Friday, June 22, 2012

Weekend Ten: Oddities on the Water

I've been fly fishing for the better part of 20 years, and I've seen some odd things over the years, and heard some funny stories in the process, too.

A few years ago I was fishing the Snake River outside of Jackson Hole before spring runoff when an osprey dove into the water 20 feet away and began what turned into an epic struggle with a massive Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout. The bird, talons firmly connected to flesh, was pulled into the fast water and sucked downstream.

Photo: National Image Library
Not knowing if I could help--or if I should help--I dropped my fly rod and ran along the riverbank, watching as the osprey flapped its wings furiously against the current. I don't know if the bird was simply stuck on the fish, or if it refused to give it up, but the glimpses I caught of the big cuttie showed the fish fighting furiously.

It might have lasted 10 minutes ... by the time I saw the bird finally drag itself--and the fish--out of the cold water of the Snake and onto a small gravel bar, I was a good 500 yards downstream from where it all started. Now for the heartbreak. I never found the fly rod I dropped as I gave chase.

Here are 10 other oddities reported on the river:

1) Rob Snowhite, an EMBT Twitter follower, recalled seeing a dude "catch" a four-foot-long invasive snakehead... with a pitchfork. Along the same lines, a friend of mine in DC was fishing at Chain Bridge on the Potomac when a young kid hooked up with something massive. After a spirited fight, the kid waded into the Potomac (vurp) and hefted a mighty snakehead out on the bank. Ugh, seriously? So gross.

Photo: National Image Library
2) Twitter follower John Brown was fishing from a float tube when he hooked up. He fought the fish for awhile, and then had to fight the blue heron that grabbed the fish at the end of his line.

3) Erin Block, the gifted writer of the blog Mysteries Internal (and an out-of-the-closet carp junkie), was wading a carp flat when she came upon a handgun in the water. Can you imagine the dilemma? Do you pick it up? Do you call the cops? Do you ignore it and just imagine that it was tossed into the water after a mob hit in the foothills of northern Colorado and the less you know the better? To her relief, it turned out to be a kid's toy gun. Now, as for the body she discovered on the way back to the car...

4) From the potentially terrifying to the truly scary ... Twitter follower Bob Diefenbacher mentioned a swarm of bees that descended upon him on the river. New addition to my list of Ways I Don't Want to Die: Swarmed by killer bees. It's right up there with:
  • Naked on an Asian massage table
  • Eaten by a saltwater crocodile
  • Shot dead on the banks of a foothills carp flat
Art by Daniel Eskridge
5) My buddy Tom Sadler and I were fishing the Rapidan River in Virginia last fall--the foliage was thick, the day was steamy... everything was quiet. Not knowing I was so spry and quiet on the water, I managed to walk right up behind Tom as he was fishing and unintentionally scare the hell out of him. Had he been wearing waders, he would have filled them up. "I thought you were the Shenandoah National Park version of Sasquatch," he later said, after we got his heart started again.

6) Jen Kugler Hansen and her new husband Zach Hansen were fishing in a high-mountain lake in Colorado when Zach hooked up. Then, after a short fight, the line went limp. Thinking he'd lost the fish, Zach began to reel in the line. Suddenly, his line went tight and started peeling off the reel. When he was well into his backing, and realizing he walked out into the lake over the top of his waders, Zack finally broke the critter off. Seconds later, a beaver surfaced and slapped the water with its tail. 

It's kind of fuzzy after that. Some say the beaver attacked the fish... some, like me, are convinced that Zack foul-hooked the beaver. You never know. As an aside, Zach spent the next 10 hours sick as a dog--I'm going with mad beaver disease.

7) Cameron Mortenson of The Fiberglass Manifesto was night fishing for big browns on Michigan's Au Sable. Here's the story:

"One night on the Au Sable River years ago, I was fishing after dark on the Holy Waters when the sounds of a cello began playing softly in the growing darkness. I don't think I will ever forget the haunting strings echoing through the woods and trout rising to large dry flies on that pitch black moonless night."

F'ing creepy, dude. Keep that crap to yourself from now on... that's the stuff nightmares are made of. I need to go watch Mary Poppins to get that out of my head. 

8) My pal Rich Sinatra (no relation, and I've been saying "no relation" for 20 years) was battling a 15-pound Lake Erie steelhead on a 6-weight rod. Here's the tale, unedited, uncensored. Earmuffs, Max!

"I had a 15 pound steelie on a 6-weight fly rod. Battled it for 10 minutes and the bastard did not want to come out of the rapids. It was spring and the geese were in full mating mode.
Two of them finished doing the dirty right in front of me. One went downstream a bit, cranked up to fly, and flew right into my line and snapped me off. Bastard cost me a 30-inch fish. You want hear about the time I came up on the couple humping in the woods while I was smallie fishing?"

I did. And he told me. Not for sharing.

9) Emily Blankenship, aka, The River Damsel told me of a night she spent on the Provo River in Utah--she was hoping to fish mouse patterns for big browns and rainbows. Instead, once she got into the water, someone (see No. 5, maybe?) started throwing rocks into the river from a bluff up above. Not sure what to do, Emily and her friends pulled out a cell phone and called the sheriff--who was about 30 minutes away. The rocks kept coming down, and Emily and her friends kept getting more and more frightened. Finally, one of her friends declared that he had a BB gun and wasn't afraid to use it (even though he didn't actually have one). 

I'm not sure why he started with something so small--had it been me, I would have gone straight to "Hey, Jackwagon! I have a bazooka, and I've been waiting since I got back from 'Nam to use it!" 

Apparently, in Utah, a BB gun is enough to frighten off your average Sasquatch--the rocks stopped falling, and a bit later, the sheriff and his rescue dog showed up to save the day. The "perp" was never found. Insert Twilight Zone music here...

Austin, please give the young lady
her top back. 
10) And finally, there's my buddy Austin Orr from the Texas Hill Country. Austin's quite the stick, and when asked about his weirdest fishing experience, here was his answer: 

"Caught a girl by the bikini strap one time. Not weird... just a damn good cast."

That's what I like about Texans... they're so damn humble (but I've seen Austin cast--I think he can do it). 

"That's the first thing that came to mind," he said. "She was built just right ... and she was damned impressed."

As am I. Happy weekend.


  1. Ha! Thanks Chris, honored to be among such crazy stories.

  2. Frustrated with a skinny dipper

  3. While fishing an unnamed river in Colorado at dusk, I hooked a bat. I'm rather superstitious and afraid of bats. As I ran to get away, I couldn't figure out why he was still coming after me and I wasn't getting away from him until I remembered that he was still hooked to the business end of my rod. I dropped the rod. Luckily the rod was still there minus the bat the next morning. Good stuff Chris.

  4. This was brilliant, Chris. What hoots.

  5. Bob... thanks for helping me out! Erin... what did you do with the body? ;)

  6. One summer evening on the Farmington I stayed past dark hoping to tangle with some of the large Browns. I was fishing fast water and totally separated from everything by the rush of the water. After a bit I heard a warbling whistle upstream joined by several other warbling whistles. Wondering if coldwater alligators whistled before they struck I backed quickly out of the water and switched on my flash light. The whistling grew louder and and shortly a family of ducks swam by whistling downstream into the darkness. Creepy.

  7. Nice, I wish I knew you were looking for stuff like this. Mine most odd story was probably falling through a wooden bridge.

  8. Now, that is some funny stuff. Although, mine was a bit scary at the time...I laugh now. And ask me if I have night fished since...

  9. Great report and photos, an enjoyable read all round. Nice to see you posting again
    I love carp fishing and your blog is fabulous and great and very informative for who intrusting in fishing. I really enjoy your posts keep it up and I am waiting for more pictures keep it up and thanks for sharing.