Soda Creek

Soda Creek IMG_5300

My buddy Jerry needed to catch his first trout on a fly. Not only that, but he had to catch it on a bamboo rod he’d purchased year’s ago for $80 at a garage sale.

The rod was ok. The reel was fine. The line would work. We practiced a few knots and selected the right flies. He’d be using a deer-hair dry-fly and a bird’s nest nymph on an 18 inch dropper. The deer-hair fly would mainly act as a strike indicator.

Soda Creek is fairly small and an eight incher is a good fish. The stream is not too deep, but the slippery boulders are dangerous.

I wasn’t certain I’d remember how to get there, but some refreshing on a topo-map supplied by a helpful salesman at Ayoob’s Hardware in Chester did the trick.

The trip was a pleasant one-hour drive. The area near the trail head had burned a few years back and there was a lot of brush at the start of the trail. In fact the trail was so obscured that we just headed down hill freelancing.

It was only about a quarter-mile down to the creek, but the canyon was steep. Steeper then I recalled. We slipped and slid our way down. The dirt was deep and loose. The climb out would be a workout.

The bottom of the canyon was just as I remembered it. Lot’s of boulders, big logs and a slippery creek bottom – so slippery that it wasn’t long before I took my first spill. Jerry was working the north side of the creek about 30 yards ahead of me. I glanced at him several times, but didn’t see him catch any fish.

After the first two riffles, I hadn’t had a sniff, which was not unusual as the number of fish in the creek seems to increase as you get further from the “trail.”

Eventually I pulled a small rainbow out of the creek, but the fish dropped off the hook before I got a hand on him. Not an official catch, but a start.  Trout fever was beginning to take effect. I wanted the action to improve as I fiendishly adjusted my flies, dropper length etc.

I was looking for the perfect set-up, but each hole demanded something a little different. I had to pee, but didn’t want to stop fishing. Putting on my 2X readers to tie on flies and adjust knots was tedious. I sprang a leak – damn it.

Oh well. I quit fishing for a minute and finished the job properly.

I continued to take glances at Jerry. So far there was no indication that he’d caught that elusive first trout on a fly. In his youth, Jerry had caught quite a few “creek” fish with bait and a spinning rod, so I figured it wouldn’t be long until his experience would translate into a fish. It appeared that he wanted to catch this first fly rod fish without any more help from me than necessary.

It was 30 or 40 more minutes before I actually put my hand on a trout. Sometimes the first fish is the hardest to catch. Ironically this down-stream fish grabbed my fly just as I began to pull it from the water. I wasn’t even looking. Accidents count.

The fish seemed to all be in the fast-moving riffle, so that’s where I began to concentrate.

A little further down stream I pulled three fish from one riffle. I was satisfied and it was almost noon-time. Amazingly we had been fishing for nearly three hours. I looked down stream for Jerry. He was not in sight.

I could see that I’d have to cross back to the north side of the creek in order to go further down stream where I guessed Jerry had disappeared.

I moved a little too quickly as I headed up-stream and my left toe caught a rock. Down I went, face first. I put both hands down to break my fall and I watched as my left thumb bent backwards too far. Scary.

When I got to my feet, I was a bit shaken, but it looked like my thumb was not severely damaged, just overextended. I figured I’d had enough, but I wasn’t happy about how slippery the creek was, so I searched carefully for the best non-slip route I could find.

The excitement was a bit too much. Now I was faced with an unplanned bowel movement. “Oh dam,” I thought to myself as I headed into the bushes and dropped trousers, ” No toilet paper.”

I used a stick. Not very effective. Oh well, now I had too smells to take home.

After relaxing a bit, I found a good walking stick to use during the creek crossing which I completed uneventfully. Where was Jerry?

I walked down stream a ways and sat down. I wished that we had set a rendezvous time, but we hadn’t expected to fish independently. After the rest stop, I headed back towards the “trail.”

After awhile I began to climb the hill. Jerry is in good physical condition and an experienced outdoorsman so I wasn’t overly concerned about him. I’d continue to watch the creek as I climbed.

Eventually I came to the point where I could no longer see down into the creek bottom. I waited there for a while. No Jerry. He had either climbed the hill ahead of me or traveled farther down stream. Again I wished that we had made a better plan.

When I reached the truck, I turned it around and rescued my dog, Lola from the back seat. We went for a short walk. Now it was something like 1:30  PM. My wife Linda sent a text message. “ETA?”

“I’m at the car waiting for Jerry,” I responded.

Linda texted me again. “Pat (Jerry’s wife) is concerned and wants you to go search for Jerry.”

I texted back. “I think I should wait a while longer.” I didn’t want to even think about climbing down into and back out of the canyon again.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before I could see Jerry ahead of me. He looked a bit tired, but not at all in trouble. I apologized for leaving him behind and he told me he wasn’t sure what to do when he couldn’t find me. We agreed that we should have set a time to rendezvous and made a plan.

Jerry caught two trout, so the day was a success. He could now relegate the bamboo rod to his trophy room wall.

I wore my smelly clothes around the rest of the day.

Fishing Magic

The emerald-green stream water glistened with early morning indirect sunlight. The deepest portion of the hole, alongside the swift current, had the best potential to hold large trout.

 

The fly, hand tied on a size ten hook to the specifications provided by my brother, seemed like an insignificant item in the rushing stream water. As I flipped it towards the center of the stream, weighted with a few wraps of lead tied to the shank of the hook, the fly disappeared quickly into the churning stream.

 

Over and over again I flipped the fly watching the small ball attached to my leader about four feet above the fly. With total concentration I focused on the ball waiting for any indication of a strike.

 

It seemed like folly, but experience told me that eventually a fish would pick up the fly, fooled by the imitation. The fish would only hold onto the fly for an instant before spitting it out once it was determined to be a foreign object – not the living nymph upon which it preyed.

 

Casting over and over again, I mended the line to allow the leader and attached fly to float naturally in the moving water. A few feet under the surface, trout lay alongside the boulders. Although not visible, they were surely there.

 

Over and over, until my back ached from holding the rod outward, away from my body, but still my eyes stayed focused for any indication of a strike. Then it happened, the ball turned the wrong direction for an instant. I instinctively raised the rod – tension on the line, a few throbs on the rod tip and a trout magically appeared in the stream in front of me.

 

Like a diamond – the shaking trout flashed with each movement. He’s on I thought, as adrenaline rushed into my system. I waited for the fish’s next move. It’s during the first moments of the fight that the fish has the advantage.

 

The throbbing lasted for a few seconds and then he turned, adding the power of the river to his innate swimming ability, the rainbow shot downstream ripping line of my reel, as I clamored over the marble mountain of rocks sliding along the steep bank while holding my rod high with my left hand and reaching out with my right to maintain my balance.

 

Several times I stopped to gather or give line and assess how far I’d have to go before landing the trout. Eventually the runs became shorter and the fish turned on its side. That’s when I was able to slide it onto the shore and remove the hook from its jaw.

 

In a flash it disappeared back into the emerald water. The battle was over and I was fulfilled.