September 1st, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

The Crick
By Jeff Ehasz

"Don't go down to that crick your gonna get your feet wet!" mom was heard to say, more times than I can count. That's what we called it "the crick." Well no matter, these days I fish many creeks, but whenever I happen to think about mom's place I still see a "crick" running through it. Mom was right, I got my feet wet.

Going back to the days when night crawlers ruled and a Shakespeare spin-caster was king, I remember being introduced to the fine art of fly fishing by a close friend and school buddy of mine. We'll refer him simply as Billy for this trip down memory lane. There were around seven of us who went to the same school back then and we all had various descriptive nick-names for each other. I'll leave that one for another story down the road.

Where was I? Oh yea, after school and on weekends we would all gather for a game of hardball, softball, cards, etc. Big time excitement in those days included games like the old "Put on a football helmet and climb inside an empty tractor tire to see how far we can roll ya down a hill game." That one not only gave a hysterical view to the spectators but was a dizzying ride that would envy the local farmers fair. Looking out from within the tire showed the world in a totally new perspective. The only trouble was when the tire came to a stop it would tend to happen when you were up in the top half which would cause it to fall right over on it's side. That hurt, but alas we were young then and we were much tougher. We had a small trout stream that ran through a farm behind the houses where we lived. It was only a small stream that used to run about a foot deep and around seven feet wide or so. There was a concrete bridge behind my neighbor's house that a farmer used to get his equipment across. We used to get a lot more rain back then. I recall the creek would swell, the bridge would dam up, then the banks would spill over. Sometimes it would flood the fields to reach around 30 to 60 feet wide and then freeze over. We were in ice hockey heaven; get your skates, a decent stick, a flat rock and the game is on! Yup, we were tough back then.

Of all the games we played the one taken most seriously was fishing. Competition was high in this group and success was yet to be had by most, except for one. We'll call him Little Jeff, he lived next door and was about an inch shorter than I was. I was called Big Jeff, easy enough to remember for Mrs. Logan, she was Little Jeff's mom. We all got on the bus at the Logan's house, we spent so much time there before and after school that I think Mrs. Logan wasn't sure just how many kids she really had.

Back to the bridge, there were seven of us who played the other games but there were only three who fished the bridge, Billy, Little Jeff and Big Jeff (me). Little Jeff was using night crawlers, I was using worms and Billy was using salmon eggs. For three days in row after school we would line up at the bridge lying face down on the concrete with just the top of heads over the edge - far enough to see under but just shy of casting a shadow. We set up our lines with crawlers or worms or salmon eggs then drift 'em just far enough under to reach about half way down. At the end of each day Little Jeff had either a couple of brownies or brookies or both. Billy finally caught one on a salmon egg, I caught one on a garden worm but Little Jeff was killing us.

One day when Little Jeff was busy at hardball practice and I was down at the bridge with Billy I said, "Little Jeff's catchin' way too many fish, it's gotta be his side of the bridge."

"That ain't it," Billy replied.

Billy went on to say that his Grandfather from upstate NY was coming to his house to visit and he had something he wants to give him for fishing but not to tell anyone 'cause these fishin' lures where special. They were more than special, they were "flies," and were made in a place called the Catskills and would clean a creek out of every fish that swims if used in the wrong hands.

Billy couldn't stand it any longer, he reaches into his sweatshirt pocket and pulls out a tarnished fly box. Carefully lifting one of the little doors open, he pulls out a Quill Gordon.

"See that? My Grandfather says to use this one first in April, he sent this fly box to me ahead of time so I could start using them but I'm not supposed to show anyone, so don't tell ok?"

I looked up from the box, hearing footsteps fast approaching and saw Little Jeff coming in on us at quick pace. Billy hurriedly stuffs the box back into his pocket and says, "I'm gonna' try fishin' up at the next bridge, see you guys later."

Little Jeff says, "What's up with him?"

"Ah nothin', he just wants to try to catch some trout on some flies his Grandfather gave him." Little Jeff breaks out in fit of laughter "He aint gonna' catch no trout on those things, he's crazier than his Grandfather and you know he ain't right."

"Never met him," I said.

"Yoou don't wanna!" says Little Jeff. There are two sides to every story and I just let it go at that. From the sound of that I figured there must have been some kind of story behind the relationship between Little Jeff and Billy's Grandfather that most likely had to do with some kind of a prank and Holloween and proper up-bringin' and such. Reminds me of the time we put a crawdad in the coin return of a payphone then set on the bank fishin' watching and waiting, yup, we were fishin' all right.

So Little Jeff drops in a line and says, "'sides, if these fish can tell the difference between a night crawler and a garden worm, what makes you think they would hit a feather on a hook?"

Bingo! A light came on and the secret was out. Night crawlers! Ok, now we're on even ground. The very next morning was Saturday so early, very, very, early I went to the bridge. This time I was alone, alone that is except for a can full of the biggest, fattest night crawlers you ever saw.

By eight-o-clock I had three browns and two brookies, state limit back then. Here comes Little Jeff.

"Catch any?"

"Oh yea," holding up my stringer.

"That's nothin' I catch 'em like that all the time, it's easy," he says.

Looking upstream to the next bridge I see Billy working his flies with his Grandfather, and suddenly I got this feeling that the catch of the week didn't have quite the glitter it did earlier that morning.

Little Jeff was half right, "That's nothin', it's easy." Those few words said it all. It's not how many you catch, it was how you catch them that mattered.

Upstream was Billy's Grandfather, teaching Billy the fine art of fly fishing and here downstream flowed the fine art of ethics that Billy taught me.

The next day was Sunday and Billy was at the bridge when I showed up.

"How did you do yesterday?" he asked.

"Oh I caught a few brownies and a couple small brookies. Had to keep the brookies cause they swallowed the hook."

"That never happens with a fly, you can catch them all day and turn 'em all loose. They feel the hook when they hit, so if you catch one it's always hooked in the lip or else they spit it out. Gotta' be quick, here try these," he said and handed me a few flies from his box.

It wasn't long until I bought a new fly outfit; it was an 8.5 foot split bamboo for $8.00 with a $5.00 reel and a level 6 floater. I think I spent most of the rest of the summer trying to catch a trout on those flies, and finally the day arrived. Most all of the brookies were native but the browns and rainbows were stocked. None of us ever caught a brookie over 12" on bait, the first fish I caught on one of Billy's flies was a 14" brook trout.

That was it, I was hooked, I purchased a fly tying kit that fall and started tying my own flies that winter. I never went back to bait and some years later decided not to keep the ones I caught. Back in those days that stream had about fifty percent native brook trout and was stocked three times with brown and rainbow. The creek ran though a good deal of private property and didn't have any pressure except for the local kids. So even though we caught quite a few back then we never ran the population down to a dangerous level.

Now that stream, "crick" as we used to call it, runs about 2 inches deep and less than 5 feet wide. A great deal of it can't support trout and they don't stock that stretch of it anymore. There are however many new houses, housing developments and the like along it upper reaches, all have wells and we've had lot of continuous years of drought-like conditions.

The "crick" as I remember it will never be the same but the lessons learned there will never be forgotten.

Thanks Billy. ~ Jeff Ehasz


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