Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Bamboo and I



 The Bamboo and I have reached an understanding- a detente if you will. I agree not to call it fat, and it agrees not to call me speedy. Or thick-head.

I took The Bamboo to the UP. The Bamboo was not impressed. ""Land of Hiawatha" you say?". I didn't say that. The Bamboo and I searched a new stretch of river for brook trout. We didn't find any. The Bamboo is starting to believe that the legends circulating about the UP may just be idle gossip, or misinformation spread deliberately by Yoopers to get tourist dollars. "Where are all these fish you keep telling me you have?" demands The Bamboo. I made him hang in the closet for three days for that remark.

The UP, sans brook trout
After awhile I started feeling a little guilty for the way I had treated The Bamboo. After all, this is El Bambuno, Mr. Bamboo to you and I, and I had taken him to untested waters and made him thread, bang, slash and crawl through some very thick UP swamp. We fished 3 miles of river, The Bamboo and I. He wore my arm out, and I taught him to hate tag alders.

"I am a gentleman" he kept reminding me.

"Yeah, and a pain in the ass" was my retort.

"You are a very coarse individual."

"And you are a dilletante."

"You are not a good angler"

"You don't know how to cook...."

The Bamboo still doesn't have an answer to that one. Years from now The Bamboo will be laying on a leather couch, blathering to his therapist. " I didn't know I was supposed to cook..."



There's a lot The Bamboo doesn't know, but I acknowledge that I am a coarse person in need of some refinement. The Bamboo family is accustomed to the finer things- the best rivers, the best guides, float trips in traditional Au Sable boats, shore lunches, silk rod socks, saffron tinted fly lines. The Bamboo reminds me of this on a daily basis. I am used to marginal small streams, thick forest, horrid swamps and no food at all. And rods I don't have to cater to. I snap the heads (tips) off of rods just for looking at me funny. Or for riding in my car.

Finally I relent- I will scrap my plans to explore the UP for a whole weekend and take The Bamboo to fish the Au Sable river. "Will that make you happy?"

"No, not after what you put me through. Well, maybe if you take me to the Holy Water."
.
"What? I can't afford that. How about the North Branch, just you and I? Wide open river, old cottages..."

"You promised to make things up to me..."

"....The North Branch Outing Club..."

"Deal. "

wide-open, North Branch, Au Sable
I left out a little detail, that I would be camping and hanging out with Viking-born-600-years-late Mike Schmidt and company. At first The Bamboo was alarmed, but when I told him that Mike is a well-known fly tyer he relented a little. I failed to mention that Mike mostly ties streamers, but that's just a minor detail. We were hoping to catch the trico hatch. We drove down Friday night. It was clear that it was going to be a long night. The Bamboo insisted on going to bed early, which was fine by me. Bamboo should be tucked away by eleven, or it will refuse to throw a loop the next day. Just so you know. Your line will fly in all sorts of funny directions, but never a loop. Put your Bamboo to bed early I learned.

Mike Schmidt on the broad and spacious river


We got up early (too early) the next morning. The air had a definite chill. I could hear The Bamboo shivering in his case. The Bamboo is very civilized, and doesn't tolerate immoderate temperatures or people.

"You left me to die last night" he whined.

"Would you rather have spent the night in the tent?"

"Point taken."

"That's what I thought. Stiff upper lip Bamboo, let's go."

"That's Mister Bamboo to you!"

Mr. Bamboo, still swaddled in his case.

We drove down to the river, but the chill had put a damper on the bug activity. As it turns out, Tricos are the gentlemen of mayflies and will not stir from their lairs unless the temperatures are just so. I would say that The Bamboo and Tricos are cut from the same uppity cloth, though from different molds.

token fish, but oh so satisfying. Notice that The Bamboo is smiling just a little.


We caught a token fish that morning (as The Bamboo shivered). We went back to camp, scraped through the crusted foodstuffs we had brought, raised a fine cooking fire, and ate granola bars out of the wrapper. If I may make any claim to refinement, I drank fresh, hot espresso from my portable pot, and I might add, it was fine. We dozed (while The Bamboo stewed in his case) until noonish, then Mike Schmidt kicked my foot. I wiped the drool from my arm and sat upright in my camp chair.

"Hey, these guys are going to do their own thing this afternoon- want to hit the river again?"

I didn't bother to consult with The Bamboo.

The North Branch Au Sable River near Lovell's is indeed civilized, nay, genteel, water. It is wide open, flowing languidly past cottages and weeping willows, graced with all of the classic hatches- sulfurs, BWO's, mahogany's, hexes, tricos, white flies, all kinds of caddis, and it has a large population of gorgeous brook trout. Very finicky brook trout. They see a lot of rods, and a lot of boats and flies, and they are not impressed by The Bamboo. I am. This is a river where I can really test his fibre ("moral fibre" he would say). I relax the back cast and power the forward. I'm waiting until I can feel his "fibre" load, then haul it just to goad him a little. He doesn't care. He's Bamboo, and under that genteel patina he is a workhorse, and once you put the spurs to a good horse it responds. The Bamboo would like to hide his working class roots, or should I say, his grass roots? In the end, he is what he is, and when I flex his spine he responds in good manner.



We don't get any fish this afternoon. We spend a pleasant outing in the company of Mike Schmidt (who does get a fish), and enjoy skulking down river, laying out cast after silky cast, fishing to wary trout, some of which slash away at our collusive deceptions.  We miss for reasons we know not, and stumble happily to the take-out.

The next morning Mike is up waaay too early, and is waaay too chipper, something about a lonely missus. He is on his way home, convinced that the tricos aren't happening. I whisper something to The Bamboo.

"What was that?" Mike demands, but I'm not sharing with him. He caught the last fish, and on a zero weight Sage no less. Piffle. I fold up my camp post-haste and soon we are underway.

the "Other" river...
The Bamboo and I drive north, get lost, stop, consult maps, turn around, drive the extra thirty minutes in the right direction and finally reach our goal. When we get out, the air is definitely warmer. In the first riffle I notice a flash. The water appears to sparkle. Twenty fish are slashing at emerging bugs. The Bamboo and I fail to hook up, but the Tricos start soon, and the fish throw all caution to the wind. Fish rise from places they should not. We have a great morning, The Bamboo and I. We land a dozen fish. When the Tricos stop, so do the fish, and wearily we make our way back downstream. A brief drive to a nearby stretch of river, a hot bowl of soup, which I attempted to share ("Soup from a can? Please...") and we are ready to roll, a team now. We fish hoppers in what used to be marginal water, and turn or catch fish in every bend, run, hole, riffle, and bit of cover for the next four hours. The Bamboo and I see fish where they don't belong; we see out-sized fish that dart away from us, as they should. We are both happy.

my happy fish


I don't want to tell you about the next outing. How I took The Bamboo out on what is a night club for bamboo- private water, groomed banks, wild fish, 15 inch brookies, steaks on the barbie, and a monster brown trout that finally tested Mr. Bamboo's moral fibre. I'm afraid that The Bamboo enjoyed it far too much, and while he enjoyed getting put to work by that brown trout, I suspect he took even more satisfaction when the line parted, leaving me speechless and numb.

We've bonded a bit I'd say, The Bamboo and I. He's come to appreciate to some degree my wild rivers full of wild trout, and I've gained some appreciation for his cultivated manner. I'll be sad to see him go, and I'd like to think I've left my mark on him. I hope he's scarred for life.

Mr. Gortowski, you're next.

I want to thank The Outdoor Blogger Network, Montana Fly Company, Rio and Fall River Fly Rods for making this happen, as well as Michael Schmidt of Angler's Choice Flies for inviting me along on his trico trip. I had a great time with the rod and hope that the bloggers who follow me enjoy it equally. By way of review, I really enjoyed this rod, and once I relaxed it threw a lovely tight loop, and line speed is not a problem. I cast it for at least 25 hours while I had it and loved every minute of it. It is a bit heavy for the daytime trout I fish, and I would never consider taking such a rod night fishing, so I wish I would have taken it out for bass. It's a perfect smallmouth rod. Next time- I hope.

28 comments:

  1. Most excellent work... I enjoyed your journey with The Bamboo very much! Glad you had a good run with him at the end. But, we seriously need to teach hiim how to cook!

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    1. Thank you as always RD. Being the host I probably shouldn't complain about his culinary skills.

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  2. It sounds like Mr. Bamboo needs to put on a collard shirt in the color blue....make him work hard for his fish!!!!!

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    1. I think I bored him a little with all the little brook trout we were catching. He got a good thrashing by that two foot long brown though.

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  3. One of the better pieces I've read anywhere, recently or otherwise. I'm already nervous as I ponder what The Bamboo is going to think of me come fall.

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    1. Thank you very much Kirk. I'm sure you can tell I had fun with that one.

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  4. Very creative report.
    I think you may be right about the UP... "misinformation spread... to get tourist dollars."

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    1. Jay- you caught a very raw deal on your trip. The UP has some of the best fishing in the lower 48.

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  5. Excellent write up! Token fish are better than no fish!
    Brian

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  6. As a fellow cane fisher, I can give you one small piece of advice, 'NEVER GO BACK TO THE DARK SIDE!!'

    I find when I do they feel so light compared to bamboo.

    Sick with the boo and it will repay you fellow jedi with the force.

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    1. Well, I have the opportunity to win this one, otherwise it's beyond my pay grade. Maybe I can paint Lou Burhart's house in exchange for one of his...

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  7. Looking forward to it. Got plans, poor Mr. Bamboo will never be the same...

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    1. I'm looking forward to your take on it Ken.

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  8. god, i would hate to think what the conversation would be if my rods could talk. excellent post.

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    1. Yeah, we had some heated exchanges. Bamboo can be so old school.

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  9. Great story. sounds like a great book in the making....

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    1. Oh- nice idea. I'll have to ponder that one...

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  10. I used to fish the Slate, Sturgeon and Falls rivers in da U.P.

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    1. Which Sturgeon? There's four in the state, at least two in the UP. Whichever river, I'm sure you found some great fishing.

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  11. A great way to tell the tale. I recently purchased my first Bamboo rod and found it a delight to cast up on Colorado lakes. I just got home from a trip and found the tube had arrived in the mail. Now for some more casting practice on small streams.

    Do you know what line was on that rod?

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    1. I'll look that up and get back to you- it's in the original OBN post.

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  12. My Word...

    Such an adventure! Love the photos of familiar places - Perhaps a less petulant Bamboo would suit you better, something shorter, stiffer, more tolerant of camo caps and better able to flick Tricos under the cedars below the pool by the grey cabin.

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    1. You sound like a man familiar with the area. I love the cap by the way. This bamboo wasn't so bad. We learned to get along in an odd couple sort of way.

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  13. Fun. Glad you taught that uppity 'boo a little working class ethic, though it doesn't sound like it took very well. Seems to me that you did more of the flexing. Guess that's not a bad thing.

    Wonderfully creative piece, Jason. Great fun.

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    1. Well, you know, everyone else did a straight up review and trip report. It was time to change it up a little. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  14. "We fished 3 miles of river, The Bamboo and I. He wore my arm out, and I taught him to hate tag alders...."

    enjoyed this piece a ton. not a bad way to get to know someone..or something. on the river.

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    1. Thanks Sanders, it was fun to write, a bit of a departure for me. I'm glad you liked it. Let's plan a trip soon.

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