"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
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.
"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
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
The "crick" as I remember it will never be the same but
the lessons learned there will never be forgotten.
Thanks Billy. ~ Jeff Ehasz