Running a bit late getting this issue of SHJ out. Lots of excuses, not the least, a week on the road dodging rest areas, motels & restaurants in an effort to avoid the C virus while getting home from wintering in Cali. Not down to hoarding toilet paper, just taking common sense precautions where possible.
Hope you all are keeping well.
Got through the border on the last day it was open, gone up to see Bruce Kruk & gather some gear I left with him last fall. With the border closed I’m going to miss fishing with Canadian friends & bummed about that. Friends on the U.S. side, hunkered down, aren’t coming around. Only a few cars on the river road all day with nobody going through the border.
Heedless, the birds are going on about their business, the recently arrived robins working the russet ground between patches of lingering snow. The first swallows showed today, always landing just this side of the equinox. If they returned next year to find us gone, all of us, would they give it a thought? We haven’t been easy to live with…
Social distancing? An excursion down an inviting race or tailout. Isolation is exquisite next to a river; the sound of water over stones like a thousand hands clapping in a hall forever lonesome.
Good to be back out on the home water. The trout are still there, though not giving themselves up easy. That’s okay. They are worth waiting for. They know no allegiances or patriotism or borders, quietly suffering catastrophe without much help & very little mercy, yet they persist. But they do exact a tax, & the taxing is energetic.
The river is low, in perfect shape for swinging. Hiking in over the dry riverbed I found a skwala stonefly sunning on a stone, a healthy #7, so I started with a suitable pattern & swung it down a quarter-mile run for nothing.
So I changed flies, switching to a #2 Red Demon. Pre-spawn rainbows like red.
And that did turn the trick on a fine, colored-up UC tanker (a ‘tanker’ is a trout of 24’ or better).
I went out late, seems like our trout bite best in the late afternoon this time of year, when the water has warmed to the highest temp of the day. The second trout came as the sun touched the ridges, not quite a tanker, though a strong & determined misbehaver just the same, & elegantly dressed for the party.
The Reel News
It’s a fact that pre-spawn rainbows are fond of the color red – & the same is true of cutthroat, brook, brown trout & landlocked salmon. What is pre-spawn? Inland trout generally have a two-month spawning period, rainbow & cutthroat in the Spring, & brookies & browns in the Fall. I consider the pre-spawn to begin a month prior to initial spawning, when trout are coloring-up in anticipation of the mating rituals to come. Red is the color of passion, & passion is beginning to bloom in trout minds during the pre-spawn. Not having hands to hold onto attractive red things, they use their mouths.
|Red Spot Spider ~ hook: #6-#8 ~ thread: pink ~ hackle: furnace hen ~ rib: red wire ~ body: pink floss with thorax of pink dubbing topped with red wool yarn|
|Spruce Variant ~ hook: #4-#8 ~ thread: black ~ hackle: brahma hen ~ body: red tinsel with copper tip & thorax of peacock herl ~ tailing: gpt tied in behind the thorax ~ winging: dyed yellow squirrel|
|Swing Clown ~ hook: #4-#8 ~ thread: wine ~ tailing: peacock swords & red hackle fibers ~ rib: red wire ~ palmer: red saddle ~ body: copper tinsel ~ half-wing: gpt ~ rear collar: red guinea ~ front collar: black hen|
|Red Ass Variant ~ hook: #6-#10 ~ thread: wine ~ hackle: partridge ~ tailing: red yarn ~ rib: red wire ~ body: red tinsel with thorax of peacock herl|
|Royal Dee ~ hook: #2-#8 ~ thread: brown ~ tailing: golden pheasant crest ~ butt: peacock herl ~ butt collar: gpt wound as a collar ~ body: peacock herl with a girdle of red tinsel ~ hackle: red-brown hen ~ wings: white goose slips|
|Mickey Finn ~ hook: #2-#6 ~ thread: black ~ tag: red tinsel ~ rib: silver wire ~ body: silver tinsel ~ winging: yellow/red/yellow bucktail ~ jungle cock cheeks|
|Black/Red Spider ~ hook: #6-#10 ~ thread: black ~ hackle: red guinea hen ~ tailing: gpt dyed with red marker ~ rib: red wire ~ body: black rabbit with a thorax of 50/50 black rabbit & red seal|
|Ounaniche ~ hook: #6-#10 ~ thread: wine ~ hackle: red guinea hen ~ tailing: barred waterfowl flank dyed with red marker ~ rib: gold wire ~ body: claret dubbing with a thorax of hares mask|
|Kruk's Ducati ~ hook: #2-#4 ~ thread: black ~ tailing: gpt ~ rib: oval silver ~ body: red/black seal ~ palmer: black spey hackle ~ collar: guinea hen, sparse ~ wings: red goose slips|
|Spawn Sack ~ hook: #8 ~ thread: pink ~ body: red tinsel ~ toppings: red egg yarn/orange SST/red flash ~ hackle: white hen touched with pink marker|
A Spring Tale of Continuity, of Sorts
The Temptation of Lilith
I suppose you could say the kid’s fishing pole is a bad idea. A Snoopy pole – picture of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on the package, fishing. I don’t know. It might not be that great of an idea for a gift. Even if there is a kid, it would only be three years old and no three year old can operate a Snoopy pole, not without help anyway. But there’s really nothing I can provide, realistically, so I guess the gift is just my way of being a dad, if by chance I am a dad, and a way to show my appreciation on the anniversary of our meeting.
I didn’t get her name. Not sure she had a name, she never spoke. Not in the way most of us speak. Yet no denying she was a master of body language able to get her point across. I call her Lilith.
Winter had recently gone from the low country along the river; the newly exposed mast beneath the pines still snow-damp. Runoff hadn’t begun, the major portion of snow still holding on the high country, so the river was low and in good shape to fish. It’d been warm the past few days, triggering a hatch of grannom sedges. Really felt like spring. That day it seemed like the whole world was hopping to a swinging rhythm. It was palpable along the river where the critters make the first big showing at getting down to the procreation business. Sedges flying around hooked together. Love was in the air alright. Such a sweet day I couldn’t quit hiking and ended up four or five miles upstream of the trailhead before starting to fish. Wild, lonesome, it felt good to be in the back country.
I sing when I feel good and don’t think there’s anyone around to hear, and I sang out loud: “Do not for-sake meee O0o0ooh my daarrrlin…. Oh don’t e-verrr let me gO000o …” Hey. Nobody around to be offended. Right?
The fishing was good, but, weird, after awhile I started to get the feeling I was being watched. I chalked it up to the energetic nature of the day working senses that’d been shut in the cabin most of a long winter and now a bit overwhelmed by Mother Nature’s unfolding charms. I concentrated on casting the wee soft-hackle and minding the drift.
Like I said, the fishing was good. Leaning over the water releasing a nice cutthroat, I caught a flash of movement in the brush.
I stood still, scanning the woods.
There – a patch of auburn showing through a break of scrub cedars. Fur. A big animal, I was sure. Then, higher, another patch of fur showing through the greenery. It jiggled.
No. It wasn’t an elk. An elk would make a mad dash out of there with a nose full of human at this range, I reasoned. A bear. Had to be a bear. Okay no big deal, outfitting, I encounter them all the time. Not grizzlies. Black bears. Unlike grizzly bears, black bears are fairly shy and will avoid you if you respect their space, usually. The jiggling color patch was a concern. I estimated it to be about seven feet above the ground, which meant the critter it belonged to was taller than any standing black bear. I figured: yup, shit, a
grizzly, and a big one, stalking me, standing over there behind that bush inhaling my scent and licking its teeth.
“HEY YAH YEEAH!” I made a two step false charge toward it waving the flyrod over my head.
I held my breath. Thought I saw it move. But my yelling and stomping hadn’t come close to producing the affect I wanted, which was to get it to flush and run. At this point the smart thing to do would’ve been to ease back out of there, but I’d already thrown down a territorial challenge, so I figured the stalking bear might interpret my retreat as a sign of weakness, inspiring it to more aggressive stalking. While I swirled in the conundrum, the cedars quivered and out into full view stepped Lilith.
She was fully eight feet tall, and not thirty feet away, looking at me.
My mind couldn’t allow it. No. This was a thing that did not fit my reality frame. I turned my head and looked toward the stream, considered making another cast and just carrying on with the fishing, then looked back to see her still standing by the cedars.
Obviously female. She stood straight, not bent forward like an ape. Other than being eight feet tall and entirely covered with red fur except for her pink face, she looked human. Well, closely related to human. A ‘kissing cousin’, forgive the pun. The gold, almond shaped eyes possessed a considered intelligence and, something else I couldn’t immediately read. The mouth was straight and broad, showing just a hint of lips spread across the slight protrusion of a muzzle – not much of a muzzle – but a muzzle, no getting around it and… not altogether unattractive. Her breasts weren’t the shoe-sole breasts of an ape, but round, glorious basketballs capped with distended pomegranates. Her head was crowned with a maelstrom of red hair, a shade redder than the auburn tone of her fur, matted to dreadlocks, looping to below her waist. She was striking. Magnificent, really.
I was in shock and off guard when she rushed me –
Stupidly, I tried to fend her off with the antique Granger, and even though the stick was imbued with the mojo of a hundred rivers and easily worth a thousand dollars, it proved useless, a limp reed disintegrating to splinters against Lilith’s swift charge. She snatched me up, tucked me under her arm like a football and ran upstream covering impossible lengths of ground in a stride. I kicked and flailed like a crazy man – which served to bring rib-breaking pressure from the giant arm, forcing me to stop. Caught, crushed, terrorized, I flopped and dangled like a half-dead carp fated for the canning jar. Hooking up a spur canyon she proceeded uphill never breaking stride.
This was a bad dream and I couldn’t wake up. I pissed my waders.
Lilith stopped at a rock overhang near the top of the ridge. A bower of cedar branches arranged like a large nest had been laid on a level spot beneath the overhang. She dropped me into the center of the nest then scrambled back to study me, the prize.
I didn’t move.
She squatted there for a long time, watching me.
I observed her while carefully avoiding direct eye contact. Something in her attitude convinced me that she didn’t plan to kill me. If that’d been her intent she could have easily done it by the creek. Still…
Then, slow, deliberate, never taking her eyes off me, she rose to full height, stretched her arms to the sky and put her palms together. She smiled. I think. I interpreted the expression to be a smile. Then she swept her arms out to the sides, each hand assuming a strange, delicate mudra, and she began to dance, graceful as any hula girl, her hands like bird wings opening and closing, shifting through a series of mysterious poses. Something about her… she was entrancing, magnetic. I couldn’t look away. She was seducing me. I’m not completely thick, I know when I’m being seduced. The notion was terrifying, yet, the urge to jump up and run was dissolving, somehow.
Then a thought struck me and I tensed, imagining a ten foot tall jealous buck sasquatch busting from the bushes in full-cry fury, grabbing me between his thumb and forefinger and pulling off my arms and legs and all the other grippable appendages, easy as plucking petals from a daisy – he loves me… he loves me not… then pinching my head off. Any sparking aspiration to romance I might have been entertaining, maybe somewhere in some secret backroom of my mind, was iced.
Lilith began to sing as she danced, a song without words, melodic inhalations and exhalations of breath and rhythmic sighs punctuated with low whistles: “Hih hih hih sweeeeeee,” – all the while her eyes pinning me.
I tend to reason in phases. First, the reactive, presumptuous monkey-mind phase: I was past that one. I figured she wasn’t going to kill me, at least not right away.
Then the pragmatic phase: I reasoned that the beguiling Lilith was under the influence of her biological clock, ‘in season’, if you will, and there was no male sasquatch available in the territory, so I was to be That Guy.
That, leading to some considerations regarding taxonomic boundaries, transitioning me to the meeting house filled with severe Puritan ancestors who stood me on the precarious fulcrum between a sense of Darwinian duty, rooted in the pragmatic phase, and a moral dilemma, which always precedes the final phase: In which I transcend reason and surrender to The Flow.
Lilith ceased her song, stopped dancing and stood giving me the soulful eye. Then she stepped to the bower demure as a maiden, turned her back to me and sank to her knees on the cedar bed, her twin haystack bottom looming inches from my face. She smelled like a honey-glazed baked ham. The pink yin-yang between her legs blossomed to a chaotic rose before my eyes. This girl was good to go no doubt about it.
My call. I possessed the key to my own salvation. My only hope was to place it into the slot and do my level best. And I did need to get out of those wet waders…
There’s no good reason to relate the intimate details. I’ve probably divulged too much already. For those dying of curiosity, I offer that it is an actual fact, the higher primates really do practice every type of pleasuring enjoyed by folks. We shared the granola bars from my fishing vest. I was secretly proud when the energetic Lilith, at the end of my second day of captivity, succumbed to sleep. That’s when I made the getaway.
I hike in every year on the anniversary. This year I’m bringing the Snoopy pole and the usual bags of frozen berries and granola bars. I know she likes granola bars. I’ll leave the stuff at the old bower under the ledge. Never seen any sign of her since that time.
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