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  #201 (permalink)  
Old 04-23-2014, 06:04 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Sometime in the coming hours, be it this morning or the waning light of evening, I will make a return trip to the cabin known as "Trail's End," and lay out a few more wooden chunks of dried and ready to float river-wood, all adorned with de-hooked "favorite flies," and all destined to be part of Flotilla II, the Opening Day release.

As it is with the memory-laden members of the "Pre-Season" flotilla of recall and remembrance, each carries its own unique set of initials, and each is adorned with the most specific of "payloads," if you will. Beyond their outward similarities, however, the two tribute collections break from their parallel roads and head off in their own respective directions.

As many of you know, the "Day Before The Opener" release of Flotilla I has long been a tradition of remembering those we've lost... the family and friends who've gone on ahead to fish the most heavenly streams and rivers. As the afternoon grows late on this coming Friday, the old "derricked dip net" configuration will swing its load out over the river and gently release its contents into the currents.

The first-light hours of The Opener, however, will see yet another, smaller armada given to the river's currents. Where the first release carries with it a more somber note, Flotilla II will bring with it the signs of hope for the season ahead and a commitment to doing things right and in a way that would do our elders proud. The release of Flotilla II will be nothing short of a reaffirmation process-- of days spent in waders and currents, of wielding a fly rod for the sheer joy of doing so, and of lives lived well as dyed-in-the-wool "fly-wranglers..."

In the years ahead, I sincerely hope that "Flotilla II" becomes a "new" tradition in its own right, one that renews our footing in this river called "life, and one that serves to complement the pre-season release long known as the flotilla...
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  #202 (permalink)  
Old 04-26-2014, 06:06 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The weather's somber lead-gray clouds seemed appropriate yesterday as I stood in the light, but steady rain and watched the ramped-up flow of a river still running on the high side, and the constant drip of water falling from the brim of my old Filson Packer hat. The "derricking" rig was in place and ready, and the dip net hanging from its far end sagged but a little from the weight of "Flotilla I." All that remained was for the last of the group to make their arrival, and we would follow again the tradition that has long been a moment of recognition, if you will, that occurs in the final hours just before every Opening Day.

It wasn't long before the sound of a truck slowly making its way along the two-track was universally heard among those already gathered at the river's edge. Greetings exchanged after the arrival, we stood in the chilled rain for a moment of silence and to remember, before the dip net was swung out and over the AuSable and eased down into the river. And, in an almost slow-motion sort of release, the floating tributes to friends and family now gone each found their way into the flowing waters, settling into the currents and starting their downstream journey.

We all stood and watched the staggered collection of pieces of river wood and their individual "cargo" for as long as was possible, until the last of them disappeared around the bend just below "Trail's End." No one spoke in those final moments, and the only sounds made were those coming from the surrounding treeline's bird populations, and the relentless drops of a steady rain.

Almost in unison, we turned and headed back to our respective vehicles, with the promises made of attendance to one more occasion that will occur within the next few hours. Where the late afternoon release yesterday was one of tribute and remembrance, the debut of "Flotilla II" will mark the start of a new tradition. This morning's release will be heavily salted with "hope"--hope for a safe and enjoyable season ahead, hope that the Opener will be kind to one and all anglers, and hope that we will always remember those who once saw fit to lead us to the river's edge, and helped us all wade into the waters of fly fishing.

I can think of no better "new" tradition to kick off on this morning...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 04-26-2014 at 11:13 AM.
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  #203 (permalink)  
Old 04-27-2014, 03:47 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

It never ceases to amaze me how far the pendulum of a mood can swing in the shortest of time spans. Late Friday afternoon, as the memorials known as "Flotilla I" were released to the river currents, the occasion was recognized for what it truly was-- a time for reflection, and a few moments for remembering. The overcast skies and light, but steady rain seemed an appropriate backdrop...

Come Saturday morning, as a new tradition was about to be kicked off with the launching of "Flotilla II," the mood of the day was anything but somber. The release of the second group of floating tribute flies carried with them the hopes, aspirations and good thoughts for the season to come, all of which coincided with breaking skies and a momentary strike of sunlight slanting through the treeline. It was Opening Day at long last, and anything now seemed possible.

As the "fly-wranglers" in the group each headed out for their own "Opening Day" rituals, Jesse and I headed for a certain spot on the river that has been a long-standing traditional stretch for us to fish on the Opener. She hasn't missed an Opening Day trek with Dear Old Dad... ever! And, this year was no exception-- college exams or not.

Over the course of the next hour or two, Dear Old Dad was honored by a hook-up with a very near-sighted 12-inch brown, while Jesse put on a casting-- and catching --clinic. True to form, her skills bore none of the rust exhibited by Dear Old Dad's casting(?) style, and she flat-out put the Old Man to shame.

Still, that's OK by me. It was a joy to watch from a fatherly perspective. And, seeing Jesse work her magic with a fly rod in hand and graciously conduct herself astream in every way imaginable did me proud, even if I was "out-fished" by a 3 to 1 margin...
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  #204 (permalink)  
Old 04-30-2014, 06:16 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The "Montgomery" Trout...

It was cold at the river's edge-- overcast to the point of near darkness, and boasting an ongoing rain driven by 30+ mph winds that took on the feel of needles whenever it hit exposed skin. Yet, there I stood in the stormy gale, with an old bamboo 6-wt. in hand and a well-stocked fly vest from the former Abercrombie and Fitch New York store that had been made long before Gore-tex became a household name, and one that has seen its share of better days.

No matter... it was appropriate for the morning's "mission," as was the rod with a set in its tip that pointed Northeast when the rod was situated due North. All that was left to do was the tying on of "The Wonder," a "special" fly whose origins and materials list are known only to a handful of anglers who once called "Trail's End" their official place of residence, come the Spring and Summer months of each year. And, those who now remain aren't talking, as all were sworn to secrecy years ago...

As the tippet knot slowly tightened against the eye of "The Wonder" fly, I took stock of the area. To the smallest detail, it looked exactly as I had figured it would, having read its description and location within the pages of the personal river journals of the late Montgomery Jackson. And, there, tight against a small switchback in the river, was the tangle of twisted limbs that was the holding area of "The Montgomery Trout," a fish of legend and lore, and one that had eluded the late Montgomery Jackson's best streamside efforts.

As "The Wonder" fly settled on the water some 20 or so feet above the trout's hold, I followed its progress in the slow water near the log jam, trying to detect movement-- any movement --in the dark depths of the swirling river. The fly took something of the same float course in each of the 17 passes that came after the initial cast, all eliciting the same lack of response. It was in preparation for the next attempt that I began to understand the naming of a fly only fished in that particular spot, as I "wondered" if "Montgomery's Trout" still called home the tangle across the way.

It was on the 23rd "cast and float" when the sub-surface explosion occurred and the line came screaming off the reel. As I was guilty of letting my attention wander, I didn't see the actual "take," only the cascading aftermath, the groaning of an aging rod that has seen precious little action since the passing of the late Montgomery Jackson, and the sounds of a reel fighting to slow what felt like a runaway freight train.

Over the next few minutes, the tightened connection between angler and trout traced its random path of escape from one side of the river to the other, and even a few seconds of "sulking" by the trout in the deepest part of the run, as if figuring out its next move.

And, through it all, I caught glimpses of the fish that were a bit distorted by the moving water, but a glimpse or two, nonetheless. It was a brook trout, one whose overall length appeared to exceed any description including the phrase "fair-sized," with colors to match. At last, I had seen that which I had only imagined-- "Montgomery's Trout."

With that realization came the release of pressure against the rod and a slack line as well. As quickly as it unexpectedly began, the slug-fest was over, and a truly slimed and mangled "Wonder" fly remained hanging from the business end of the tippet. The "Montgomery's Trout" was gone, but the soul-satisfying moments remained...

As I filled in the lines of my own fishing journal this morning, I found myself sitting at the tying desk with more questions than answers. Was that THE fish? Could it still be alive? And, most importantly, was I disappointed in the outcome of the battle? After a moment or two, the answers in their required order were "Yes," "Maybe," and "No." After all, in my mind, the brook trout that lives beneath the tangle truly is "Montgomery's Trout," and I'm good with that...
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  #205 (permalink)  
Old 04-30-2014, 06:24 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Fishing brings relationships together. My sons, 24 and 21, still get a few chances a year to fish with me. Words are not often spoken, but just the time on the river with those you love is something I will always treasure. Jerry I appreciate the thoughts you have shared and reflection.
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  #206 (permalink)  
Old 04-30-2014, 03:45 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

troutn,

The thread known as "I Met Myself Last Night..." began as a celebration of a truly unique gift-- the late Montgomery Jackson's journals of the life and times of your truly. After all, how often does a man get the opportunity to see himself through the grandfatherly eyes of another-- the good, the bad, and the moments when he surpassed his own expectations. In reading the journals and their liberal salting of the gentle opinions of the late Montgomery Jackson, I believe that I've become a man who continually strives to be better each day-- or my favorite description, "an ongoing work in progress..."

And, since the arrival of the journals, the gifts to me via the late Montgomery Jackson have grown and expanded to include "Trail's End" and all that it entails. The aging cabin has brought focus and a purpose to my daily life, one that transcends my cancer battles and the loss of two daughters. In leaving "Trail's End" to me, I like to think that he entrusted me as its caretaker, someone who would preserve its sporting legacy and make sure that the memories and what the cabin represents ultimately became part and parcel of the life of his grandson-- Montgomery Jackson III. It's been a responsibility that I've enjoyed to the fullest-- a God-send, if you will...

Beyond that, however, "Trail's End" is where I spent a lot of my years earning my outdoor "chops," if you will. Be it fly-fishing, fly-tying or even upland bird-hunting, the late Montgomery Jackson and his "cronies" all made sure that my knowledge was gained the old-fashioned way. And, for that, "Trail's End" forever will be part of my sporting soul, as the days and people remembered continue to live on within the walls of the old riverside cabin...

Fish always with your boys when time permits, my friend, just as I did and continue to do with my daughters. Those moments add a richness to our sport that comes from the most special of places...
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  #207 (permalink)  
Old 05-04-2014, 12:08 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

They stand together in the shallows, one making every attempt to learn the proper way to wield a fly rod, the other a mere foot or two off the child's left side. To the driftboats cutting through the high water, they must appear an odd pairing, as the height and age disparities are obvious, even to the most casual of observers. Still, it's obvious that the twosome is oblivious to the passer-by, each completely engrossed in their well-defined roles as "teacher" and "student."

I sat on an old wooden stump near enough to the riverside and watched as the twosome pushed aside wind gusts that left a chill in their wake and a sky filled with gray clouds and the potential for rain or snow, all in an effort to lay out that one perfect cast. The younger of the two asked all of the right questions as she struggled with her arm position and timing, while the older "teacher" gently encouraged without criticism or judgment. And, as I looked on over the next 30 or so minutes, the wisdom of this style of teaching became readily apparent.

It didn't take but a bit of practice under the watchful eye of the teacher before the younger angler was laying out a series of impressive short, but very precise casts. The metronome-like rhythm of waiting for the back cast to straighten before powering into the forward cast only became more pronounced as the arm radius tightened to an acceptable arc of more arm, and less wrist, and each cast soon became a little longer than the one before it. With sufficient practice, the realization that there was potential aplenty to go around was deeply etched in the smiles on both of their faces.

As the lessons went on, the winds began picking up steam and added to the declining temperatures and the overall "chill factor." Packing it in, the twosome stepped onto the riverbank and made their way up the hill, chatting as they went and acknowledging my presence as they passed by. It did my old heart good to see a young, but experienced angler passing on the benefit of a certain depth of knowledge about the sport of fly-fishing, and doing it in such a way as to add another convert to everything "fly."

And, to be honest with you, the fact that the "teacher" calls me "Dad" and the student refers to me as "Pops" didn't hurt, either...
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  #208 (permalink)  
Old 05-08-2014, 05:01 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The thunder clap rattled the windows with the authority of a storm front riding low and just above the treetops, only a second or two before the lightning lit up the surrounding woodlands as if daylight had come a few hours early. Now fully awake with his mind up and running at full speed, he left the restful confines of the bedroom, turned on the coffee pot and made ready for a few hours at the bench, as the ongoing downpour would make the river "unfishable," at least in the short term.

As the roll-top's opening revealed the fact that he'd left an impressive pile of flies scattered atop the desk and the interior desk light still burning. A creature of "habit"-- a few bad, said "the girls" on occasion, but most good --he started the "prep work" for the morning's tying. Finished flies were sorted by size and pattern and dropped into their respective slots in the aging plastic storage boxes that also graced the desk. And, as he worked, the clock reminded him of the early hour-- 4:15 AM, to be exact.

With the desk-top cleared and a steaming mug of coffee within reach, he slid his vise over to its usual front and center position. Then, he hesitated, for reasons he couldn't begin to explain. Moments passed before "Old Reliable"-- his nickname for his vise --was pushed back and away, only to be replaced with the cumbersome, shrouded occupant of his bottom left desk drawer-- "her vise."

Pulling the cover from its place, the Dyna-King Barracuda slowly came into view. Once, it belonged to a young girl who never missed a chance to tie a fly with Dear Old Dad, no matter the odd hour. Always, she had sat in a high-back wooden chair just to his right, each of them working from a joint collection of materials and hooks. The twosome had talked at will while still being focused on the matter at hand-- tying up a fair pile of flies.

After her passing, "her vise" had found its way into the aforementioned drawer, and the chair had come to rest in another room. This morning, with "her vise" in place and her chair again to his right side, he wrapped hooks like there was no tomorrow, sifting through myriad feathered necks and saddles until he'd found just the right feathers for the pattern at hand. Once satisfied with his selection, he proceeded to tie, just for the sheer fun of it...

And, he remembered... Then, he sat at his computer and told many of his "fishing buds" that he still mourns her passing, yet chose to celebrate her life once again on a morning fit only for tying a few flies, and "remembering...
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  #209 (permalink)  
Old 05-10-2014, 02:12 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Come the twilight hours of this day, Saturday, May 10th, I will take my place atop the front steps of the cabin known as "Trail's End." As is my way on any given day, I will put a match to a bowlful of my favorite pipe tobacco blend, listen to the river sounds, and enjoy the tail end of a beautiful Spring afternoon, if for no other reason than just to "be there."

It never ceases to amaze me what a man can see when he throttles back to ponder things from a good vantage point, and he does so while looking in all of the right places. As the light of day slowly gives way to the subtle onset of nightfall, the bare treelines still track the sun's descent in an almost clock-like fashion, the shadows shifting their positions as the daylight fades. And, always, there are the whitetails that come out of the uplands to drink at the river's edge.

In a world that seldom slows for anything any longer, it falls to us all to slow the pace on occasion, just to catch our breath and collect our thoughts, and determine the future courses we will take, and the choices we will make. Will there be fishing tomorrow? Will that latest "customized" variation of an old pattern still be as good as the original, or even come close to its effectiveness? The list is nearly endless in its possibilities...

After an hour or two of holding down the boards on the porch steps alone, My Significantly Better Half and daughter Jesse will join me at "Trail's End"-- Ms Debbi to check on the cabin's interior, and Jesse to renew an old acquaintance with a trout or two who frequent the horseshoe bend in the river below. And, as for me? I fully intend to hold my position and take it all in, and just be there...

Tonight, that will be more than enough for me...
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  #210 (permalink)  
Old 05-15-2014, 04:39 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

In the last hours of night, just before first light begins to break along the eastern horizon, there is a great sense of peace and tranquility that presides over each movement of the clock hands. If you've read any of the preceding posts, then you know that "first light" and the twilight hour rank as my two favorite times of day. On the opposite side of the coin, however, the last hour or two of the darkness before the dawn hold a special place, one that's all their own...

And, it's the aforementioned peace and tranquility that draw me with purpose to be up at these hours. With a pair of lights illuminating the top of my tying desk, my fly production tends to rise proportionately to my intake of coffee combined with the occasional pull on one of my favorite pipes. Hooks are dubbed and hackled with an easy sort of precision, thereby setting the table for my tying later in the morning as the daylight comes on strong.

This morning differs little, really, other than I'm up just to be up and enjoying the pre-dawn darkness. The tying desk has been made ready, and within the hour, it will see its share of dubbing boxes, hackle pieces, and hair trimmings. For now, however, my settling into the chair at my desk is on hold. There is a more pressing need at this moment, one that I believe is in need of being pushed to the front of the "priorities" list.

When the coffee is finished and ready, I intend to step outside, strike a match to the old Coleman lantern and take a short but fulfilling walk to the river's edge. After yesterday's seemingly endless battery of tests at the hospital, I need to top off the peaceful tranquility of this early hour with a heavy dose of "river music" to set things right.

Most days, it amazes me still how reassuring the sounds of currents rushing past the house can be, even when the river is beyond one's sight. To me, it's all about having faith...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 05-15-2014 at 10:39 AM.
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