Near Misses Near Trout Streams by Mark Usyk

It’s not every day you see one of your fishing buddies almost squashed like an ant under a boot. We were building a new cell tower down near the famous Beaverkill and Willowemoc Rivers, and while unloading a truck full of tower legs that weighed as much as a car it happened. Maybe it was all the drift boats parked in town that we passed that morning on our way in. Maybe it was the small platoon of fly fishermen marching in formation, 9’ tall fly rods rested on their shoulders, marching off for battle. Maybe it was the three fly shops we passed in town. Whatever it was, it clouded judgements and ended up with my fellow tower climber and fishing partner positioning himself in a very bad place.

As the all-terrain fork lift lifted one leg off the semi-truck trailer, the now unbalanced load saw its chance to attack and got right down to it. The leg began to slide off the trailer, pushing Mike towards the edge, and he found himself in a race for his very life. I can still see it in my mind as if it just happened. The 3000lb leg sliding, Mike spinning and jumping from the trailer, the leg hitting the ground at the same time Mike did, I could have sworn it had him. The wooden dunnage bounced everywhere as the 20’ long tower leg sent chunks of pavement flying.

Mike was flat out sprinting as he hit the ground to get out of the way. Across one lane, he cleared the ditch and was up the small hill in no more than three strides. Watching it unfold, I felt as if I were watching one of those wild life shows where the Gazelle gets its hind quarters swatted and barely escapes the big cat. We’d never seen Mike move so fast. I hooted and hollered like an impossible touch down had just been made to win the Super Bowl, profanities were yelled back and forth to both verify and celebrate the fact that he was still breathing. Because of that simple fact you could bet your ass we would be on one of the two rivers shortly after the end of the work day!

Never having fished the Beaverkill before but hearing nothing other than it was a world class Trout river, we found ourselves standing in it’s cool water twenty minutes after pulling off the job site. Trout rose in one long stretch of slow water, but I couldn’t find the right fly, most likely an emerger by the way the sips were happening, and Mike was striking out too. As we made our way back up river the way we’d come we now ran into fishermen standing almost shoulder to shoulder in a river that had been empty an hour before. Not our scene, gravel popped under the tires as we pointed the truck to the Willowemoc.

A climb down a steep bank near a bridge, and not another person to be found, within five minutes we had our first trout from a picturesque setting where the river cascaded over rocks and boulders and through a small pool to continue on through riffles and around a bend. The fishing wasn’t on fire, but we did catch a few. Far downstream above some type of dam next to a school, the sun was going down. Fish were rising everywhere in the last light of the day as a hatch was in full swing, small brown bodies struggling to dry their wings and escape the water’s surface before becoming a meal. I switched from a Wollybugger to a dry fly, something small and brown with a light colored hackle. The closest I could come. The first take wasn’t more than two feet above the shallow dam, a small Brook Trout, par marks and spots, fins trimmed in white. I smiled.

Mike quit fishing and watched as I brought two more to hand, one while I talked to my wife, hours away back home, my cell phone clenched between cheek and shoulder. Mike hung up his phone after saying goodnight to his wife, the motions of living on the road, as I made my last cast. Dark enough that we could no longer make out my fly, and the sound of the fish sipping the fly from the surface more than the sight of it alerted us to it, I released the last one, an 8” Brown. AS we walked back to the truck in the dark, we talked about coming back to this spot the next day, and about fish we’d caught, and fish we would catch. I looked over at Mike walking up the shoulder of the road like a kid with a fishing rod and a grin. “It’s good to be alive, isn’t it buddy?” Tomorrow, the Trout would be there again, and hopefully, so would we.