Al Campbell, Field Editor

September 9th, 2002

Blind Squirrels and Fish
By Al Campbell

Once in a while, a blind squirrel finds a nut. It's also possible for a handyman to get a day out on the water...once in a while. At least that's the way it felt when I got a chance to abandon my remodeling projects and fish with Paul Dieter a couple of weeks ago.

Paul Dieter It has been a hot, dry summer and fishing opportunities have been rare. I passed up a few due to the warm water conditions and extreme fire danger. In fact, as I write this, there are several fires burning within 50 miles of where I live. It hasn't been a fisherman's dream summer by any stretch of the imagination.

Paul and I have been trying to connect on a day of fishing for a few years now. Whenever he is in the area visiting family, I seem to be working or otherwise tied to the home front. This year we finally connected, but it was the driest year of any we had to choose from. In fact, this is the driest year on record for this area.

The effects of the hot, dry summer were readily visible on that mid-August Saturday. Grass that is normally waist deep is only inches tall this year. With so many of the streams in our area either dried up or cooked out of business by the summer sun, the few remaining streams have had to shoulder the burden of many more fishermen than normal. A heavily used footpath on the bank of Rapid Creek revealed the burden it has carried this summer.

Another indicator of intense use was the lack of fish in a normally productive stretch of water. We fished a long time before we saw even a hint of trout activity. In this case, it wasn't the heat that hurt our chances. That section of Rapid Creek is a tail-water fishery with cold water all summer. No matter what anyone wants to believe, catch and release fishing takes its toll on the fish, and our lack of success close to the parking lot revealed the price. Pretty water running a cool 48 degrees when I measured it that morning; but few fish until we put about a mile between the parking lot and us.


There were other things to grab our attention too. The smoke from the nearby Battle Creek fire was getting thicker as the day wore on. The people Paul was in town to visit had been evacuated from their home because the fire was just too close for safety. The night before it had leveled three homes in that area, and fire officials weren't taking any chances with human lives.

Another thing that caught my attention was the buzzing of a rattlesnake somewhere near my feet. We were in a rocky area that looked like good snake country, and I guess it was home to at least one. I never saw the snake. I looked closely at the ground I was walking on after that. I guess I always knew they were there; I just don't see them often enough to worry about it.

Paul's fly box

If you ever fish with Paul, get a good look at the wood fly box he made. The outside is beautiful, but what he hides on the inside is amazing. As he talked about the different flies and who tied them, it was evident that he has a collection of goodies from around the world. The internet flyfishing family is unique to our age. That collection of feathered artwork was worth a few pictures and some intense study.

Eventually the smoke from a home-leveling fire and concerns for a family in exile from the flames outweighed Paul's desires to catch one more fish; but not before I showed him my secret spot and how to fish it. We shared a rod and took turns kidding each other about missed fish as we explored the best fishing of the day. A size 16 Sandy Mite (tied the easy way), a twitching underwater retrieve and a prefect place to end a day were all it took to cap off a pleasant (and rare) day on the water.

On a 16 Sandy Mite

If you have a sense of humor, you'll enjoy a day fishing with Paul. As my mother would say, "he's a nut." His healthy sense of humor and dry wit will keep you smiling all day. If you can't take a little ribbing about your mistakes, or if you can't laugh at your own foul-ups, stay home. You're too serious to have serious fun. On the other hand, if you can laugh at what life deals you and don't mind the opportunity to exchange a little good-natured ribbing with a fine fisherman, you'll have a great time.

Like I said before, it's been a long, hot, dry summer; but even in the desert you can find a few flowers. That's the way it was the day a blind squirrel found a nut at a local hotel and took him to the hills looking for a fish. It was a flower of a day in a summer that resembles a desert. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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