You know the kind of day when everything is just right? The air is dry and clear and it's warm, but with just enough breeze to keep it from feeling hot. The birds are trilling in the treetops and the chipmunks scamper in the leaves. Mother Nature smiles, closes her eyes and softly hums a lullaby...
This was not one of those days. Not even close. It was hot - hot and humid, and still. The type of day when you never do get dry after your morning shower and the slightest exertion starts a trickle of sweat running between your shoulder blades heading inexorably toward your shorts. The birds were still trilling in the treetops (stupid birds) but Mother Nature scowled, flipped the ash off her cigarette, and muttered something nasty under her breath.
Bev and I decided that it just might be a few degrees cooler down in the hollow along a little mountain stream we like to fish. I've always thought that if you're already miserable, fishing sure isn't going to make it any worse and might just take your mind off it. So we gathered our gear, loaded the truck, and cranked the AC heading north.
Now I've let on that this fishing trip was a spur of the moment decision (and to Bev I think it was) but I had spent considerable time in the previous two days on Google Earth, looking for access to a section of the stream that we had never fished. As I panned and zoomed, I caught sight of a tiny scar on the landscape leading from the gravel forest road to a little clearing that seemed to contain a structure of some sort. At one point, the tiny scar that I took to be a jeep trail took a sharp left turn and appeared to come within spitting distance of the stream a good half-mile below the lowest point that I had ever fished it. I knew that there was only one way to know for sure whether this was indeed an access or merely another gated gas-line right-of-way and that was to drive up there and find out. By the time Saturday finally rolled around I had worked myself into a lather of anticipation which may help to explain why I gave such little heed to the weather forecast on the radio calling for "scattered showers in the north of the listening area."
The hour and a half drive was really quite pleasant with cool, conditioned air streaming from the vents. We even found the jeep trail without too much trouble. Small wonder I had never noticed it, as it was little more than a couple of tire tracks heading off through the woods. There was no turning back once we left the forest road or, at least no turning around, and despite the AC, beads of perspiration were starting to form on my forehead as the track became rougher and started down a fairly steep grade. We bounced slowly down the washed out track and through a couple of water holes and still there was no place to turn the truck around. Just as I was beginning to panic thinking I might have to back the truck the whole way out, the track took a sharp turn to the left and the brush on one side opened up enough to give us a place to turn around and park.
Mother Nature squinted her eyes, took a deep drag on a cheap cigar, and exhaled a long line of storm clouds in our general direction.
As soon as we opened the truck doors we were met with oppressive heat and the rumble of thunder. We decided to sit on the tailgate and eat the lunch we'd brought while the "scattered shower" passed. By the time we finished eating, the storm had indeed passed several miles to the east. Bev asked, "What do you think?" I replied with the words that have preceded many of the "little adventures" I have had in life. "Well, we're here, we might as well (insert dumb idea here) hike down and give it a shot."
We got into our waders and strapped on our packs and headed off through the woods in the direction of the stream. It soon became apparent that what looked to be spitting distance on the map would have to involve a superhuman spitter or maybe a really, really, pissed-off camel. The road did indeed come close to the stream, except it was about a quarter mile straight above it. We plunged down the ravine lurching from rock to rock - clinging to trees every now and then to slow our descent. The climb out was definitely in the back of our minds, but that would be hours from now, and we would have been refreshed by the cool stream waters and the memories of native brook trout rising greedily to our flies. After what seemed like an awfully long time we reached the water and began to hike downstream. The plan was to drop down a ways and then fish our way back.
Thunder was once again rumbling in the distance when we reached a nice pool. Bev (always the more prudent) informed me that, while I was welcome to explore further, she had no intention of taking one step farther from the truck. The lure of new water was too much for me and I decided to keep hiking for another fifteen minutes or so. I passed some good looking pools and figured I should have some good fishing on the way back. Finally I decided that I should turn around and start fishing my way back upstream. I made one cast that must have hooked a low cloud and ripped the bottom out of it because it began to pour buckets of rain.
The lightning was getting way too close now and I abandoned any attempts to fish. Between the rain and the steam on my glasses I could barely see as I stumbled back upstream toward where I'd left Bev. I covered the distance between us as fast as I could and was relieved to find her close to where I'd left her but standing well back from the stream bank. We decided that it probably was not smart (as if anything we'd done to this point was) to stand there in a lightning storm holding our graphite fly rods so we put them on the ground a few yards away. It was raining so hard that we could not even see the stream so we just stood there in the woods getting drenched and looking pathetic as the lightning flashed all around us. We counted the seconds between the lightning flashes and the accompanying thunderclaps with increasing dismay as the intervals became shorter and shorter. The closest strikes were blindingly bright, followed only a split second later by a deafening boom, which made the ground tremble - along with our legs. Pretty soon we began to notice that water was streaming down our shirts and into our waders at an alarming rate. In fact, if anyone out there is working on a super efficient rainwater collection method, our findings suggest that you could do much worse than a cotton shirt tucked into a pair of Gore-Tex waders.
Eventually the storm started to subside and we could once again see the stream. As we watched, the water began to cloud up and soon it was the color and texture of chocolate milk. The fishing was over before it began.
The hike back up to the truck was about as miserable as any I've experienced. The rocks and leaves were slippery and we sloshed with every step. We also got reacquainted with a phenomena associated with really steep assents whereby every little roll or bench gives the appearance (when viewed from below) of being the top of the mountain. Our hopes were dashed more than once before we made the actual summit.
We were bedraggled, demoralized, and exhausted specimens of humanity by the time the truck came into view but we perked up when we saw it and waddled the last fifty yards like a couple of penguins headed for a bucket of fish. When we took off our waders we each poured out about a gallon of water. We had not brought any spare clothes so the ride home was soggy (wet underwear is a special kind of misery) to say the least. On the way home Bev made it clear that she was through with exploring and from now on our fishing hikes better be on a sunny day with an easy trail and a gentle slope. I said "Ah come on, some day we'll look back on this and laugh." Who knows? Someday we might.
Mother Nature Flips Us The Bird
All images and text on this page are protected content and may not be copied, or distributed without permission.
© Allan Sutley 2015