SO HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF A MESS LIKE THIS?
How many times have you decided to take a solitary fishing trip somewhere up on a mountain stream that has few other visitors? If the answer is many times then we are in the same boat when it comes to desiring a little occasional alone time out and about.
I packed light for this excursion, as the estimated time for the trip would be no longer then let us say eight hours or thereabouts. I just needed my wading boots for this trip, as the stream in question is not more then maybe fifteen feet across on the average. In addition, it is no deeper than a couple of feet except for some of the nicer pools and runs. I decided that nothing more except one of my lightweight trout shirts and pants were required for this day trip. If an unexpected storm came up the small balled up plastic poncho should do the trick. My new fanny pack with double water bottles and two zippered pockets is the ideal accompaniment for a sojourn of this type. A larger pocket for lunch and snacks, smaller ones for a few extras and one bottle filled with water and the other usually with orange juice in case my diabetes acts up. Taking the usual 3 weight too as there seems to be more roll casting or underhanded flips than anything else on the heavily laden over structure that guards against the usual "tree trout" over hand slingers. A couple of small fly boxes would do but the best fly for this water is the old reliable Elk Hair Caddis. Alternatively, if one prefers, a deer hair caddis. The resident denizens of this waterway will always respond to a caddis especially in a size 12. One would think that a smaller size would be more appropriate on this tiny rivulet but that is not the case here.
The temperature had been hovering around the 60's if you try an early morning start with maybe the high 70's later in the day. However, as previously mentioned, with the strong tree over hang it always seems quite a bit cooler in the gorge. If you want to cool off even more during midday, a streamside or middle of the stream rock perch will soon sprinkle enough air borne mist to refresh you. Partaking of a snack or a break while climbing through the rocky areas is best completed in this manner too.
I started this trip just about noon time so I told the wife to expect me back sometime after dark as I'd fish till it was almost too dark to make my way back to the truck. The drive home would be about forty-five minutes so arrival time should be in the area of about nine pm.
There was virtually no air stirring at mid-day so it was a very wise decision to lay a heavier than usual dose of the "Don't Bite Me" fly repellent and sunscreen mixture on any exposed body parts. The first sneak up on 'em area was a series of shallower runs and the water was gin clear except for the occasional tree shadowed portions, and fortunately the edge of the stream here was guarded by some taller stalks of grassy foliage which afforded a bit more cover than normal. I worked my way up the riffles, bottom to top, with nary a take.
The next promising area consisted of a slight bend in the stream and one large flat-topped rock about midway in a large bank hugging pool.
I decided to drop the EHC on the inside run of the rock from top to bottom this time. Just as it cleared the lower end, the caddis was slammed by a piranha imitating rainbow that launching his whole six-inch body out of the water. The colors of the trout in this pure spring fed stream are wondrous to behold and this one was no exception. Using the preferred barb less hooks makes a fish friendly release much easier and quicker. Although we managed to splash quite a bit of water and noise all over that hole I decided that a fly toss on the opposite side of the rock near the undercut bank might also be productive. Voila! Junior's twin or half-brother had also taken up residence there and was now just a fly flip away from rejoining his kin. The two-fer in that smaller contained area was a treat not oft repeated on this stream.
Progressing slowly up stream produced a few other rainbows of equal size and then a surprisingly large brown at fifteen inches. That is a behemoth for this little mountain gem so I named him "Methuselah" before the release.
Another fifty or more yards up and around a bend would take me to one of my favorite lairs on the entire stream. Here the stream was narrow and flows between a rock wall on one side and enormous broken specimens on the other. The run ended in a wide pool that tended to circle back on itself on the wall side but ran straight down stream on the other. You could circumnavigate the entire lower pool by dropping your fly nearly at your feet and just feeding out line. No mending was necessary here.
I had never changed the EHC since the start of the day which might be a bad idea considering the several trout that had already tasted it. So, on went a new out of the box specimen and some buoyancy juice for the ride through the rapids and down to the deep pool. Just how deep I never wanted to find out so I always watch my step when I fish this pool.
Several trips down through the maelstrom chute and the fly came up dry. (Little dry fly joke here - very little!) I decided to give it a ride around the circulating side of the pool and about the third trip through it was inhaled by a huge white set of jaws and disappeared towards the back edge of the rock wall. The three weight was in for the battle of its life and could not even budge the "log" stuck on the other end for quite some time.
Gradually I gained a little line but it was more like inches at a time than feet. I needed to let the current help wear out this monster as the 6X tippet was no match in calm water let alone this turbulence. The final quick measurement in my "NO LIE" net tallied up a huge eighteen inches for this magnificent brown trout. He had put up a longer than I wanted fight so no photos were taken, as he needed to be resuscitated as quickly as possible and released.
The stream above this area was straight and contained a few smaller runs and then it ended at another large pool at the base of a gradual thirty or more foot waterfall.
Not all the streamside rocks here are your normal pebble sized portions. They are quite large and often require some cliff scaling techniques to go up and over them. One treacherous step and you are apt to be spending the rest of your earth bound existence here. I had stepped into some left over muddy bank debris and unknowingly coated the bottom of my felt boots with a goodly portion of the slimy residue. Part way over a slanting head high boulder the inevitable was placed into action.
The backward slide was rapid and without time to create a handhold to slow it's progress. My rod was automatically released from hand as it had been taught to do during all previous like situations. They must be protected at all costs! The height of the take-off was not so much of a problem. It was the landing strip that posed the danger. Being able to land feet first was the immediate task if possible. In addition, it was possible or pretty much so I thought. Unfortunately, upon completing the 10-point difficulty backward slipping dive my right leg, from waist to knee, was still pointing a normal north to south compass point direction. However, from below the knee to the toes it assumed a decidedly non-normal east to west turn.
DAMN! This really, really hurts and I am screwed.
So how do you get out of a mess like this?
A check of the rest of my bodily extensions came up in the okay column. This was a familiar injury as it occurred in my youthful football playing days courtesy of one of my own teammates during a practice session. The main difference being one was on a daytime football field with many folks handy by and now I am alone in the bottom of a deep gorge with dark soon to follow.
The first order of business was trying to straighten the leg out without passing out if that was possible. I think I would rather have passed out, as the pain was ferocious during the maneuver. I saw stars, both from the pain and the oncoming darkness. Next up was how to try to immobilize it as much as I could.
AH! Now my fanny pack hoard was to come into play to alleviate the situation, or so I hoped. Contents of the pocket included a small but powerful new flashlight that had a wide and narrow beam capability and a flashing function to it. The best discovery was a roll of narrow width duct tape. One could practically build a whole shelter with it although my original idea was rod repair or leaky boots fixing. I had to stabilize the knee as straight and tight as possible if I was going to get out of this predicament.
Wrapping the fanny pack around the knee and duct taping it seemed the best way to protect what stability was left. Next item needed was a way to immobilize the knee even more. Therefore, gathering what I could reach or crawl to nearby, about two one-foot long pieces of small tree limbs were then duct taped over the fanny pack on either side of the knee.
Now you may ask why I did not just cell phone the wife and 911 to come and get me. That was because there was no signal down in the gorge below the roadway. The only way out of there was going to be a long and painful crawl all the way up to the road. A previous trip up that very same steep area resulted in the loss somewhere along the way of a cell phone back then and I discovered there was no signal available even from the road once there. I would have to make it back to the truck almost a quarter mile away for service.
When first contemplating how to stabilize the knee the perfect solution was right at hand. My trusty staff resided in its waist carrier and it folded into four sections all connected by the inside cord. However, the staff would be dearly needed to ascend the steep slope. Walking up previously required a handhold grab of every available tree or brush to accomplish the feat. This time it would be a long and painful try.
There was no chance of putting any weight on the leg so the crawl began and so did the darkness of the night.
What really concerned me was the possibility that my wife would panic when there was a no show at the appointed time and would call 911. If this occurred, they would most likely start a search where my truck was parked, but I was at least a quarter mile upstream and it would have been a rough trip.
Why didn't I stay put and wait for them you might ask?
Well, as previously mentioned, there was the problem of very light clothing worn on this trip and the thought of climbing out would at least generate some body heat. In addition, attaining the road even at a crawl seemed possible before anyone arrived to look for me. If I used the flashing, function of my flashlight might also be lucky enough to attract the attention of any vehicle passerby's. That was predicated on the hope that someone would stop on a dark mountain road for a body lying on the shoulder waving a light!
It took the better part of a very long painful hour to complete the trip. My luck still held out as soon a vehicle coming up the road stopped and came to check on me. The man stated that he had noticed my truck parked on the side of the road and figured something was amiss for it to be there so late after dark. If he had been coming down the road I might not have been rescued so soon.
I asked him to take me to my truck so I could call home and see if my wife had dispatched the Rescue squad or called 911 yet. She was beginning to worry but had not done so yet. A friend was dispatched to drive my truck home and the Rescue Squad was called to assist my trip to the ER.
And the moral of the story is:
Old geezers should not be climbing over huge rocks.
Always carry some duct tape in your gear bag.
Get a satellite phone or do not go out of cell phone range.
Above all, do not give up fishing for a mere escapade like this!