May 21st, 2001

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My Little River
By Old rupe

The Little Girl

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead,
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The original text as he sang it to his second
daughter while carrying her about, not Mother
Goose as some have suggested.*

My river is like the poem. On the good days you will be rewarded with comments like "nice fish,"or "good catch," and you will be mistaken for "that guide fellow from Columbus." On those good days I've caught fish that have amazed me, big fish that came easily to the fly, one after the other, each stream section alive with uncountable numbers of rising fish. What a river!

When the river is 'on' it can deliver trout fishing to the Queen's taste. I have stood below the 29 bridge and looking upstream have seen so many rises it looked as if it were raining on the water. It was there I had a 17 inch brown nail a muddler minnow I had been fishing behind a cedar sweeper. I hopped the muddler over the log and the trout followed over also, nailing the fly before it hit the water. I almost lost the fish I was so surprised. I have watched fish hit terrestrials above the bridge with such abandon I just knew they had to be smallmouth bass. I caught and released one there a long time ago. It was a feat I have never been able to repeat. A lone warrior far from his normal environs. Each time I fish the spot I imagine him still there, five pounds heavier, just waiting for my fly. I have forgotten many of my salmon over thirty pounds but not that eleven inch bass. I wonder why such an insignificant fish can make such a mark on a mans soul. I will remember it until I die.

Above the junction with Kings Creek I always find big fish rising to the midge in the fall. How they escape the bait fishermen and others always amazes me. I only fish a Pepper Trico to them on my 2 wt. with an 8x tippet. I have a special box of English hooks that I only tie on to fish there. I have never landed one of those monsters. Vicious fish, the rulers of an obscure freshet.

I think my friend Tim and I are the only ones who fish the water above the old cattle gate. Maybe I'm the only one left who remembers where it used to be. It was there that Tim caught a real nice trout on a size 14 elk hair caddis. That fly was a monster for my river. I had finally forced Tim to fish a fly larger than a size 18. After that fish he said he would never be afraid to fish a big fly again. I broke two irreplaceable rods one day floating into the spot. I have never floated with strung rods since. This water is the last to cloud up after a rain and I have spent many a misty afternoon scouring that rock ledge for nice fish. If I owned the property I would have put up a cattle gate also, but in my case it would be to keep out other fishermen.

The water above the dam has a hatch every evening during the season. The flies are 24's and smaller. Every now and then a size 20 blue winged olive will take one. Leave your 4 wt. at home. It's too big a rod for the water. I have stood in the water waiting for the hatch to happen so many evenings that herons throw mating calls to me. I finally had to develop an "I've got a headache reply." I had even tried waiting mid-stream in a lawn chair, but when I got up it floated away. I was glad no one was watching that evening.

Four or five bridges south big fish thrash in the deep shaded water under the bridge all day long. I have fished it 6-8 hours at a time. It's easier to get elected sheriff on the Democratic ticket than it is to catch one of those bridge splashers. My few success's have all been on a size 20 soft hackle. It's great to catch big fish on a 2 wt. when others are watching. When they ask what I'm using, I lie.

In the spring I fish the castle stretch of a tributary. A size 16 elk hair caddis is it. If the presentation is three inches off the bank forget it. The undercut banks are there but hard to spot. I have done well on the dam section. I fish it from the road and lay the line on the berm with just the leader in the water. Just fish to risers.

The water table is down and being a spring creek my river just doesn't have as much water as it normally does. Many of the undercut banks I used to float a fly next to are long since high and dry. I hope this is just a cycle, but the sad fact is everyone needs more water and little is being replaced. As the area becomes increasingly more urban I can only expect the situation to deteriorate.

Sunday I tried my river again. Saturday's rain had clouded the river and even the cattle gate section was devoid of trout. I brought my good binoculars (Steiner 7x50's) and glassed long stretches I didn't feel like walking. No risers! I was so disgusted I didn't even go to Crabill's burger shop. I finished the day at the 36 bridge and poured myself an Absolute and 7-Up. My little river, like the girl in the poem was very bad indeed. The message under the cap of the 7-Up bottle said it all. "Please try again." ~ Old rupe

Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow, Random Memories, Boston, (Houghton Mifflin 1922 ) 15

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