Monday, October 3, 2011

Return to the land of orcs

Approaching the cliff ledge that hides the river and dense foliage below, a gut check is followed by a hard swallow. Then the descent slowly downward on a steep path begins. This path leads into an area I call “The land of orcs” for its remnants of mining equipment that could tell tall tales of times long past and a horrible stench. The horrible stench always lingers on the upper trail that follows the cliff base. This smell resembles rotting flesh, decomposition and possibly the defecation of something horrible. Every time I walk this trail it feels as though the entrance to some sinister hollow is not far off.

The trees are tall and deciduous compared to the majestic pine more common to the area. The dense foliage is quick to swallow whatever sunlight that tries to enter. Even in the early stages of fall the landscape seems to envelop. Pathways are difficult to navigate and trails vanish in the deep grass before my eyes. The wind shifts, I smell the stench of orcs and immediately look over my shoulder. I wait for the birds to continue chirping before moving on.

Mosquitoes hovered around my face and collected on my clothes. They bite at every bit of exposed skin until reaching the shore. Stepping into the water and wading a foot or two out was the only escape. Beat off a few straggling skeetoes and look for position on the river. One angler was on the sweet spot wearing a bright red cap so the only option was to work the water downstream. This wasn’t exactly terrible as there was the remaining 75% of the stretch virtually untouched and unoccupied.

“There is still the old bridge.” I said with a glass half full attitude, which is rare for me.

No sooner had I said these words that the one angler left his original spot and disappeared into the forest. Shortly after that I heard scrambling in the woods behind me on the upper trail. Part of me wondered if the red cap-wearing angler was being chased by orcs.
“Better him than me.” I tried to reason with my concern and continue casting.

Minutes later the angler with the red cap popped out of the forest and back into the river. This time it was right at the old bridge. He was first to sweet spot so I guess he felt it would be best if he were first to the old bridge section as well. This boiled my blood for a brief moment but I chose to make the best of it by moving directly to the sweet spot where I wanted to fish in the first place.

“Orcs may still get that guy.”

Brown trout presentations were thrown out on the first rotation and worked my way to the gold, then silver. After an hour I went back to the brown and started getting hits. Eventually it came to me that it wasn’t so much the color as it was where the fish were. Pockets of water on the far side of the river and sandy ledges wasn’t necessarily “action town” but they would cough up a fish here and there.

Throwing out into a deeper section of water and I get a heavy thump on the line. My hands barely felt the bite as the fish hit while the lure was dropping. The line started racing upstream as my fingers quickly brought it the rest of the slack under a bit of panic. This fish was in no hurry to be landed and had plenty of room to run. I expected to lose the fish at any moment. Instead the head turned and the fish capitulated to the hand.

(Above: Beauty brown laying down for the photo op before going back into the drink. Waders make those “in the water” shots so much easier. More photo props go out to Don for the fish pics on this trip.)

The sweet spot paid off with the beauty brown and several smaller trout. It seemed that the higher flows mixed with cloudy weather made fish more willing to bite. The brown trout moving into spawn mode didn’t seem to hurt things either. But during the brief moments where the clouds would part and the sun would bless the landscape, fish action shut down to practically zero. Bug activity was down as well. Once the clouds returned everything went back on as if someone hit a light switch.

Clouds seemed to help the fishing action but also turned casual shadows into menacing dark spaces where evil creatures tend to dwell. Even the songs of birds seemed less cheerful than usual carrying a dreary tone. Maybe it was a melody of caution as much as a tribute to others who might have perished in this stretch if hidden canyon. Moving along this stretch you see many signs of people that may have met a terrible fate running through here. Or it could be left over mining equipment.
Start making my way back to the bridge section and I notice red cap angler is no longer in the section. He may have slipped out while I was on one of the far reaching bends. He may have been eaten by orcs. One thing was certain and mattered most to me right now…the bridge spot was open. Carefully, quietly, I waded out of the shallow water and made my way to the high trail. In a few moments my feet cut back to the river and back into the shallow water followed by more mosquitoes.

Cast out to the far side and bring the lure across the deep drift. Rather than running gracefully through the pool I clumsily come in contact with a submerged rock. The lure stops and I deduce that the hook has caught up on some moss or the rock itself. The line stays in one position but is more or less fighting the current and somehow slowly taking drag. Then an enormous silver tail comes out of the water near the rock. It takes me a minute to figure it out but somehow for once in my life I have hooked into one of the larger bows on this stretch. I hold my breath for every fin slap, head turn and reel crank on a fish like this.

(Above: Great shot in less than perfect light. I am extremely honored to hold this fish.)

Working the old bridge section to the very end yielded a few more fish but nothing over the twelve-inch category. Moving beyond this fence line would most likely bring an encounter far worse than the imaginary orcs that dwell here only in my mind. Ethics and landowners with guns forbid me to go any further.

“Nothing left but the long hike out.”

Back on dry ground my eyes spot an opening in the trees. At first it looks like what could be a faded deer trail or an excellent place for an ambush. Grass surprisingly tall for this time of year mixed with dense tree foliage is deceiving at best and potentially treacherous the rest of the time. Rather than try to bushwack my way through I decide to reverse course and look for other options. A little backtracking reveals a more reliable trail. From there I make my way to the upper trail and follow that to the old gravel road. The same gravel road possibly carved by mountain dwarves or possibly miners back in the day.

The arduous hike out is far more painful than the cautious walk in. After ducking and dodging orcs or even red capped anglers for fish on this stretch a long hike out taps whatever fuel reserves are left in the tank. Reaching the vehicle is sweet bliss and at last I give a sigh of relief and let out air my lungs have been holding since fish one.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.


TexWisGirl said...

thanks for weaving an adventurous and sometimes eerie tale! glad you made it out unscathed and with some pretty awesome photos too!

Steve Zakur said...

Mordor is kinda depressing but the cloud cover keeps the trout on the feed and Orcs don't fish so there's little pressure on the precious water.

Nice tale and those are two beautiful fish. Congrats.

John said...

Your description of the unpleasant walk in made me anticipate a good return for your efforts. Glad to see you hit pay dirt.

The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

Can you mail me some horrible stench for analysis?

MKG said...

Those are some lovely fish. Glad to see you and Don are still getting out.

Coloradocasters said...

@TexWisGirl: Unscathed? Maybe I should have stated the mosquitoes got me good a few times. One of these days I just might get an orc photo but it may come at a price.

@Steve Z.: That is an excellent point! Orcs don’t fish. They might try to spear one if they got real hungry. Hunting in the dark\cloudy conditions probably kills the spear fishing game so they just stick to furry mammals and the occasional angler. Spear fishing isn’t allowed in this stretch but who is gonna tell them no, right?

@John: Cautious walk in, taxing walk out. Sometimes I think the mosquitoes are actually worse than the orcs that typically slumber during the daytime.

@The Reverend Fowl: Oh man. That means I have to go back there. Next trip in I will see what I can do.

@Keith: man it is good to see you stopping by. Don could get out a little more to be honest but I gotta give him The MAD Fishing Show props for this one. I was damn lucky on those fish.