HOW DUMB WAS THAT?
First off let me clarify something in my defense meager though it may be. The Creek was in flood, really high, and quite menacing actually. There was talk of it overflowing its banks causing flooding in its lower reaches near where it flows into the lake. This fact is what caused us to eschew our regular camping spot situated down in the steep valley where the little creek has carved its way through solid rock over the millennia. Instead we settled for a higher less desirable but safer location far from its presently raging fury. Sadly for me, although we would now be safer in the new campground, it is situated nowhere near either the headwaters lake nor is it near the large outflow lake where it ends. In the new spot there would be no possible way to cast a line and fish and that dear friends and avid fly fishers is why I DID NOT TAKE MY FISHING GEAR ALONG WITH ME! How dumb was that? I know, I know, sheer lunacy you say and I agree with you. Never should have done it. Not really in my right mind at all. It must be my new meds. I have no valid excuse for it I just didn't take along any gear. Could have easily tossed a rod or two on the bunk, added a fly box or two, would have only taken a minute or so. But I didn't.
On the way up the narrow mountain road we passed several small wooden bridges that looked a bit like they might be in danger of sliding into the roiling waters to their ultimate doom. Another foot or so and I am sure the road would be impassable. Nature has a funny habit of thumbing her nose at the puny works of man. We were in no danger of being trapped up here because the northern route out curves away from this small creek toward the main highway. The campground we had selected is situated where the road leaves the creek and thereafter follows a different path. It is early afternoon when we arrive to make camp.
So we set up our digs in a nice shady and most importantly level spot. I am of an age where I no longer desire to sleep on the ground and have over the years progressed from tent to tent trailer, from tent trailer to Camper to trailer to my latest pride and joy our 28ft motor home. Let the youngsters freeze off their butts while camping I love the comforts of home. So now all I have to do is park the motor home in a level spot. As soon as my little Parsnip flower gives me the high sign indicating that we are level enough so that the ultra-finicky fridge will run properly I am free to go and explore the great outdoors.
First off like any Male of my species I head directly for the water. A short hike down the small hill along with 4 or 5 of my friends we go to check out the creek. I am expecting to see muddy water with large logs and debris zooming by. I expect to see that the current had undermined the banks of the creek, and perhaps tipping them dangerously toward their doom. So imagine my surprise when I see that although it's very high and barely within its banks the dark tea colored water is clear and much slower flowing up here in the mountain meadow and very unlike the raging muddy boiling water we had encountered down below nearer to town. In fact it looked darned fishable. I mention this fact to the other guys who immediately poo pooed me. Don't be a jerk there are only small brookies this high up and they have probably all gone up to the little lake until the spring runoff is over. Yes maybe, but damn, I think that looks like big fish water. There are big rainbows in the lower outflow lake up to 25 pounds and there are 8 pound rainbows in the upper lake and both are joined together by this very same creek so why would they not be in this awesome looking water? Trouble is we weren't on a fishing trip. I DID NOT TAKE MY FISHING GEAR ALONG WITH ME. How dumb is that? Thus I have no way of testing my theory that it is big fish water.
I stare at that beckoning very fishable water for almost an hour watching where the current slows creating seams that look so tempting. I scan an underwater rock for any sign of a fish passing over it until I'm simply desperate to give it a try. Unable to stand it any longer I canvas all present for a rod or even a piece of line I can tie to a stick. I just need to fish. MY pleas are for naught as indeed no one else brought fishing gear either. This was to be a Quad and Motorcycle rally. Defeated I retreat to the motor home and begin a frantic search. If I can find that 100 yard spool of line I am sure is onboard somewhere amid all this stuff, all will not be lost. It sure wouldn't be the first time I used a willow wand as a rod. I just need some line. After searching high and low there tucked away in the corner of the closet I found my sons $20.00 Wal-Mart fly rod but no reel. The 100 yard spool of line I have been seeking just isn't anywhere in the vehicle. However while looking under the driver's seat I did manage to find a 5 pound test 12 foot leader. I also was able to come up with several bare hooks that looked to be about #12s. I checked with her loveliness and bless her heart she had some brown sewing thread. I scouted around and found a feather on the ground outside unknowingly donated to the occasion by an unidentified species of bird. With this meager supply of fly tying material to go on and the use of a pair of vice grips firmly wedged into a crack in the tabletop as a makeshift tying vise. I finally managed to fashion the semblance of a couple of flies. They weren't pretty but they were flies nevertheless. I tied the leader onto the third guide from the tip of the 9 foot 5 weight fly rod wishing like heck that I had at least a reel brought along a reel. Well as they say; beggars can't be choosers so I went with what I had. My first try was a dismal failure because as I trooped down to the creek bank to fish I was followed by at least 10 of the other campers. Having watched me struggle for almost an hour to fashion two really ugly flies and with only a rod and 12 feet of line they were eager to see me fail miserably. As one of them put it, he didn't want to miss being able to tell the sad story of my abject failure that night around the campfire.
With a small army of onlookers clomping down to the creek I was sure that every fish within 100 miles would be on the lam. Cripes you might as well have thrown rocks in the pool with all those idiots charging down to the edge of the stream. No self-respecting fish would be within a mile of the place. So reluctantly without even wetting a line I gave it up. I made my way back to the motor home to the cries of derision from the amused onlookers. When the furor had died down somewhat I grabbed a lawn chair and went back down to the creek. I just sat there for a ½ hour or so to rest the pool and to give the lookers a chance to disperse, which thankfully they finally did.
With the maddening crowd banished, so to speak, to the hinterland and my generous profile masked by a leafy bush I decided that the time was ripe and carefully lowered the fly (it was intended to be a pheasant tail nymph but ended up looking more like a large gob of belly button lint, hence my name for it, the belly button lint fly) into the water. Still it was the better looking of the three flies I had made in the vise grips that day. I had decided on a wet fly because well they catch so much more than dry flies. Sorry dry fly people but it just has to be said.
The fly plopped down on the surface of the water barely began to sink in a small eddy when - Holy crap! Man oh man! Suddenly all hell broke loose as from beneath that dark coffee stained water flashed a giant, and I do mean giant rainbow trout. It rolled over on the belly button lint fly gulping it down in an instant. That poor Wal-Mart $20.00 special 5weight rod bowed almost in half. How it didn't give up its life snapping in two right then and there will always be a mystery to me. I had no time to react I just hung on as for just an instant as the fish became airborne, it hit the end of that 5 pound leader snapping it instantly with a loud POP! The fly rod snapped back straight again with an audible swish. I just stood there in awe and shook. I prayed that at least someone else had seen that giant of a fish.
Here is where the only stroke of luck I had all day came into play. Happily it seems that the fish's aerial antics were witnessed by at least four other people besides me. I know who I am dealing with here and if it hadn't jumped not a one of those doubting bozos I call my friends would have ever believed the size of that monster. As it was the witnesses subsequent estimates of its length and girth were many and quite varied. Being fishermen size is usually in the eye of the beholder and can change from telling to telling. Initially their estimates ranged from a paltry 6 pounds all the way up to 15 or 20 pounds. Privately I guessed it at about 8 or 9 pounds because it was bigger than a Pink salmon but quite a bit smaller than a Coho. That being the case, I figured 8 or 9 pounds to be fairly accurate but what the heck, at campfire that night I went with the fellow who said it was 20 pounds if it was an ounce.
Whew! I now had only about 7 feet of line left dangling from the rod tip. I tied another fly such as it was and on the first try I managed to hook and land about a 1 pound rainbow which I released. In the failing light of evening I tried one more cast. I lowered the fly into a likely looking spot and watched it sink from sight. This time some unseen monster of a fish grabbed the drowned fly and with a terrific yank simply popped the line in two leaving me with nothing left to fish with. Just as well I suppose. With the little bit of equipment I was trying to fish with it was about as senseless as spitting into the wind anyway.
I headed up the bank along with several others. After a lot of begging I managed to secure permission to abandon her alone in the wilderness to the cougars, bears, and god knows what other dangers are out there and borrowed her van. My pitiful pleas being finally accepted and I sped down the mountain to get my gear. You know the gear I had left at home!
Of course all things being equal the sun rose on next day only to reveal that the creek had muddied up during the darkness signaling that the day of the giant trout had come and gone. My advice to your dear reader is simple. NEVER LEAVE YOUR FISHING GEAR AT HOME. EVER!! I MEAN HOW DUMB WAS THAT?
It's been about 5 years since that fateful day and as I recall it that fish was 20 pounds if it was an ounce. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.