|Column nr. 6 2007|
SNAKES ON THE FLY
It goes with the job description as easily as cold hands goes with scooping ice cream...If you’re a dedicated fly fisher and have chased trout, salmon, especially bass in warm desert country, you have been introduced to snakes usually by surprise! My first encounter related many times in other stories was as a six year old future outdoorsmen in training waiting on a rock near the American River in California. As quickly as life can change, a two foot snake of undetermined identity slithered across my young legs and I was air born! During early hunter, shooter, gatherer lessons in a small town known as Petaluma California, on a combo pheasant/fly fish trip, a three foot rattle snake was waiting when I found my downed bird....
Those reading this fly fishing column realize I’m guilty of not saying anything about the inherent dangers including; snakes, bears, bee’s, bulls in pastures and in rivers and streams, slippery rocks in fast water, fast floating logs or other objects that can surprise or knock you down! I have experienced all the above, nearly killed by swarm of hornets, surprised by many bears without breaking a twig sneaked up within yards from behind while wading and so on...... Of the many close calls or near miss steps that include almost landed on a snake or scorpion or nest of spiders. My most memorable and hard drive wired are encounters with snakes in America, Asia, South America, Mexico and on the many rivers, oceans and creeks where I spend most of my time.
While shooting dove and fly fishing with my old best friend Yosemite National Park Super Tech retired John Wilson who lives in Mariposa California my most outstanding rattle snake story and I will begin with it! Ronny and I had been hunting and fly fishing all of Yosemite for many years during the days when I hunted everything that walked, crawled, flew..... We were set on a dove hunt opening day September, when after many hours of great luck the sun began to drop and all around us rattlers were wide awake. One 65 inch big boy got between us, we hand signaled for me to shoot it with my 12 gauge Remington Automatic. I waited until I thought it was just safe and pulled the trigger, the big snake flew into the air and wrapped around Ron Wilson’s Cowboy neck! I skinned and mounted the best snake tale I’ll ever have to tell!
Rattle snakes belong to the viper family and can live over 25 years in ideal habitat! They enjoy each others company in the cold winter months by creating a pit or den where they commingle for warmth and social opportunities.... Snakes have incredible visual acuity, they are heat seekers much like guided missiles whose technology was copied from reptiles! They see your heat image or heat profile long before your in their area. Rattlers are excellent swimmers, I can attest to their swimming prowess! On the mighty Merced River that screams out of California’s Yosemite park I was wading mid river in strong current when a young rattler approached and would not give up his right away. I tried to keep him off me with my fly rod and fish net. He finally swam by me striking and missing by inches.
While sliding down hill in a steep area on the Trucky River one late spring I started a rock slide that took me and a full grown rattler about 25 feet all the way down at the same time. He was trying to get over to my space the whole way down and failed. I was carrying a new 9mm pistol and unloaded a full clip that missed him as I felt like an idiot and he slithered away fast... I was whipped by gravity and a serpent that morning, but what a hell of a morning it was.....
On many occasions in South East Asia I encountered salt water going sea snakes and a wide variety of snakes. The favored booby trap for those stupid enough to follow Viet Cong down into tunnels was well known. Across the low ceiling in a tunnel a series of hollow bamboo sticks were arranged so that bumping your head would cause them to fall on your back and head. Inside the hollow bamboo the famous little green snake waited. Life ended two minutes after feeling that funny quick bite on your neck.... I awoke under a mosquito net while driving troops into an operation, on top of the web net was a Two Step little nine inch green killer and I had no one around to help. After thinking for about three seconds, I launched like a bullet and he hit the floor moving...... An ongoing nitemare courtesy of my beloved Marine Corps.
While fly fishing on the Upper Sacramento River circa 1970s I reached under my back pack after a morning of fly fishing and thank god I felt him before he could strike, a healthy three foot rattler liked my choice of outdoor gear... While living in a cabin twenty feet from the fabled Fall River for 7 months a few years ago I stepped out on my front step 530am and stepped on a two foot snake of unknown identification because we both went airborne at once!
After spending a long morning on a quiet ripple water section of the lower Feather River in the late 1970s, I had only one way out of the water between two large builders. Smack in the middle curled up a rattler and he would not budge, I prodded him once with my fly rod and he got aggressive then settled back down leaving me no way out of the water and the sun was setting. I was worried because first I had only a small pin lights and the route back to my car was a good half hour walk. I gave up and half swam down stream to find an exit.
Texas Rattler, 9 feet, 1 inch - 97 lbs.
My last and never told snake story happened on private property in Mariposa County while throwing handmade grasshoppers at fat rainbows that never saw fly fishers. It was a great morning and I hooked up and released ten nice trout one over three pounds. The property was large 3000 acres and I had the run of it. I quail hunted, deer hunted, picked mushrooms and thought I really knew the area after several years of permission to hunt and fish.
The stream was perfect and I knew every inch, after this one special morning I decided to eat lunch take a long nap and start in again around dark before walking back to my car about a mile away. All went well until half way through my walk to my car when I was surrounded by rattling rattlers as the sun went down. I climbed a tree and waited for an hour before very quietly finding my way back to that warm safe car.
In an unrelated surrounded by creatures tale. Once long ago while hunting Antelope in the Clear Lake Lava Bed region of upper California, I was surrounded by a pack of wolves while urinating at dusk their eyes glowing, I could hear them rustling and growling.... Ahh the good life.
Wolf Snake Sense
1. Heaping amounts of good old common sense will serve you well fly fishing in rattler, water moccasin, copperhead, cotton mouth, waters. If you know a head of time snakes will be about you, one can easily prepare both your body and spirit for the first encounter. Study photos of the resident vipers and their usual habits.
2. If your going into habitat where poisonous snakes dwell and your going to be wading? Your risk factor will be heightened. I can speak from experience in that your not going to be able to move quickly or at times get out of the way in strong or even lazy waters! Being careful in regard to exactly where you can leave the water is crucial! Life and snakes change and appear quickly, you will be startled and must plan a head!
3. While walking along river, creek, stream banks one’s eyes must never leave the 10 to 15 feet of shore directly in front and to the side. Snakes love hot boulders to stretch out on and soak up the warmth. Be careful climbing I have come upon snakes many times while searching shoreline for casting lanes or good currents.
4. Watch the clock while out fly fishing on any waters any where. When the sun begins to recede and your in unfamiliar area’s your not going to pay as strict attention on the way out when your tired and in a hurry! That’s when many snakes are most active and your at risk! Take a deep breath and move slowly carefully.
5. Buy and wear Gators if your in real dangerous snake country. Gators are plastic covers hunters wear while in snake land, they ride high up your leg and offer real protection.
6. Of course if its legal and your well trained a pistol will do if necessary. Then again I opt for not harming any creature unless its hopeless to avoid. Ideally a shotgun would be my tool of choice under extreme circumstances!
7. Buy a identification field book and study it. Carry it with you for quick reference.
8. Buy and learn to use a snake bite kit. If you are not sure find and pay a doctor or veterinarian to instruct you, it could save your life.
9. Remember the more prepared you are and the more you understand serpent behavior, you may begin to find these creatures fascinating, but better treated with respect and distance.
10. As a rule I always give snakes and all small animals the right away in the woods or by water. It is their real estate not ours! Simply give snakes a wide birth and move well around them.
11. Statistics taken every year world wide say Bulls in pastures, Bee’s, Wasps, wild pigs, harm more fly fishers then snakes... Of course all of you serious fly fishers reading this own and operate a compass for those confusing walks back to the pick up? How about basic survival gear?
ROAD KILL FOX CADDIS
Front half of freshly killed Fox found while working three rivers in three days northern California May 2007, neck and mask hairs taken before animal buried. My usual spirit quieting peace chant and prayer rendered in respect! I feel by tying a fly with the animals hair a small piece of his spirit returns to the natural order for a moment or two.
Hook: Dry fly #16 - #18 Barbless
Thread: Dark brown ancient thread taken from 14th Century Monks robe bought at estate sale.
Body: Bits and pieces of fox hair and Monks robe threads mixed and applied via a waxed noodle. The body is wound and extended all the way around the hook bend to the point for a more realistic presentation!
Wing: Two sections, large fan Yearling Elk carefully trimmed, two mahogany brown hackle tips.
Hackle: Long Fox hairs groomed and wound after composing thin dental floss glued noodle process. In this process instead of wax tiny spots of glue (your choice) are applied to dental floss before Fox hairs are fixed. This technique takes practice and is worth the effort as the hackle winds nicely.
Head: This fly pattern too small and complex for special head of thread, the hackle is wound thick and acts as head as well.
"ADVENTURES OF FLETCHER QUILL"
"On Memorial Day 2007 Warrant Officer Duke Parker USMC died homeless in San Francisco California. He was an outstanding Marine and a good friend who will be dearly missed..... Rest in peace Marine, Semper Fi..."
666, Keith Richards (Glimmer Twin) Fletcher Quill, spirit brother his lowness Abbott Sammy Kinnison (Car crash killed comic of dubious history!) Are now flying at approximately 500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean after a long flight over China its time to begin searching for the schools of migrating king Salmon and other game fish. The jet copters array of Sonar, G.P.S. assisted underwater radar terrain scanners light up three big screens. After much chin music about everything from Chicago Blues harp players and the best lobster chefs in the world all eyes are glued to the three dimension underwater digital cameras. The latest technology not yet available to the unwashed K Mart Shopper!
During the eight hour flight to icy Atlantic black waters Keith made sure to slip a large handful of Quill’s once frozen 1970s Haight Ashbury Magic Mushrooms stolen from the Grateful Dead’s 710 Address baby! These Shrooms were personally tested by Ken Kesey, Burroughs, and the main North Beach bad boys. The chopper cabin has been resplendent and graced with the lilting sounds of Etta James, Co Co Taylor, Areatha Franklin and all those other young ladies who own the down and dirty blues. Abbott Sammy in spirit person has kept everyone in stitches with his story of running into old Mr. Late Night King Johnny Carson at a Malibu gas station. The Great Carnac was filling his shiny new red corvette as the live version of the bawdy Vegas, HBO, comic pulled up next to him and said, " Soo Johnny I got a big bag of blow and two blonds with triple D’s you wanna party ?" " Carson said he would love to but was on his way to a Barbra Strisand barbecue and wanted to get their before Bab’s got all slushed and rude!" Abbott Sammy said when he did Carson’s show after the first few times. He was always visited by Johnny in the Green Room a great honor. Carson’s spokesmen alleged it was only to see how far gone Kinnison was before show time....
"Keith, Dude I still can’t believe you dosed the friggin Dali lama man! Ok yeah, well we both dosed the Cowboy remember him riding that wooden horse stick all over the Oval office high as Boy George on street cleaning duty. But, the Man God hisself, you gotta get him wasted and his boys with him? His Monk Pack (a new word coined?) was face painting and chanting my wild ass chants about poor Paris Hilton’s lack of panties. Oh that reminds me, I gotta call Sharon and arrange for our little Paris to get sprung quick. That fool Govanotor owes me big time Pally"
"You do go on like my dear old Mom there Quilly. Ok, so the old wizard and his lads take alitttle trip and clear those cobwebs. What’s the harm then Mate? You saw their contented faces hey? Well then, might be Bloody good for all of them take a little trip... No worries hey 666?"
"Worries, about what gentlemen? You
left in fine reputation and perhaps just in time. Oh time how I miss the
whole concept of not enough time. It really helped me ravage quite afew
fallen angels with low self esteem.
"Ok, quiet boys before we get into any serious Ocean fly fishing I gotta call the Govonator pronto! Hello Arnold Mr. President is that you sir?"
"Mr. President who is this girly man with the sweet girly voice in my earrr?"
"Fletcher Quill Sir, we met at the International Film Festival two yrs ago? I gave you my backstage Rolling Stones Pass remember? Keith is here with me we are now flying in th VP’s jet chopper over the Atlantic. I want to ask an important favor, urgent favor in fact!"
"Yeah, yeah, I already know, you want me to free Ms. Hilton’s flabby ass from the posh hoosgow it that about it Mr. Fly Man?"
"Ok, lets talk Hollywood what I can do for you Terminator Man, Mr. California! I have in my possession ten of my own hand tied verified, validated Hollywood Retro Famous actress pubic hair streamer flies tied by me of course my curious friend with the Nazi family history. Now you spring my girl from lesbian nastiness and I give you Harlow, Monroe, Mansfield, Novak, Colbert, Young, and many more complete with matching photos and DNA maps."
"I think you have been smoking the right stuff Mr. Fly Man, hate to see a butterfly put in a cage though this will surely cost me. Maria of course will love it and big boy Teddy will let me have drumstick this Thanksgiving... Ok now other business, so what’s Sharon like in the sack, does she do anything special?"
"Glad we have a deal, I guess Sharon is no more or less fun then your little dream girl Skull Woman! She does always seem to tell me how much her time is worth and how little mine is worth at certain sensitive moments?"
"Are you still writing the book, " Care & Feeding Of Your Blond"?"
"Oh yeah, now up to Chapter#16, " Trauma of Hair Cutting & Coloring " This Chapter is almost as important as the last one, " To You Its Only Vanilla Ice Cream, Your Blond Believes It The Stuff Of Life!"
"Fascinating the way your milking blond mythology Fly Man, we must discuss film rights and money when the book becomes a hit which it will. Welcome to the fame game simple fishermen."
"Indeed Sir , Hell you made more gold in Hollywood then Eddy Murphy. One more question before we ajourn? Might you Sir possess special hair samples from your past leading ladies, lovers, gal pals?"
"Oh sure, I give you Darrah Handfuls silky blond tress’s and you make flies to barter!"
"Quillmeister look at screen two, we have a pod of maybe 300 King Salmon coming up the port side at around 100 foot depth. Lets drop down and get into these boys like now.
Dude look that guy goes an easy 70 pounds plus! Man, no need to string up rods as Quill’s boys preloaded Bamboo 12 weights ready to roll."
Two 15 foot custom jet Zodiacs equipped with under sea sonar/radar are released before the chopper settles on its pontoons. The boats are designed by Fletcher Quill for deep sea fly action under any weather conditions. They were tested in North Antarctic waters and passed with honors. Each side of the Zodiac has four inlaid swivel fighting chairs and rod holding devices. Sequence of casting right away are worked out via hand signals and whistles as the action may get wild quick. All flies are barbless and if left in a fish will dissolve in two weeks. Three separate heads up computer displays keep all fly fishers alert and ready to sight cast to the giants now swimming near the boats. The boys wait until the kings are within 75 feet and begin throwing lines...
"Quill this is insane my main mate, black as black can be and were out in the middle of nothingness looking to fight with these monster salmon on sea going steroids, reminds me of your poor Barry Bonds. Now you contend it don’t matter that the Babe was great and real great boozer, Ty Cobb had his enemies as did Joltin Joe and all of them had some kind of beast in closet right Fletcher?"
"Yes all the great ball players had bugs in their acts.... Oh boy, just felt a good hit at around 6o feet. Yeah baby there it is (Quill jolts the bamboo rod setting the hook on a nice 58 pound king and their off and at it! (Quill straps into fighting harness and special fly fighting chair.) Man this guy is brute strength Dudes, I let out 200 yards and he is still running!"
"Here we go Mate, now I set the hook like you did with a slight jolt and were connected like me and my wife Mick. Hold on now, this thing ain’t ready for afternoon tea?"
Now the Zodiac is being pulled in two directions by the huge hooked King Salmon. The action continues for another two hours and then dies off...
"Man, that was great fly action Quill, those Zodiacs take to the open ocean like me & Mick take to Chicago or Frisco.... So here Dude take another fist full of these magic Shrooms and I’ll tell you about the time we kept Barry Manilowly waiting for two hours and then shined him on after about 30 seconds. Or maybe the one about your poor little Ms. Hilton showing up backstage with that other blond your crazy about Martha Steward, did you not let Martha hang at your castle during her lawless days Quilly? How about stepping up Matey and asking Arnold to let our little Paris come hang at your Raven’s Haven and make fast friends with your Sharon?"
"Fabulous idea oh Glimmer Twin master
of all things rock like?, How about right now while we search for next
king pod. Hello Govonator your Highness, I’m leaving this message
knowing your right now doing your very best to spring our poor desperate
"Dude excellent your so giving Mr. International Bad Girl Blond Expert Sir! Look Dude another big group or flock or school or whatever of kings......"
(Will Paris and Sharon bond? Will La Sharon kill our hero?)
Read about Fletcher Quill in earlier chapters:
Written by Dan Fallon © 2007
For Dan Fallon's earlier
and later columns; visit the table of contents