I remember the anticipation of opening day
of trout season in the winter of 1971 very
well. I had spent many a cold winter night
up until 3 or 4 in the morning tying every
fly listed in "McClanes Standard" in sizes
10, 12, 14, Drys, Wets, Nymphs, Streamers,
some Salmons and Muddlers. I set myself up
a tying room in the basement for the sake of
uninterrupted workspace. Had my bench, a simple
four-legged pine stand that stood about hip
high above the ground. A small iron vise that
clamped onto an exacto knife was my tying vise
of choice and wallet in those days.
I found that as I started tying larger sizes
first by the time I got down to the 14, I was
starting to get the hang of it. The smallest
would sometimes turn out to be the best of all
three. Fancy that! Somehow it seemed to work
out in threes.
Transportation back then was foot power, either
a bike or sneakers. Not much for distance but
surely kept you in shape. Just about every weekday
after school and weekends I'd be working the local
creeks or fishing for bass from the farm pond up
the road apiece. Had pretty good spring that year,
was catching trout on Gordons, Hare's Ears, Parmachene
Belles (what a job that was to tie in a 14) and Coachmans.
All were on wets or nymphs though. It was well into
June or first week of July and I was armed with a split
cane, the best of my hand tied flies and enough
enthusiasm to win the war I was out to catch trout
on a dry this time. How hard could it be right? My
best efforts couldn't get a trout to rise all spring
but odds have got to catch up with me sooner or later.
Money was really tight back then but I somehow managed
to buy, borrow or construct just about every new fly
fishing item to be found in the catalogs. Yup, I was
dressed for success, had enough fly boxes in my vest
pockets to avoid the need for a life jacket. Hell I
even had hip boots! Whoa, the real thing too, had to
give up on the idea of car tire "wader tubes" cause
the glue never held. They where going to be stockin'
foot mind you, man was I ahead of my time or what.
Now that I think about it there was a big blue B.A.S.S.
Anglers Sportsmen patch I had sewn on the front top
pocket too. Toenail clippers dangled from on a short
piece of backing attached to another pocket. Must
have been a quite the beacon in the sun.
It was eight-o clock in the morning when I set out
that next day. To thwart the cunning of the other
local trout confishertos I decided to make a go of
a little known spring fed natural trout stream that
had it's start nearly on the top of the mountain
a few miles from our farm. I knew there were trout
in that creek, lots of trout, brookies that would
fight in a dual to the death. They may not get to
be big enough to bring home to mama, but let me
tell you what; till' you've had one on, you don't
know what your missing.
About two miles down the road from our house a
side road skirts the stream up the mountain. It
was too steep for me to ride up with the boots
and other luggage so I had to walk the rest. It's
a very modest body of water not that deep or wide
really. It's a boulder-strewn creek that cascades
all the way down the mountain. Every ten to fifteen
feet I would pass another miniature waterfall feeding
another promising pool. You couldn't help take in
the beauty of it all, seemed to be more white water
than anything else. As I pushed on I got the feeling
that there was magic in the air today. In the shadows
of the mountain I was glad to have a bit of relief
from the summer sun but I knew it was early in the
day to expect a hatch. That was all I needed now,
one good hatch.
Must have been about 9:00 or so when I got to where
the stream split into feeders. There were remnants
of a long forgotten railroad tie bridge on the bank
and I remembered a nice pool there so I parked the
bike against the guardrail with the hip boots slung
over the frame. Man it's great to have a real pair
of hippers, I thought as I rigged up my pole,
standing on the rocky bank just five feet from the
roadside, tippet clinched in my teeth, eyes peering
into the dark glassy pool before me. A small square
tail starts to come into view just past the foam of
the "v"-shaped center current. OK, come on, success
is just a hatch away.
I scanned the surface of the calm areas of the pool
for signs of movement; a few moments go by, then wait,
what's that? Ah just surface debre, twig or something.
OK, hatch or no hatch I'm tying on a Light Cahill. On
a stream this small you don't cast really but rather
pull out a bit of line and do a half a roll, sort of
flip it to 'em. Half a roll you say? That should put
you in the trees won't it? Yup, sometimes, my rod was
a 7' 6" three piece and would reach the far bank with
its tip. This was tough fishin' not for the meek or
weak of heart. Every so often I would feel the flat
rock I was standing on teeter with the forward momentum
of the cast. That was not helping either but I didn't
want to move now that the trout have forgotten my
Just as the sun clears the treetops illuminating
the surroundings it seemed like the whole stream
came alive. The trout at their stations were clearly
visible now and so was I. With the stance of a heron
I held my pole high pointed to the head of the pool,
the Cahill dangling just above the water. Suddenly
out of the corner of my eye, just past my right elbow
a small blur hovers! IT'S A HATCH!
With my neck cramped, my eyes blurred from strain
and adrenaline quaking my casting arm, I lean into
a foreword thrust to execute the cast. I almost
fell face first into the pool, as the rock teetered
again, clickity clack, clickity clack, Damn! Truly
the stealth of a freight train in the woods at night.
Wait a minute there's another one to my left this
time and here's another wonder which ones they. . .
Up the bank I sprang, cartwheeling over the
guardrails, slapping the back of my calf with
one hand and the back of my head with the other.
Arms flailing, legs kicking, body spinning totally
out of control. Yup, you guessed it, they weren't
mayflies at all they where bald faced hornets.
Seems they must have had a nest under that flat
rock I was standing on. In my haste the fly rod
did a splash down right in the middle of the pool,
my foot somehow caught on the pedal of my bike and
sent it flipping end over end sideways on down the
road. Guess I needed an obstacle to trip over and
dodge as well as trying to out run a kamikaze
that was hanging onto the middle of my back.
I didn't stop running down that mountain road until
I reached the bottom. Think I got stung at least 5
or 6 times, walked on home, showed mom the welts
(Houston we have a problem) and asked her if she
could drive me back up there in the morning cause
I didn't want to go back until they settled down.
Next morning mom dropped me off and watched from
the car as I made a wide semi-circle around the
pool and picked up my rod, no apparent damage done,
man was I lucky. I walked on down the road a bit
and found my bike just under the guardrail, no one
had bothered it.
Standing there, looking back at the pool for a second,
I pondered the end of that summers trout fishing, but
it only took me a moment to come around, there are
times when less is more. A smile broke into laughter
as I thought about how I must have looked like a
crazed mountain man running down that same road the
day before. Ah yes, if anyone asked about it I could
tell them I saw a bear. Yea, that's it, a bear, a big,
big bear wearing a pair of "wader tubes". Hey that's
a good one!
Maybe I should call them "outer tubes"? ~ Jeff Doerner "jeff98390j"