Following Through

by | Sep 1, 2021 | 31 comments

This morning should have been like any other. Kill the alarm and hate life for the first five minutes as my body begrudgingly catches up to the will of ambition. Coffee helps. So does the routine, because the inevitability of repetition and pattern seems certain. It cannot be challenged. So, no, you cannot go back to bed. Go fishing.

The in-home tasks went as per usual. But looking back, things started downhill when I left breakfast on the counter. Instead of picking up the English muffin with my coffee mug, I put the dog’s collar in that hand. And fifteen minutes down the road I realized that I’d be hungry all morning. So be it.

While lacing up my wading boots, I came face to face with the horrible mosquitoes. Seven in the morning, and they were already on the feed. In the swampy, wooded area I’d chosen, the blood suckers were just doing their job at the end of August. But I hadn’t considered that. I’d only thought of the spring water that seeps out of the bank for about two hundred yards of river, so I’d chosen to fish here. All that and the weeks of rain are what created the swamp. Live and learn.

I geared up quickly, and I chose to swat the mosquitoes instead of spray for them. Bad idea. Half way down the narrow path, the relentless bastards were winning the battle, so I reached behind and fumbled through three compartments in my vest — zipping and digging while moving forward. I was afraid to stop for fear of the mosquitoes overwhelming me. I did find a small bottle of bug spray. I used it, on the move, and carelessly sprayed a bit in my right eye. Not too bad, but enough for the sting to last a while.

With River (my Australian Shepherd) by my side, we broke from the path toward the sound of rushing water. But I chose the direction poorly, and we were forced to climb over recent blow-downs covered by twisting vines. To River, this was nothing. But a man on two legs simply cannot match the agility of a good shepherd. I fell once, but recovered quickly — mosquitoes again were the motivator. And just as the sting of DEET in my eye wore off, I replaced that pain with a different one, by grazing my left hand against a stand of stinging nettles. Of course I did.

Once on the water, I dunked my burning hand into the cold river, flowing somewhere in the range of fifty-five degrees. That felt great, so I cooled down and shed the excess humidity by kneeling in the water. I kept my head low, trying to rid myself of the swarm of mosquitoes for good. It worked . . . mostly.

As I rose to my feet, I bumped the clamp on my hemostats and watched them fall through the current. Luckily, I recovered the black pliers in fast water, mostly with determination and a stubbornness to save a little money.

River

Of course, the rig I’d used last night was nothing like what I wanted to use this morning, so I took the time to change leaders and build a tippet section. The remaining mosquitoes introduced a challenging game. Twice, I watched a bug land on my knuckle, ready to bite as I tied a knot. Should I finish the knot, or should I let go, swat the bug and start over? Each time, I chose to prioritize the knot and finish the turns. The bugs drew blood. I got my revenge, but I paid with an itch.

A half hour into fishing, I’d caught two small fish — which was fine. This area gets hit hard by catch-and-keep anglers. So it’s a good excuse and something nice to tell yourself when you don’t catch many trout here. Nevermind all the times that I’ve done extremely well for wild trout in this same water. Put those memories away. That’s not important right now.

A fly change was in order, so I clipped the Walt’s and leafed through my fly box. Two dislodged flies fell in the water when I opened the box. I sighed, and reached for a Green Weenie. While I tied it on, River walked in front of me, catching my leader and pulling the tippet from my hand. When I relocated the tippet, I missed threading the hook eye, and the fly dropped from my hands as I tried to finish the knot. But, thankfully, I could see the chartreuse fly. So I spent the next two minutes with my left arm submerged to my shoulder, trying to pluck the green worm from the riverbed, judging and adjusting through the refraction of water and staying hopeful. Each time I got close, the currents swirled around my hand. They picked up the chenille fly and took it further downstream, over and over. If nothing else, it was a good lesson on how the unbeaded GW drifts with such attraction. I did recover the fly. And my arm was numb when I stood up.

A few casts later, I put the whole rig in a tree. Of course I did. Clearly unrecoverable, I broke off and spent the next few minutes tying knots again.

I fished for about three hours. And I did find a rhythm a few times. I caught trout. But the mistakes and misfortunes piled up quicker than the fish count. I sat with River for a minute, but the mosquitoes returned in short order.

Of course they did.

In truth, I rushed the upstream side of the section because I knew it was one of those days when things weren’t going my way. But I followed through and made it to the top.

I also got a bunch of bad mojo off the books. Hopefully the slate is clean for tomorrow.

 

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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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31 Comments

  1. All I can tell you is this…. “A stuffy office, with a squeaky swivel chair, desk piled high with TPS reports, and a 30” computer screen with emails jumping out at you will guarantee no mosquito bites.”Just food for thought…. Lol. Great write up. You had my hand burning with stinging knettles.

    Reply
    • Been there. Done that (all the time). Will probably do again next week. But….there is no place I would rather be. Thank you!

      Reply
      • My “happy place” is very similar at times. Its all in how you engage your thoughts. Its all “home water”.

        Reply
  2. Dom,
    This is refreshing and a relief to read. I have more days like this than I like to admit and figured it’s cause I’m no good but to hear you have these days too, helps takes the sting away. Thanks bro I needed that after my Monday’s fishing fiasco.

    Reply
    • Oh, man. No doubt everyone has them. I will say that the more we fish, the more we know how to get in that rhythm, but it still all falls apart once in a while.

      Dom

      Reply
      • I feel soo much better now. I know we all have bad (off) days on the water,but it always seems like when I have a bad day,it goes just like that(of course it does). Everything I think about or touch seems to go wrong. Glad to hear I’m not the only experienced fly guy that has days like that

        Reply
  3. So we all have off days, good to hear a professional has struggles some times. At least you can always write well :).

    Reply
    • Exactly.

      Reply
      • Sounds like a typical day of fishing for me

        Reply
      • Ha! Been through that too. I was thinking when you dropped the green weenie that you switched to a mosquito pattern and ended up with a banner day! Great story-good stuff!

        Reply
    • 🙂 “Professional” always makes me chuckle.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
      • Dom thank you! I thought it was just me!
        Love your writing Dom, not to mention all of your experienced common sense advise. You have helped me become a way more efficient and appreciative fisherman.

        Reply
  4. We all have those days. On the bright side, it doesn’t appear that you ripped your waders or stuck a hook in yourself. And there’s always tomorrow.

    Reply
  5. I’m relieved to hear that I’m not the only one that has “adventures” just like this one! It’s not just me.

    Reply
  6. Good to know I am not the only one who experiences days like this.

    Reply
  7. Look on the bright side – a bad days fishing is still a good day. Tight lines from Scotland.

    Reply
  8. Got several good laughs. We’ve all had days like that.

    Got me in trouble though. My wife was talking to me as I was reading this. Of course I tuned her out and kept reading as this was great storytelling.

    Good thing she didn’t know I was reading a fishing blog. She already thinks I’m obsessed with trout. She doesn’t need any more fuel for the fire.

    Reply
  9. Dom,

    Great read ( as usual).

    At least you didn’t crack a rib as I did with you in April.

    You mentioned DEET. You still using that stuff? You should try picaridin. Lasts longer, doesn’t dissolve plastic, nylon or waders and doesn’t cause you to grow a third head. I use the Sawyer lotion. Lasts 14 hours. Works against mosquitos, ticks and ankle biters. (particularly useful in Canada)!

    Reply
    • I made the switch to picardin as well, primarily because it works better than deet on biting flies, midges, etc. In the humid parts of summer here we have these tiny midges that are attracted to moisture and are constantly flying into your eyes, up your nose, into your mouth, etc. DEET never worked against those. Picardin seems to work somewhat on those…gotta be careful though because it will seriously burn mucous membranes. I use the Sawyer stuff as well.

      Reply
  10. One of those days when you feel you’re a fishing version of one of the keystone cops. Or at least I do, when it happens to me. And isn’t PA the keystone state?

    Like last week, when I clipped my welded loop in a moment of inattention, and then watched the leader I was about to tie on float downriver. A bit later, I hooked a fish and it went around and between my legs, the dropper fly getting lodged in my boot. I had to waddle into shallower water, with a trout flopping around between my calves. I had no idea what had happened.

    Some people call this kind of thing “type 2” fun.

    Reply
  11. Dom, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Had many similar experiences in the past and now getting new ones with my young grandsons.

    Reply
  12. I’m sorry to have chuckled several times during my read of this day’s events- I swear, the chuckles were sympathetic (empathetic might be more accurate). I’ve experienced each and every one of these events several times this summer, but never all in the same day! At least you didn’t add the skunk to them! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  13. Recently had a similar trip with stinging nettle and biting insects. Was front-ended by two other anglers and a pair of rambunctious labs running with their owner. Also took a hard fall down a steep bank that covered me in mud. Instead of dropping my GW into the stream I somehow managed to sink it into the back of my thumb. I was trying out a new brand of barbless hook so, on the bright side, I know they grip really well.

    That evening my wife asked me why I thought this was fun. I just chuckled.

    Reply
  14. So usually next to the stinging nettles you will find good ole jewel weed. The plant whose leaf undersides look silver under water. Smash the stem of the plant and rub it on the nettle stings….instant relief.

    Reply
  15. Well, you’ve got me hooked (sorry for the pun). Had me happily smiling through the whole report. Been there; done that; and worse. THANKS. Really.

    Reply
  16. Haha I thought that was a normal day of fishing. Now I know better

    Reply
  17. Lately, when friends and family ask how the fishing was, I say “great! I only fell (fill in the bank) times!”

    Reply
  18. The river Gods giveth , and the river Gods taketh away.
    I’ve had days like that , outstretched hands falling on nettles, slipping down banks, falling in, forgetting items due to rushing excitedly out of the house before waking up the wife, tearing a hole in waders on an old hidden barbed wire fence, forgetting waders in the van overnight, only to put them on the next morning frozen during steelhead season.
    It’s part of the adventure, keeps me young. Where’s the fun in everything going according to plan?
    Thanks for the articles and all the teaching tips.

    Reply

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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