Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trout Bum

Iv'e been reading a lot of John Gierach this summer and, most recently, his 1986 offering, "Trout Bum."  What I enjoy most about reading his books is that he really does put you on the water with him, has you sipping his camp coffee or looking forward to a beer.  He's got a way of making you feel like you are standing in between he and A.K. Best, just looking down quietly at the dirt on your wading boots in the dusky light of another successful fishing day.

I've read quite a few of Gierach's books.  He was the only connection to fly fishing that I had for all of those years that the zippers of the old vest stayed closed and the fly line dried out.  He always kept me one step away from being stream side in my mind.  Now that I am fishing and fishing quite a bit (at least my wife thinks so), reading his work makes me feel like a full on "Trout Bum" myself.  I'm waist deep either literally or in my mind.  

I fished just a couple of mornings ago.  Headed up to the EBCR with a much less desirable cup of joe than would have suited John.  I noticed a funny thing as I geared up, strolled streamside, checked out the water, strolled some more and, eventually fished.  All of my inner thoughts about flow, clarity, fly choice, seams, runs, pools, flats, all of it was no longer in my own voice but the voice of a late 60's, white bearded, calm but red tempered fly fisherman.  Strange, I know.  But true enough indeed.  I had been reading too much and not fishing enough.  Hey, I'll take what I can get.

The first couple hours I was fishing in the Bathtub and, even though the fish weren't really rising, there were enough of them to try and take one on a dry.  I tied on a small white sulphur, then a caddis, then a blue winged olive, all to no avail.  I didn't mind so much but after an hour or two one does start to concede to the skunk.  Thoughts of "not knowing what the hell I am doing" in an old man's voice are much more comforting than the same thoughts in my own voice.  Really it might have been a blend of the two voices.  At least I hope so or, not only am I crazy but I am telling you all that I am crazy.  Oh well, I've been called worse. 

With not so much as a look from a trout I decided to head downstream and fish a favorite run of mine (and everyone else's for that matter).  I changed over to a double nymph rig.  I like fishing nymphs, I do.  But then there's been this whole season in which I have never really fished a hatch or a successful dry fly so it is a bit disheartening to tie up the heavy rig.  

When you are in the midst of going 0 for whatever in a ballgame you start to get the feeling that you just never might reach base safely again.  An actor who wraps a film or draws a curtain on a play feels as though they have just finished their last job, never to be hired again.  A fly fisherman who hasn't had a take in the last two hours is convinced that he has caught his last trout.  This is where my head was.  Just lazily flipping the nymph rig over while watching the gentleman downstream of me presenting the most beautiful roll cast of a tiny dry fly.  What a cast.  He knows what the hell he's doing.  Why am I even??---BOOM.  The indicator went stiff and straight down in a frenzy.  Fish on.  Boy what a great call it was to nymph.  I am one helluva fisherman.  Smart cookie.  The trout fights well and long; running to me, away from me, in the current, out of the current.  I realize I'm holding my breath.  The professional roll caster, in a respectful manner, pretends not to watch but I know I've got an audience.  The trout is close to the net but not close enough.  A beautifully fit and chrome Rainbow.  I just can't seem to get to him.  This extra 6 inches on the new rod now seems like a mile.  I'm down on one knee.  The fish is wallowing but hard and he's four feet from me in the shallows and a sound unleashes not unlike a bullwhip as the line snaps free from the trout.  He's off.  Damn.  I let out a decent "Aargh" and the dry caster responds, "That was a nice one...did he take your fly?"  I couldn't believe he hadn't.  The whole rig was intact.  The whip sound was something I had never heard in real life or in a Gierach story.  I wanted to ask the caster if he had heard it too but he must have and I was too deflated to talk much.  A few minutes goes by and I'm flipping those nymphs over again and he calls over, "Man that sucks.  That was a nice fish."  I respond that I'm still torn about it and he promises to drop it in an "I feel your pain, man" tone of voice.  This is a good guy.

So good that about ten minutes later when I hooked and started to battle another gem, he was there on the banks behind me.  I had thought he had gone but I guess he was just tying up back there.  "If you need any help let me know."  A kind offer.  I did need help.  I wanted to ask him to net this trout for me but I couldn't.  I needed to land this damn fish and save face.  Geirach wouldn't have A.K. babysitting for him!  After an admirable fight, I was able to land the fish.

My newly found friend was kind enough to take a photo of me with the second rainbow.  I don't believe it to be as big as the first but such is the fodder of a good fish story.  

We parted ways soon after and another fisherman came to the hole that we had been sharing.  As it turns out, I knew the guy from over at the Westchester Fishing Forums.  We BS'd for a while as I pondered calling it a day and he mentioned driving down to a stretch that I have only fished once before.  I called my wife who didn't answer so that was an indication to me to fish for another hour or so.  Thanks, honey.  We talked about where to park down there and split ways.  He had to get gas and I had to get going.  We never did meet up down there and I'm not sure he ever made it.  This is a working man's fly fisherman.  Solid guy.  Kind too and gave me a Prince Nymph after I had told him my woes of losing two that morning.

I fished this new run and will say that it is tricky water but, for a Sunday, it was desolate.  Not a soul.  That's already a plus.  I stared at this water for a while, walked the trail upstream and then back down.  There's everything here.  Flats, eddys, deep pools, plunge pools, riffles, etc. and there's even a stretch where the "all of the above" bubble would be filled in if this were a Scan-tron test (boy, I hated those).  

I picked my spot after a careful study and netted two smaller and wild fighting Browns.  These two fish might have come as even more of a surprise than did the Bow.  To fish new water and find success had the old man in my head calling me a legitimate "Trout Bum".

If only that were true.  As it is, I am already disqualified from that title as I had recently purchased a $19 hat from Orivs with a mesh backing and the words "Trout Bum" printed on the front.  Gierach nor A.K. nor the fantasy of myself, standing between them at dusk, would ever don such an article.