2 posts

Catastrophic Breakage, Smallmouth Grande

Scott G series, its limits tested only by my stupidity.

An unfortunate series of events on the Shenandoah River near home yesterday evening for sure. I was in a rush — that’s really all I need to say since you know where that always leads. Straight to disaster, though minor in the wide angle view of life, but still…

Beautiful day after the cold front came through. The humidity left, the clouds withered, and being the front end of summer I had about three hours of daylight left after I got home. So in my reckless haste I began to make a series of mistakes as I aimed to get down to the water and maximize my time there. It’s hard to say if any of the small missteps mattered (forgot the nice camera, the anchor for the kayak, the right hat, the good beer), though maybe they all led to the big one. That most painful error started with me deciding, uncharacteristically, to string up the fly rod in my driveway and then… wait for it… shove it in the car sticking out the window. Yeah, I know. The good thing was that nothing bad happened driving down our narrow dirt road to the river. The bad thing was that after parking the car, it was time to disembark and do the car parking ritual — car in gear, brake on, close up the sunroof and (ooops) CLOSE THE WINDOWS.

That fly rod had become one of my favorites, a nice find on eBay early last year, a Scott G, 9’6″ 8 weight two piece, about twenty years old. Still, it looked fine on my rush (that word again) inspection. So into the kayak it and I went, with a yellow size 6 popper on the end of that swank Orvis saltwater line and several bits of leader and tippet. First cast, a strike. The wind was blowing upstream so that was nice to not only cast in that direction but to have the wind push me that way, so no padding required to pretty much stay put in one spot. Anchor not needed. Everything was going my way. Second cast, nothing. Third cast — CRACK.

A noise I’m not familiar with.

I examined the rod, starting from the handle. Guide by guide on the way up, everything looks good, until the last quarter when I see the rod is splintered longitudinally into three shards of once expensive, now junk carbon fiber graphite tech material. Crap.

Beastly, for me anyway. Click on it, it gets bigger!

Back to the car and rig up the beefy Ugly Stick. Paddled to the deep holes near the big sycamores and cast right up against the weeds on shore, chugging and gurgling, pulling another popper (much bigger than the fly rod version) under the water and letting it float to the top like something wounded and dying.  Cast-cast-cast-cast-cast about a hundred times and BAM! I hauled in the biggest smallmouth to date (for me) on the Shenandoah. Awesome!!! He jumped five times, dove several times, pulled me around a little, came up and was, as they always seem to be, royally pissed. Single hook right in the corner of the mouth. Photos all around then release. That was good.

Maybe not worth the broken rod, maybe worth it. No looking back now. Except at that fish.

The Way of Things

So we’re halfway through 2012 and you’ve noticed, no doubt, that my blogging has consisted of a lot of stocked trout reports for my region mixed with some very infrequent writing. I’ve been coasting, riding on the coattails of my past success thanks to the tens of you that read this blog. Milking it. Actually, it’s worse than that. Worse because there are tens of you who tune in each day and that adds up to several times that in unique visitors each month. And that’s worse because it makes my neglect that much more heinous, and neglectful.

I would like to promise you that I’ll post interesting content more often, like each week — nay, each DAY! That I’ll beat the bushes for those remote and nearly lost streams that hold the wildest of native brook trout. That I’ll hike for miles out and back, uphill both ways weighed down by waterlogged wading boots and leaky waders. That I’ll battle snakes, bears and mountain lions just to make a single cast into that last pool in that remote and nearly lost headwater, right at sunset, to find that single fish who, having also tromped uphill fighting snakes, bears and mountain lions, is worthy of great sacrifice and all manly efforts I can offer.

Yes, I’d like to promise you all that and more, but I can’t. All I can do is explain myself. And the truth is pretty uninteresting. Sure, I’ve been fishing, but not as often and not nearly often enough for brook trout.

The truth is, I’ve been busy working. Working for a living. The damn work thing.

Some of you may be out of work or among the underemployed, and I would hate to sound ungrateful for the work I am fortunate to do. People tell me I should be thankful. I am. Things are right with my world I am told. Work. It’s what we do, what we all are meant to do, and on and on they say. No doubt it’s true. And I do it, been doing it since I was twelve years old. First a paper route, then working in the kitchen of a restaurant throughout high school, part time up to 35 hours a week Friday through Sunday. Then I spent a summer bagging rocks at a quarry. Then college. The next summer delivering those quarry rocks in a dump truck. Part time work in college while a full time student. Another summer cutting down trees and feeding and pruning the rest that we didn’t fell. A bicycle messenger in Washington, DC for nearly a year. More jobs and more jobs, working, saving. Most of us have done it and do it still. We’re all meant to. It’s the way of things, no doubt that’s true. It has its merits, and regardless of all that, it’s necessary.

But I’ll tell you what. It sucks.

Like some of you, I have a list. Much of it is in my mind and I tweak it as I read more and talk to more people who fish and travel. It’s a list of places I’d like to go, general see-the-world kind of traveling as well as a lot of destinations to catch fish. I manage to cross a couple off each year, but if I do some rough calculations, it quickly becomes clear… that I’m never going to see most of these places while I keep working, saving and abiding by the way of things, its many merits and necessity and all.

So this fortunate situation I’ve been in for over thirty-three years now has a clear downside. That downside will, if I let it, see me to the end of what will hopefully be a long life, but left with most of that long list of places I’d like to see still long and hopelessly uncrossed. It’s simple math. Hours in a day, days in a life and places on a list. Even if I could not do the math, I can just look at many people I know personally who have been fortunate and have lived to a very old age. Their own lists will too soon be folded up and put away forever, hopelessly uncrossed items trailing away in long columns. Things that could have been. Things that now permanently remain dreams to those folks. For all of its twists and turns, life always ends up delivering us to the exact same place. Surely you remember a quote along those lines from some computer nerd marketing genius at a Stanford University commencement speech a few years back. “Death is the destination we all share.” It puts a very fine point on things, lights a fire under your tuchus. At least it should. But for most of us it does not.

Anyway, I could go on. In fact, I will. That I do promise you. This blog may take on a slightly different twist as I explore this, ehmmmm, “middle of life” I’ll call it. Can I achieve some new balance and do many of these things? And just what are those things?

And how much brook trout fishing am i going to be doing, seriously? Well, I’m going to tell you. And in the meantime, I have some fish stories you need to catch up with…