Saturday, December 19, 2009
Wilson Creek Redux
It was the biggest fly rod I have ever seen. A huge two-handed spey, eleven feet long, if it was an inch. Do they make 20wts? It made my 4wt look like a toothpick. Heck, it made my trusty ¾” wading staff look like a toothpick!!! The rod could have kicked a tuna’s ass and there it was in the hands of a large, white haired, bearded gentleman, standing in the middle of Wilson Creek; a creek so small that in most places, if he stood mid-stream, he could easily touch both shores with the plank. All I could think to say was “That’s quite a stick you've got there”.
It’s gotten to be an all too familiar scenario. Mike and [insert name here] plan to chase some trout on the [insert stream here]. Mother Nature gets wind of the plan and a day or two before the trip causes the [chose one: forecast/conditions] to be [insert crappy stuff here]. Our intrepid anglers reluctantly decide to postpone to a later date.
A couple of weeks ago it was Geezer, North Fork of the New, conditions, muddy. This week it was Alan, Davidson, forecast, heavy snow. (Next time, Colonel Mustard on the Haw with a fly rod?).
And, like the earlier week, I found not fishing at all totally unacceptable, especially since it might be my last time out for 2009. So I packed up the truck and headed, again, to Wilson Creek to try to beat the storm front. My time would be short so I figured I’d save valuable fishing time by going to familiar turf. Besides, I’d had such a good outing there last time that I needed to confirm that it was indeed a fluke.
About noon I arrived at the old mill on the Wilson DH waters to find the spey-wielding gentleman in the wide section of water that I had hoped to begin. He was not casting, but fiddling with a fly, so, exercising my best stream etiquette, I inquired which direction he was heading, upstream or down, so that I could give him the courtesy of a wide berth. He chuckled and invited me to drop in right there as he was done for the day. He’d been fishing much of the morning and his feet were ‘bout froze (the water was a brisk 36 degrees) and his shoulders were whipped from throwing the spey. I didn’t ask, but expect that he was just practicing with the massive rod, as it didn’t seem particularly practical on this waterway. But you never know.
Accepting his invitation, I stepped in slightly downstream and, with my second cast, hooked and landed the pretty brookie that is pictured at the top of this post. Any angler will tell you that there is nothing better than netting a nice fish when someone is looking. The old gent watched with amusement, smiled at the catch, waved, and headed for the tan mini-van parked back at the mill. I continued downstream, excited by the nice start for the day.
I had expected a bitterly cold day, knowing that some serious weather was moving our way, that the previous night’s temps had been deep in the 20s, and that the forecast promised only upper 30s through the course of the day. But, the sun got through and warmed my consciousness, if not my body, to the point that I left my heavier outwear in the truck and fished in what I would normally wear on a cool day at home. My single concession to the chill was a pair of fingertipless fleece gloves, to keep the digits warm, and they did the trick. Despite the weatherman’s claims, I think the air temperature reached the mid 40s, making it an all-round pleasant trout-fishing day.
As I had a couple of weeks earlier, I spent much of the day throwing a #8 olive woollybugger, tied by my good buddy John at Martyn’s Sea and Stream. I like John’s woolies because he weights them along the hook shaft rather than with a bead-head, puts a little flash in the tail, and finishes them off with a wrap of red gills, a touch that fish seem to like. I suspect that with a pocket full of them, in various sizes, I could catch just about anything.
The olive worked for a while, attracting a dozen fish, bows and brookies, during the early afternoon, but as the sun begin to sneak behind the surrounding hills the strikes abruptly stopped. I stubbornly stuck with it longer than a smart angler should, but eventually switched to a white bugger and the fish found me again. I happily swung it, catching a couple more fish, until the shadows reached the stream and my toes, too, began getting ‘bout froze, finally sending me back to the truck where a cold Mt. Dew awaited. I cranked the Ridgeline's heater to its blast furnace setting and left it there for the trip home.
After the white-haired gent departed, I continued downstream and around a slight bend. My second fish of the day came about twenty minutes after the first and, as I was netting the 12 inch rainbow, the tan mini-van passed along the dirt road above the stream and slowed to a stop. The driver leaned out the window, grinned, gave me a thumbs up, and then continued along his way, certain, I’m sure, based on his two brief observations, that I was a master trout fisherman. (That’s such a preposterous notion that it makes me giggle hysterically just to type it).
But then I was struck by the thought that every time the kindly old bearded gent passed by, I caught a nice fish. He smiled each time, a genuine, warm, knowing smile, apparently as pleased with the catch as I was. And I had been a good boy, respecting his place on the stream earlier. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much of my own silly knockoff poetry, but do you think you'd need a spey rod when fishing at the North Pole?