No tent is better than no coffee

Kurt nymphs for the Truckee's big browns.
Kurt nymphs for the Truckee’s big browns.

After work Friday I hustled home to take the second to last test for my research methods class. Once I finished (I got an 88%…I haven’t been an A student since high school) I threw some clothes in a bag. I know many might consider the act of throwing clothes in a bag, “packing”, but “packing” implies that there was logic and thought used. When the bag was full, I zipped it and waited for Kurt.
I had promised to make venison burgers out of the deer from The Great Alpine Deer Recovery for the road, but it hadn’t thawed so we settled for hot dogs which broke my streak of five straight dinners of what I killed myself, or was there when it went from living free to food.
Once we passed Sacramento on our way to Truckee, I started taking inventory. No tent – still on its way back from Alaska. No wading boots – still on their way back from Alaska. I figured I’d just wet wade, but Kurt checked the weather – overnight lows in the high 30s. Morning wet wading would be…brisk. The duffle bag I used to get me to Alaska broke, so I replaced it with a sweet Gage waterproof bag which is a little smaller, so I had to ship some items which would have been useful.
I had managed to pack exactly one long sleeved shirt and it wasn’t very thick. We also had no vessel in which we could cook, we had no coffee and we had no peanut butter.
My midges were all in my primary nymph box that was still on its way down from Alaska, so all I had was what I tied the night before and my Upper Sacramento fly box which had some stonefly patterns.

Nymphing the Truckee.
Nymphing the Truckee.

We completed the list of what we didn’t have and optimistically declared it wouldn’t matter. His first ever trip to the Truckee River would be glorious and well documented – brown trout grip and grins galore.
As the sun set we pulled into the first camping spot we saw. I dropped Kurt off and walked toward the pay station. Halfway through the assembling of his two-man tent, denizens of the adjacent site declared the spot taken. Little tangent on two-man tents…
What dimensions are these, “men”? I bought a two-man on sale at REI and it fits my pack and me diagonally. Maybe the assumption is that every time you camp, you will be huddling for the sake of survival which would justify the label. So according to REI, if both Kurt and I bring our tents we can sleep 4 people. Not happening.
Anyway, we packed up his two-Hobbit tent and wove our way around the site. Full. A few miles down we saw another campsite. Full. A few more miles. Full. We back-tracked to I-80 and decided to check out sites around Boca Reservoir. While en route, Kurt called the Hampton Inn. We figured if we had to pay for a hotel, we’d get one with a complimentary breakfast and get our money’s worth by drinking copious amounts of coffee and stuffing our fly vests with yogurt, bagels, waffles and enough peanut butter for the rest of the year. The guy said he’d knock off $50 for us, but $180 was a little north of reasonable for us. Kurt thanked him and hung up.
Everything at Boca was full. We called cheaper hotels. Full. Full. Full. Two hours after being rejected while setting up the tent, we found ourselves in front of the Hampton settling for the $180 room. I dropped Kurt off. After a few minutes he emerged from the front door and spewed the news that all that was left was a king suite for $250. I thought he was kidding. It was late, we were tired and desperate for lodging, but I guess it was okay to joke. But he wasn’t.
Had I a briefcase full of cash I’d brought from Providence, I would have indulged, but Kurt and I are not Harry and Lloyd. We could have justified $180, but not $250 for six hours. A half hour later we ended up finding a reasonable spot to camp on the Little Truckee, but it was almost midnight.
We were up before the sun, still had no coffee and were working on a breakfast of raspberry Pop Tarts and water when we started dipping nymphs. By 10 we hit the wall, but were getting into just enough fish to keep it interesting.
On the drive home that evening I vowed to never be so unprepared again. You can survive without a lot of things on a fishing trip, but being without peanut butter and coffee is fishing for disaster.

This column appeared in the August 14 edition of the Manteca Bulletin

One Comment Add yours

  1. Andy says:

    Sometimes the stars just don’t align, but you have to persevere. Been there.

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