Archive for December, 2006

Yeah, I know Christmas letters are dorky…

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

…and those sent via e-mail are doubly so.

Still, some of us enjoy catching up with old friends and family even if it’s only through the annual Christmas newsletter.

So if you’d like to share your holiday newsletter or greeting with your friends from the Class of 1976, feel free to add them as comments, below.

Note, due to spammers, I’ll have to approve each one before it will appear, but I’ll try to do this promptly.

merry Christmas, and I hope 2007 is a great year for you and your loved ones…

Scott Butner

800 lbs of memories….

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

It was the nicest fish of the weekend.

it was far from my finest hour.

We’re 2 miles into the second day of a 16 mile float down the Yakima river, four middle-aged men in an 18 foot drift boat filled with 800 lbs of memories.

The passengers on this trip are Keith, myself, Dave, and Ozie — four friends who have known each other since we were 7 years old:

The fact that we’re floating down the river in a rented drift boat on this cloudy October day is the result of a nostalgia-fueled conversation at our 30th class reunion this past summer — and the realization that 25 years of living largely separate lives does not unravel the threads that have tied our lives together.

In this boat are two of my groomsmen from my wedding; I’ve fallen off of mountains and been chased by bears with Keith; braved swarms of yellowjackets and hunted coyotes with Ozie, flashlights taped to our BB guns so we could hunt at night.  Dave and I set up filmstrips and risked being labeled nerds as A/V boys at Olivia Park Elementary.  At one time or another, I’ve sworn allegiance to each of these guys as “my best friend” with the sincerity that only an 8 year old can imbue those words with.

Back in the boat, I’ve been trying to do my best guide imitation — though we’ve fished together as kids, none of these guys has fly fished much, if at all.

On day one, we floated 10 miles from Ringer Road down to Red’s, and despite the bright autumn sun managed to find a few pods of rising trout, and everyone in the boat caught at least one.

After a night under starry skies — or, at least, what would have been starry skies had the clouds not moved in, thankfully keeping the thermometer above freezing overnight — we hit the river for a second day, taking our time in breaking camp and timing our departure for the leading edge of the mayfly hatch.  We’d stayed up ’til nearly 1 a.m. the night before, talking around the campfire of friends who had passed, or triumphed, or both.  We talked of crushes we’d had on girls in junior high (finally able to admit them after 35 years of keeping them hid), of our families, of stories and scandals long since forgotten.

In rehashing these shared memories, we realized how much each of the others had to add to the telling — details lost or never known,  another point of view on tales that had started to grow stale from retelling to our kids and our wives, and other people who weren’t there to witness.

Which is why I’ve come to think, as I row downstream against a brisk autumn wind that seems to have come from out of nowhere, about how cherished this cargo of 800 lbs of memories really is.

Which brings us back to the start; to the nicest fish of the day, and my hesitance to admit to catching it….

We spent the first hour of the morning fishing with indicators and nymphs — way out of character for me, but I thought it might help my friends get into more fish.

It didn’t.   But hey, we tried.

But about a mile downstream from the camp, we ran into a pod of rising trout in a swirling whirlpool and backeddy — tucked up against  a cliff face, with foam lines that intersected at crazy angles and current that was moving upstream one moment, downstream the next, it was not easy fishing, but the fish looked to be worth catching.

Keith hooked up first, a big fish from the look of the pull on his 5 wt, but it stayed deep and kept its secrets.  Dave hooked up next, a little fish that stayed on the line a bit longer than Keith’s but still didn’t make it to hand.  I tried my hand at a couple of persistent risers, tucked up in the brush where the current doubled back on itself, and came away with 14 and 16 inch rainbows to hand.

Ozie had gone downstream, around a bend where I’d mentioned a good feeding lie could be found that was a bit less technical.  Unfortunately it was occupied by a couple of folks in another drift boat, who had pulled at least one fish out of there.

Still, we decided it was worth working it once they left.  Ozie tried his hand at a high degree of difficulty fish, rising steadily six inches in front of a log snag, and had it up once or twice before loosing his fly and heading back to the boat for a tippet transplant.

Dave fished a nice foam line that ran parallel with, and about 3 feet out from the bank, and eventually hooked up a nice trout.

Meanwhile, downriver where Dave’s foam line ran into the bank, Keith and I spotted a gorgeous specimen of a fish, rising steadily in front of a rock which was about 6 inches out from the bank.  We waded as near as we dared, and I stood by and coached Keith as he took his casts at it.

Getting the proper drag-free drift was not easy, but no one said that big trout should be easy.

Still, after Keith had casted for about 5 minutes and had a couple of snags on nearby brush, I (politely, I hoped, but in my lust for big fish, I fear not) asked Keith if he minded if I took a crack at the fish before it got spooked.

Keith, gentleman that he is, said “sure, go ahead” — and on the second drift, I tightened up on a legitimate 18 incher which may, or may not be captured on Dave’s digital camera — it squirmed loose just as I removed the size 18 CDC baetis from its lip, and I won’t know until Dave sends his pictures to me whether he has immortalized the moment or not.

And hence the source of my shame.  In all candor, I’m not sure that Keith would have caught the trout even if I’d given him another 20 minutes to work on it; but in all fairness, he deserved the chance.

But at the end of the day, we all had a great time, and everyone went away agreeing that this ought to be an annual outing.  Keith and I hope to hit the St. Joe’s river next fall — as an avid backpacker, he has fished its source on multiple occassions, and left me drooling at the tales of overeager cutthroats.

And maybe — just maybe — when we do, I’ll “let” him steal a big fish from me.  To balance out the scorecard, just a bit.