It was a slow methodical rigging. Erroneously double checking that every guide was strung. Adjusting straps on an already adjusted pack. Tying tippet on with a blood knot when I knew a double surgeons would suffice for the fishing we where about to do. I wouldn’t say I was deliberately taking it slow, none of us where in any real hurry, nor did I have any reproach in regards to our impending water. I was just sort of… curious. That’s all. Curious how the water would look, how I would fish it.
My last visit to “The Punch Bowl” definitely left an impression on me; any complete submersion would. It impressed enough on me to try on different wading belts until I found the one with the greatest comfortability factor to ensure it’s use.
I’ve gotten severely cautious about my wading, more so than usual. I’ve never considered myself an adventurous wader, but now I second guess what I would have never given any thought to. I was definitely shaken by going down. Any confidants that I did have for sloshing through rushing water, leaping a boulder or two, weaving in, on and around snarled log jams was drowned. But now I’m going back to the scene of the accident. It’s my chance to face the demon and ask “What the hell?” Then poke it’s eye and run the other way.
The distinguishing click and following hiss of a snapped beer can tab rang out and awoke me from my trance. I notice Jake and Arian, standing, patiently awaiting for fishing to begin and rigging to end. I ended my internal conversation and grab the cool perspiring can of beer Arian was offering me. “We’ll just kill a little time here until it get’s closer to last light, then head up river to the other spot. The good one. Last time I was up there they were just smashing it.” Jake proclaims with a slight, sort of maniacal, chuckle. We all smile with the prospect of getting into some hard hitting brookies.
I was about to crack the beer as we started towards the trailhead. “You don’t mind if we partake in libations around you, do you?” I ask Jake knowing he’s been free of the habit for a little over three years now.
“Nah. I don’t mind at all. I just can’t have any. I have this allergy – every time I drink I seem to break out in cuffs.” He chuckled. We all share the laugh and head towards fishing, leaving my internal conversation and vehicle roadside.
The first spot we stop to fish is “The” spot. As we approach I start doubting that it is the spot. I look towards river left bank. This can’t be it. There’s no giant branch obstructing the edge of the pool where I went in off the point. Below the pool is a down skeletal tree but not as I remembered it; as the big bushy trunk where I bassmastered the brookie out from under.
“So, this is it?” Arian asks.
“I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure it is, but everything seems off. It’s possibly the next hole.” I answer with uncertainty and walk down the bank peering into the water looking for recognition, either from me to the river or the river to me. It doesn’t seem threatening. I feel sort of bewildered to the reason why such a seemingly tame waterway would drag and shove me like a cattle catcher on a locomotive. I recognize the tree in the shallows above the pool and the submerged limps towards the bank. I walk to the point and look into the pool. Yup. This is the brute. The one that dragged me down but managed to break free of. It’s the abyss. I look at it some more. I look into it. I look all around it. There’s a slight, but definite, change to everything. There’s a softer, sorrowful tone. I guess as the season wears the punch softens. There’s change in both of us but not quite to an unrecognizable difference. I unhook the streamer from the guide wire, let out line and toss it into the current.
After a few strips of a streamer it seems nothing is going to come out or up for a take. Perhaps that’s how it’s suppose to be. Just a gentle reintroduction, get reacquainted before more fish are let to hand. I feel comfortable and start fishing deferent areas of the Punch Bowl. I throw the streamer a few times below the pool. Then wade across well above the pool, and try a small seam on the other side.
I spot a couple small risers but have little desire in re-rigging. I get a good solid tug on the streamer but miss the hook up. Arian’s taking pictures in between a few tosses of a dry fly. Jake’s on the other side of the river spotting for fish in the deep pool, his rod leaning next to him rigged with a two nymph setup. Fishing is slow all around. Someone, not sure who, mentioned time. It’s nearing low light and for us to motor over to the other spot for smashing action during last light. I reel in and head back towards the trailhead behind the other guys.
The “good hole” as Jake put it, is a slow flow but nipple deep wading experience. Stripping streamers hounded out a few pumps here and there but nothing buttoning up. Jake switched to a Chubby Chernobyl for some reason or another and buttoned up and got a brookie to hand. I switched… yup. Arian made a comment about the amazing wonders of the Purple Chubby Chernobyl. I’m not really focused on the fishing. I slip back into an internal conversation - It’s the little wonders and what ifs amazing us the most. Often things are just on the edge of working and you need to figure out that slight change in order to get things to click. Sometimes things fail completely and you have to look at it as a learning experience and not a failing endeavor. Was my complete submersion a utter failing? Not really. I got the fish. I learned to always wear a wading belt. Best of all, I got a story I’m sure to yarn out every once in awhile around angling friends. I went back, faced the demon, but found that it wasn’t really there. I didn’t have to poke his eye and run the other way.
Don’t forget the following:
Check out Arian Stevens Photography – here