Fishing with a Puppy, humorous...
|Fishing With Chena II
Our grandsons were staying the weekend with us, and Chena was ecstatic. She had been without playmates since the boys had returned to the city three weeks ago. Now she had the kids back to play with and she was super excited.
Sunday morning the boys were eating their cereal and watching cartoons in the living room. I went outside to drink my coffee, not being ready to handle Sponge Bob’s insane cackling just yet, and it was gorgeous outside. Maybe 70 degrees tops, with a slight breeze and the river was up a bit higher than usual. It was still low enough to wade around although there would be some deep spots that would be too deep to wade; areas where hopefully the fish would congregate.
I went back in and grabbed one of the many mysteriously appearing fly rods, a bamboo walking stick, and my fishing vest and headed out the door. The boys barely glanced up from the Sponge Bob weirdness. Down river there are a couple of long deep holes. They are about three quarters to a mile downstream, no further. With the water as high as it was, the holes would be a bit over my head in a couple of places, but I could avoid those spots by staying on the fringes of the holes. Wading down river is easy because the water pushes you along nicely. The problem comes when it is time to wade back up against the current.
The bank in front of our house slopes gently down to the river, just enough slope that the steps cut into the bank are a nice help, but not a real necessity. I waded off into the water and it was just slightly cool, better than the warm bath feel it had been for the past couple of months, definitely a sign that autumn was coming. I hadn’t gotten more than 20 feet when I heard Chena hit the water behind me like a ton of bricks. I thought about trying to shoo her back home, but I haven’t been able to yet so I didn’t bother trying. Besides, she can be good company.
When I wade down river I always cross over to the far side where the water is quite a bit shallower and then head downstream. I crossed over with Chena right behind me. The water was over my knees so she had to swim most of the way. She is growing so fast that on a still day you can almost hear her bones popping. Seeing her alongside the boys really highlights how big she has gotten. I think she weighs around fifty five pounds now. Her oversized feet look like bear paws, with sharp claws and all.
I waded down stream, trying to cast but Chena was right next to me the whole time and I didn’t want to get her tangled up so I waited until I got to the deep hole, figuring she would stay in the shallow water and explore the bank as she usually does. Didn't work. When I got to the deep hole she stayed right next to me, swimming. In order for my cast to reach the deep hole I had to wade out far enough that I was in water over my waist, water with a fair bit of current. That put the water way over Chena’s head, but for some reason she still wanted to stay right next to me.
So, I thought I would wade across the river and she would be too frightened to come across with me. This, as it turned out, was not a good idea. Chena kept right on coming, but she was getting tired and the current was starting to carry her down and away from me. She was struggling mightily to stay with me, but she was losing the battle and showed no signs of heading back to the bank. I had visions of her being swept off down river, and getting lost if not drowned; I suspected that Susan would be upset about that. So I waded downstream to her and grabbed her collar. This unfortunately put me further into the deep hole than I had wanted or needed to be. I was now up to my armpits with the even stronger current pushing against my whole body. If I tried to head back to the bank I had started from I would end up being pushed into water well over my head. My best bet was to continue on across from where I was and I might be able to keep my feet on the bottom all the way, I hoped. It was hard now to tell exactly where the deep areas were at. I continued on across the river and the water deepened until it was up to my chin.
I was wading with my right arm held high to keep my fly rod up and my left arm holding the dog up and water up to my chin and we were just about in the middle of the river when Chena decided that getting onto my shoulders was the thing to do. She started crawling up my back and there wasn’t a hell of a lot I could do about it with one hand full of fly rod and Chena mostly out of reach of the other hand. She had a fore leg on each of my shoulders and was kicking for all she was worth with her hind legs. Her lower jaw was resting on top of my head. She was the biggest and ugliest hat you ever saw. Thank goodness there was no one around to see this; I might drown, but happily I wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about it. I probably looked like some kind of strange two headed floating monster and might have badly frightened women and small children.
The kicking of Chena’s hind legs had the unfortunate effect of getting her feet occasionally tangled in the back of my fishing vest and the bamboo wading staff that was tied across my back, and pushing me forward, and under, all at the same time. As I continued across I had reached a spot where my feet could no longer find the bottom and I thought I was going to have to drown the damn puppy regardless of Susan’s feelings in order to survive myself. At that moment I wasn’t regretting the idea at all, in fact I was fairly happy about it. I was doing that little maneuver where you bounce up off the bottom, take a breath and sink back down to just below your eyes and then bounce back up again, only I was doing it with a large dog on my head.
After a couple of more bounces I found a brief toe hold on a rock that tumbled away under me. Then one more bounce and I gained a little better but ever so brief toe hold and so on until I was tip-toeing across with my head held back and up as high as I could get it with Chena sitting on it. Slowly I was rising up out of the water like some kind of demented two headed monster with a fly rod and bad language.
When I reached a spot where I could stand flat footed and breathe at the same time I was ready to shake Chena off of me so that I could get at her throat, but before I could she let go and started swimming along side of me again. She was kicking me with her feet because now she was up current from me and the current kept pushing her into me. Earlier I mentioned those bear like claws for a reason, they are sharp and thick and strong and can leave you bleeding if you are wearing shorts. I was wearing shorts. Good thing there are no piranha around here.
We finally got to the shallow water where she could walk again and she climbed up on the bank and quickly disappeared into the weeds, a really smart move on her part. So I waded back out into the river to where I could cast to the deep hole and I was able to make exactly 5 casts before Chena was swimming next to me again. At this point I knew that trying to fish was impossible so I headed back home.
Going up stream I had a choice, I could wade back across the river to the far side where the water is shallower and consequently the wading is easier, or I could stay on this side where the water is deeper and the wading is considerably harder. I decided to stay on the deeper side for two reasons. One was because I didn’t want to have that fifty five pound puppy from hell on my head again; and two was that I wanted her to walk back in water she could barely walk in; hoping to exhaust her so much that she wouldn’t go fishing with me again, aversion training so to speak. It seemed like a good idea at the time. This was my second mistake.
This decision meant that I had to walk in knee deep water, against the current, so that Chena would stay next to me in water that she could just barely walk in without swimming. We did this for what seemed to be a mile and a half and she appeared to be getting more and more exhausted. Great! I was so tired that I was moving along at a snails pace now, but she was pushing against the water with her entire body and I was only up to my knees. This was going to work. She would be so exhausted and disgusted when we got home that she would never follow me into the river again. Ever. I was grinning. I was using tons more energy than usual by being on this side and staying in the knee deep water, and it was a heavy price, but one worth paying for future fishing freedom.
We finally came around the bend and I could see my two grandsons in the river way up there in front of the house, seemingly still a long mile away yet. I could barely make them out but I could tell it was them. Chena didn’t see them at first, but after a minute I saw her ears perk up and her head tilt. Then the recognition hit her. I could see the recognition hit because she visibly got taller and younger; as though electricity had surged through her body. She started surging through the water like she had just woke up from a good long nap. I was no longer in her thoughts, at all. That damn pup from hell ran, and I mean ran, through the water all the way to those boys. She was churning up a wake of white water behind her all the way. , I couldn’t believe it, she looked like she hadn’t done a blasted thing all day.
She got to the boys after about 5 minutes of running and lunging and white water churning. I kept slogging along, exhausted and seriously disgusted. After half an hour I had covered the remaining two and a half miles home (the same distance Chena covered in 5 minutes) and I had reached the cliff that drops precipitously from our house down tens of thousands of feet to the river where I stood looking up in despair. I had been using my wading staff for the past three or four miles to push myself along up the river, and I was already barely able to take one leaden step at a time. I stopped for awhile to catch my breath before making the ascent up that vertical glass smooth surface of a river bank. I needed ropes and pitons and pulleys; but only had my bamboo wading stick.
The boys and Chena, the dog from the pits of hell, came running by heading up to the house to go get something. They all ran up that incredible cliff like it was flat, and Chena was actually running in circles around them as they did. She was leaping and bounding and frolicking, tail up and wagging, big smile on her face and she looked like she had more energy than a nuclear power plant. I grunted and groaned and creaked my way slowly upwards, forcing myself by sheer will power to take step by bloody step up that monster of a mountain. I made it half way up reaching base camp one, the swing, and collapsed into it. Base camp one having been reached at such great effort, I decided a long rest was in order before making the final assault on the summit to the house. Perhaps I would start out again early the next morning.
I was still sitting there, wheezing, when the boys and Chena came running by me on their way back down into the river. Chena was still jumping up and down and running circles around the boys like she was made out of steel cable and coiled springs. The boys had their fishing poles now. They hit the water and immediately made the smartest move I had seen all day, they crossed the river to the shallow side and then headed upstream, where the current pushes you back home after you get tired.
There was a brief moment then that I wish I had a picture of. Two small boys wading in water that was sparkling like a million diamonds, carrying fishing poles over their shoulders, with a large brown happy puppy swimming between them, moving against a backdrop of blue skies and white puffy clouds and thick green trees. It was a picture of all the hope and optimism that two boys and a puppy can offer a tired old man sitting under a tree, watching with envy.