Trout Attack! – Memorial Day Weekend – Beth’s Turn to Talk…
by Beth Hardy Duff
So after a second day of instruction with Ron and a very successful one too, I might add, Paul and I decided to strike out on our own since it was time to “test drive” our new “schoolin”. We drove a short way from our camper and ended up at Roundhouse Shoals. This is another beautiful view of the White River and one we had noticed before. (Frankly, I don’t believe there are any “unattractive” views of the White River). Roundhouse is just across the road from where we pick up our free firewood from the truss company. Hey – it’s free and it burns, don’t laugh. We’ve actually grilled steaks over a “truss wood fire” when the electric fire starter for our Big Green Egg sputtered out and died one evening leaving us with a “cold egg”.
Anyhow, we found a place to park Jane (our beloved airport junker – she’s another story all by herself) and got out of the car. I knew it was a long way down to the river from there but had no idea how steep the descent actually was until I stood above and peered down. It reminded me of the Mountain Slide I had gone on at Camp DeSoto as a girl – the only requirements for it were that you be a Senior Camper and that you wear a “nearly destroyed” pair of blue jeans because they’d surely be, once you tore the seat out of them sliding down the rocky, muddy mountainside. The only thing I had in common with this view and that slide was the fact that now I’m really a Senior!
As we were looking over the situation and considering tying a rope off to Jane and letting ourselves over the edge, mountain-climber style, we spied another person just a few yards up from us. Paul suggested we go ask them where the best spot to get down to the water’s edge was located. When we came up on the vehicle, a person was standing behind it obviously getting ready to fish. As we walked around the side, Paul said “Good Morning” to which a lady turned around and said, “Well Good Morning!” I have to admit, even I was taken aback when she greeted us. Not just by the fact that she totally looked the part of a very well practiced fly fisher-person, but that she also was strikingly beautiful – complete with perfect makeup, hair, hat, waders, etc. I didn’t exactly notice Paul’s reaction to her stunning good looks, but I’m certain he did notice, although he didn’t act that way. Kudos to him for not gawking and hollering, “DA-YAM”! Thankfully, he most always manages quite a bit of self-control when necessary; that’s one reason I married him. He asked her if she knew of a good way to get down to the river’s edge and she simply replied, ”Well, there just isn’t a good one” and sorta laughed. She sincerely meant that. Then, glancing at our brand-spanking-new wading boots, she asked us if we had studs on our boots. Our answer was, “No” and probably should have been followed up by, “well, not just yet…” Thankfully, she was very kind and gave us the benefit of the doubt by not just saying, “How green are you at this? Or better yet, “Should you two be out alone?” We continued our conversation and divulged the obvious by telling her we had just had a couple lessons with Ron (whom she knew) and that we were truly “newbies” at this new sport. We introduced ourselves and we found out that her name was T-Bird. Don’t know what her “given” name is, but I have to believe that her nickname does truly fit her well. She began to show us the flies in her fly box and it was quite an impressive collection. Lots of things we had seen before, even more we had not. What were even more impressive were her fingernails! When I say this gal had fingernails, I DO MEAN NAILS! They were really, really long and looked incredibly strong. And these were definitely homegrown, no sculptured ones for her! WOW! I began thinking that maybe these must be her secret of how she scaled her way down to the river and back up again. Anyhow, as she began to talk with us, we quickly found out that she was the real deal – she absolutely knew her stuff. She pointed out to us that the bottom of the river where we were planning our “trout attack” was very slick rock and dangerous to navigate especially without studs or a wading staff. Ron had already warned us about the slick blue rock. We had looked quickly at the river’s bottom when we first got there, but not well enough to have noticed the infamous blue green rock we had been warned about. Note to self, make sure you take a better “look-see” next time. Hmmm… so after about two seconds consideration, we decided maybe this area was a bit more advanced than we were just yet and might be better saved for a day fishing with Ron.
We continued our chat and she gave us more advice and helpful hints and was truly a fine ambassador for the sport of fly-fishing. She told us she had been fly-fishing for 12 years and tying flies for 5 years. Once again, I sneaked another look at her nails and thought, I couldn’t even tie my shoes with those things! Growing nails is just one of those things I’ve never been able to do and frankly, I just haven’t let that bother me that much. T-Bird then gave us some safer suggestions as to where we might try fishing on our own. One of her suggestions was to try the public access at the State Park below Bull Shoals. She also made several suggestions of flies to try there, too. So we thanked her for the wealth of information she had shared with us and for steering us “newbies” away from Roundhouse. Regardless of whether she told us all this to shoo us off her favorite fishin’ hole or just because she didn’t want to practice advanced lifesaving skills today, we were thrilled to learn all we did and happy to try out a safer option for fishing. So off we headed to Dally’s Fly Shop to pick up some of the newly suggested ammo for our “trout attack”.
We had a great drive to the Bull Shoals White River State Park. This place was packed with people who had decided to camp or visit for the day – remember this WAS Memorial Day weekend! We found the public access area and hopped out of the car. Right away we found a great, safe way to get down to the river and fantastic benches to sit on & “suit up” and something else that didn’t delight us all that much – this place was also everyone else’s idea of a favorite fishing spot. The number of other fly-fishing enthusiasts submerged “bootie deep” in the river numbered about twenty (that we could see at first glance)! GOSH! Did EVERYBODY have to show up here today? This sight reminded me of the deep sea fishing “party” boats you go on when you can’t afford a real charter boat trip. The “ding-ding” of the boat’s bell that signified you to fling your line overboard as you stand elbow to elbow with massive numbers of stinky, sweaty “city folk fishermen” who know nothing about fishing to the “ding ding” of the bell that signified you to pull in your line which then began a frenzy of tangled lines, crying children and endless streams of obscenities. This was NOT what we were looking for, but we kept looking at the anglers who stood fairly close to each other and they were successfully casting their fly rods, not tangling up with each other and actually exhibiting some semblance of etiquette toward each other. Hmmm..as we stood there a little longer, we noticed one catch a trout, then another one, and then another one. Well, maybe it’s worth a try, we decided and so we donned our waders and boots and trudged into the water.
Fearing we might blow our cover of “newbie fly fisherpersons”, we carefully trudged in and stayed back from the massive line of fishermen, not wanting to disturb them and began to cast. After a few casts, we managed to remember how to do this new skill and got more comfortable. After about fifteen minutes, one of the guys in front of us, turned around and said he was going to have to leave and told us to move up to his spot, he had definitely had some luck there.
We thanked him profusely and began to move. Paul, being my sweet husband that he is, encouraged me to move ahead and take the newly freed spot and said he would move up on my left. I trudged forward several more feet to where the former fisherman had been and began to cast. Although the person closest to me on my right had looked way too close at first, he now didn’t seem to crowd me as much. He may have noticed my real skill level and taken a couple of serious steps to the right in self-preservation, but regardless, I had some room now. One of the first things I had noticed right away about this area was that the water was considerably colder than where we had been earlier. This was because we were closer to the dam and the water hadn’t had traveled far enough yet to warm up much. Regardless, the 90-degree sunshine actually felt good and with the cold water cooling off the rest of us, the temp was just about as perfect as it could be.
I was the first one lucky enough to have my fly bitten by a trout that day. It absolutely made my day! I worked with the fish and played him down well. Since I still didn’t have a fly-fishing vest yet and all the necessary (or unnecessary) accoutrements, I hollered over to get Paul to come net the fish for me, which he cheerily did. I said, “It’s a nice one, wanna keep it?” to which my husband replied, “No, I don’t want to just keep one fish to clean, so throw it back.” I’m sure my face looked like the little girl who’d just dropped her lollipop in the sand pile. “Oh, well, okay,” so I let my newly prized possession down into the water and he happily swam away. So I casted out again and was just getting ready to recast when another trout took my line. “Woo Hoot! This is really getting to be fun!” I said. I wasn’t quite clear on what Paul said, but it didn’t matter, I was having a ball! So I worked this fish down also and Paul netted this one for me too. I said, “Well, since it does appear that we are going to catch fish today and the freezer is officially out of trout, let’s keep this one.” Paul obliged, so we tied him off to the stringer. I did offer to have MY FISH tied off to MY SELF, but Paul dutifully tied the stringer off to himself and walked back over to his spot. I began casting again and caught another one – it seemed as though I had a fabulous fish magnet on the end of my tippet. In fact, it was one of the suggestions that T-Bird had given us that morning that we had just purchased at Dally’s. “Ms Nails” really did know her stuff! Paul was not fishing with the same fly as I was, but was sure luck would find him soon, especially with the look of determination (or was that consternation) on his face.
With each fish I pulled in, it seemed it took Paul a wee bit longer to make it over to me and net my fish. I did thank him kindly every time he came over and less and less was said by him (that I could understand anyway) to me. On about the fifth fish, I thought, maybe I should just play this one down for a little while and not say anything right away since he had not even made it back to his spot yet. As I glanced over at Paul, I noticed he was not casting, but attempting to fix or cut away a wad of knotted line of indeterminate proportion. The day was not going like he had planned, but it was going. As I began to look away from that sad sight, he looked up & saw that I had another fish on the line. I grinned and his shoulders just sort of fell, but he didn’t say another word; he just made his way over to me and quietly put this one on the stringer too. After that fish, things began to settle down a little bit and Paul did manage to get the chance to cast unbothered for a little while – but only a little while.
From his left, I could see about 5 or 6 children, ranging in age from about 4 to 14. A few of them had rods in hands and the others were making their way around to the river’s edge in front of us. The next thing I know, one of the boys casted a lure the size of a bowling ball into the water landing about 2 feet from where Paul’s fly lay. I couldn’t help but laugh at the endless circus of antics going on. Children were screaming and thrashing about in the water, some were throwing mud and everyone was having a good ole time. Everyone except Paul! There couldn’t have been a fish left anywhere close to that area even if it had been blind and deaf as Helen Keller! Paul just looked at me and it was hard to contain myself. At this point, God intervened and two of the fishermen to my right decided to leave so I graciously moseyed over to the right to allow him room to move away from the growing water fracas.
After changing over to the same fly I was using and managing to catch 3 himself, Paul mentioned that we should be fishing “barbless” so that we could let some of the smaller fish go without hurting them. I said, “Well okay, that’s good, we’ll do that.” Before I knew it, Paul had grabbed my fly and had “bent down the barbs” so I was now appropriately fishing “barblessly”.
For some reason, I lost the next four fish I caught. I’m not sure but I’m thinking instead of bending the barbs, he simply clipped the end off my hook.
For what it’s worth, I now have my own vest, but payback’s gonna be Hell!
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