No Name River #4, BC
By Jeff Mishler
I angled the sled into some quiet water at the head of Patterson’s Run and came off step. I nestled the bow in behind a band of rocks and Tyler dropped the anchor off the bow, gave it about two fathoms of scope and put a figure eight at the cleat. I shut down the motor, set the tiller arm upright and locked the motor in line with the hull. Tyler was already elbows deep in the cooler, setting aside a pile of raw meat and spicy fix-ns.
“You wanna cook now and fish later?” He asked.
“Yeah. Give it a rest since we just ran the boat over it.”
Tyler worked a battered old-school Weber up through the hatch of the bulkhead and set it down on the sloped foredeck of the sled ahead of the compartment seats. Without hesitating he pulled a Plano fly box stuffed with 6-inch long string leeches from the front pocket of his wading jacket and slid it under the lower leg, leveling out the barbecue perfectly.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” he yells over the roar of the river. Tyler dumps a pile of briquettes onto the grate and soaks the works with charcoal lighter fluid, spraying more of it on the deck of the sled than into the barbecue.
All great failures can be traced back to the first bad choice you made. From my perspective in the back of the boat, Tyler’s sloppy application of the slow burning, high flash point, white man’s fire starter was the beginning of one of those stupid sequences we’d later regret because an unconfined fire in any boat is always bad. So I lifted the lid to the port side seat compartment and starting digging around for the fire extinguisher. But before I could untangle it from six feet power cable attached to a spotlight buried under everything I’d put in that compartment since last duck season, Tyler pulled a lighter from his wader’s zippered chest pocket and sparked it up.
“Don’t you think that’s a little close to the gas tank?”
“Nah, it’ll be fine. You gotta have 22% air saturation with the fuel before it will ignite.”
It wasn’t the air I was worried about. Before I could reiterate that the on-board 25-gallon gas tank was a mere foot away from the base of the Weber, the coals were on fire.
“We’re cookin’ with gas baby!”
September means many things to many fishermen in BC. The cooling nights signal a transition to winter. The steelhead bite better in September. The forest is crawling with critters scurrying about making preparations for the long sleep, and yellow jackets are mad with desire for red meat.
When Tyler stepped forward to spread the steaks out on top of the cooler for a dousing of seasoning, a single yellow jacket buzzed his head. He swatted at the little carnivore a couple of times and the buzzing stopped.
“Where’d the little bastard go?”
The flames in the Weber were at full roar. River sounds surrounded us. We listened hard.
I pointed to the right side inside panel of his hood, “He’s right there”.
Tyler ripped the hood from his head with his right hand and the material collapsed. The trapped bee bounced around inside the folds of Gortex behind Tyler’s neck like a rubber super-ball shot from a slingshot into a hall closet.
I’m laughing, but I’m also tense and preparing for an emergency evacuation because Tyler experiences anaphylactic shock following bee stings and I don’t think he’s carrying his sting kit.
With the bee stuck in the hood, buzzing like mad, Tyler performed the fly fisher’s version of Houdini’s great escape; the removal of his wading jacket in less than 5 seconds. He stretched his neck as far forward as possible to stay clear of the hood, leaned back and raised his arms to his chest to release the Velcro straps holding the neoprene wrists closed while simultaneously unzipping the main zipper. Add a fearful grimace as the bee came out of the hood but disappeared down the back of his jacket and he looked like a sea turtle on crack making for the beach.
“Sonofabitch! Sonofabitch! You little bastard!”
My focus was on the Plano fly box under the third leg of the Weber.
The second arm came out of his coat and Tyler flipped the jacket around one time to toss it towards the bow, knocking the flaming-full-bore-Weber off its Plano perch and onto its side.
Orange hot chunks of fresh embers and a wall of fire made contact with the over-spray of starting fluid. A low level ring of fire erupted around Tyler’s wading boots.
“@#$%! Get the…!”
I blasted the base of the small fire with a full two-second shot of dry chemical from my Type A fire extinguisher, killing the fire instantly.
The white cloud settled and drifted off the port gunwale leaving Tyler Corke, covered in white powder, looking like a flocked Xmas tree from the main floor of Macy’s.
“Dude, you f#$%@ing’ ruined the steaks man!”
The cooler on the bow was in-line with the blast from the extinguisher so the steaks took an indirect hit when the CO2 driven powder bounced off the deck. There wasn’t a single yellow jacket around.
I kicked at the coals to make sure they were out.
“Sorry about your boat”. A dozen black circles marked the place of each smothered coal.
“Like I care about that. I’m glad we didn’t have to abandon ship.”
“Nah, never would’ve happened.”
“If I didn’t have that extinguisher the whole boat would’ve gone up”
“No way. Not enough saturation”
“#$%@ saturation Tyler, the gas tank is right there and the cap is just a foot away from that!”
“Well it didn’t happen!”
“You’re right, it didn’t happen”
We stood eye to eye, locked in a glare. I wondered for the hundredth time whether this trip with the loose cannon known as Tyler Corke was a wise decision; but with white dry chemical frosties hanging from the Danny Noonan wings poking out from his ball cap, smaller frosties clinging to each eyelash and his waders sporting a powdered donut coating, I couldn’t stay angry, and lost it.
I was laughing so hard I nearly stepped on a spey rod leaning against the stern and sat on the gunwale to recover.
He looked down at the flocking.
“Dammit. You know this @#$% ruins waders!”
I lost it again.
“What’s so f#$%’n funny?
Tyler turned away, opened the cooler and pulled out a beer.
He tossed me one and we cracked them in unison.
“Dude that’s freaky”
“I know. We couldn’t do that if we tried”
“What are we gonna eat?”
“There’s a bag of chips under the other seat”
Tyler shook his head. “I ate ‘em last night”
“We got that block of cheddar in there”
“Mmm. Cheddar and beer. I like that.”
I wasn’t so enthused.
On short trips, I don’t worry about the long term physical consequences of a diet consisting only of packaged and processed colon busting foods. However, we were in week three of our little expedition and I hadn’t eaten a bit of fiber since we left Oregon. Our camp coffee is usually strong enough to move any intestinal blockage in five minutes or less but I hadn’t experienced this for a couple of days. A trash compactor worked away down in my large intestine as I munched the cheese and chased it with beer.
Tyler farted. I was envious.
“Dude, what do you say we break this one up in two instead of ro-shamming for dibs?”
“You take the bottom and I’ll start here at the boat”
I crunched the can with my boot, tossed it onto the pile of others in the anchor box, grabbed my spey rod and bailed over the side.
Down the riverbank, at the middle of the run, I stepped into the current, stripped off enough line to swing my fly over the first ledge some thirty feet out and made a cast. I heard Tyler yell another profanity over the roar of the rapids above him. He stood waist deep just below the boat
“My waders leak like a f#@$n’ sponge!
Better his waders than my boat.