year, and it seems I've finally taken my last cast for some time. Certainly the last for '09.

...well...maybe one more?

December 2, 2009

The Beast

I called out for a killer
I 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.

Landing Zone
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.


Downstream
B-mar...chasing Joe...chasing a nice fish through the pool.

Look more closlier...
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?

Softly
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.
This is the fish
Finally...at dawn...day 8 of 9...the fish I'd been looking for.
Ahem...
A short rest and 5 casts later. It wasn't crowded yet, but it would be soon.
TribsNov2009 040a
Brown buggers today. Nearly all my fish came on this fly.
Ummm...
To catch the fish, you must "think" like a fish...watch out for the barbs tho.

Closer
Brown on brown. Hit the side channel while nobody was looking, played with this guy and some babies.

Up top
Looks like we interrupted big mama. Wasn't the biggest brown we saw landed, but it was the biggest hen.

My brown
One of the more typical "smaller" browns we landed.

Last Cast
"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.

Casualties
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.

Trying
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.

The end.
I love the beast ya'll