Thursday, April 19, 2012

Took an Old Friend Fishing Today....and got goose-egged. Literally.

I took my longest-running partner fishing today.  Headed up to the Mettowee in Middle Granville, New York.  Beautiful day!

Water was incredibly low and clear.  Nothing happening, so I thought I'd take a photo of my old friend:

I built this old friend in 1981, while a grad student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Three decades plus a little ago.  First rod I ever built, and rarely fish anymore.   During my summer research on whitetail deer in western Kentucky and Tennessee, it got fished every day on Kentucky Lake.  It has caught hundreds of bream, crappie and largemouths.  Eight feet long, a 6 weight.   Its action makes you slow down and enjoy the day, something I needed to do today.  I just wanted to spend a day swinging streamers and soft hackles.

But there was nothing doing on the Mettowee, other than a gear fisherman that pestered me for half an hour about fly fishing.  Man, did I want him to go away.  I know, I know, coulda shoulda made a convert, but sometimes I just can't go that extra mile.   My bad.

So old Orvis friend and I, headed down to the Batten Kill to finish the day.  There were two gents enjoying lunch in the shade where I wanted to park, so altered the plan a little.  But had to walk past them to get into the river.  From out of state and very friendly, they even gave me a big pretzal.  Enjoyed the chat.  But needed to get into the river.

Started wading, heading downstream.  An island splits the river; I took the right fork.  Flood-piled debris everywhere, as I clambered over a big stump, a canada goose jumped up squaking.  I almost stepped on the reason why:

Obviously, she and her partner aren't choosey about the neighborhood!  They hung around, she honking at me as I fished through:

I finally got around them.  She made her way back to the nest while the gander stayed behind in a little back eddy.  All is right with the world again, I thought.

Wrong.  I was jerked back to reality with a great thrashing in the water behind me.  It was the gander.  He did it a couple times, and I thought he was just having a great old bird bath.  As I watched, I couldn't see his head.  He got out into the current, would thrash about for a second, then float 10 feet towards me.  Again, I couldn't see his was like he was locked in a sleeping posture...with his head underwater.  Not good.  What to do?

I have handled hundreds of live birds in a couple of my past lives, from woodcock to grouse to wild turkeys to...canada geese.   Time to get involved.   I laid my old Orvis friend down along the shore and got out into the current  anticipating the bird's likely float line.  He would still thrash, and finally saw me and really thrashed.  But kept losing ground to the current (and likely a lack of oxygen since his head was underwater more than it was above it).   I got to him and saw the problem:

That lure had his face pinned to his leg.   There was space between his body and where his head and leg were "attached".   I jabbed my wading staff into that space, locking him next to me.  One thing I learned about handling birds long ago was:  be decisive.   Tentative has no place here.  Reached down, grabbed that SOB Rapala, and yanked. 

Bird flies away.  It's all good again.

Mini-rant:  If you need that many hooks to hook and land a trout, take up golf and get the hell out of the river.

Rant over.

Oh, as I was leaving - after a long day on two rivers - fish started rising to big caddis in the deep pool near where I parked my truck.  Thirty years ago, when I built my old friend, I would've wadered back up and gone for 'em.  Not anymore.


  1. I have seen many birds with lures attached. Geese, pelicans, ducks etc. I agree with be decisive- grab hold and yank it out. No time to be delicate.

  2. Previous comment

    Gregg b Messel

  3. Wonderful Gary, really enjoy all your work especially this post too.

  4. Gary,
    Ditto here on your mini-rant. Also, " What's good for you is good for the gander." Pun intended

  5. You’ve gained a extra year for the goose, ah wildlife.

    I agree with you on your mini-rant Gary but confess to having 40 or so of those things collecting dust for the last 25 years along with the rods. I’ve thought about giving them away but I consider them to be hazardest material.


  6. Nice work GT. I work right on the river here in Pittsburgh and I've been chased guite a few times by over protective ganders. They always wait til you have your back turned! Nice save by you, and great post.