Last Shout - Posted by: PGK - Friday, 24 May 2013 11:34
Hoof, il est temps d'TABARNAC LA POISSION
It All Began Like This
It All Began Like This
When I was a kid I started fishing with a cheap fishing rod, a worm and a bobber. It was all about having fun, creepy crawlies and mushy guts not withstanding. Those were times filled with anticipation and excitement. Catching fish was just a real cool thing to do and I guess you could say I was hooked at an early age and in part it was because of the quality time spent with my dad and my grandfather. But I have to believe there may be a deeper more primitive motivation there and for some of us it lives deep within our gene pool. My grandfather on my Dad's side spent most of his life as a fisherman in a small Sicilian village on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He was a fisherman just as his father and grandfather before him were, so the fishing thing kind of runs deep in my family.
It wasn't long before I found a friend or two in my neighborhood who shared my passion for fishing. As soon as we were old enough to venture away from home on our own, usually on bicycles or by foot, we spent countless day trips all summer long and after school fishing from one of the sea walls along the Fraser River. Most of the fish we caught there were bullheads. Occasionally a crawdad was stuck on one of our hooks and on a good day, maybe a beautiful sea run cutthroat trout would come to hand! The sea wall was about 10 feet above the water line and except at high water on a high tide any fish we caught had to be hiked up through the air on the end of our lines. Needless to say we lost lots of fish!
Our parents were not thrilled about us going to the Fraser River as it had a bad reputation for drowning people. The log booms were dangerous and we were forbidden to go out on them. Of course temptation over came parental warning and on occasion we did venture out onto them to fish. To avoid a scolding, I can remember more than one time waiting hours to dry off after a good dunking trying to get out onto the booms. We figured the big fish must be out there as we had yet to catch a whooper from shore. But for the most part the sea wall produced the fish we did catch and in retrospect that was probably a good thing.
One day however we did transgress and we hooked a prize fish from one of the booms, a huge bright silver salmon! We had no net and tried to land it with our bare hands after miraculously managing to reel it in with totally inadequate and cheap gear from the Army Navy store. It was too big and powerful for the likes of us! We lost the fish, got dunked in the process and lost most of our gear to boot. Some would say we should have listened to our parents. You can imagine the disappointment two young boys felt that day walking up the hill back home empty handed after touching such a prize. I will never forget those trips to the river.
Shortly after that time my uncle passed away. He and my father were very close. After he died, it was my uncle’s wish that my dad have his rifles and his fly rod. They did fish together on occasion but hunting was the passion the two of them shared. I do not remember my dad ever really using the fly rod when we were fishing and I kind of think it was more of a keepsake with more sentimental value than a tool to fish with. I do remember the first time I picked it up though. It was made of bamboo and I could hardly believe how long it was and how light and limber it felt in my hand. The reel was kind of odd looking and so was the line on it and when I turned the handle the loud clicking noise was almost startling. Along with the rod was a small aluminum box with tiny holes in it. In the box was a collection of flies, mostly dry flies if memory serves me right. I remember Royal Coachman's, Black Gnat’s and quill winged mayflies of different colors. All of it was kind of mysterious to me. I do not remember my father ever using that fly gear and to the best of my knowledge he kept it in a special place along with my uncle’s hunting rifles and for several years after my uncle passed away my dad kind of lost interest in hunting.
In the meantime we kept on going on fishing trips, usually day trips and once or twice a year he would take my cousin and me on a trip to one of the interior lakes for a long weekend. But fly fishing was never part of the experience even though we often trolled a Tom Thumb behind the boat with our spinning rods and many times the Tom Thumb would out fish our lures.
My first real brush with fly fishing came some years later. A friend I met through my estranged girlfriend at the time invited me along on a fly fishing trip to some lakes up in the Merit area. I was going through a break up at the time and was down and out, moping and moaning. I must have been pretty bent out of shape because Steve was not one to let anything interfere with his passion for his fly rod short of death or a jail sentence. But like any good friend, he new some distraction from my funk was needed. And he was no stranger to broken relationships either.
So off to Merit I went with Steve. It had been a several years since I held a fishing rod in my hand let alone a fly rod. Steve’s intention was good but his execution of it was poor. He handed me one of his spare fly rods all rigged and ready to go, pointed to a float tube and said all ya gotta do is watch me and do what I do.
Well for an hour or two I watched Steve catch fish after fish. I tried to emulate him but the best I could do given my mental state at the time was get all tangled up in floating fly line and leader. I did manage not to puncture the float tube flailing the hook around which I guess was some kind of accomplishment. Steve said I was doing great and not to worry and that most people don’t catch fish the first time they try fly fishing. I was no exception. If I was going to catch a fish it would have had to jump into my hands. In retrospect I will say Steve was kind of on the mark because I did not once think about my girlfriend for the whole two hours I flailed around. Frustrated and tired I headed back to camp.
At camp I met a woman who was camping in the site next to us. She was married to a fly fishing nut as she referred to him and was completely bored and fed up with the whole fly fishing thing and hanging around while her husband spent his time on the water catching fish only to let them go. After being married to the guy for several years the woman was about at the end of her rope. She told me this all the while we watched her husband and Steve catch fish and chatting it up like old pals. See what I mean she said, it’s over, I’m telling you it is all over. It was evident that the relationship she had with the guy was doomed and the whole thing brought me down again. When Steve got back to camp I was back in a funk and all that night we listened to the woman and the fly fishing nut fight. The mystery I felt when I held the fly rod my uncle left my dad all but disappeared that weekend and it was five years before I picked up a fly rod again.
The next encounter with fly fishing was brief and fleeting but I remember it well. There was a kind of synchronicity to it, a six degrees of separation kind of thing. It was somewhere on the outskirts of Sacramento California and about all I can remember of it besides what I am going to tell you, is how sweet the air along the Sacramento River smelled and how in the moon light the weeping willow there seemed to dwarf everything around the river.
I had stopped in Sacramento on my way to go rock climbing in Yosemite Valley. The trip was a kind of a reunion with some old climbing partners. Like fly fishing, if you had the passion and desire to climb and get good at it, you risked being swept off your feet in the pursuit of it, and at one time we all had been. And like other passionate pursuits, sometimes a connection is made, at least momentarily, to an individual one might have looked up to, respected or wondered about; someone of distinction and reputation. And so a connection of that sort did happen. It was at a climber’s bash at the communal house one of my old climbing partners’ was living in.
It was a big wooden turn of the century house with paint peeling off the outside of it, the sort of place where in the 70’s all the bedrooms were painted a different color and the front lawn a wild crazy mess of tall grass and weeds. The bash was a night of heavy drinking, cajoling and story telling and it was all happening in just about every room in the house. It went on until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t remember much of that night except waking up on the kitchen floor at the sound of someone quietly shuffling around the kitchen sink, the dim light of early morning coming through the kitchen window and the smell of fresh brewed coffee.
Two guys were there making sandwiches. They were wearing rubber leg waders, wool sweaters and hats with dry flies stuck in them. On their way out the door they carried fly rods like the one my uncle had left my dad. One of the fishermen had sharp intelligent eyes, longish wild hair and a long mustache. He had to practically step over me to get out the door and when he did he looked down and winked at me as if he had found his own personal cure for a hangover. Later on I learned he was an author and illustrator, a published fly fisherman of some repute well known in both climbing and fly fishing circles for his wit and humor. A couple of years later I purchased my first fly rod and an illustrated guide on how to use it and just by chance that great little publication was The Curtis Creek Manifesto.
And so it was, with that little manifesto as my guide, I began a life long pursuit of fly fishing.