Drinking. Stripping. Debauchery of biblical proportions.
These are not references to Las Vegas, but rather to an annual pilgrimage that I've heard spoken of in hushed tones by certain members of the fly fishing community. Over the years fragments of unsubstantiated rumor have reached my ears regarding this event, and I was aware that it took place in the vicinity of Island Park, Idaho. I had also heard tales of a mysterious cabin in the woods where unspeakable rituals were enacted, led by a man known only as Uncle Bob.
When an opportunity arose to pledge this fraternity of the fly, I jumped at the chance. Admittedly I was caught off guard when the stripping was performed by a man named Layne following a bizarre self-baptism episode in prime trout habitat. Had this information been disclosed at the outset I may have reconsidered, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Having met up with several well-established members of the Brotherhood of the Wading Pants, drift boats were immediately set afloat. I was instructed to board a vessel containing JayMorr, Layne, Brika (the trout-sniffing GSP), and Casey (who claims to be a guide for Worldcast Anglers). The guiding credentials would later be called into question.
Right off the bat it became apparent that Layne had not yet developed what the medical community commonly refers to as The Morrison Reflex. Anyone who regularly fishes with JayMorr instinctively grips their newest rod with Herculean force any time he approaches to within a 15-yard radius. This phenomenon is called a "reflex" because the action is triggered from the brain stem itself without conscious thought. Attempting to process proximity information in the cerebral cortex takes a split second, during which time JayMorr will have already secured the highest quality fly rod in the boat and made no less than 3 casts.
My own Morrison Reflex has been honed to the very limits of mammalian capacity. Adopting a threat posture between Jay and my favorite 6-weight, I was not surprised to see a blur-like motion in the vicinity of Layne's brand new Sage Z-Axis. Before the anchor had even grazed the river bottom at our first wade fishing location, my ears caught the faint swishing of wader legs scissoring through the current as JayMorr vectored across the river with Layne's virgin graphite glinting faintly in his hand.
"Whoops I think Morrison just grabbed my Z-Axis by mistake," stammered Layne. Casey, Brika, and I all enjoyed some hearty laughter from this classic 1-liner.
"Good thing you brought that ultralight dry fly rod as a spare," I remarked, still chuckling at Layne's hilarity. "It's not ideal for articulated streamers with lead eyes, but you'll get used to it."
Jay then proceeded to catch the first fish ever on the new rod - a nice rainbow - while Layne feverishly attempted to throw a size 4 weighted stonefly setup under a voluminous indicator using his delicate dry fly rig.
It was around this time that Casey's guide credentials began to appear suspect in my opinion. I will mention here that he invariably displayed expert skills as an oarsman, read the river with great wisdom, and provided perfect advice about fly selection and fish location.
As it turns out, Casey has Angler's Tourette Syndrome, or ATS. This condition causes him to suddenly yell out the term "26-inch brown trout!" at socially inappropriate times.
For example, at one point he made the comment, "Yesterday I saw a pair of TWENTY-SIX INCH BROWN TROUT! near the head of this run." Fishing the location resulted in catching a pair of mountain whitefish. This scenario repeated itself until it became a pattern, and at the time of this writing I'm not certain that Casey can actually tell the difference between a 26-inch brown trout and a W.O.U.S. (Whitefish Of Unusual Size).
Brown trout may not be the only species impacted with mistaken identity either. Later in the float, Casey positioned himself on a bridge and began directing Layne into a particularly deep and swift run. "If you can work your way out another 20 feet, there's a TWENTY-PLUS INCH RAINBOW TROUT! holding near the seam." Unbeknown to me at this time was Layne's nickname of Captain Nemo, which he has acquired over the years due to his propensity for spontaneous full-body immersion in bodies of water all across the hemisphere.
Without warning, Layne suddenly began performing what I can only describe as a series of Russian Squat Kicks in the middle of the river, culminating in a maneuver that left only his eyeballs exposed above the surface of the water. It seems as though the purpose of full submersion was to obtain maximum purchase on the riverbed, because he then shot out of the water like a Trident Missile and headed for shore at planing speed. The remainder of the story is not suitable for young viewers, but suffice it to say that images from those events remained emblazoned on my retinas well into the blackness of the ensuing night.
After Layne went under, Casey again commenced gesturing wildly and yelled, "Colvin! If you can just make it 20 feet beyond where Captain Nemo filled his waders and nearly got swept downstream that fish is still there!"
Mentally pushing aside everything I had just witnessed, I braced myself against the current and worked my way into a precarious position for a chance at this slab rainbow. Finally, as my rubber-soled boots began losing traction on the mossy cobblestones and the water was lapping at the top of my chest waders, I wedged my foot against a rock and cast into the seam. "Perfect!" Casey announced. Midway through the drift I tied into the fish, and had to reverse my route back towards shore while the fight was underway.
Eventually I negotiated the hazards successfully and landed my quarry - a Whitefish Of Unusual Size.
There is much more to the story than what I have recounted here, but in yet another similarity to Las Vegas...
What happens at Bob's cabin stays at Bob's cabin.
Many thanks to Bob, Jason, Mike, Casey, Layne, Brika, and JayMorr for the great time I had on the trip. I enjoyed time on the water, tremendous hospitality at the cabin, and friendships both old and new. Jay has more images from up North at www.flyfishermanforum.com, so drop in and see things from his point of view.