Thursday, October 8, 2009

I've looked at the White from both sides now

Okay, I'm down to Mountain Home, Arkansas for the FFF Southern Council Conclave. This event is close to, if not exceeding the national convention. I had some classes (i.e. spey casting in case steelhead start running up the Platte River at some time in the near future) and seminars. One thing that was cool, I was videotaped tying my Frank's Fighting Craw. The guy who did it is going to edit it and put it up on UTube in a month or so.
Yeh, yeh. Blah, blah, blah.... Come Saturday and after enduring all the camaraderie BS, I needed to go fishing, so it’s off to the North Fork of the White River in Southern Mo. This water looks a lot like Penns. About the same size and flow. Unfortunately, no fish. Nice diversion. On the way back from Missouri, I did see two signs side-by-side. Both had arrows pointing off to the side road. The first one was for a cemetery, the second… a taxidermist. At least they give you options.
Okay, Sunday, "bored" meeting in the a.m. and then time to go fishing again. Mark Borserine from Kansas says he wants to go out. Mark is an FFF Certified Casting Instructor and a hell of a fisherman (some guys can cast but not fish).
We meet up with Joe, our guide. Joe has an Arkansas jon boat. These are about 18’ long and only about 4’ wide. Really nice and stable. We tool on down the main course of the White River, primarily chuckin’ and duckin’ with a big, pink San Juan worm. This fishing is extremely productive but not really fly fishing IMHO. However, it’s a lot of fun, so we keep at it till the guide wants to go home. He doesn’t like being on the water after dark. Something about unseen logs and alligators. We did catch a bunch of fish in the 14” to 19” range.
On Monday, Mark and I have an all-day trip with a fairly famous White River guide on the White. We’ll call him “Eastwood” to protect the innocent. Yes, he is one of the finest guides on the White River, but we don’t want the following to be associated with him.
Early on, Eastwood commits two cardinal sins. One, he says that the weather and water conditions are perfect for catching big trout and lots of them. Its overcast and they are running 4 generators at the dam. Secondarily, after we had to duck under a stream-side limb, he mentioned that he’d been guiding for over 11 years and had never lost a client out of the boat.
Bwahahahahahahahahaha! He don’t know me very well, do he? I calmly replied “until today.” (cue suspenseful music in the background)
We head out and find out that since we’re “good casters,” Eastwood will eschew chuckin’ and duckin’. We will “cast like men!” Okay, here it is Thursday, that was Monday. That being said, casting 8 wt rods with sinking fly lines and weighted flies will stretch out joints that have not been stretched since high school and I am still sore.
One of the things that Eastwood boat has is a drag chain. This is a length of rope ending in a heavy chain that drags along the bottom, slowing the drift down river. Well, between a really nice stable platform in the Arkansas jon boat, the drag chain keeping us at the right speed, and finally, some booming 75 foot double hauls with a high speed strip of big fly, I’m finally fishing.
And then, then…the quietude was destroyed. I was standing in the front of the boat, minding my own business, as we drifted downriver. Since the chain was attached to the front of the boat, we were going downstream motor first. The running line was a bit stiff and it had tangled a bit in the bottom of the boat, so I was working to clear the tangle.
The boat decided to spin a bit, so was out of line with the current about 45 degrees when the drag chain caught on a log and the boat snapped back in line. Basic physics kicked in. See, I was standing above one point on the Earth. Physics says that unless I do something to change that, I will remain at that point, even if the object I’m standing on decides to abandon ship and move to another point in this space/time continuum. One thing that did act upon me was the gunnel, hitting me in the back of the knees.
Okay, now I’m airborne, doing a 180 degree spin from the vertical. I then hit the water, the first temp check is done with the back of my neck. Hmm, 52 degrees. Chill. I go under, do a divers turn, think “this will make a great story,” say hi to the 41lb 8 oz trout that was cruising under our boat, and come back up.
As I break the surface, I see the side of the boat and an oar handle reaching out to me. I grab at the oar, but it’s too far away. The next thing I know, I’m floating down the river with the oar beside me. Okay, now time for an inventory. I’ve still got the guide’s rod and reel in my hand. The fly has snagged on the gunnel so the line is now screaming like I got a tuna. I reach out and grab the oar. Can’t hurt. I even still have my hat on.
Inventory over, its action time. I remember my white water rescue training and put the oar under my left arm, streamward, switch the rod to my right, turn and put my feet together and float downstream, feet up. In this way, I can use the oar as a keel and my feet will bounce off anything that wants to pull me under. Using my arm as a fulcrum, I paddle myself over to shore.
Meanwhile, back at the boat, the quick snap had thrown Mark into Eastwood, tangling the two up. Eastwood pushes Mark away and he then tries to reach me with the oar, finally throwing it at me. Mark and Eastwood then try to turn the boat and come after me. Oopsy, the drag chain is still locked on the log. They get free and then head down to get me.
I’m about 50 to 75 yards downstream. The water was running at about 15,000 cfs, so I moved fairly quickly. I hand Mark the fly rod, Eastwood is relieved. It’s about 1200 bucks worth of equipment and its his. Oh, granted, he’s happy that I’m safe, but that’s a really nice rod. I can totally understand this.
They pick me up, but unfortunately, I’ve no spare clothes. They’re all 15 miles away at the campground. Mark loans me a pair of pants and a shirt. Mark and I are not the same size, so I look like some back country bum with a rope belt.
We fish the rest of the day without much luck. Yes, we catch fish, but more on the size that we got with the chuckin’ and duckin’. None of those 7 to 10 pounders we were looking for.
Oh well, I was fishing and not working.

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