Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gad! Drat and Darn. Sunlight illuminated thetippet and leader, but myfingers couldn't tie the simpleknot. Not in the wind. So Iturned my back to it. Mumble, mumble. It is a simple knot. Line upabout six inches of tippet andleader, bend them into a hoopand drag the tippet and leaderend through the loop threetimes. Then pull the loop tightand clip away the loose endsclose to the knot. Simple. When I had to start over forthe fourth or 10th time, Ipaused ro mop my brow.Sadie the Dalmatian watchedfrom a few feet away. Recent knee surgery limitedher activity, so we were goingto wade the shallowTucannon River and walk 100yards to fish at the fly-fishingonly Big Four Lake. She peered at me throughpale eye lashes. Well, heck, Ithought, let's see you tie thisknot and see if you mumble. Finally, I clipped the lineends away and tied on ahare's ear nymph. I lay therod aside and pulled on thewaders to keep my feet dry. We crossed the streamwithout a hitch, but the weed-tangled path to the peninsulainto the middle of the lake ledthrough a 6-foot-wide swamp.Sadie skirted the edge of it,and I sank up to my knees. Mumble, mumble. Glassy water bordered thefinger of land, but pale greenmoss and dark millfoil lurkedbeneath the surface. A sinking nymph would snag witheach cast. But I cast anyway. Big Four, by the way, receives several plants of fisheach season, including a number of lunkers up to four orfive pounds. On opening day,fish hover like small submarines in the shallow water. It's kind of like fishing in abathtub, though. By late in theseason the fish usually haveall been caught. So it seemed on Monday.No fish hovered in the clearwater, and no feeding circlesappeared on the surface. Near the end of the peninsula, I lay my fishing vest andcamera bag on the grass andSadie waded into the water toensure I'd see no fish. I cast the nymph manytimes. After hooking 18pounds of moss and millfoil, Ireached for my vest to put ona dry fly. Seven million black antsswarmed over the vest andthe camera bag, give or take a25 or 26. I brushed at them.Hopeless. I pulled a crawly flybox from the vest, and antscrawled up my wrist. I moved the vest and thecameras about 10 feet andtied a Joe's Hopper onto thetippet. I cast several dozentimes, and when the fly hit, aswarm of tiny fish attacked it. This continued until I accepted that no hookable fishremained at Big Four. Besides, I had to rectify thoseants on my gear. Reluctantly, I picked up thevest and, to my surprise, noants remained. None on thecamera bag, either. They'd gone home. We left, too, and detouredaround the swamp. I triedfishing the river but snaggedthe fly on a tall mullien stalk. So I quit. It was 1:46 p.m. by the timeI folded away the waders andfishing gear, and I ate yogurtwith trail mix stirred into it.Sadie didn't want any. Yogurtis one thing she passes up. Yogurt and broccoli. After that, we drove up theTucannon River Road toPanjab Bridge, turned left andcontinued to road's end atSheep Creek. We parked above thebridge. Sadie, who knows dinner time like the back of herpaw, gave me that ``I'mhungry'' stare. ``Let's walk up the trail,'' Icountered. I didn't want her tostrain, but I casual walkwouldn't hurt. Not her, any way. Seven minutes later, Istubbed my toe, fell facedown and jammed my handsdown to break the fall. Oh, My! Something stabbed a holein the heel of my left hand.Tears rolled down my face. Ipressed a handkerchief tightagainst the wound while Ishuffled and groaned. Minutes passed. Sadieleaned against my right legand followed my shuffles.When I could see, I examinedthe wound: a 2-inch long crescent cut, with a flap. Dark,weedy stuff protruded. I lifted the flap and pulledout debris. The puncture waswide and one-half inch deep,at least. I pressed the handkerchieftight and stumbled up thetrail. Pain dulled to a throb. Soon, downed treesblocked Sadie's progress, andwe turned back. I paused towash my hand in SheepCreek. Hurt? Oh, my yes. I used tweezers from mySwiss Army Knife to pluckblack specks from the wound. My eyes teared, and Icouldn't pick some of them.They'd wait until I got home. At the truck and moaning, Ifed Sadie. We headed downhill slow, and a snake lay inthe road. A rubber boa. A rare snake.I lifted it carefully with myinjured hand for photos. Not a common sight, I toldSadie. And I felt better aboutthe day's disappointments.

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