How to Low Hole Somebody>>
It’s all about etiquette, ethics, and general courtesy. Lest we forget, ethical doesn’t mean moral, and if ever some old boy low holes you morality has little do with the ethical beating he deserves. Of course, if some old boy is standing waist deep in the secret spot you hiked two miles to get to morality has little to do with your ethical duty to low hole him. Everything, for everyone, is about perspective.
The sun was pounding down. The heat radiated like an oven from the black boulders of volcanic rock that filled the gaps between the sage brush. I could feel every inch of my body being cooked. Even the little strip of bare skin beneath the brim of my hat, and above the rim of my sunglasses was burning. My sunscreen was evaporating, my lips chapping, and my belief in global warming growing with every step I took down the deserted ATV trail.
That open plane of scrub brush, and ash, had been bitter cold merely three weeks prior when I’d hiked the mile into Paradise Creek only to find it blown out by runoff. My ignorant Midwestern attitude had doomed me; runoff is something I’d never had to compete with, otters, other fisherman, even bait slingers sure, but not runoff. Still, the pains of the past are easy to forget when the present is just as bad. Ah, the good ole days, when I was merely tromping through eight inches of wet snow, and sweating pellets of ice.
The trail T’d at the creek. One path went upstream, the other down. Upstream was a perfect valley of green grass and wildflowers that gave the creek its name, but downstream was the shade of an impenetrable canopy of massive trees I won’t claim to know the name’s of. The best fishing was upstream, but the fishing downstream could still hold the interest of any reasonable angler. Upstream would be the easier hiking, but I’m young, and there are worse ways to die than starving to death with a broken leg in the nondescript canyon of Paradise Creek. Downstream it is, I thought, better to die young than live old enough to wish you had.
Am I suicidal? Depends on how well the fish are biting.
Another mile downstream found me in an opening where the creek had been slowed by a dozen failed beaver dams courtesy of the local beaver who appeared to be, while not the greatest engineer, an enthusiastic one. I sat on a large log he’d draped across one channel of the stream, picked a hopper from my box, and admired his stifling determination.
The mile back to the open plane of sun baked dull green fished well. Not so incredible as to brag about, and not so poorly as to write about. There was no great moment of revelation, nor a catastrophic failure for comedic relief, or metaphoric garbage. The trout were where they should have been, ate what they should have eaten, and didn’t make a fool of me any more than usual. I was almost content as I came to the final cascade of water that represented the end of the meadow, and beginning of the canyon. I was almost willing to call it a day early, save myself from dehydration, and bask in the glory of my success while eating ice cream out of the tub, and watching a terrible British comedy on Netflix.
But I couldn't, not with those two guys kneeling in the meadow upstream myself. They were keeping pace with me perfectly, just out of view, and had I not made to hike out I wouldn’t have noticed them slinking around the next bend in the river. The bright logos afront their crisp flat billed truckers kept flashing my way as they continued to peak over their shoulder. And the thick air of paranoia that they radiated said it all.
They had bypassed my truck at the trailhead, probably convincing themselves that I was merely a hiker, or an artist, or just flat lost. They'd most likely parked upstream in the meadow, hiked down until they found me, then simply begun to fish back upstream. It was a trick as old as time, invented by the cavemen, improved on the Nile by the Egyptians, and perfected by the disciples. Part of me was furious, but an equal share had to offer up some respect for a fisherman so entranced with trout as to easily throw out any ethics, morality, and general courtesy they typically pretend to possess. Still, two can play that game.
I found the trail leading across the open plain to the truck and begun the long hike back with accelerated urgency. Already dangerously low on fluids, and teetering on the point of dehydration I was motivated by the cooler of lukewarm water at the end as much as anything. Each step was laid out before me; between this rock, on this rock, watch that hole, jump over that one. My head, and heart pounded with the pulsating rays of the sun slicing through my sunglasses. Two more hills, small mountains, to the truck, then one more hill, a small mountain, to the truck. Finally the truck, it was in sight, perhaps a blue spec amongst the sage, but in sight.
I opened the door, and slid my short rod in, angled from the backseat to the front. I walked to the bed, opened the cheap Igloo cooler behind the cap, and pulled out three bottles of water. I sucked one down before the truck was in gear, the second as I flew across the tops of the wash-boarded road, and the third when I’d pulled in next to the black sedan in the meadow. Another was stuffed in my sling pack, and yet another in my back pocket.
My three weight, again, found its way in my hand with the heat stroke, and annoyance clouding my typically level headed sentiment of indifference. I began to fish the creek back downstream from the parking lot, towards the marauding anglers below. The egregious low holing tourists, had themselves been deceived. And I caught trout from the untouched water for a half mile before the two men below rounded the hill nearest me with hoppers on the water, and jaws on the dusty, barren, ground.
I flopped a soft hackle into the hole I was staring through while attempting to innocently ignore the goons walking by. I mended my line into the current. I wiggled my line against the cut bank, one strip, than another. It went heavy, and I set the hook. The unmistakable “thsssst” of fly line ripping off water caught the attention of the crooked con men now a mere ten yards away. I turned the cutthroat into open water, and looked back at the hustlers, shrugged my shoulders ever so slightly, then turned back to the fish. A smile tugged gently at my lips.
It's a fisherman, low hole, fisherman world out there. Don’t tempt me.