Back in late-April of last year, Grant Taylor, Dean Milliman and I got together to do an advertising/awareness campaign for a local (Upstate NY) Trout Unlimited chapter. In addition to a poster series and some stream-side signs, we had designs on trying to shoot a short video as well. This would be Grant’s first foray into shooting video in addition to the stills he specializes in. And as it turned out, this would also be the first foray for Grant and I into the world of full-time freelance employment — having both just started out on our own.
While the footage we captured made it look like fair weather (the posters tell the real story), Spring rains kept our inland (and trib) water pretty well blown-out and brown. Fishing (and shooting) was tough early in the season, making time to get out was tough as the season rolled on, and the fish we did catch were immortalized in stills. Needless to say we didn’t really get to finish shooting video of everything we wanted in time for the campaign launch. So it goes.
In the end, it may just be a collection of test shots, trial-and-error, and a few friends heading for water to fly fish, but by my estimation, it still manages to tell a pretty good story.
It’s nineteen degrees and still dark. By dawn it’ll be colder. Overnight we were bombed with the season’s first real powder and it’s still falling. Two days ago it was raining and brown. Two days from now, it’ll be raining and brown. We play the hand we’re dealt.
Daylight reveals the unfamiliar weight of snow on the pines and sagging brush along the road where we’ve parked. A plow truck slows and grumbles by as we climb into our waders and boots. We exchange head-nods with the driver. Silence settles back in around us.
First tracks on the trail, we drop in on a run to get our bearings. We know better than to sleep on trib water even this far upstream. Milk-gray swagger and swing. It punches above its weight. Small water. Big steel. Lake-run haymakers after a first round KO.
But first, they wait till you’ve spent some quality time with snagged-flies and reties. They wait till you’re fingers are bloodless and you’re thinking about your thermos of coffee. They wait till you get that thousand-yard stare. Then they remind you why you’re there.
Photo credit: Lucas Carroll
Five feet out the bottom drops to twenty, at least. Out in the gut where the jet boats and gulls roam it’s one hundred. River-left at thirty-plus miles an hour, we stand and bomb two-handed casts into the current, watch the gale fill with flurries, exchange obscenities with guides drifting their sports in our laps.
Until 5,500 years ago this river lived a small existence. Long before glacial melt had its way and rammed the sonofabitch clear through to Lake Ontario. Long before the name Niagara was derived from Onguiaahra, the leaders of the Iroquois Nation. Long before Champlain inked its path on his maps.
The jet boats finally pack themselves into a knot downriver, following lake-run biomass on their fish-finders. The gulls are endless in their circling hunt for shallow bait. We swing sink tips and weighted flies in ice age current, begging for a fight, knowing full-well the river is hungrier than anything swimming.
Photo credit: Lucas Carroll