So, an older gentleman (Bill) comes into my workshop one day asking about having some furniture repair done and notices the small collection of vintage fly rods on the wall and my “L.L. Bean Fly Fishing” hat (it’s my favorite hat because it was free for filling out a credit card application) (apparently, if you list your income as $0.00, you need to pay in cash) and starts talking fishing. Bill’s eyes started welling up as he went on about the excitement of taking a big bucket-mouth on a top-water hair popper. Well, after a while, the man let on about how he could no longer launch his 14’ Sylvan by himself. Turns out that he gave the boat away to a young, landlocked bass fisherman who, apparently, had no time to take the old man out fishing once in a while (hint, hint). I took the bait and offered an invitation. On my way to pick Bill up, I had visions of having to load a massive amount of gear but, when I got to his house, he was at the end of the driveway with his only gear being a beefy 10’ fly rod, a sparsely equipped vest, and an empty milk jug.
Once on the lake, Bill and I were the same age; we were two twelve-year old boys on an adventure, grinning ear to ear. We were both regulars to this lake and had the same routine; fish the lily pads at the launch, hit the mouth of an inlet, catch a bucketful of smallies off a particular rock pile, slam a few floats and docks, then head to where the big boys were (or so we had heard). The folklore, of the area, claimed that in one particular spot, there were largemouth bass so big that it would take two people to boat one and, there was one fish (The General) that would make the others look like bait. The General, according to the man who owned the camp where the legendary monster lived, was so smart and wily, that he had never even been close to being hooked. Bill and I decided to drop anchor and stay until one of us hooked-up with The General (as a bonus, the camp owner’s sister was sun bathing on the dock). By this time, I was over being in awe of Bill’s accuracy with placing his fly so, when he tied on the biggest hair bug he had and cast thirty feet into the wind to put his offering under the dock, I was not surprised. Bill tucked his fly rod under his leg, lit a smoke, popped open a cool beverage, and sat back like he was sipping martinis on a pleasure cruise. I tossed my “Basstermator” up against the banking, gave a tug so the fly plopped into the water, followed Bill’s lead, and just sat back. After what I thought seemed like a lifetime, I started to think it was time for a twitch of the fly but, bill caught me in mid thought an said, “Not yet”. All of a sudden, there was a huge splash and it appeared, to me, that Bill’s hair bug had a big customer. Bill didn’t move a muscle; he just sat, watched, and started counting backward from ten. When Bill hit one, he gave his fly just the slightest of movement and the water exploded. The monster tried every trick in the Largemouth Handbook to get away but, the combination of Bill’s heavy duty tackle, and his years of experience, won the fight at the dock and one more skirmish when the bass saw the boat. Here is the conversation that took place while Bill was trying to boat The General;
Me, “Get the net, get the net”
Bill, “Its o.k. I’ve got him”
The General, “Snap!”
Just as soon as Bill Tried to power rod him into the boat, the beast gave a head shake and set himself free.
Bill said, “Its o.k. We’ll give it fifteen minutes and try again. We have the recipe. Why don’t you move the boat down aways and we’ll drift back into position”. I moved the boat upwind, cut the motor, and Bill peed in his milk jug (while commenting about how many fishermen, usually drunk drown each year from trying to pee over the side of the boat), lit another smoke and took a few pulls off his beverage. We eventually drifted back into casting position and Bill laid his hair bug in exactly the same spot as before. This time the big boy didn’t try to stun his prey; he inhaled and Bill was fully prepared with a sweeping strip set. A short battle ensued with Bill, again, getting the upper hand. Here’s the conversation;
Me, “Bill, get the net, get the net!”
Bill, “It’s o.k., I’m gonna get him upside the boat and lip him.”
Me, “Bill, I’m just sayin.”
Bill got his adversary upside the boat and I think both of them freaked. Bill had never seen a bass that size before, and the fish had never come face to face with a human. As soon as Bill touched the bass’s mouth, the bass again shook his head so powerfully that Bill couldn’t hang on.
Bill said something like this, “*&^%$#@^%$&double####!”
After Bill calmed down, he said, “Its o.k. we’ll give it fifteen minutes and try again. We have the recipe and oh, by the way, can you man the net next time?”
Upwind we go. Downwind we drift. Bill repeats his cast perfectly. I grab the net. The bass inhales the hair bug and about half way to the boat, The General has apparently had enough and snaps the fifteen pound test leader like a dry twig. This was the only conversation for the rest of the day;
Me, “Well Bill, you’re the only person to ever hook The General”
Bill, “ All I did was smarten him up a little more.”
“Trash Fish and Tanker Trout”
As I drove over the dam at Panther Run, I saw a familiar sight; a boy angrily throwing rocks in the water. I put some gear together and went to talk to Dylan, a boy I had met at this same spot, over a year ago.
The first day I met Dylan, he was in much the same condition; angry. That day, I tried to chit-chat him up a little bit but; he wasn’t much open to conversation and just kept throwing rocks in the water like he was trying to kill something. I asked Dylan if he knew anything about the fishing on Panther Run and he just grunted, “NO!” I then asked him if he minded if I tried my luck and he said, “I don’t give a s##t, do whatever you want.” (For a young boy, he had quite a vocabulary of cuss words which he used every time he threw a rock). I tied- on a flash bugger and started swinging and on the third swing, hooked-up with a feisty little small mouth bass. After releasing the bass, I went a little downstream and got a brook trout to take my offering. Dylan had casually followed along and started asking a few questions with his mood obviously improved. It didn’t take long before Dylan asked if he could have a turn. I passed the rod over to the boy. In short order, Dylan had a strike and got so excited, he ripped the fly out of the fish’s mouth. A long burst of expletives followed but, he had a smile on his face. I chuckled a little and asked him if he kissed his grandmother with that mouth. He got the point and thanked me for letting him use my fly rod. He asked me if I came here much because he is here all the time and maybe we could meet-up again and he could try fishing again and not get too excited and maybe catch a fish and maybe I could show him a few things and he could bring some soda for both of us or something and probably ask his mother if he could get his own fly rod and did I live close by and so on. I rigged an old fly rod and gave it to Dylan on my next trip to the dam. Over the course of that summer, Dylan and I met frequently and I learned that he had an abusive father who was no longer around, and a mother who paid little attention to him. Occasionally, Dylan’s grandfather would show up at the dam with him and as we chatted, we learned that we belonged to the same rod and gun club. Dylan’s grandfather couldn’t fish because of a disability but, was encouraging the boy. Grandpa had found a canoe with some damage and was able to coach Dylan through the repair process and the building of a canoe dolly. With the canoe, Dylan now had access to two lakes, two rivers, and was overjoyed with every fish he caught, no matter what the species. Over the course of that first summer, Dylan became totally consumed with fly fishing and, according to his grandfather, a new person. At monthly club meetings, over the course of the following winter, Dylan’s grandfather kept me updated with the boy’s progress which included; fly tying, much improved school grades, a cheery attitude, and even having his own outdoor column in the school newspaper.
Now, a year later, I walked up to the angry boy (Dylan) and tried to chit-chat a little but, he wasn’t having any of it and just kept throwing rocks like he was trying to kill something. I asked him if he knew anything about the fishing on Panther Run and he just grunted, “There ain’t nothin’ here but trash fish and tanker trout, and I’d rather catch a cold than one of those d***d things. My mother’s new boyfriend has a camp up north where the real fish are, and some day, when I grow up a little, he’s gonna take me for some real fishing.”
A couple summers ago, Jack Dennison, Trip Wilson, Molly Barker, and I were spending our vacation week at Cobbossee Lake to take in all the goings-on of a professional bass tournament. Being transplants to the Portland area, we all had to learn bass fishing as a fill-in during the summer heat when the trout fishing shuts down. We’d all gotten pretty good with hair poppers and started to wonder if we could compete in a bass tournament and possibly win some money, gear, or maybe even a new boat! So, off we went with our kayaks to watch the pros.
On arrival day at "Lakeside Motel and Cabins", we realized that the world of professional bass fishing was a far cry from what we had imagined while out in our kayaks, throwing hair poppers into lily pads. We were all frozen with awe as we watched hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of boats that looked like floating tackle shops being launched. Jeez! The paint on the trucks, boats, and trailers, even matched. We got in line with our rusted Jimmy and our converted landscaping trailer, loaded with beat-up kayaks. That night, we noodled around the docks with our 5 wts. and all caught a fair amount of 14”-16” bucket-mouths while the pros had a kick-off cocktail and BBQ. We drifted over toward the party after fishing to get in on a little angling banter and, hopefully, some free BBQ. Apparently, the pros aren’t very tolerant of fly fishing, hippie, hobos. We were snubbed and had to cook our own supper.
The next morning, we woke to what we thought was an “end of the world as we know it” earthquake and started confessing all our sins and our love for each other then realized the quaking ground and rattling windows was a result of fifty, or more 150 horsepower outboards, all starting at the same time. (We all kind of shied away from each other for the rest of the morning.) We kayaked around all morning watching the pros “running and gunning” while catching a fair amount of bass from the surrounding docks, floats, lily pads, and grass beds. Since this was just a practice day, all the pros came back to shore for lunch and some story swapping. It seems that most everyone got skunked and, although they all joked about the skunking, there was a bit of tension in the air. Again, our little troop of hobos tried to mix in with the pros thinking that we might have something to add to the conversation since we all had caught enough fish to qualify for the tournament. This time we were not just snubbed, we were faced down with what felt a whole lot like, anger. We figured a free lunch was out so, we left to a chorus of snorts and comments.
The pro’s afternoon practice session went the same way as the morning with most of them being skunked. Our group did not try to engage in this evening’s BBQ and drinking party. Instead, we all fished around the docks within earshot of the partyers. One of the party group hollered out, “You girls better not hit my boat with your little tinker toys”. Jack, Trip, and I thought it would probably be best not to mix it up with a bunch of drunks but Molly walked right up to them and asked if they were a little jealous and suggested that they might do well to take some free tips from those who was actually catching fish. One of the drunks shot back with, “Those ain’t fish, they’re bait.” Molly gave them a smile and walked back to the cabin. The boys shot Molly a few cat calls and gave us all some self-satisfied chuckles. Well, about ten minutes later, here comes Molly armed with her nine-and-a-half-foot 9wt. cannon. We all thought Molly might start plinking drinks out of the hand of the snobs (we all would practice casting by plinking cans around the yard with our flies) but instead, she cut her leader back to ten pounds and tied on an olive "Whit’s Near Nuff Crayfish" and started casting inches from the sides of the high powered bass boats. Once Molly got the right retrieve down, she started hauling in bass with mouths big enough to swallow a small chicken. Every time she hauled one in, she would yell, “Pig!” The people at the BBQ went pretty much silent. All satisfied that the point had been made; we walked past the drop jawed pros and headed for our cabin with Molly in the lead. As we passed, Molly said, “Did you see the mouths on those pigs?”
“It’s Nice Just To Get Out”
“I don’t care if I catch fish, or not.” This is what I am thinking as I check all the fluids and tire pressure in my rusted and dented fourteen year old vehicle in preparation for the big river trip I have been planning for weeks. I could have bought a new vehicle if I had time to shop, and money to spend but, there were fish to chase and certain necessities I needed to fill out my fish chasing arsenal. Besides; everything (almost) happened to be on sale when I needed it. Ready to go, I jump in the driver’s seat and see the note I keep pasting to the inside of the windshield as a reminder to talk to the guy at the hardware store about the peeling paint on my house. The paint can probably wait until after spring trout season, unless the stripers are running hot. This reminds me that my 8wt. striper rod should be replaced with a 9wt. or better. I need to find a sale. I stick the paint guy note to the dashboard (just so I won’t forget) and jump on the turnpike for the first hour-and-a half of the three-hour drive. As I’m driving, I’m surprised at how alert I am as I had spent the last three nights, staying up way past normal bed time digging up any info I could on the area I’m going to fish. Then, there were flies to re-arrange, leaders to build (just in case the monster I imagine catching, steals one), flies to re-arrange, fishing tactics to go over, and flies to re-arrange. On the drive, I’m feeling pretty good and am in awe of the wild Maine Turnpike scenery of pine trees and tar and think, “This is what it’s all about.” I grab a bite of some kind of sandwich and a swig of what may, or may not be, a soda I opened today. The thought that “it really doesn’t matter if I catch fish or not, as long as I just get outdoors and wet a line,” comforts me during the ride.
Once on the high, chocolate soup river, I tie on a big, flashy streamer and start pounding anything that might hold a fish. A couple other fishermen stop by and say they are going to bag it and mention how nice it is to get out, no matter what. I agree and pound a stand of boulders with my chunk of meat. After a couple hours with no luck, I decide to hit some feeder streams. The feeder streams are high and brown so, the “Mickey Finn” with a “San Juan” trailer gets the start. Up and down the brook I go with no strikes. On goes the “Klinkhammer” with a soft hackle, hare’s ear emerger as a dropper, and gets no strikes. On goes the (fill in the blank) and gets the same results. Even though I’m striking out, I find the sound of the brook babbling through the moss laden panorama before me, to be enough of a treat to justify my efforts. (I wish I had a camera). And so went the day.
On the drive home, I have that feeling that you can only get from spending a day of physical activity in the great outdoors. I didn’t catch a fish today but, I am fulfilled. I drive to my road and almost pull in but, at the last second, speed by and head to my “go-to” brook and within five minutes, bring a fine native brookie to hand. (Not that catching a fish matters all that much).
On the third day of his hospital stay, Jack woke up early to watch the news story surrounding his adventure.
Warden Mac McKay had been in to visit the day before and went through some of the details about how Jack came out of his adventure with his hide intact; “I ran into your Dad at The Maine Guide Fly Shop the day after you left on your trip and when he told me where you were headed, I almost had a heart attack because I knew about the marijuana growing operation the DEA, MEIF&W, and The Maine State Police have been getting ready to raid right where you were headed.” Mac went on, “One of the volunteer E.P.A. water quality testers, who monitors the lake that your brook runs into, was picking up some strange readings so, when the water samples showed high concentrations of fertilizer and pesticides after being lab tested, we contacted the D.E.A.. After a month of investigating, the D.E.A. found out that the owner of the Duclose Egg Farm was using illegal alien migrant workers as pot farmers, and were threatening the worker’s families if they didn’t cooperate. The D.E.A got a couple of their agents on the inside. What the undercover agents found was a very sophisticated high-tech operation well hidden behind low-tech methods. The workers used axes to create the fake beaver dam so they could use the bog as a reliable water source. The hoses were set-up as siphons so powered pumps would not be needed. The only modern conveniences the growers allowed the workers were; the ATVs (wilderness A.T.V. riders are no uncommon) for bringing in supplies, Mr. Duclose’s son, who couldn’t walk his fat a** across the road without getting winded, and an electronic movement sensor system that caught you (Jack) as soon as you started to descend Old Sow Mountain. The farm’s security people didn’t bother with you until they thought you might stumble into their base camp. And by the way Jack, after you ran, they could monitor your general location at all times.” Mac explained; “The raid on the pot grow was set to take place the same day you ran into the guard with the shotgun but, the raid was put off until the next day because we were afraid you might get nicked if there was a fire fight or, that one of the farm workers might have used you as a hostage. One of the D.E.A.’s undercover agents was in on the location monitoring effort to catch you and knew the guy chasing you would never find you so, he let you get as far away as possible before calling in the raid. The other D.E.A. agent was the Streamside Commando who was pushing you away from the action zone.”
“Good morning, I’m Sally Violet for Channel 12 News. The Maine Attorney General’s office, this morning, reported that, with cooperation from the Maine Warden’s Service and Maine State Police, federal drug enforcement has raided a large scale marijuana growing operation in an undisclosed, remote section of the Moosehead region of the state. Details are sketchy at this time but, the size of the pot growing operation is said to be the largest ever uncovered in the Northeast. And on a side note, it is rumored that, during the raid, a lost hiker was incidentally found, with a broken ankle, and was rescued by one of the Maine Wardens taking part in the raid. We will have more on this story as it unfolds.” “Now over to you, Art for the weather.”
Jack’s first thought was that the shot came from a poacher but, not wanting to hang around to find out, he gathered his gear and moved in the opposite direction of the gun blast trying to keep behind cover as much as possible. Jack picked his way along until he came to the beaver dam and had to make a decision to either put himself on the wrong side of the bog or cross it using the top of the dam. Scanning around with his eyes while thinking, Jack noticed something that was totally out of place in these surroundings; there were garden hoses running out of the woods and into the bog which helped to make his decision to cross the dam that much easier. Jack worked his way across the top of the dam using his fly rod as a walking stick and almost took a dunk several times before reaching safety. Once Jack reached solid ground, he double-timed it until he reached a group of large boulders and tucked himself in behind a boulder that would allow him sight of his backtrack. Peering out from the safety of his boulder, Jack could see a man, dressed in camouflage, holding a shotgun, standing at the exact spot where he had started his crossing of the dam. At this point, all of Jack’s senses kicked into high-gear and he wanted to run immediately but, common sense told him that if he ran now, the man in the camo would be able to spot him and Jack did not want to be seen. Apparently, the man chasing Jack didn’t quite have the nerve to cross the dam and headed back into the woods to take the game trail. Jack saw this as a chance to put some distance between himself and his pursuer and high-tailed it over the game trail until he reached a huge stand of pucker-brush and pushed through the thorns thinking that the guy on his track wouldn’t have the stomach to follow. Jack finally got through the thorns (with more than a few cuts to show for his effort) and came to another game trail that he could use to cover some distance fast but, instead, he decided to tuck into the woods and hunker down to observe any sightings or sounds. Just as he was about to strike out again, Jack heard something coming through the thorn bushes and seconds later the guy in the camo was standing almost on the exact spot where Jack had ditched into the woods. Jack, not being more than five feet from the trail, could have reached out and touched the man with his fly rod. Jack lay still, barely breathing, while being assaulted by mosquitoes, horse flies, and ticks. Finally the man moved on.
Jack had been working his way through the woods, off any game trails, for a couple hours with no sightings or sounds from the guy looking for him and just as he was thinking/hoping that the man had given up, he heard the screaming of the ATV. Before Jack could get a sense of the location of the ATV it was almost on top of him. Not more than ten yards in front of Jack was an old logging road and there was no cover around except a large pine tree. Jack hugged the trunk with his side, tucked-in everything he could, and tiptoed around the tree as the ATV passed off down the logging road. Jack started thinking that the guy trying to find him must be a psychic to have come so close to his location so many times. Once the ATV was far enough away, Jack ran down the logging road as fast as he could until he hit the game trail and kept running until he could run no more. Jack stopped to catch his breath, relieve himself and look around for a safe spot to hold-up where he could hydrate and think things through. At this point, Jack didn’t know if there might be another person in the hunt for him because, when the ATV passed him the last time, he noticed the guy was wearing a headset with a microphone. Jack had just gotten himself settled behind a large boulder, where he could keep an eye on the trail; he heard the ATV screaming back on the logging road. The ATV stopped, proceeded slowly up the trail, and stopped exactly on the spot where Jack had relieved himself. As if the ATV rider and Jack were in perfect synch, the man in camo turned the ATV off, lit a smoke, and started guzzling from his canteen. Jack somehow felt safe for the first time since the shotgun blast, even while being feasted on by the local bug population. Jack had a little chuckle thinking about the camo Bug Out jacket, at the very bottom of his pack, with the L.L. Bean price tag still attached to the sleeve. Finally, the ATV started-up and slowly moved out of Jack’s earshot.
After having a quick snack of Sardines and crackers, Jack fished the Bug Out jacket, along with the last of his still partially frozen water, out of the bottom of his pack. Before repacking his gear, Jack thought about setting-up camp and making a stand right on this spot. Jack had never been one to run from a fight and felt somewhat embarrassed until he remembered that he was dealing with the business end of twelve-gauge shotgun that was probably loaded with buckshot. Jack started running the events of the day through his head and pondered a few questions he had; “Why, if the guy chasing him is as good a tracker as he seems to be, can’t he find me?”, “Why did a seemingly perfect trout brook feel so sterile?”, “Why was there no beaver hut?”, “Why did the tree stumps left by the beavers not look right?”, “What were the garden hoses running from the woods into the bog for?”, and mostly, “How did anyone know I was fishing that brook?”.
Jack could hear the ATV again, going slowly up ahead in the direction he had to go to get back to civilization. Jack decided to head deeper into the woods away from any trails, shouldered his pack and set out. Soon, Jack came to a small swamp and rather than go around, he decided to hop the rocks and hassocks to the other side and placed his foot carefully on the first rock which rolled. Jack heard the snap from his ankle, felt the nausea and lightheadedness that comes with a bone- break, fell, (thankfully), back on dry ground, threw-up his sardines and crackers, and passed-out. Jack woke up to unbearable pain and grappled to reach his emergency kit. In the emergency kit was some high-powered pain killers meant for just this sort of occasion. Jack choked the pill down and fought off the urge to throw up again. After about ten minutes, the pain killer started to do its job but, Jack knew that when the pill kicked-in full strength, he would be useless. The sun was starting to set so, Jack took the only option he had by crawling back to his last hide-out. Jack fell asleep, or passed-out, to the sound of the ATV trailing off in the distance.
Jack woke before the sun was up, in unbearable pain, so, he fished another painkiller out of his kit, along with his emergency whistle, and swallowed the pill. In his last minutes of consciousness, Jack decided that when morning came, he would blow the whistle and take his chances with the person who was chasing him. If he didn’t take a chance on possibly not dying, Jack knew that he would certainly die. Jack woke up to blinding sun in his eyes, took another pill, and blew his whistle until he passed out again. “Wake up!” someone hollered, “Wake Up”. Jack opened his eyes to a man, dressed in black, and pointing a military style rifle. “What is your name?” the man ordered. Jack looked at the man’s cover that had ”SWAMP RAT” written across the front and wasn’t quite sure he wanted to answer but, figuring the broken ankle precluded any Kung-Fu heroics, choked out “Jack Dennison”. “Jack, I am agent Dave Davidowicz with the DEA”, “Mac McKay, from the Maine Warden Service, radioed to us that you were out here somewhere and we’ve been looking for you”. “It’s a good thing you had that whistle.” As Jack was trying to process the information he was just given, he could hear the sound of helicopters the general direction of the beaver dam. The DEA agent said something into his mic that Jack couldn’t quite understand. Jack didn’t hear the ATV until it was almost on top of him. “Swamp Rat” gave Jack the quiet signal and pointed his weapon in the direction of the emerging ATV. Riding the ATV, was a very serious looking Warden Mac McKay. “I’m going to give you a little shot for the pain Jack, then, we’re going to get you out of here” said Warden McKay. All Jack remembered about the rest of this adventure was having a dream that he was a kid again, and was swinging on the swing set at the school playground.
Epilogue Coming soon
As far a Jack could see in either direction was bog, bog, bog! What should have been a free flowing twenty foot wide babbling brook was a two acre wide, slack-water, greenish mess. Jack felt an eerie loneliness reminiscent of the first time he was deep in the woods with dark coming fast and had only his compass to rely on. “Dark is coming fast Jackie-boy, he thought. It’ll be a long, cold night without a fire.” Still shaking off his disappointment, Jack got busy gathering as much firewood as time would allow. A good log cabin fire would ease the night chill and boost his morale. With his fire roaring, Jack set to frying up some bacon and eggs in his cast iron pan (the only excess weight he had allowed). Jack cut out a small section of the fire for cooking and laid the slab bacon in the pan to sizzle. Jack had a small chuckle imagining a bear standing on hind legs, nose to the wind, smacking his saliva dripping mouth at the scent of the greasy bacon. Jack laid a pile of dripping bacon on the bread he had laid out, cracked a couple eggs into the pan, shoveled hot bacon grease over the whole mess, and when the eggs were done but still with runny yolks, he piled the eggs on top of the bacon and bread, (maybe letting a little extra bacon grease spillover) closed the top with another piece of bread, poured a cup of coffee, and sat back and smacked at the runny mess like a big old grizzler. The first time Jack made that particular egg sandwich, his Grampa Joe said, “You’re really going whole hog there aren’t you Jackie-boy?” Since then the sandwich has been called “The Breakfast Hog”. Satisfied and drained, Jack stared at the fire. Spying his Scott fly rod tube off to the side, Jack asked, “Wadda ya think?” “I think we’ll start fresh tomorrow.”
Jack rolled out of his sleeping bag, stood up to face the morning sun, and winced. Because of all the free-flowing adrenaline and the need to take care of things the day and night before, Jack hadn’t realized the toll the hike had taken on his out of shape body, especially his broken ankle. The morning mist rising from the swamp graciously blocked his view of the reality of the bog. Jack stretched out the kinks, had a bite to eat, and geared up to go investigate what must be a beaver dam that was causing all the problems. While taking care of business Jack thought he heard the faint sound of an ATV and passed it off as a trick of mountain echoes. After a while of working his way along a game path, Jack finally heard the sound he had been waiting months for; a babbling brook. Jack picked up his pace and the babbling got louder. Jack’s spirits picked up considerably and he took a few minutes to survey the dam and stumps left by the beavers. Something struck him as odd but, being teased by the possibilities the brook held, Jack rushed ahead. When Jack stood at the head of the brook, he almost thought he felt his eyes welling up. Before him was a picture perfect scene. The canopy of trees over the twisting, dropping water with its pools, riffles, and runs, provided ideal shade, bug habitat, and a sense of perfectness. Jack liked to work up-current so he dropped his pack and moved on to find a spot he could fish back up to his gear by lunch time. Along the way, Jack watched the water for fish rising and occasionally stomped on the banking to hopefully spook some out of their hiding places. No fish showed themselves which was odd but, not conclusive. He would tie on his go-to fly (Monsieur Cockatouche) and be into fish soon enough. After about half an hour of fishing every likely spot including, riffles, undercuts, blow-downs, pools, runs, and rocks without so much as a refusal, Jack sat on the banking for a while to ponder what he might be doing wrong and started looking around for signs of bug activity. No shucks on the rocks, no bugs under the rocks, and no bugs in the air performing their cycle of life ballet. Jack picked up a handful of detritus from the edge of the brook and found no life. Before washing off, Jack took a whiff of his handful rotting organic matter. Nothing, no particular smell, definitely not the smell of rotting leaves and mud. Jack thought that maybe after having some lunch, he could figure out what was going on so, he put his Maui Jims back on in hopes of a fish sighting, and headed back upstream toward his pack. Just as Jack reached his pack, he thought he heard the sound of an ATV again. No mountain echo tricks this time, the ATV was screaming right toward him. Not wanting to be caught flat-footed, Jack tucked in behind a large boulder. The ATV stopped and a few seconds later he heard what sounded like hail raining through the trees around him. Before he could process what was happening, he heard the report from the shotgun blast……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
OUTDOOR ADVENTURE SERIES
Featuring Jack Dennison In:
By Gary Leighton
Jack looked at the mountain ahead of him with a sinking feeling because there were two more behind this one to climb before he would see the brook. It had been a long winter with only his excitement about, and preparation for, this remote fishing trip to warm his thoughts and keep him busy. Normally Jack would be skiing, snowshoeing, and fishing to pass the winter but, the broken ankle he suffered, courtesy of a rock that turned on him on his last time on the Saco River, was both a curse and a blessing because had he been busy with regular winter activities, his plan would never have been hatched; two days of hiking the mountains and two days of fishing a brook that few people have ever seen or ever will see.
Jack tightened his boot laces (the stiffness of the hiking boot on the previously casted ankle was a satisfying comfort), shouldered his overstuffed pack, and dug into the task. Not a hundred yards into the climb, Jack’s winter of inactivity caught up with him. He looked back at the road. His ride was gone. Jack recited his father’s favorite mantra; “There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who ask, what happened? Which one am I?” Gasping for breath with his legs burning and the straps of the overloaded backpack chafing his shoulders, Jack dug in. He knew, from past hiking trips, that after another couple more hundred yards his body would catch up and do its job.
At the top of "Old Sow" (the second peak), Jack had his first break from climbing. When he took his pack off and laid it up against a scrub pine, Jack felt a sense of accomplishment. Other than the huffing and puffing at the beginning of the climb, there had been no problems. Jack did have to fight with himself to stay on track and not fish the brook streaming from the small lake at the top of "Old Sow". All the way up the mountain, on the streamside game path, Jack could see rises and hear telltale splashes. There were also a few plastic worm containers and food wrappers along the way. Jack, at one point, thought that he could spend his entire time on this brook and call it a good trip. The fantasy of the trip to the remote brook he planned won out. Sitting on a large boulder with a naturally carved out seat, Jack ate lunch without knowing he was eating because of his awe at the serenity of the lake. Fish were rising for an occasional snack, and there was an endless view of pine topped mountains framed by a sunny, bluebird sky. He hoped this would be his heaven.
Finally, the top of the last mountain was in sight and Jack double-timed the last two-hundred yards. The fantasy of this moment was one of the things that helped him keep his sanity and his connection to the outdoors during his ankle recovery. The real thing lived up to the fantasy. There was still quite a bit of snow for June. This reminded him of a past hike when he and some friends hiked to the top of Tumbledown Mountain one June and had a snowball fight then went skinny-dipping in the lake. No time for snowballs and skinny-dipping now, camp had to be set-up before dark and Jack still had a descent to the brook. Jack had the ideal spot to camp picked out in his head. There would be a huge boulder to reflect heat from his fire, and rain from any storms that might pop up. There would be a nice flat spot, about the size of a living room in front of the rock, plenty of dry firewood, and a view of the brook so he could watch the trout rise. Almost at the brook, Jack had his eyes out for that perfect camping spot and his first sighting of the brook (another fantasy moment). A hundred yards from the brook, Jack found his camping spot, not ideal but, with some work it would make a fine camp. Jack dropped his gear and with enough time left to set up camp, headed toward the brook. Jack thought he was close enough to the brook to be able to hear a little babbling but, there was no babbling. Another fifty yards and Jack stopped dead in his tracks…………………………………………………………………………….
So, my wife and I were discussing what a wonderful Christmas we had with all our friends and family and thanked each other again for the presents we gave each other. ( She gave me a very generous gift certificate for sporting goods and I gave her a "Keruig" coffee maker and a lavish night of wineing, dining, and uninhibited romance).
I said, "By the way, speaking of gifts, did you remember to give the UPS guy a little something because he seems to be avoiding me?"
She said, "I regifted to him what you gave to me. Would you like a cup of coffee?"