Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One of Those Days

Yesterday (June 27), after work I excitedly packed up the car in anticipation of a nice evening of fly fishing. Being able to slip away early today (which is a rarity) made me even more gleeful of the outing ahead (Gleeful in a child's-anticipation-of-Christmas-morning kind of way - a feeling I often get before fishing for some reason). I was to meet up with Dave, a good fishing friend of mine.

As I proceeded down the long road to the river, the sunlight began to dissipate, the sky darkened, and the cotton-ball white clouds became charcoal. Rain of the torrential type soon followed - the silly grin I wore lead way to anger and some profanity. But nothing was going to stop me from wetting my line, and I continued down the long road. Persistance paid off as it was just a passing storm, and the sunlight and cotton-ball clouds began to reappear.

Dave had done some pre-fishing before I arrived, and was now waiting at the access point. He was waterlogged but still high in spirits. We exchanged a few words and a few laughs and proceeded down to the river.

As expected the river was slightly up and slightly stained, but still very fishable. Surprisingly, there were other fisherman where we would rarely see another soul so we continued past them. Stopping at a shallow riffle, Dave immediately had a take and toggled with a small Brown. We stopped by to see Pat, but unfortunately, it wasn't in the mood for hospitality and that did not change for the rest of the evening.

Further downstream is a pool that has been good to me, and I was telling Dave about my past experience with it. The pool was made for trout, but was certainly not made for fishing and I have lost many hours of hand tied flies in its depths. It is strewn with 2 fallen trees, bush and debris and I imagine most fishermen just walk right past it.

Dave got the first drift and was once again in a one sided tug of war with a small Brown. I drifted in after him, and found myself in a battle that would bring my blood to the flow of a river after a heavy rain. The Brown Trout used every obstacle in its home to my disadvantage and fought with such ferocity that I was sure it would soon end with tears shed on the bank. I tried not to put on too much pressure, as I ascribe to the theory that it's best to tire a fish slowly in tight, snaggy quarters. After some great runs in attempts to get back home, this feisty brown took a moment to greet us streamside for a picture. It was not a 20 incher, but it sure had the heart of one.

Dave would proceed to land one of similar size in the same pool and another further downstream. Both of us played with a smaller Brown or two along the way.

Satisfied with what the river offered up to us this day, I paused to look around at my surroundings and soak in the moment. The sun was beginning to set behind the layers of cedars and maples, through hues of pink and red sky and a white mist formed over the river and stayed there, as if to protect it from the darkness of night.

It was one of those days where I'm reminded why I spend so much thought, energy, and time in pursuit of not just the fish, but of the whole experience that fishing provides.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pat - Perpetually Elusive

I decided to make my way back to the same area of the Upper Credit River yesterday (June 22nd) to actually wet a line this time. This stretch of river is for the time being my favourite place to be. From the access point is a short walk where the river's straight narrow run segways to a meandering flow through age old maples, wild flowers, and overhanging trees, where the only sounds you hear are the birds, the rustling of wildlife in the brush, and if the timing is right, the slurping, bulging and rising of fish. It is where I feel "away from it all". But there is one more thing that keeps me going back. . .

It likes to feed near the surface in the mornings between 9:00-9:30, and in the evenings from 8:30-9:00. It always feeds right on the seam, where the tail out of the riffle meets the almost stagnant water. It does not like Hendrickson Emergers, Caddis, BWO Emergers, Stonefly Nymphs, PT Nymphs, PMDs, Light Cahills, or the Kinkhamer Special- at least none of mine. Because I have never seen it in full, I would have to say it is over 25 inches. A fly fishing buddy and I have agreed upon Pat for its name for the sake of androgyny. Once we know its gender it will either be Patrick or Patricia.

I arrived at Pat's pool to find very little bug activity, aside from the mosquitos gorging themselves on the newly found buffet fumbling through the bushes. The air was eerily empty. A fellow fisherman (the only one I would encounter the whole evening) would blame it on the change in barometric pressure. I waited patiently for the usual feeding time - Pat, as if to feel pity on me, entertained with a couple bulges on the surface. I had noticed BWOs floating about a few days ago, so I decided to try an emerger once again. Being in the best possible position to obtain that drag-free drift (although it seems this is never easy where the big fish lie), I put my fly a few feet in front of the last location of surface activity. I repeated this with various flies. I waited. . . and repeated again - nothing. Pat decided not to entertain this silly man any further and remained in the depths for the rest of the night.

It's a good thing not all UC fish are as cruel as this aforementioned specimen.

But how I yearn for the day when I can behold Pat in the cradle of my net and call it by its full name.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

An Unusual Breed of Man

I had planned on fishing Monday (June 19th) at the Upper Credit River, but ended up chatting it up with a fellow that pulled up beside me riverside. This guy in his late 50s was a real purist in the truest sense and as cocky as can be, but I had to stick around and pick his brain just to see how guys like this tick. He was appalled by my one split shot 12 inches above my bead head nymph (the bead head, he also found offensive). He said I wasn’t fly fishing; I was just fishing with a fly – go figure.

He opened his trunk and suddenly I was transported about 75 years. Inside laid a couple cane rods in old vintage wooden cases, reels in old leather pouches, and an old Orvis canvas bag holding a pile of fly boxes. One of the reels was a Vom Hofe and one of the cane rods was a restored vintage over 100 years old (which had a name that I cannot recall). - Everything he owned was vintage, from his fly line, the clothes he wore, to his old pick-up - He was kind enough to put one of these masterpeices together and let me cast with it – the feeling was unbelievable. The smoothness and fluidity of the movement was surreal – to see him cast it was amazing. The rod was like a pendulum that knew exactly what its job was and proceeded to do it on its own.

I sat there and listened to him talk about the history of Brown trout in North America, to the first hatchery in Mumford, to his Scottish heritage and it’s relationship to fly fishing, and the painting on his tailgate of him fishing the Catskills (yes, it’s this is pretty funny, but the painting was actually well done). It was obvious that this guy eats, breaths, and dreams fly fishing.

So at the end I stripped off my gear after barely entering the water but I went home satisfied with my encounter of this unusual breed of man.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Little Background - fishing with my old guy

My first fishing memory took place in the small town of Fort Erie, ON. It is the place where I would live out most of my childhood, and it is where I would become acquainted and spend countless summer days in the water with its inhabitants. Whether it be in search of frogs, various creatures for my fishtank, or fishing, my love of water and the lifeforms that inhabit it spans as far as I can remember.

I was about 3 pumpkins high when my dad took me fishing. The lake was a short hop, skip and a jump from where we lived, and I was able to get there in 3 minutes flat even with my short stature at the time. But if you had captured a glimpse of us on our way there, you never would have guessed what we were about to do. Most of our "equipment" was stowed discreetly in my dad's pocket. It comprised a spool of 10lb test line, a hook, a split shot and a few worms from the garden - he said this is the way he used to do it when he was of my stature.

I watched in awe as my old man swung this contraption over his head like David about to conquer the Goliath sea. He released this cyclic ball of energy he had created above him and the line flew off the spool as if determined to reach as far out into the unknown as possible. We sat there and waited (to be truthful, he waited and I ran around like madman), but it wasn't long before the glass surface was broken by frantic headshakes of a dark brown creature with fins, covered in slime. He would later tell me that this "thing" is what they call a catfish.

Athough I probably could not describe what I felt at the time, I was fascinated with this creature that I had never seen before. I was intrigued that with this contraption, I could touch (although I refused to literally touch it) something wild, something from the mysterious depths of this great body of water, and not know what it is, or what it looks like until it finally surfaces for the terrestrial world to see.

This was my first memory of fishing, and it was where my lifelong journey in pursuit of our finned friends began.

Over the years, my spool of line led way to a rod and reel, giving me countless hours of enjoyment and memories on the Upper Niagara with my brother and of course, my old man.