Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When I am mad

When dementia finally sets in I hope I get a good video loop. My wife's grandfather got endless replays of the crappiest parts of the First World War. I want Paris in the Winter of 1992, the births of Chris and Sam, first words, first steps, holding hands, hugs, and good friends during good times. And, I want a replay of a small brown trout rising slowly to inspect a hopper much too big for him to tackle.

This past weekend the boys and I went camping in Trout Town U.S.A. The purpose of the trip was not to fish but we did camp along a pretty piece of water that just screamed "trout live here". Being one of the most storied waters in Catskill troutdom it would no doubt contain those trout.

The camping was spectacular. Just long enough in duration to get you out in the woods without making it feel like you were being punished. Just far enough away from cell phone service and electricity that we were literally unplugged. Instead of being glued to the latest electronic gadget the boys worked on fire building skills, tent raising and honing the time honored craft of sitting around BSing.

I got away to fish for an hour or so each day. Friday I headed upstream fishing all the likely slots that ran along the shaded far bank. Not so much as a glance. I spoke with Kerry, a younger fly fisherman from Queens, NY, and he had similar results the prior day. I suppose that late in the season a stretch of water along a campground is bound to be fished pretty heavily but I had at least hoped for a Dace or a Crayfish or a tadpole. Nothing doin'.

Our campsite was down by one of the trails that fisherman use to get to some of the better water. All manner of fishing gear passed by the next morning including what looked to be a bamboo fly rod with a sizeable pyramid of lead attached. I guess it takes all kinds. It was nice to see a fair number of kids, mostly boys, came down with their spinning rods hoping to get some luck. My boys were not interested, which was surprising. It may have been the weather, the lack of sleep or sunspots. Who knows.

We had brought along a new board game to play and as rain threatened all day it was determined we would play in the tent. But, we needed a table. So we went into town and found what may be the last small town department store in existence. I thought Walmart had killed them all off but here was an honest to god five-and-dime sorta place that I recall from my youth. They had everything from shotguns to homemade fudge and enough camping gear that we had a selection of tables.

We also stopped by the Beaverkill Anlger to further inject life into the local economy. Looking to further my boy's education I engaged in some "fly shop BSing". I spoke with Evan, the shop owner, about the economics of the fly shop business. It's a trade that during good times is one of passion more than financial reward and it has turned south during this great economic malaise. Now it's just about weathering the storm until we all are confident enough in our financial situation to start buying stuff again.

Back at camp we assembled the table that lacked directions and defied logic. Fortunately, three male brains were able to discern the mechanism after about thirty minutes. I have always maintained that our eight person tent is just perfect for three, four in a squeeze, and that proved to hold true even when you move your table and chairs indoors. The gaming went off well and even when the heavens dumped on us for hours we remained dry and content.

Just before the rain, we took a break from the game and I fished the good water downstream. I was fishing a large hopper and a caddis dropper. I managed a couple of tugs on the line early on but they were either so small that I shook them off or larger and they shook themselves off. There was one particularly violent strike and tug that will be tucked away in the "Damn, I woulda liked to see that fish" file.

In a piece of fast water between two boulders I saw that Brown Trout I referenced earlier. On the first pass, he rose out of the gloom and slowly finned backward inspecting the hopper. It's hard to tell exactly how big a fish is from a distance but this eight inch fish was eyeing a size 6 hopper. Definitely an optimist. He settled back into his holding position.

On the second pass, he did the same but just as I would have expected him to return to his rock he spun downstream and gave the hopper's leg a tug. Quickly realizing his error, he scooted back into the depths. So often in our sport the first sign of a trout is a dip in an indicator or splash on the surface. But the thing itself remains hidden. In those long moments when they do reveal themselves it plays out in slow motion. I almost forget my purpose and am transfixed when I see trout doing what they do.

Now I too am an optimist so I swapped out the large hopper for a size 14 Usual. I cast upstream a few times but the fly was landing in the wrong lane so I quickly cast again. On the third or fourth cast the fly was where I thought it needed to be so I let is slide past the first boulder skimming past the slack water behind it. The trout did not even hesitate. No inspection. No moody nibble. Just a full splashy take.

As the rain starting dappling the streamside cobble the trout came to hand. He looked to be a stocked fish given the condition of one of his fins though the others look full and bright. Plenty of spunk that belied his eight or so inches.

Sunday morning the heavens gave us a four hour respite from the rain. We got the requisite fire started and made a hearty camp breakfast. While we remained relatively dry during the night and morning, our gear was drenched. That makes striking camp a miserable affair. Sand and dirt sticks to everything and you just get used to being damp, damp, damp.

If not for the rain, I could have gone for another night in the woods. Being disconnected in our ever more connected life is a blessing. Sure, you could go somewhere and fake it. Turn off the cell phone. Disconnect the wifi. Ignore those around you who are Androiding and iPhoning. But it's not the same.

Being somewhere out there where the biggest luxury is a flush toilet a hundred yards down the road and all the screens have gone dark and nothing rings but the sound of a maul striking the butt of an axe. That's something we all need more of.


  1. It is nice to get away, something that we all know is happening less and less. Glad that you were able to get out with the boys and unplug. Really nicely written.

  2. You're right. There sis something completely different about electricals not working vs. being turned off. I much prefer the former...

    You guys had a great trip...home you get to another place where your phone doesn't work again soon! ;)

  3. S: I was surprised to see how empty the campground was on a summer weekend. Maybe it was the threat of rain (which, it turned out was more reality that threat) but disappointing.

    E: Heading to Bristol Bay for a week. Unfortunately, the boys will be back in school so they're staying home. Can I actually go for a week without wifi?

  4. Hmm....well, just think of all the posts that are sure to come out afterwards! Oh, and you might think about getting chummy with a pencil and paper?

  5. Ha! Pencil! Paper! Now that's old school! Actually, I took some notes this past weekend with just that.

  6. I actually tried using a *gasp* pencil and paper this past weekend too. My handwriting was so bad, I couldn't read it again to type it up when I got home. Very embarrassing and my grade-school teacher would be very disappointed in me right now...

  7. Dementia... for me it's a second childhood.

    Good family stuff going on Steve.
    Wonderful brown too.