Murphy and His Law
“Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not waste so much time watching and waiting for the world to be perfect.” — Norman Maclean
“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” —- Murphy’s Law
It started two days after Christmas and continued through the early portion of summer. What is IT? My sudden inability to catch fish and have things go wrong on fishing trips. Things I’ve never seen, at least not this much. It started on my home stream. The stream where I caught my first trout over 25-years ago. I took a new friend on his first fly fishing excursion, and we got skunked. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
It was one day and even the best anglers can have a bad day. It wasn’t the kind of day I was hoping for, but there was a lot more fishing to do. Over the next few weeks, I would return to Otter Creek and catch plenty of fish, including one day when I caught around 30 in a three-hour trip. Still, there was more bad luck in store.
“Cumberland tailwaters/Hatchery Creek bound. The need to cast a fly rod in a trout stream is reel (see what I did there).” A Facebook post from May 27th. made just before leaving my house.
I was really excited about an upcoming trip to the Cumberland River tailwater and the adjoining Hatchery Creek. I was looking forward to the trip and not just because of the fishing. I would be meeting a couple of old high school friends that I hadn’t seen in a while.
Russ was a couple of years older than me, but we grew up in the same small community and he has a brother my age. In fact, his dad was my youth league basketball coach for a couple of years. Greg was also a couple of years older than me. He was in education, but his passion is basketball, so he went into coaching. He is now the head coach of a division one women’s college basketball team.
Since I had a two-and-a-half-hour drive, I decided to go down the day before and get myself a campsite nearby. This would also give me time to fish a little that evening before meeting Greg and Russ the next morning. It was not meant to be. After a quick stop at a local chain store to pick up some last-minute supplies, I jumped on Interstate 65 heading south. After just three or four miles, I hit traffic at a dead stop. It turns out, there was road construction, and someone had managed to have an accident in the construction zone. It would end up taking me two-and-a-half hours to go twelve miles. Twelve Miles!? I should have been setting up my tent by now!
I managed to reach an exit, where I pulled off to make a sandwich, eat some chips, have a soft drink, and regroup. I was frustrated and that is no way to start what was supposed to be a relaxing fishing trip. While eating in the parking lot of a truck stop, I was able to see up ahead on the interstate and it looked like the bottleneck was over in three-quarters of a mile. So, after finishing the rest of my roast beef and provolone sandwich, I jumped back on the Interstate and made my way through the traffic. It would be smooth sailing from here on out. I would still have time to set up camp and fish a couple of hours before dark.
“Not so fast, my friend.” — Lee Corso.
Driving south on Interstate 65, I was able to cover about four miles before hitting another construction zone. Ugh. This was barely moving, but at least I hadn’t come to a complete standstill. I thought everything was going to be okay since I was almost to the parkway where I would exit off the interstate. Once again, I was wrong.
Over the years, I have made this drive a hundred times, but it had been a few years. So why did I get off on the wrong parkway? I have no idea, but I did, and it only added to my frustration.
I took the first exit off the parkway, pulled onto the shoulder, and pulled up the GPS on my phone. This would be a big plus, helping me navigate backroads into the small town of Hodgenville, where I would get on Lincoln Parkway. From there, it is an easy, albeit slow, drive. You are traveling on a two-lane state highway until you reach Campbellsville. Once you get through Campbellsville, Columbia is close by. In Columbia, there is a particular red light in a curve, where I always get stopped. In hundreds of trips through here, I don’t believe I have ever caught this light when it was green.
Once I am through Columbia, I feel like I am almost there. The highway stretches out until it meets US 127 in Jamestown. From there, a short drive to my campground. Once I reach my destination, it is late in the day, about an hour or so of daylight left. I check-in and arrive at my campsite, where I am once again frustrated and disappointed.
“Worst Campsite I’ve stayed at, in my 54-years on earth. Hopefully, the fishing is good tomorrow.” Facebook post from May 27th.
As I pulled up to my campsite, I was crestfallen. Again. It looked as though the site had recently undergone some work, but I am not sure it was for the better. Mulch was spread all over the uneven ground. There was no flat spot anywhere, not even for the tent. The picnic table was drug back to the edge of the woods on a severe slope and the lantern post was on the same hillside. Not that it mattered, because I didn’t realize that there were no mantles for the lantern regardless.
“Oh yay. Let’s make things even better. I just realized I left two pillows at home. I also left my three pre-made hamburger patties at home. Luckily, I had roast beef and provolone in the cooler. At least I remembered to bring bread. Oh yes, I also have no fire ring at my campsite and I found out, there are no mantles for my lantern. FML. My journal is going to be full of curse words at the end of tomorrow. At least I have a good cigar.” Facebook post, May 27th.
I don’t think it is necessary to say anything further. The Facebook post was pretty self-explanatory. According to the weather forecast, before I left, the area was expected to get pop-up showers with light rain for both days. When I arrived, it was sunny and dry. That didn’t last long. I made a couple of sandwiches, grabbed a bag of chips and a drink, and sit down to relax, eat, and then read some on my Kindle before I hit the sack.
“And now it’s raining. Ugh!” Facebook post May 27th.
It began to drizzle shortly after I sat down to eat. By the time I finished, it had turned into a heavy downpour, so I ducked into the tent, laid back on my cot, using the sleeping bag as a pillow, and read River Hippies & Mountain Men by Patrick Taylor. I was able to relax and unwind with the book, knowing I was snug and dry as I listened to the rainfall on the tent. I still held high hopes for the morning.
“Nice, I forgot to bring a coffee Cup.” Facebook post from May 28th.
Yes, it’s true. I managed to forget one of the important camping staples, a coffee cup. I improvised by taking an empty water bottle, cutting off the top section, and filling it with coffee. While on my second cup of java, Russ called, and we firmed up our meeting time and place. I began taking down camp and packing up the back of the little Jeep Compass. It began a steady downpour, so I stopped, pulled on my rain suit, and continued packing everything away. As I drove out of the campground for our rendezvous at the hatchery parking lot, the sun poked out and it was glorious.
The oak, poplar, and beech trees were dripping rain in the bright sun. Occasionally you could see the remnants of dead ash trees and stumps. The ash trees were infected by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that first arrived in the U.S. in 2002 and in Kentucky in 2009.
I pulled into the parking lot to find Russ and Greg already there. We exchanged pleasantries and Greg gave me a new t-shirt that represented his team, the Western Kentucky University Lady Hilltoppers basketball team, where he is the head coach. I promised to wear it and attend at least one game this upcoming season.
After some fits and starts, we found a parking area with a trail to access the creek. Once on the water, there were missed bites, numerous fly changes, a very pregnant doe to watch, and zero fish landed. The rain started about an hour after we got on the water, and for the next three hours, it would alternate between a slight drizzle, into an all-out deluge. Of course, my rain suit was in the back of the Jeep, where I tossed it after packing up camp. Oh, and the Jeep was at least a mile away.
Finally, after four hours, we decided to head back to the parking area. Russ and Greg decided to drive downstream some thirty miles and try fishing the tailwater. I decided to give up and live to fight another day. I was tired, frustrated, and emotionally exhausted.
So Greg and Russ left. I got in my Compass and decided to make one last Facebook post before driving home.
“Rain all damn day. I’m heading home. Fishing is stupid. Screw you Mother Nature!” Facebook post May 27th.