I have been meaning to set this story down for a long time. Here it is to share, gratefully, for all your support. Thank-you all.
The Thuwunk Rock Pool
My tour of duty in Germany would be up in a month's time, and despite the fact I'd spent two years there, it did not seem like that much time had elapsed. Nevertheless, here I was facing my return to American soil, and being truthful with myself, the only things I would regret leaving were the many good friends I'd made, the very clean countrysides, the good food, and the stream I’d come to know and love over that time period.
The stream was not large, but sufficient enough to harbor native brown trout and stocked rainbows. It had become my home water, and as any fly fisherman knows, I had become attached to this one. I knew the good spots where the trout were ready to accept my offerings. I had explored much of it and had become familiar with it, and despite the fact that I'd been there two years, there were a few spots I had not yet explored.
My friend and fishing companion, Jan Patterson, and I decided we would take one last opportunity before my departure to fish together one last time. It would be a farewell ceremony of sorts to the water and to my good friend.
Jan was a fisherman, but not a fly fisherman when we first met. He was from Mississippi, and he knew how to catch fish on spinning gear and much simpler tackle like a cane pole. With some coaching and instruction from me, Jan quickly picked up the technique of fly casting. In the meanwhile again with my help, an order was placed to Herter's for a rod, reel, line and leaders to outfit my friend.
Over time, Jan developed into a first class fly fisherman that would give anyone a run for their money. His willingness to take what I'd told him to heart made him a tenacious and patient angler. I had observed him many times carefully stalking a good sized rainbow, which could easily be seen in the gin clear water of the stream. He was truly an angler of great ability, and I took pride in having brought him to the art of fly fishing.
On this last day of fishing in Germany for me, we decided on a spot we'd fished before. The soccer field run was a great place, and was often used by local boys to play “Foosball”. It was a crisp, clean day in late August. I took a deep breath. The scent of drying grasses filled the air and suddenly was overtaken by the smell of the water. Late summer flowers were in bloom, and their subtle colors dotted the stream edge.
“I'm going to fish my favorite spot, “ Jan said. “Is that okay with you?”
“ Sure! I'm going to move upstream and see some new water.. I'll meet you back here about eleven.”
“Good. Catch a few!”
“ You too!”
I made my way to the water and had a good look before lining my rod. I saw nothing working or signs of any fish. Making my way through some heavy brush, I came upon a run, and further up, a pool which was lined on either side with rocks of various sizes. To cut down on my silhouette, I got down low and crept up on the tail of the pool. As soon as I got closer, five or six large trout shot to the left and disappeared .
“Damn!” I said to myself.
I moved back downstream a bit and wait to see if the trout moved back into the pool. At this point in my life, I was a smoker, so I lit my pipe and settled back on the bank. How would I present the fly to these fish? What fly would I use? The questions mulled about my brain as I watched the smoke from my corncob waft into the gentle breeze. The sweet earthy smell of the MacBaren's Burley blend mingled with the dry grass scent and complimented each other.
I surmised that the presentation would be similar to that if I was fishing a dry fly, only my selection would be a wet. Even at that point in my fly fishing life, I was an avid wet fly man, finding it unappealing to have to cast upstream and combat the drag. Today, if I had any intention of fishing for these trout, I'd have to use a dry cast, perhaps, from the left side and slightly across. It was not going to be easy.
I was somewhat startled from my calculations by a rather audible “thuwunk”. I could not only hear it, but could feel it in the rocks I was sitting on. I leaned out slightly from my position to scan the pool. There, in the water, gliding toward the right side was one of the trout. It was a good sized native brown, and it took up a feeding position in the glide. I pulled my head back in, quickly.
I calmly puffed on my pipe, and waited. The “thuwunk” repeated after a short interval, and again, I checked the pool. As before, a nice brown glided into the right feeding lane, taking a position with the other trout, but slightly more downstream.
“There must be a wiggly rock that the fish are activating or tipping in the water that is making that sound and transmitting vibrations through the solid stone of stream and bank, “ I thought to myself. I sunk back into my hiding position.
I sat there puffing away and counting “thuwunks” till I counted five, and they stopped. I figured all the trout had now returned to their feeding positions. I would let them remain there another ten minutes or so while I selected a fly to show the fish.
I had been steeped in the Catskill tradition of dry flies from the time I had first started tying, however, my wet fly foundations were cultivated from Bergman's Trout, and Larry Koller's Taking Larger Trout. Both men were regular visitors to the Catskills, but they also enjoyed the wet fly as much as the dry. It was from their writings and wet fly examples that I had formed my ideas and pattern selection of wet flies.
There were myriads of great wet fly patterns whose names still strike a responsive chord to my ears and speak of days gone by, when men ventured into the great north woods to fish for trout. Names like McGinty, Parmachene Belle, Professor, Queen of Waters, Wickham's Fancy, and one of my favorites, The Leadwing Coachman. All have their honored place in fly fishing history, and in my history as well. It was this pattern I selected to make my first presentation.
I wet the fly on my tongue so it would sink as soon as it hit the water. I made the cast, while crouched low, up and slightly across. The light flip of the line brought the fly to a perfect position at the head of the feeding lane, but to my chagrin, the trout actually moved slightly to the right as the the fly glided down their left sides. I repeated the presentation with the same result. I let the fly swim downstream so I could lift it safely from the water.
“What next?” I thought to myself. I sat back on the rocks, contemplating my next move, when the answer hit me in the face. The air that day had been peppered with a scattering of white moths. As I had made my way to the pool, they had been fluttering about, but I'd paid them no mind, until now.
Once more, in the Bergman tradition, I put together what Ray had termed an “odd box”. This is where various odd, little used patterns were stored and carried in the fly vest. If the need arose, one might find an odd pattern to represent something other than a standard, well-known insect. As luck would have it there were two wet flies by the name of White Miller in the hodgepodge of tangled confusion. I extracted them from the mess, placing one in my fleece patch, while the other was tied to the tippet.
Again, I made the cast to the head of the pool, the fly landing in the correct line, but a bit further upstream. This time, I did not wet the fly, but let it float, a few minutes. It gradually took on water, and sank just as it reached the first trout in the run. Not wanting to forfeit the morsel to the other fish there, the fish took it.
My heart leaped, and I stood up, scattering the remaining fish in the pool, but I was connected to a wonderful wild brown, that burrowed deep, and fought valiantly. He could not win, for the sharp # 10 -3906 hook was fast into his jaw. I played him out carefully, lifting this 18” prize from the water. I admired him briefly-his golden butter color; his cranberry red spots. I removed the hook and carefully returned the golden river-god to his life giving water.
Satisfied, I glanced at my watch, it was 10:30, and I happily made my way downstream to meet up with Jan.
I trekked through the grass to the little orange Volkeswagen Beetle and sat on the front bumper. Jan soon emerged from the brush. He looked satisfied as well.
“Well?” I asked.
“ Did fine. I took two nice rainbows just below the little rock falls. You?”
I related my story, and Jan listened with full intensity, shaking his head yes as he pictured it in his mind's eye.
It was done. My tour was officially over. My time fishing in Germany was complete. I withdrew a small flask I occasionally carried with me and offered a sip of Jack Daniels to my friend. He gracefully accepted.
Before I sipped I said “ To good friends, fine fish and the chance to enjoy both!”
Jan said, “Amen.”
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt
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