Jan 11, 2012
I’m not a pessimist, but I did wonder what it meant when I turned on the heat in my truck and was almost overcome by the smell of cooked cat poop that apparently oozed into the treads of my hiking boots on the walk through my yard.
What kind of an omen was this?
I don’t even officially own a cat, but one adopted me and demands food in the way only a pathetic, old, multi-colored cat with low self-esteem can. It showed up within days of me mocking that Sarah McLachlan commercial in which she implores us to care about abandoned animals. I cracked a joke. Then some field cat showed up looking for a handout. Apparently in its more youthful days it belonged to neighbors, but the cat moved away when they did or something like that.
Anyway, it was 6:58, and I was headed fishing. I had just cleared ice off my windshield with the scraper I got for Christmas, and now I was marinating in feline excrement.
Still, I was warm, caffeinated and ready to fish. Upon reaching the Stanislaus River, I rigged up in the quiet of the brisk, still, morning. The river was a sleepy hush and leaves dared not drop and join the others on the ground when I was looking.
I had my vest, fly box, reel, fly rod and waders but left my hooded sweatshirt draped over my chair at home.
I whispered in disbelief. I’ve written columns about the abundance of stuff in my truck, but once again what I needed didn’t make it. I had double-checked that the new No. 12 red copper john nymphs were in my fly box so I could catch fish, but was a slip into the water from catching hypothermia instead.
Was this sign number two of how things were going to go fish-wise?
Luckily I had two hand warmers in the emergency tackle box. I put them in the front pockets of my thin long sleeved shirt designed more to keep ultra violet rays out than warmth in, hoping the heat would radiate and fend off the chill.
It did, and slow cooked two rectangles into my chest.
As my body started to transition from warm to comfortable on its way to cold, I entered the river. If there was a place I was going to flood the waders, this would be it. I was up past my waist, navigating the turn in a light current by holding onto bushes that leaned out over the clear water.
It took longer than it should, but I made it around safely and found two slimy rocks on which to stand and cast. There was no room to backcast, so I roll-casted my red copper into the current. It was a beautiful spot. Above me vultures cruised above the river-cut bluffs (first poop, then cold, now vultures?).
But below me a rainbow mistook my fly for food and my rod tip bent toward the water.
I lifted to set the hook and started in on my normal routine of talking the fish in while talking myself calm.
Conversations finished, I gently lifted the 14-inch rainbow from the net, snapped a picture and released it.
A perfect day fishing indeed – success with just enough chaos to keep it interesting.