Lord of the Flies, page 2.
PRINCESS IN THE KINGDOM
Old Jimmy was a pretty fair President,! I remember spending quite a bit of time with Jimmy and Rosalind at the Williamson River Fishing Party two years ago. Jimmy is a very enthusiastic flyfishermen, as president he only got in about 10 or 12 days a year. Consequently he became a daylight to dark fishermen. He and Rosalind were going to fish a special section of the Wood River where the big Browns were rising to grasshoppers. The water is very clear and slow moving. This meant 60 to 70 foot casts made with accuracy and delicacy. Rosalind was a little spooked. However, I fitted her with nice 8 foot rod and 25 feet of shooting head, and worked with her casting form for about half an hour. Following that little session she was casting easily up to 70 feet. She was all smiles and ready to take on the Wood River.
Walton has spent many years fishing & hunting in the company of American Presidents and well known sportsmen. Beginning with President Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy and Rosalind Carter. Walton has either owned or started many famous duck clubs including these legendary retreats: Little Sutter Duck Club, California Duck Club, Grizzly Island Duck Club.
While watching a big doe and her yearling kick up dust next to the river. I asked Powell who he thought was the best all around fishermen/hunter among the celebrities he's known." No question, Phill Harris was the best all around sportsmen I ever came across, he had a way about him, was as big a star as most the others, but he was more soulful. On long waits especially duck hunting, he would really stop to enjoy his surroundings. Walton was not quite as kind to many of our illustrious leaders.
"Funny thing is many of the presidents (he wouldn't mention any names) were not the sharpest needles in the quilt if you know what I mean. I remember one guy who the world thought was some kind of western hero, could not throw a fly further then I can spit which ain't very far! "As the first day wound down to longer shadows and subdued light, the snow capped outline of Mt. Shasta was our beacon as we headed back to the Mountain Valley Hunting and fishing complex which sits on the river front. The count for the day, three missed opportunities for the San Francisco angler, three good fish and another successful day for the Lord Of the Flies.
That night while Page
Miller, who not only knows where every fish and duck will be sleeping in the area, but
also knows his way around the club kitchen, threw together a meal consisting of all the
trout & game taken by club members. I asked Walton where he got the excellent Salmon
salad we were enjoying on crackers "Every year, I go up Alaska way and catch enough
Salmon to make 100 cans of Salmon. I give the fish to a local gal, she does the job for
me. "We listened to Walton reminisce about the joy of growing up on 42 sections of
what is now one of the most sought after wildlife refuges in California ,Tehama Wildlife
refuge. The thrill of having all the ducks and deer and wildlife in your own backyard!
When Walton was a youngster, his first inkling of his father's, notoriety, was the time
his dad hosted a dinner party for several of the most famous innovative minds of the
Twentieth Century, Including: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank, and Mr. Thompson
( man who invented seedless grapes) were assembled to ask if E. C. Powell might join them
in unraveling a few more of nature's secret.
"By early 1900 E.C Powell had tapped into the realm of invention with grand success. The story of how he single handedly forever changed the way Bamboo fly rods are made by discovering techniques for designing and assembling the raw bamboo into rods which could be tailored into different weights. Early on the technical innovations Powell senior discovered were hailed as important scientific break throughs in both strength and assembly procedures. The sound of three of us telling and listening to each others life time of outdoor adventures echoed almost past midnight. A symphony performed by a delegation of local frogs and crickets serenaded us to sleep. The crackling screams of cock pheasants woke us up at dawn.
QUESTION THE LORD!
As the jet boat growled and easily moved across mirror like Fall River, puffy ground clouds of tuly fog danced with the occasional brace of duck or dove. Morning quiet, kept conversation down to just the business of getting underway. I couldn't help but wonder just how good was this 82 year old legend, could he by sheer skill and a life time of practical knowledge repeatedly take Trout? As if on cue, after the universal mandatory quiet time, we all shook the sandman loose. I asked Walton how old he was when he knew he was getting pretty good at taking Trout?
"I remember as a youngster long before I was twenty years old, used to travel to streams all over the state. I'd find a good place to toss my hand tied Royal Coachmen, pull the car over, walk that new piece of water and like usual catch a fat string like no one locally had seen for some time! Then, I'd head for the nearest restaurant or bar and walk in with that fat string of Trout and every fishermen in the joint would be asking me how I did it and what the hell kind of fly or gear was I using? I'd throw down twenty or thirty of my hand tied flies, maybe a few of my leader tippet sets. Before long, I sold all I had with me and paid for the days fishing and then some. Used to spend weeks, months doing that, went everywhere"
"We trolled up and down the many twists and turns of the glass like fall River, it was some time and distance before any action, about five hours past and many beautiful miles disappeared under the fast boat until we found any hungry Trout. I began to experience the almost mandatory fishermen's paranoia.
THE WAITING GAME
I asked Walton what advise he would give a beginner fly fishermen having difficulty withstanding the at times eternal wait, "Easy, I give the same advise to all fly fishermen, listen carefully, if you learn to completely concentrate and use proper presentation and technique, if you get in the habit of fishing straight through Sun up to Sun down, you will eventually catch fish!"
This sage advise did nothing for my writers paranoia, what kind of story would this be without Trout on the stringer?
Would we get skunked, could it happen, all day on this perfect water, no bites, no fish, with Walton Powell ? Then as if by divine intervention, Wham!, Walton had a fish on, about a two pounder full of fight. He played it for several minutes back and forth, the whole time delivering a soliloquy on matching rods to conditions." Its Bull to think you have to have a certain strength Fly rod to catch a particular fish, if you know the god basics of letting the fish play itself out before you try and strong arm it in. You will take Trout nine out of ten hook ups, whether you have a two weight fly rod attached to three pounds of wild Trout or a one weight hooked up to a four pounder, its the fishermen not the equipment. My family and I have been making the best fly fishing equipment money can buy for almost 100 years, I have yet to see a $1000 Bamboo Fly rod help an amateur catch fish! "I asked Walton about his years as a College professor teaching Fly fishing 101 to eager coeds." Many of those eager coeds were better at it then the men, like Mrs. Carter woman have a knack for putting the air ballet together. I remember my dear college associates didn't know what to do with me. I didn't have a teaching credential for flyfishing so they had quite a time finding a way to make everybody happy. It turned out my course was always one of the most popular at Chico State College." Walton finally brought the fat Trout along side the jet boat. A fine fish, our eager water dog, a young Lab named Nicky had a ball watching the Trout swim in the wake attached to a long stringer. We didn't need any more diversion. One after another all of us hooked into nice Trout. The mood of the day changed drastically with the advent of fast action, we caught several nice Trout and needed only one more to limit out.
I asked Walton about todays high sensitivity to all environmental issues and whether he thought about the impact on the sport." I spent about 14 years lobbying for the Fish & Game Dept. in Sacramento, great job, had a chance to fix a few problems and get some focus on hunting & fishing issues.
Only problem was, at about one in the afternoon the cocktail hour starts, hell you had to hoist a few with the boys to get anything done. After awhile, I'm no drinker, it dawned on me, as much as liked lobbying, the life style was detrimental to my long range health. Today young people care about what's left of this country's wild lands, how can that be anything but good."
ITS GOOD TO BE KING!
The Sun was at about five thirty when all hell broke loose, for the first time since we started fishing that morning, high adrenaline surged through the 22 foot jet boat. Walton had pulled off the perfect capper for a 82 year old legend who fished & hunted with Bing Crosby ( an outstanding all around sportsmen) and Bob Hope. He had a serious Trout hooked and line screaming off his reel!
It took twenty minutes to tire the fish, every time we thought he was done, slam, the reel would scream again. Walton played it cool and easy, the Trout went 26 inches and four and a half pounds. It was one of, if not the biggest Rainbow I've ever seen! The whole scene could not have been written any better. In fact, if the famed movie "A River Runs Through It "(many of the fly rods used in the movie were Walton Powell rods.) were being filmed in our boat, this scene would be the perfect ending. Right on cue as if Oliver Stone or Spielberg were directing, here comes the local game warden to see if it really was the legend himself at the helm of the jet boat. The warden had watched Walton expertly play the big fish, he had already had us hold up our fishing licenses earlier, this was just a pure social call, with a taste of idol worship thrown in. The warden wanted his picture taken with Mr. Powell and his four pound bright colored Rainbow.
Having spent a life time watching fellow sportsmen and myself get a little nervous when the local game warden showed up. This scene was one to relish and remember. The warden an experienced professional in charge of the area was no different then any other sportsmen in the presence of royalty. I have never witnessed or experienced the warm respect Walton garners every day of his life, what a treat to behold. After the warden departed, I asked Walton if he ever tired of the excitement the outdoors provide.
THRILL IS NEVER GONE
"Of course not, no matter how old you get or how many big fish or ducks you take, its still a thrill, you bet it is. About seventy years ago when I was still a kid living on the 42 sections we owned. A guy in town was shooting his mouth off about the fact he believed no one, that is no one, could shoot 100 ducks with 100 shells in one day. I heard him and confronted him, now mind you that was back in the days when ducks were plentiful and I often would shoot that many ducks for my big family and friends. The next day with witness's watching and counting. I shot the 100 ducks, in fact I shot 108 ducks and had eight shells left in my pocket, won a ton of money on that one boys. I can recall many thrills in my sporting life, this was one of the sweetest."
In the two days we fished not one real opportunity came to throw flies. In the remaining hours, before this dream trip would end. We decided to take a short cruise over to one of the natural springs feeding the river. As we approached the shallow pools with their pulsating spring fed currents, we would finally go to school!
As all experienced fly fishermen are aware, one cannot expect to fool wily wild trout with anything less then the thinnest leaders and tippets. Along with tiny perfectly tied flies. We were rigged with at least nine feet of leader attached to another four or five feet of super thin tippet. This Hand assembled Powell set up is deadly, if fished properly. One has to cast gently and with some distance to take full advantage. We started with Waltons favorite dry fly, the ubiquitous Clyde fly.
OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS
The totality of the Fall River experience can not be appreciated without fly fishing these natural springs. The water is clear light green, vegetation is lush and the fishing is delicate and requires the sensitivity of those well schooled in the art of gently throwing silk thin tippets with tiny flies at least 40-50 feet. The jet boat was not the best way to enter this delicate zone. We crawled in so slow we were sucking grass into the aft drive unit. Paige was on the bow I took the stern, we waited for rings or any surface movements indicating hungry trout. Before I began false casting back and forth to get the feel of the 5 weight 8 foot graphite Powell fly rod, I felt a little like I did the afternoon my father taught me how to drive in the mid 1950s. I let out about 25 feet of line and after several dry casts, I let the line shoot through the custom guides and watched as the line went about twenty feet, instead of the 25 - 30 I wanted. Walton very gently corrected, "You need some lessons on how to basic cast, first always get in the habit of watching your back cast, you can never get the distance or accuracy if your back cast is not fully extended, now try it again." In the course of ten minutes my casting knowledge and distance improved dramatically. Later after an hours practice, I began to understand mistakes made born out of sheer ignorance.
What a joy to have Walton spend a few minutes going over the fundamentals. Paige whose father has owned the Fall River property for many years was watching and listening. Paige was about as well schooled as I in the air ballet aspect of fly fishing. He threw his fly about where he wanted it to go, didn't look too bad to my eyes, but Walton helped him over come the tendency to punch threw his cast. "Paige if you let your line go when the rod is ready to leverage its power - you won't punch or push cast in the future. Both of you need to practice more. Remember get to know the balance of the rod, you don't have to force the rod to do it's job, watch as I gather the line in my fingers and keep control watch my back cast, see how it is fully extended and now ready for the forward throw, let go of the line in your hand when the rod is forward and you feel it uncoil its leverage."
On the trip back to camp, I realized I had been blessed on this trip. Walton Powell had been kind enough to fly fish and educate two outdoorsmen who could neither sing or dance like Bing Crosby or Bob Hope. We would not be helicoptered back to the White House or jetting back to Hollywood. That didn't seem to matter one bit to Powell, he treated us like kings in his kingdom. The perfect day ended as gently as it began, as the Fall River Sun faded behind majestic mountain peaks. One could imagine Rudyard Kiplings nostalgic lament echoing over the water, "The Captains and the kings depart."
Flies Used On trip:
1. Trolling flies: Green & Brown muddler Minnows, some with silver or gold tinsel. Olive Leech's & Golden Leech's.
2. Dry Flies: These are all Hand made by Walton : The Clyde, Buzzhackle, Pit River Special, Yellow Belly.