North of Nowhere
After playing 2 softball games on Saturday I woke up on Sunday later than I wanted to but probably better for it. Besides the aches and pains in my leg and back muscles I had a sore tail bone, from either sliding into second base of slipping when I backed up a throw from the outfield. Rest and relaxation was needed at a casual slow pace. Fishing would be the therapy. Slow, easy going, calm water therapy. I packed a small cooler and grabbed the bamboo rod. I was heading out to an unfamiliar stream I’ve heard about, read about and now going to fish it. I’m sure late August wasn’t the best time to explore new trout waters but I always keep an open mind, positive attitude and hope my experience guides me through.
Walking up the railroad tracks I could hear the stream below me. Because of the August green growth of ferns, brush and trees, I only caught glimpses of the stream reflecting the morning sunshine down through the forest. When the tracks turned away from the stream I descended down the limestone gravel bank into the forest greenery. Following a game trail and under tree limbs I came to the gradual flowing semi-transparent wide peaceful waters.
Upstream a small narrow mountain creek emptied its waters into the main flow. The stream was on the shallow side but ran with good flow of clean cool water. I immediately thought ‘I should have brought the bamboo rod instead of the short 4wt. Powel rod I decided to explore with.’ Downstream the water tumbled over a rocky narrower channel and emptied into a wide deep flowing pool. The current flowed faster along the RR side as waves brushed up against the sides of big boulders and cement slabs. I crossed the stream above the rocky channel and walked downstream to the sandy shoreline. The deep pool and run looked to be the perfect place for trout to escape the shallow sections of sun exposed waters. Shade covered the far ¼ of the waters and far bank.
I contemplated on what to use as I stood in the ankle deep water along shore. Looking over the situation, there were no trees or brush along the far gravel incline that led up to the RR tracks, thus beetles and ants were out. I didn’t notice any hatches under the 10:00am morning brightness. I tied on a #14 black gnat figuring, for some reason that just might work. I cast out into the rougher waters that entered the deep pool. The gnat gradually flowed with the current then picked up speed beyond the tail out. Another cast wakened a trout from below. The fish rose and snapped at the drifting gnat. I set the hook and my 4wt. tensioned with the line surge. The fish dove deep and took to the end of the tail out. I played the fish successfully and brought him into the ankle deep water. A quick picture and I released the long slender brown.
Within five casts later I caught site of another trout rising to my gnat. He inhaled the fly and I set the hook. He also went deep but forced his way towards the far bank testing my 6x tippet and knots. He rose slightly when I raised my rod to gain more pressure but he forced himself deep again reminding me he wasn’t such a light weight. We tussled like two grapplers trying to gain control. My knots held and I forced him to my side. Not seeing the fly upon his lips and feeling the power of the brown I elected to net the grappler. After a quick picture I performed safe emergency oral surgery and removed the hook from inside the trout’s mouth. He recovered quickly and laying him into the shallow water he gained confidence and swam out of my hand back into the deep pool.
While continuing to fish the surrounding pool area I saw a fish rise with a splash against the far boulders. Casting out, near him, with the gnat didn’t seem to excite the picky fish. Noticing one brown caddis fluttering above the riffles I matched it with a brown elk hair caddis. It took some doing and convincing with twitches and quick rising back-casts, lifting the caddis off the water making it look like the caddis flowed down the current and then take flight, to interest the trout. One steady drift through enticed the trout to rise. As he ambushed the caddis on the wavy water I set the hook across the pool and the line and rod came to life. The fish shot up out of the water and its pink lateral line signified a rainbow. The rainbow wasted its energy quickly with surging surface runs and I brought the ‘bow’ to my side handedly.
I fished the pool for about another hour but as the stiffness set in I slowly made my way to my point of exit. At the tall stone pillars a few teenagers were cooling off in the large pool there. Other than them I was the only one on the stream in the area and the only fisherman!!
At the van I disassembled the 4wt. and reached for the bamboo tube. I took the bamboo out of the plastic tube and took out the three reconditioned sections and connected them in their rightful sockets. I swear it grinned with pride like an old ‘94’ Winchester does every time someone handles it. ‘If the bamboo could only talk’ I thought. I found my Battenkill reel wouldn’t fit into the down locking double rings. I resorted to my Clearwater reel which was tight but I still managed to get it snug.
Walking back down the tracks I realized just how heavy this rod was. The guys who used these, back in the day, must have had strong wrists to lug around and fish with these all day. The rod felt like a limber tree branch compared to my graphite composite 4wt.
Out on the stream, where I entered before, I waded upstream a bit and practiced casting the ‘boo. After I felt comfortable with it I tied on a Letort cricket and worked my way to where I caught the browns earlier. Standing in the ankle deep water I laid the cricket in the smoother flowing deep pool. The cricket flowed nicely upon the water and then bobbed atop the wavy water at the end of the tail out. A splash near my cricket quickly caused me to pull back to set the hook. Maybe I forgot my own strength or maybe I didn’t realize the strength of the bamboo but whatever it was the tippet snapped under the pressure. I was angry at myself for missing the fish on a dry. I found out in the next half hour no fish wanted any imitation drifting on top of the surface. Determined to catch a fish on the old bamboo I tied on a lightly weighted black woolly bugger. I remember Jack telling me to use the rod in small trout waters using dries and small nymphs. He felt the bamboo was quite usable, after he reconditioned it, but explained to go easy on it when casting.
Roll casting the bugger across stream wasn’t easy or pretty. I ended up getting a better feel with more of a sidearm lob. I managed to get good distance on one lob across stream that put the bugger up against the big boulders. With the rod tip up I let the bugger sink before dropping the rod some so the current could take the fly line down stream and in turn start to swing the bugger. As the bugger started its swing the line became tight. Instinctively I set the hook, not even thinking about having a snag. A rainbow bursted out of the water and reentered with a side flopper! (That’s a belly smacker only on its side). It skirted near the top of the water towards my side of the stream. I brought it into the shallows as it flopped around. I kept its head up until I finally relaxed enough for me to take a picture of the first trout on the bamboo rod. The rainbow was still quite active when I released it back into the water.
With one fish caught on the bamboo I continued to fish the black bugger deep and letting it swing. Another attack, deep near the boulders, and the fish fought with more short jerks than long tugs and turns. A small smallmouth surprised me as it came to the surface. I didn’t doubt there would be smallmouth in the stream but didn’t expect them this far up from the river. I ended catching two smaller smallmouths with the black bugger before calling it a day.
By the time I got to the pillars the group of swimmers were gone. The sun set below the tree line and left the stream in their shadows. I walked up the dirt trail and up the gravel bank to the RR tracks. The old iron rails showed years of wear along with the rounded spikes that were partially raised above the iron plates. Small puddles of oozing creosote, that shined under the bright sun earlier, now had a dull sheen covering as they lay upon the railroad ties. I walked down the other side and slowly walked up the hard dirt path towards my van. I could feel weakness in my knee joints with each inclined step.
At the van the first thing was to quench my thirst. I opened the small cooler and unscrewed the top off of a bottle of Straub special dark beer. The smooth amber lager, not extremely cold, went down easy.
I dismantled the bamboo and wrapped it in its original cloth bag before putting it into the plastic tube. I changed out of my wet wading pants and clothed myself with a pair of old blue jeans and a ’T’ shirt all the while taking a few swigs of the Straub’s.
In the driver’s seat, with the window down, I listen to the natural sounds of the forest. While reminiscing about the day I take out my last cigar from the three finger leather travel pack. The El Rico Habano has a dark madura wrapper. I snip off the tightly wrapped end and light a match stick. After letting the sulfur burn off I light the cigar as the flame flutters along the wooden stick. The robust flavor, of the outer wrapper, is bold against my lips as I draw evenly through the filler tobacco within.
I start the 318 engine and slowly drive down the hard packed, pot holed, dirt lane towards rte. 949. I notice the Clarion River is still quite cloudy as I turn south along the river.
The cigar is rewarding after a pleasant day of fishing. This time my thanks go out to my friend Kevin who supplied me with the good dark smoke!!!