My mind was wandering to far off places as I pulled the trailer off the launching ramp. I just launched at the top of the Norfork around 8:00 am last Friday when a fisherman wading near the ramp cried “Aw…. come on….I need a bite!” I didn’t know it then, but those words would haunt me later.
I was fishing with a very, longtime client of mine. Frank and his grandson Cortland. Frank is an “Ole Rebel” originally from a small town in Mississippi. He actually went to Ole Miss and even graduated! Cortland decided to become a State Bulldog….much to the chagrin of his grandfather. Both reside in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Frank and Cortland were ready to catch as many fish as possible in the time frame provided.
Nymphing is the game when you are going for numbers. I rigged both of their rods with an egg and a midge and set them around 5 feet deep. The first hour went by very slowly….with one bite. I headed for faster currents in the catch and release area, and shifted to an egg and a worm, and went deeper, down to 7 feet. I did have split shot on the rig as well. By now Frank was teasing me the way he always does when fishing gets slow….oh did mention we had 2 fish caught? and it was 11:30 am!!!! “There ain’t no fish in this river….why ain’t we on the White?” asked my southern friend. Cortland, grinning and chuckling.
We broke for lunch with maybe 5 caught. They were all rainbows, but 3 of the 5 were better than average. The worm and egg producing almost equally. The skunk was off the boat….which always makes me happy! We took a long lunch, traded stories and entertained ourselves, and hoped our luck would change.
Well….my luck changed. I was down below the catch and release area past the handicap access when something happened. Cortland had a rainbow on, and I was just keeping the boat steady, this is the “fun part” and I wanted to net that fish. When all of a sudden my 9 foot, custom made, 7 inch blade oar with the counter balanced handle got caught on the bottom of the river. I jerked it up, but just far enough to get past the wrapping on the oar, which by the way….keeps my oar “in” the “oarlock!” The Fork was running one generator around 3000 cubic feet per second. Well….my oar began to flex at the shaft, and when it did, it flung itself into the river!!!!! It was a mighty splash. My heart sank…but then…I saw the blade rise out of the river like Excalibur! I reached…and reached….but I could not grasp it! I got up to get to the motor running,(Cortland had lost the fish, due to the boat spinning and the fish clinging to the bottom of the boat….so it was MY fault.) but watched in horror as it slipped beneath the waves! I will not repeat what I actually said, but rest assured it was “R” rated. I felt like Tom Hanks when he had lost his companion “Wilson” in the movie “Castaway.” There was a moment of sadness and regret among the crew. I got on the motor and we continued on….not allowing this tragedy to end our fun.
We caught a few fish but it was still slow. Frank entertained himself, and Cortland by poking fun at me every now and then. When it was over he put his arm around my shoulder and told me, “We always have fun with you Kev, whether the fishing is hot, or slow, thank you.” “Oh, and I hope you find that oar.”
To all my friends, guides and non guides, if you find my oar…..give it back!!! I already ordered one….but would like a spare!
Yankee Troutbum, Kevin Brandtonies
K.O. Brandtonies ON THE RISE GUIDE SERVICE