Friday, March 31, 2006

THE PROFESSIONAL FLY FISHERMAN




  The Savage River, Maryland

We broke camp and loaded everything into the vehicles and prepared for a leisurely day of trout fishing on the Savage River in Maryland. This stream is a fast moving stream early in the summer due to the increased release of water from the Savage River Dam. The dam is a bottom release containment and assures that the water temperature is pretty much the same, 64 degrees, year round. The Savage River impoundment was constructed of soil and rock as a flood control method like so many other reservoirs throughout the nineteen hundreds. The beauty of it all is that the native trout grow to extreme lengths and weights on this stream. The fish may be kept but the legal length must be 14 inches minimum. They are beautiful. These fast moving, heavy fish are healthy and vicious. They just don’t eat but they attack floating prey with a voracious appetite. The males have rich black heads with colors of the rainbow shaped like quarter inch ribbon that sweep down both sides to the tail. In between the colored ribbons are speckles of purple, orange, reds and yellows. The belly is red from the gills back to the stomach which is a rich yellow to the anal duct. Tail fins are orange top and bottom and tipped with black. They are outrageously beautiful. The Savage is also known for its abundance of Brown Trout. These trout are indeed savage by nature. They grow to be huge creatures that will attack a fourteen inch rainbow or native and grasp it cross ways in its mouth. I have caught and played a few ten to fourteen inch natives and have had large browns flash out of nowhere and grasp the hooked native cross ways in its mouth. Amazing fish! All this is due to the superior water quality of this marvelous stream. But this is not the purpose of the story. A rather humorous tale follows:

On this day my partner, Al, decided to sit on a huge boulder that was at the side of the stream and just enjoy the sun. In his mind this was fishing. Really---what is fishing? This was his method. He was good at it and I respect him for his attitude toward the sport. At least Al wouldn’t hurt too many fish this way. As I walked away and up stream I looked back to catch the view and saw Al sprawled out on top the big rock. He looked like he belonged there. Al was known to carry a fine Cuban cigar to the stream from time to time and the gray plume that arose from the rock proved that he had fired one up.

I walked up stream and followed it around a right bend to a pool that I knew held huge browns. After checking the water very closely, I noticed a tiny dimple appear on the surface of the water. Yes, it was a trout barely breaking the surface while sipping in the tiny Blue Winged Olives that were floating there. The current was carrying the midget flies down a tiny channel toward a pool of water the size of the hood on a car. In this pool, where the channel entered, lay a huge Brown Trout with its body lying against the stream bank and its dorsal fin protruding out of the water. Its mouth was simply opening and closing as the tiny flies floated in. I tied a representation to the end of my tippet and prepared to cast. Just then, to my chagrin, an apparition appeared directly below me about thirty feet down stream. A human!!!!!!!!!. Great Scott!!! Is nowhere sacred from the social ills of civilization? The gentleman must have hiked down from the country road that runs down the mountain past the dam. He must have climbed down the near vertical slope to my rear that makes this stream inaccessible. At least I thought up until now it was inaccessible. The disturbing thing was that he was preparing to wet his line in my pool. This is characteristic of a beginner. A novice. For in the world of fly fishing, one always respects the space of a fly fisherman on the stream. And thirty feet away is not an acceptable distance. He looked my way, raised his hand to his red ball cap, pinched the beak with his fingers and slightly bowed his head toward me as he recognized my presence. I made no reply verbally or visually with body language but proceeded to make my presentation to the big Brown in the pool directly in front of me. As I think back I can see this rather robust (pleasingly plump) individual standing there along the stream preparing his tackle. He was about five foot six and at least three to four hundred pounds. Maybe five hundred. It was hard to tell with all the fly fishing stuff dangling off his body. His garb was entirely of Orvis brand. Neoprene chest waders, cedar handle net, Orvis rod (the gray color gave it away) and reel. The fly line was of the florescent orange variety. Incidentally orange fly line isn’t exactly cool to use for native or brown trout in water with gin clarity. Trout aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in a fixture, but they aren’t blind. He had one of those multi drawer fly boxes located in the middle of his chest suspended by shoulder straps that attached to a harness that held the box in place. A walking portable Orvis store was about to apply his prowess on the Savage River. I continued my approach in order to make my first cast. I completed a simple forward cast after two back casts to gage the distance properly. The line straightened out on the forward cast and the tiny fly gently settled on the surface of the water in the current and appeared to blend in with the crowd of natural flies that were floating there. Down around the rock and the curve it went with the naturals. It was a perfect cast. The big brown’s mouth opened and closed around fly after fly. My fly was in a group of three naturals and floated directly to the trout. His mouth opened and closed over a natural that was a half inch to the right of my representation. Wow! So close. I let my fly float on past and downstream before lifting the rod rapidly to the One O Clock position and instantly picked the fly off the surface in preparation for the next cast. I false cast twice and prepared to set the fly back down onto the surface for a second float when I heard a very loud scream. I instantly twisted to my right and saw that the huge ignoramus was airborne, arms outstretched from his sides, head back, mouth open, legs together toes down and equipment of all nature scattered on the grassy bank and falling from every pocket and crevice from his new Orvis outfit. He appeared to be in slow motion. Yes, he was airborne and about to enter the cold, icy waters of the Savage River belly first. I was amazed at the grace and perfect poise he displayed. There he was; all three hundred pounds of him. He was stretched out in mid air in perfect form, ready for his sublime entry into the rushing water. And enter he did. HARD! His entrance was indeed a spectacle. The entire length of him crashed into the water with a sickening Ka Thunk Splash! I turned away as if I didn’t see a thing. I could hear gasping and splashing and just couldn’t bear it any longer. I turned again for another view of this professional fly fisherman at work. He was standing and preparing to start his walk back to the stream bank. Water was cascading off his arms and shoulders. With every lift of his leg for a step, water poured out of his waders at the waist where the neoprene narrowed into a bib. Then he slipped and both his arms were thrown to the vertical position simultaneously. He was still standing but his feet were trying to find purchase and he appeared to be trying to run backward. This went on for what seemed minutes. My sides were ready to split and my mouth was twisted, ready to scream with laughter. But I held it in. I still made no move to assist the man flailing in the water. I read somewhere that I shouldn’t be hasty in trying to contact a drowning man. Actually this entire scene was being enacted in water that was no more than two to three feet deep. The problem was that the Savage River bottom is covered with rocks. The rocks are covered with a green slippery slimy moss. It is the most treacherous stream to try to wade in imaginable. And here was a huge human trying to find purchase on the bottom. He could not extricate himself. I yelled over to him “are you alright?”. He said something that I can’t repeat here. I laid down my rod and walked over to where this huge whale of a man was standing vertical trying to slide his feet on the bottom against the current and inch his way toward the edge of the water. He was out too far for me to grasp his hand so I stood there and watched. I admired his tenacity. What a struggle! I was really impressed with his ability to stand on his feet against the current that was attempting to force him backward. Then over backwards he went. A perfect landing flat on his back. The current carried him downstream around a boulder and into a rather deep pool where he righted himself to a standing position. He was in water up to his chest now. But the pool was quiet. He actually could walk in this pool as the current was slow because of the huge car size boulder that blocked the flow. I ran down the side of the stream bank, my mouth grinning ear to ear, tears were streaming down my cheeks and a low growl was emitting from my chest as I tried in vain to suppress the laughter that was welling inside me. What great fun!!!! Mr. Orvis was planting his new wading shoes on the grassy bank as I arrived on the scene to assist. I said “man, are you alright?” “Here, lets get these waders off you so you can get warm”. After unhooking the complicated fly box attachment and removing the wading shoes, the big man started to peal off the neoprene waders. Water coursed out of every opening . He was obviously miserable. I made a few comments about my concern for his well being. He was making comments that I can’t repeat in this story. I could see that his face was turning bright red and it wasn’t from the cold. He got up from a sitting position, and in his haste, proceeded to stomp off up stream. But he still had one foot in his neoprene waders. He took his wading shoes off and pulled the waders down to his ankles, but did not remove them entirely. He blasted off through the grass and fell unceremoniously on his face. Actually he fell on his stomach which protruded pretty far out from his belt. Lying on his gut, his legs stuck out straight behind him and his chest and head were unable to touch the ground. That did it. I began to laugh loudly. Once it started, it got worse. It got louder. I was lost in hysteria. The entire canyon we were in resounded with my loud, boisterous laughter. I had to sit down. This was unbearable. He rolled over on his side and literally tore the neoprene waders off his feet and stomped on up the stream bank toward his initial water entry point and his gear. The stream bank was littered with equipment from the point he exited from the water to his present position. There were fly fishing things I only dreamed of owning spread out in all directions. It was amazing! I could not get up. My laughter created the undeniable urge to urinate. As I raised myself to my knees I saw the big guy pick up his fly rod and bend it double until it broke in half. My guts were about to take off again in uncontrollable laughter. Then he took the broken pieces and methodically positioned them perfectly side by side and snapped them over his knees breaking the Orvis rod into pieces. Into the water they were thrown. I burst into uncontrollable laughter rolling to and fro holding my stomach. Never have I laughed so hard so long. It went on and on. The Orvis guy was attempting to climb back up the cliff from whence he came. He left everything. I lay there and my thoughts ran the whole affair through my mind a second time and I gasped for breath as I again repeated the agonizing laughter until I almost lost consciousnesses. Al would not believe this story.