This time of year I spend a lot of my fishing time on the smaller streams. We are fortunate to have several smaller streams in the Valley, where it is possible to take refuge from the madding crowd. Fortunately these places are largely over looked by those looking to party in the outdoors rather than to enjoy them for their natural beauty. These places are too small to launch kayaks or plastic tubes and in some cases require one to walk a few hundred yards. I must admit, I cringe when I see a car parked anywhere near one of my favorite places.
Last Friday Nate Hill stopped by the shop after a day of guiding. He hung around for a while and as you might expect we talked fishing. It was time to close the shop for the day and with Janet away for the day we decided to go fish for a while before heading home. The dog was with me and so Summer was invited to join us. Once the shop alarm was set and the key turned we headed to one of our secret spots.
As luck would have it the day was cool and when we arrived at our destination there were no other cars parked near the stream. I let Summer out of the truck to sniff around while I got my waders on and rigged up my fly rod. I had chosen to fish an old Orvis Battenkill bamboo rod. I have been fishing that rod a lot lately and it is a joy to fish with on small rivers. A lot of people have the idea that fishing a bamboo fly rod is a dangerous proposition. There are bamboo rods of such a high value that they are often exiled to a dark closet in some collector’s man cave. My thoughts are that these rods were made to fish and are worthless if they never get to see the light of day. Bamboo rods are a lot more rugged than most people think. In the case of my Battenkill it is not a rod of such value that I would feel terribly bad if I happen to bust it. If worse came to worse the Orvis Company is still making bamboo rods and a replacement part could be made. One of the tips has a set, and because of this I most often fish with it; perhaps I have a secret desire that someday it will break and I will have to replace it.
Nate was, of course, already way ahead of Summer and I. Summer took off down the trail and was already belly deep in the water before I got there. I started to work my fly through a deep pool. Those who distain bamboo rods always point out how heavy they are in comparison to today’s graphite rods; they have a point. My 9 foot 5 weight, Orvis Hellios II, advertised as the world’s lightest graphite fly rod, weighs 2.5 ounces. My 7 foot 5 weight Battenkill weighs 3.5 ounces. In all honesty the extra ounce isn’t all that noticeable. With bamboo you have time to enjoy the rhythm of the cast.
I started to move up river to join Nate. I had waded around a large boulder that had required crossing through a section of deep water. Summer was still enjoying the lower pool, but looked up in time to see that I was getting ahead of her and rushed to join me. When she came to the boulder she was reluctant to swim the deep section. The look on her face was one of complete frustration. Not that long ago she would have bounded through without giving it a second thought. After several attempts, she circumnavigated the little pool and made her way through the middle of the river to join me. The river continued over a minefield of large boulders and rapid water; no place for an old dog and no place for an older man either. Nate was so far ahead of us I had to use my cell phone to let him know that we would have to leave.
I still wanted to fish for a while, but I knew I would need to find calmer water for the dog. Another nearby stream offered just what we needed. I short while later we were both wading and enjoying the river. I picked up the first hit and the old rod came to life. I friend of mine who shares my enthusiasm for bamboo rods once told me that: “most fly fishermen today don’t know that fly rods are meant to bend”. Bend it did and a few moments later I released a small brook trout back into the water. I caught a couple more before I realized that it was beginning to get dark.
It was time to call it a night and head home. The dog and I slowly waded back up stream in the darkening evening. It is hard not to get a little melancholy when you are on a river at night. All that can be heard is the rush of the water as it hurries by you. A nearly full moon lighted our way and turned the riffles to silver. Summer and I were alone and left to our own thoughts. I think we may have been thinking along the same lines. Life is short; take the time to savor these moments while you still can.
See you on the river.