Monday, August 27, 2012

Simply How It's Done

It felt awkward, I must say, walking into the restaurant wearing my waders, but I followed Len’s lead. He hadn’t steered me wrong yet. Well, there was that bridge pool that he said was only “waist deep," but that’s a story for another time.

As we finished wading our day's second lengthy stretch of spring creek, the sun began to push the trout we were chasing into deeper cover and it made good sense to call it quits before it was straight up and seriously hot. The forecast called for low 90s, wicked for this part of the country, and it was well on its way. We climbed a makeshift tree root ladder out of the streambed, crawled into the Ridgeline that we’d shuttled earlier that morning, and drove the dusty farm roads back to Len’s Mountaineer, parked downstream, at our starting point. Four miles of side roads, one of water, or a half-mile as the crow flies. Measure how you will.

Back at the truck, I reached to drop the tailgate for a seat to pull off my wet Freestones, but Len paused only long enough to toss his rod and huge salmon net into the back of the Mercury, then slid into the driver’s seat and cranked it up. “Let’s go get some lunch.” I scrambled to follow, five-point turning the Honda on the narrow track and hustling to stay close enough to his rear bumper to see where he forked, far enough not to choke on his dust.

Fifteen minutes of country dirt and a half-hour of county asphalt carried us back into the heart of Richland Center where we parked on Main Street, a block from the middle of town, in front of Gables restaurant, regionally known for its Friday night bluegill fish fries. Once again I thought to drop the waders, but Len went straight for the front door, unchanged. I shrugged, and joined him. We smelled of late-summer sweat, rich Wisconsin creek bottom, and bushwhacked wild mint - with a low note of fish. A not altogether unpleasant bouquet, to my unsophisticated nose, but one that I feared our fellow diners might not equally appreciate.

I needn’t have worried. The handful of lunch patrons that sat scattered about the small dining area gave us scarcely a glance as we slipped into a booth – slick waders gliding easily over the smooth leather benches, exquisitely polished, no doubt, by several decades of the in and out of workingman’s denim. It was all I could do to keep from sliding onto the floor.

Our waitress arrived – that is, if it’s proper to refer to someone’s grandmother as “waitress” – and without a hint of irony inquired “You guys been fishing?” The room grew silent and every head tilted in our direction like some old E.F. Hutton commercial. Before I could wrap my head around what other possibilities there might be for our current attire, Len spoke up. “Yep. We’ve been trout fishing up in the hollow.” Heads nodded in silent approval. Eyes returned to their plates. Life was good.

We ate our hearty breakfast-for-lunch casually, exchanged a few pleasantries with the folks at the nearest table, and, with a firm handshake and promise to do it again, parted ways - Len for home and I for Spring Green and some old friends. And we stayed in our waders until we arrived at our destinations – at least I did. It seemed that it was simply how things were done here on the Driftless.

I wonder if he sleeps in his?


Unknown said...

I did that once and made one mistake: right before I sat down in the booth of the cafe, I loosened the wading belt around my waist. Bad move. The motion of descending to the seat purged my waders of the morning's flatulence, which had been previously and safely trapped below the belt. An enjoyable read that brought back fond memories.

Mike Sepelak said...

Remind me, Mr. Werner, that when we go fishing together (and we will someday, dammit) to steer clear as you take off your waders. Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

Fairly common out west here, Mike. Especially in restaurants in close proximity to the river. Glad to see Len and yourself enjoying commonality.

Ken G said...

Now I know where you've been fishing. Was in that area a dozen years ago when I was introduced to fly fishing for trout. Next time, heat of day, big streamer, let it sink to the bottom and rip it through the water as fast as possible. Big trout appear out of nowhere.

Almost got a job up that way a year or so ago. I'm still bummed about the rejection. Beautiful country.

Mike Sepelak said...

I expect you're right, Mel. I just need to get out west more often.

Beautiful country indeed, Ken. And I think you're right about that technique. It's essentially what Len does with his light spinning tackle. And he's caught some beasts over the years.

Len Harris said...

I put them on in the morning and keep them on until end of the day of fishing. I did rinse them out for the 4th time this year. They needed it.

Mike Sepelak said...

I can only imagine, Len. I can only imagine.

Steve Zakur said...

The problem I have these days is that with rubber soles I've added studs on my boots; not diner floor friendly. Thanks for the chuckle Mike. I look forward to some late summer sweating along small streams on the Blue Ridge.

M.A. Hughes said...

A wader clad meal is a good meal indeed. I grew up spending many a summer days and nights on the Mississippi north of Prarie Du Chien in Harpers Ferry, IA. The mayfly hatches had to be cleaned up with shovels some years. I wasn't an angler then, and this driftless talk has me thinking a trip to I-o-wee or Sconsin would be in order.

Mike Sepelak said...

I, too, have rubber soled boots, and the studs, but I have yet to put them in. Haven't had the need, yet. I suspect when winter's ice comes it might be a different story. Having said that, I'm sure to slip and bust my ass in Asheville in a couple of weeks. Please don't say "I told you so", Steve.

RR, you owe it to yourself to make the trip. Fun fishing in a truly unique trout environment.