Tag: Nature Photography

Rhodo Hell

Rhodo Hell

The old timers called them rhododendron hells. Today I found out exactly why that is as I crawled through one with fishing gear. Thank goodness for cave diving training and experience. And I’m not kidding. At one point I couldn’t go forward, or sideways and backwards wasn’t looking too promising. But let’s start at the beginning.

I arrived at the parking lot just before two sets of two fly fishers were heading up the trail. One guy asked the other group where they were fishing. (And no….nobody asked me. I guess my camo hoodie was working well for me. Or they weren’t taking a woman fly fisher serious). Whatever the case, I listened as they described where they were going. And I decided to take my time and fish up the creek, from the lower portion at the parking area, to give them time to do whatever they were going to do.

At one place, instead of exiting the creek at the usual spot, I decided to continue past the familiar exit to wade and fish pockets. The water level made it perfectly suited for wading and wading and wading. Much easier than exiting on a creek bank with no trail. The wading was awesome but I wanted to push further up the trail, so after 200 yards or so, I saw an egress point and took it.

That set the tone for the day. It lit a fire for adventure in me….why not just enter and wade instead of popping in and out of favorite spots!?! Maybe there were new favorite spots to discover!

I knew the guys said they were headed up, as they gave each other an approximate place of entry. In order to avoid both sets of fly fishers, I decided to enter a little lower than my favorite place, and just keep wading. The thing about this place is…once you commit to wading upstream, you pretty much have to keep going or turn around and backtrack downstream. The reason? The trail and the creek are sometimes level with each other and sometimes the trail goes up a steep slope, leaving the creek far below. I knew about how far my favorite spot was, so I committed. I kept wading.

A few trout gave a shove or push of interest, but it wasn’t great fishing. The scenery, however, was amazing and beautiful so I was happy….until I saw a new can of Copenhagen tobacco ‘dip’ swirling in a eddy. Seriously!?! Somebody had to have dropped it recently. And then….I saw the wet footprint!

OH, NO! I was fishing behind one of the teams and knew that the fish would be spooked. It’s a small creek. I looked towards the trail. I was already in an area where the trail was far above the creek. I looked back…no way! Too far to backtrack.

So I continued. It became more of a scouting expedition for future fishing. I continued to cast, but knew it was pretty much just casting practice.

Eventually, I smelled smoke and glanced down at a nearby rock. Dripping wet boot print. I looked upstream and there they were. The bank was crazy-steep so I continued on, stowing the line and fly and just trying to catch up and go around them without messing up their fishing.

But they weren’t at all friendly when I said I wasn’t trying to cut them off. Great. I just wanted to go around them and not fish. They didn’t budge, didn’t reply. Nice, guys. 

There was a huge strainer to the right of the guys. A pile of logs that was 12 feet high isn’t safe to crawl over and the bank around it was jammed with rhododendron. Since they wouldn’t even acknowledge my request to go around them on the other side of the creek, I decided to crawl through the thick growth of twisted branches and exit the creek, rather than just stand there and watch them fish until they moved on. 

They have beautiful flowers, but these plants are unforgiving.

First, I took my 9 foot rod apart. At least in two shorter pieces, I’d have a better chance of making it through successfully. Then, I took my net out of the holster at my back and unclipped the wading staff. All the while, I was asking for safe passage from the snake brothers and sisters.

My rod in my left hand, net and wading staff in the right hand, I got on my knees and began the crawl. Rhodo’s don’t just grow straight. Their branches intertwine and create a barrier that goes from the ground to however tall they are….15 feet, 20 feet…or more. 

At one point I couldn’t move. The way forward seemed blocked…meaning I couldn’t crawl forward. The sides were blocked and my fly line caught on a leaf. Great. Just great. I wondered if they’d find my skeleton. No way my satellite communicator would work under the dense cover.

I crawled backwards, unhooked my line and crawled forward. I made it to a bit of an opening where a downed and rotted tree blocked my way. It was getting better and better…if the thought of being stuck in a thicket was appealing. But, I had looked at my Gaia trail map app and knew the trail was close.

After clearing the downed tree debris…there were two trees blocking my path…I finally saw the bank in front of me. It went straight up. I didn’t have a choice. It was up or stuck.

By some miracle of green plant beings, the place I scrambled up had zero poison ivy. None. How was that possible when the entire side of the trail is covered in the plant. I was amazed and side-stepped up the bank, trusting my legs and feet to propel me the final few feet up to the trail.

There were many words said aloud, but they are not words I’d repeat in public. But there were words of gratitude, as well. I made it out of rhodo hell! WOO HOO! Now on to my favorite spot.

As soon as I reassembled my rod, I noticed the tippet and fly were missing. That’s what was holding me up in that tight spot. No worries. I stood at the downstream end of the upstream run and claimed the space, just in case the slightly obnoxious guys arrived before I could get the tippet and fly attached.

But I had the place to myself. Just me and the trout. As soon as I got out from behind the other fly fishers, trout started dancing with me. I fished a while, filtered some water and then ate my chocolate and almonds.

After ‘lunch,’ I pushed on and decided to keep wading above nice pockets I’ve fished before. The fish kept dancing, I kept wading. But this time, I had intel that directed me to exit points.

One day last winter, I left my fly fishing gear at home and hiked the trail. I did several walks from the trail to the creek and if the egress points were good, I’d mark them on my Gaia app. Just in case.

Today, as I waded in magnificent waters and around pools filled with trout, I’d occasionally get out the phone and check the app. Perfect. I knew exactly where I wanted to exit.

This deep pool held several trout who ‘sniffed’ the fly and swam away. Beautiful to watch their intelligence at work.

And finally, after over 5 hours and over 4 miles, I left the creek after saying thank you for a wonderful day. I blew a kiss to the trout and rocks and water and trees and headed across the woodland to the trail.

During the two-mile walk down to my car, I reflected on the day. Epic adventure, no doubt. Rhodo hell….conquered (this time). The guys….one had a red beard with upturned ends of his mustache and with the sun reflecting off his face, he definitely took on the personality of a lesser demon. His gnome side-kick, well….nothing much to say. As my feet carried me downhill, I thought of funny ways to describe them and embellish the story I knew I’d write. Then, when I got to the car, they were at their car, loading their gear.

The gnome and I started talking and we had a nice conversation. And the other guy really wasn’t a devil. They were rather new to fishing and really didn’t know what to do when I said I needed to walk around them….or so they said. We had a nice visit.

Major lessons learned? #1. Scouting and marking egress points is a great idea and next winter, I’ll do more of that at my favorite creeks. #2. Rhodo hells really are hell, so major lesson #1 is a MUST before wading sections I haven’t scouted. #3. Don’t assume people are asses because they appear to be. #4. Persist! Keep crawling. Keep going. Keep wading. Keep climbing. Keep casting. Keep loving this beautiful world! 

there is a doorway…

there is a doorway…

there is a doorway. 

somewhere in the space

between here and there, 

it waits.

open…silent…ready

for us to walk through

and find the magic

of life.

wade in cold water,

breathe vibrant verdant

tree presence,

slow down.

stop. step between

the worlds and find

immense space

and peace.

forget time.

in the flow

there is only

oneness.

unity.

This is Living

This is Living

The air temperature suddenly drops. I wonder if there is a thunderstorm approaching. The canopy of greens makes it impossible for me to see the sky. The stereo of rushing water in riffles downstream and in a small rapid upstream make it impossible to hear anything else. Dapples of sunlight are still creating light diamonds on the 60 degree water…I’m gonna wade more.

The hike to my entry point was graced with a elk cow, standing alone in the green forest. She guarded the gateway, the threshold, into that other realm of rocks, water, ferns, trees, and trout.

As I wade, memories of a recent casting lesson from a favorite mentor at LRO seem to click in and suddenly my casts are smooth, the fly floats and gently kisses the surface and multiple times my rod bends as wild trout teach me the arts of balance and patience. Their multi-colored bodies glisten in the creek water as they come close and then flip off the barbless hook. Better than having to handle them to remove the hook and release them. We find an agreeable way to be together…my teachers in trout form.

Because of the easy creek slope, I find myself wading without having to exit around rapids. The water level is perfect: low enough to make it safe in deeper areas but high enough to provide great habitat for trout. Fly fishing opens me to flow—of water, line, breath. It turns me inside out and brings out the profound calm of my deep, inner water and gives healing in ways nothing else has…except maybe scuba.

Nearly four hours pass and I still wade upstream. The only word that comes close to describing the experience is magic. But wait…was that thunder? I can’t tell but decide to exit the creek and see if I can glimpse the sky. I move closer to the meadow and there are some dark gray clouds in the distance. I decide to head back up the trail, toward my car just in case. 

About a quarter mile from my exit point, I find another beautiful area that begs for a dry fly. I climb down the rocky bank and toss a fly and sure enough, a beautiful rainbow trout finds me whispering words of gratitude as I gently remove the hook that is barely even engaged with the fish. I wade up and up and up more. I lose track of time but notice the sun is no longer visible. I pay closer attention to sounds…is that thunder again?

I remain in a state of Oneness and bliss as I continue to wade and cast. I munch on dark chocolate, cheese, and almonds. I stop and filter water to drink. And then continue wading, celebrating beauty.

The exit point comes and goes, I continue on, but the fish have disappeared. I think it might be time to go, they are urging me back to my car. And then…BOOM! Yes, it’s time.

I reel in the line and stow the fly. Backtracking to an easy egress point doesn’t take long and then I’m only a quarter mile above my car.

As I emerge from the cover of woods, dark clouds are mixing with white, puffy clouds. I set a steady pace across the meadow and breakdown the gear within minutes. By the time I drive past the overlook, rain is blanketing the next ridge over and skies are dark.

Deep calm envelopes me still. The trout do this to me…they demand I find my deep center. The rocks demand I be grounded. The water demands I stay alert. Words escape me now, hours later, as I try to express how I feel…still embraced in the flow, still in that place of calm, deep water within the depths of my being. A wood thrush is in the woods, just outside my home. The flute-like, sweet song makes me smile.

Oh, yes. I love experiencing a life where there is no need to escape for a vacation. This is living. This is bliss.

Fun on the Fly

Fun on the Fly

As twilight descends, yellow mayflies swarm around me. They had been hatching throughout the 5 mile walk/wade, but just as light fades the little faery-like beings begin to swarm.

Recently, I decided to combine my daily walk with fly fishing. I’ve always been a morning hiker, cycler or whatever outdoor urge calls, but lately I’ve been drawn to twilight, that mysterious threshold between light and dark, where the mystery of the creek is experienced.

The air temperature is 72 when I start walking. Unencumbered by wading pants (but wearing hiking pants), the hike is so much more pleasant. When I first step into the 60 degree water after walking 25 minutes, it feels magnificent. Fish are jumping…no, leaping out of the creek. Insects are falling from limbs and emerging out of the water. And so it goes for the entire three hours.

At one pool, a big brown trout leaps after my fly and makes me squeal. I know she’s probably still laughing her trout laugh. A little farther on, a trout leaps. I cast to the trout and it grabs the fly and spits it out before I can even react. But how much fun! Serious fun.

It’s challenging to describe the peaceful spirit that hovers over the forest and creek as the day begins to end. Light is warm and inviting. Cool air caresses my face with tenderness. Everything seems to exist in a deep harmony. 

As I stand at the shallow edge of a deep hole, I feel the energy of water as it chills my feet and lower legs. Wet wading…the absolute best way to fly fish because the connection to the fish and forest deepens for me with no separation between my body and the body of water.

Nearly everyone else is home eating dinner or tending to kids or whatever. I find profound balance comes from this quiet time, with hardly anyone else around…well, except for the trout and insects. 

As I listen to my body after hours spent in the twilight of the creek and forest, I feel such relaxation and peace. My energy is strong yet sweetly in harmony with Nature. Gratitude bubbles up from my depths, the flow within is strong. For the yellow mayflies, the midges, the trout, the creek and rocks, the trees and green plants and lush ferns, the strong body that carries me outdoors and for an open heart that can take it all in…I am grateful.

____

On a side note, a song I haven’t heard in decades started playing in my mind as I walked, but I could only hear one phrase: Here I am baby, come and take by the hand. I couldn’t remember the group or other lyrics so I sang this to the forest and the creek and the fish for three hours. And even to two other hikers who passed me. Upon returning home, I found the song! UB40 was the reggae group and it’s an awesome tune. Here are some of the lyrics: “I can’t believe that it’s real, The way that you make me feel. The burnin’ deep down inside, The love that I cannot hide. I know it’s you I need, baby, And it makes the world go round. I’m keeping’ you in love with me, baby, Laying all my troubles down. Here I am, baby, come and take me. Here I am, baby, come on and take me. Take me by the hand. Ooh, show me. Here I am baby.”

Seems very fitting to sing this to Nature as I walk in bliss and wonder.