We floated the Huron River yesterday afternoon. Sometimes I think that river reports, if they are to be accurate, should include conditions relative to the tube, kayak and canoe hatches. We know that they will be heaviest on weekends and holidays, but it pays to remember that any warm sunny summer day will trigger sporadic appearances. Yesterday was one such occasion. Fly fishing the Huron then becomes a tactical game not concerning the fish, but the floatillas. It is an annoyance for anglers on any river, of course. Sometimes words are said, sometimes those are regretted. Not by me, of course. Anyway, we found ourselves unpleasantly and continually negotiating a decent distance downstream of some rather persistently noisy oncoming rafts, and when they finally passed us, my oarsman was sorely tempted to give them a piece of his mind, to wit: "Screaming is for skate-board parks, not rivers!" But like most things nasty, he kept this to himself.
The downstream take-out at West Delhi Metro-Park was a perfect distance away for a half-day float, but we had gotten a late start and were concerned about getting to it and out with our boat before the gates closed at 8pm. The Metro Park Police are not known to close it at that hour, but the sign says they can, and we figured that our stream of luck would continue being bad. But even more than that, we worried about getting the enormous raft up to the trailer; there is no boat ramp there and we'd have to drag the boat, just the two of us, across a good stretch of grass that would be a very long distance indeed at the end of the day when mosquitoes would be murderous and the boat heavy and large. This struggle would add even more pressure to complete that my guide Dirk was not confident we could execute it in any amount of time, much less in a rush. I am strong for my size, but that size is diminutive.
As for the fishing, it was servicable, with some landed scrappy Smallmouth and a very pretty Bluegill. I was on the rod, and my experience fishing from a boat is not grand; I was slow to that constant mental repositioning toward the target as we'd slide down the river, would fixate instead on certain casting targets, then be late for "good ones" coming up all too fast. It was a frustration to my guide, I know, even though he was very kind about it. But I knew. Because like most things nasty, he kept this to himself. We would not, it turned out, be dawdling at good spots because there were too many and because the clock was ticking.
The water was a good flow, not high, and clear. I had on a terrestrial at first, just for shits and giggles I suppose, because it was, after all, a hot summer day in July. But the fish would have none of that. We switched to one of our shop's best sellers, a white cone-head wiggle-tail woolly bugger tied up by one of our favorite local tyers, and this was more productive. Plus, we could see every twitch and pause of the fly as it swam from the bank and along submerged logs and rocks. That was the fun part. Sometimes streamer fishing can be something of a nail-biter because you're unsure when your fly will get caught on a log and lost, especially likely in discoloured water. But today was clear and fine for watching and controlling the fly and line (not that I did that, but the day was fine for it anyway). We were using a 7wt rod with a floating line that was dirtier than hell.
Damselflies were about, though not bothersomely, and a bass or two lept from the water and took one al fresco, which is always fun to see, even though it was my guide who did the seeing, leaving just the ring in the water for me. One – count 'em: one – Ephron coasted in the air once, and I thought I saw a sluggish Hex lift off the water, once. Over one pool several birds very actively swooped and dove about 15-20 feet up, but we could not figure out what they were feeding on. So it was just us and our searching white streamer. When we switched to an orange/rust sparkle grub, we did okay also, but most of the fun came from a neutral buoyancy minnow pattern that swam convincingly. But by then the float was getting on and we were thinking about the park gate.
At the last pool of the float the evening had spread out softly in the sky, and the water, reflecting it, seemed to be breathing softly also. Everything was wide and quiet and promising. Certainly caddis would be rising from the surface soon. Certainly, soundless dimples of feeding fish would appear. That warm evening scene of seduction would begin just as soon as the loud tubers had dragged their tubes from the bank and departed. Just the minute we ourselves had loaded the boat onto the trailer (at last). Maybe it was too soon to be thinking Ephron or Hexagenia, but surely there would be caddis. And even if there weren't, what a gorgeous evening to be frustrated in.
But there was no time. It was now 8 o'clock exactly. We manuevered the boat to the take-out point asking the tubers to please make way, and surprisingly, they were eager and polite and sweet and funny. So much for our assumptions. As we were were nearing them, moments before, I had observed that because there were a couple of young strapping lads in their group perhaps they might help us drag our boat up the bank. As it turned out, they were happy to, and in thanks we would give one a ride up to his car to pick up the forgotten keys to his vehicle here at the park. Luck all around. Three young men and my guide then carried the immense and heavy boat to the trailer in about 20 second flat. Dirk and I exchanged beams of delight across the bow of the raft. As Dirk got into the truck he said to me in a low tone, "Not being an asshole on the water pays off, doesn't it?"
They drove away and I waited with 5 lovely young women in bikinis, well sprayed with Cutter, and a cheerful young man whose role seemed to be group comedian. We had a nice acquaintanceship that lasted about 20 minutes. They surprised me with their maturity and humor, and I surprised them, up close, with mine.
Then Dirk reappeared in his truck and we hitched the trailer to the truck and drove away to pick up my vehicle at Dexter Huron Metro Park (which doesn't close until 10pm). From there it would be a ritual grilling of the ritual steaks for a late summer dinner, then a cigar. And even though we forgot to take pictures, we agreed that though the fishing was nothing grand, we had been very lucky indeed.