Stubbornly Waiting for Drakes

A photo of a dirty bathroom floor sucked most of the funny from a recent post. The resulting flapdoodle and folderol was probably to be expected but it is interesting to note that the indignation expressed at the condition of said floor was nearly matched by the indignation expressed at its having been pointed out. But here’s the thing: This blog is dedicated to everyone who gives in to the urge to get away from it all, but it is especially dedicated to the brave souls who take care of them when they arrive and, as anyone who has had a job that included cleaning restrooms can tell you, from posh resorts to the most modest of camps, floor-dribblers aren’t the half of it.


Cleaning up after others is a job not many are willing to take and we tend to look down on those who do. When a restroom is found in poor condition it will be demanded that “someone needs to clean that up!” but no one ever demands that “someone needs to stop making messes!” The fact of the matter is that the guy or gal with the scrub brush and rubber gloves is not the one who made the mess but he or she will take care of the problem, often under the contemptuous gaze of those who would never stoop so low as to mop a floor or wipe a wall, several times a day if needed, and if you believe they couldn’t pay you enough to do a job like that it’s a fair bet they aren’t paying the person doing it enough, either.

It’s not a topic to be discussed in polite company, but bathrooms get dirty, someone cleans them and, to be honest, it’s a bit disheartening to spend time and effort trying to make things nice for people only to find later that those things have been peed upon. Or worse.

So, why would someone like Quill Gordon be willing to spend so much time cleaning up messes that others have made, some of them rather unpleasant? Because, my fellow anglers, I love fly fishing and everything about it, especially fly fishing for trout, and life at a fishing camp just happens to include the occasional unpleasant mess. It’s not my favorite part of the job, and it takes up a lot of my time, but it’s part of how I earn my time on the water. Plus, you couldn’t pay me enough to commute to an office every day.w trout ken hall beaver culvert 4 IMG_6917

I don’t particularly enjoy mopping floors but I love the places trout live, with cold, clean water beneath hemlocks and spruce. I’m not fond of wet towels and dirty sheets but I love the grace of a well-cast line and the rise to a well-placed fly on a pleasant evening as the wood thrush sings at dusk. I don’t enjoy picking up the poop of other people’s dogs but I love watching mayflies emerge in the gloaming and the tug of a trout on my line. I don’t like cleaning drains and septic lines but I love being immersed in the literature and lore of our sport, the connections to its past, and hope for the future. I don’t care much for garbage day, State inspectors, or trespassers who stand their ground and give me grief, but I love anglers (most of them, anyway), even if they occasionally dribble on the floor.

bent rod

Fly fishing is a sport that lends itself to solitude but it is us as a group, you and I and everyone who has gone before us, that make it the richly satisfying activity it has become. Sharing stories, advice and fellowship off the water is as much a part of the picture as our time on the water, and if one person out of ten leaves a bad taste in my mouth there are nine others who don’t, just like in the world at large. It’s just that, sometimes, it’s a really, really bad taste and from time to time fermented grain beverages are employed to cover it up. When the appropriate dosage is exceeded, however, unfortunate side effects can occur, like posting photos of dirty bathroom floors.

The photo in question will stay right where it is, though, as a reminder that wherever you go, my fellow outdoors enthusiasts, there is a caretaker, campground host, or staff member working hard while you traipse through the woods or wet a line or whatever it is you do out there and, when you leave (after a quick little Happy Dance), they will swoop in and work their magic so the next group to arrive won’t even know you’d been there.

do a little dance

To everyone who makes it possible for others to enjoy their outdoor passions, Quill Gordon tips his hat and raises his glass. Living and working where others dream of being has its ups and downs and is not always easy, but it certainly has its own rewards. Just don’t let on that, all in all, it’s not a bad gig.

The camps at Fish in a Barrel Pond have been very busy the past couple of weeks. Different groups, some staying three or four nights, some for a week, others just a night or two, have kept things hopping as we operate at or near capacity. Taking a break to get away from it all would be nice but out of the question, what with being on-call 24/7 and all. Besides, to most, I’m already “away from it all” so, when the chance to enjoy it myself comes along, I take it.

While waiting for a hatch of yellow drakes that ended up being feeble at best, I steered the boat as we drifted while my companion for the evening, a rather notorious character, covered rises with a floating caddis pupa pattern. A single fish, rising once, makes it a guessing game to figure out which direction it is moving. Cast to the right and it is just as likely the fish is moving left. Or away, or closer, or even down. It’s a crap shoot but, with one guess being as good as another, a few trout were brought to hand. The odds tipped in my friend’s favor when we would stumble across a cruising brace or small pod on the move, and he caught fish with the caddis while I stubbornly waited for drakes.


At long last the waxwings appeared, flying out over the water and boomeranging back to the branches of trees at the water’s edge. Pale wings fluttered on the water as a mayfly pulled itself from its shuck and as it took to the air a trout struck at the place it had been. Gaining altitude, it flew into a ray of low sun and hovered in back-lit glory just long enough for a bird to draw a bead and when it snapped shut its beak those pale wings fluttered slowly to the water from whence they came.

Poetic nonsense aside, I saw the fish and I had the fly so I turned the boat and motored slowly that way, stopping now and then so Don could land another one.

Barely a dozen mayflies came off, with just a few half-hearted responses from the trout, but I cast anyway, figuring that sooner or later a trout would swim by. This is called “leading the fish” and I am sometimes able to “lead the fish” by as much as half an hour but I wasn’t messing around tonight so I gave my fly a little twitch. Four fish rose in quick succession. Three of them swatted my fly with their tails and the fourth one sort of came up real slow and gave it the stink eye, but I finally covered a swirl and hooked up with a cold, dark brookie, nearly black and all of eight inches long.

And that was it. Hardly a hatch at all but the fish were still rising over deeper water so I motored back out and Don covered rises with that caddis, politely pointing out each fish he hooked.  A nightcap by the old camp stove ended the evening and as I made my way home the reflections of stars rippled across the water.

That was last night. Last night there was nary a mayfly to be seen but tonight they are coming off in droves. Last night the female loon was still on the nest but tonight she’s swimming with her mate and two newly-hatched chicks.


Last night there were anglers on the lake who are now sitting at home but others have arrived to take their place. Tomorrow there will be more, and the day after that and the day after that, and Quill Gordon will be here, doing what he does for a chance to be on the water.

Summer’s just begun but it seems it won’t be long before those chicks fledge and leave at the first sign of snow. Go on, get out there, people, before the season is over. Traipse through the woods, wet a line or whatever it is you do out there. Turn off the phone and give in to the urge to get away from it all.

Someone will be there for you when you arrive.

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Loons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Stubbornly Waiting for Drakes

  1. Who is that “notorious character,” aka masked man? :mrgreen:
    This was funny and enjoyable, overall, despite the brief reality check of what needs to be done so everyone can catch a few fish. Wish I was there NOW to fish that drake hatch. But that’s fishing. Thanks Ken, for the boat ride and for your fine on-the-water fishing escort service.
    Two loon chicks – now that’s something to write home about! Thanks for writing “home.” Until next time…

    • I know it wasn’t exactly guiding, steering you through ten acres of rising trout, but I wish you’d stop calling it an “escort service”!

      I think there’s some degree day threshold to reach before the drakes really come off. I’ve heard rumors of Hexagenia but I still think it’s at least a week early to count on them. That’s not to say I won’t try a giant fuzzy emerger on the way back in tonight …

      Two loon chicks is cool indeed. It will be interesting to see what happens. I just hope no one gives them names.

      [ PS – You really need to learn to speak up when you hook a fish. Some folks on the other side of the valley didn’t hear you 😉 ]

      • Re-reading this old article: “Fly Fishing Escort Service!” By the way, we lost Abigail in November, the day after Thanksgiving. Two months shy of her 15th birthday. She had some kind of event in late summer and went downhill after that.
        My wife Mary, and I (just married over a year now) just three days ago, got another Cocker Spaniel puppy, a little girl, named Libby. She is adorable, and I hope to one day her her in a fishing boat.

  2. To put myself through college I worked full time second shift as a janitor at Sears Tower for two years. If digital cameras were around back then, the bathrooms would make for a very interesting photo essay. I remember dreading going into my first Men’s room on my first day. First of many to come. It wasn’t that bad. Then I walked into the Women’s room. Women in public restrooms are pigs. It’s amazing what women will do with those sanitary napkin things… and what’s with the friggin toilet paper all over the counter tops.

    “Plus, you couldn’t pay me enough to commute to an office every day.”

    Now that I’m doing that on a daily basis, I’d gladly clean toilets in a setting like you have instead.

    • I apologize for cracking wise about offices but you know what I mean.

      Yeah, the ladies have their own special way about them, don’t they?

      When I was a zoo keeper, everyone in a section took turns at restroom duty. The reptile house was just far enough into the loop that people had already lost their minds and were acting like animals by the time they reached our building. We had hose spigots and floor drains in our restrooms, if that tells you anything.

      • No need to apologize Quill. As much as I needed the job, I dreaded working in an office again. As a freelancer, I didn’t have to do that for 18 years. Luckily my boss has a great sense of humor, I warned her I don’t sit still well and she still hired me.

  3. Woolybugah

    Well Mr Quill, your companion,that infamous infamous fly-tyer from PA and I got our comeupance the next night when the fish didn’t like the caddis either. All’s fair in war and flyfishing.

    • Things are kind of sporadic but there are much worse places to not catch fish. I hope you survived the thrashing you must have gotten for coming back empty handed.

  4. Chip Chamberlain

    Good piece Quill. As a lad, I worked summers at a public park and took Sunday AM clean up duty because I could get a full day’s pay for half a day of labor (actually 3 hours when I ran from one latrine to another.) So, believe me, I still appreciate a good “aim.” I have a new theory: It’s not the hatch, but the pop of a cork from the bottle of a grape juice that brings those ‘bows to the surface. Trying it tonight. Wood Chip

  5. Quill, I am all over this post and topic with you! It is easy for most to look down their noses than it is for them to hit their knees. Sorry state of the times, I think. Anyway, Kudos on this fine post and for sharing the good and the bad of life at the Lodge.

    • If the times in a sorry state are “always and forever” you might be right. We are an interesting bunch, us people. Thank goodness I get to fish once in a while!

  6. Just noticed my link above is out of whack. Sorry, I will fix it now.

  7. It never ceases to amaze me, the human condition. I’m going to make the prediction that as things worsen more men will pee on the floor and then say tsk, tsk, what a mess.

  8. Pingback: Boat Dog « Don Bastian Wet Flies

  9. Pingback: In Need of Improvement | The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond

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