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First Day of Retirement
August 2016
Gerhard Schroeder

My last day on the clock was a Thursday. The very next day I got up at 3AM. Trout fishing was on the agenda. Buddy Ron had to take that day off. He wanted to go, and he did. Destination West Clear Creek, or rather a trailhead, not far from Camp Verde. We got there at first light, gathered our equipment and something for lunch, and hiked in.

Where the trail seems to make its third creek crossing (not so easy to figure out because of all the vegetation), we got serious. Fishing was a “walk in the river” activity. West Clear Creek in that stretch varies from slow flowing shallows, which contain basically no fish, to deep nearly still pools, to loud rushing water cascading over boulders.

One does not really walk in those waters. It is a never-ending exercise in balancing, in hopefully controlled slipping and sliding off well-rounded and slippery rocks of unending shapes and sizes. Forget the banks. They remind of jungle, hence my hip burdened by a 44 Mag. Not that there are sign of bears or lions (or tigers). No, the Ruger Redhawk is my only stainless sidearm, and it has gone “in” a time or three over the years while pursuing trout. There are some very deep pools that require circumventing on land. My ‘cutoff point’ is when the frigid water threatens to reach sensitive body parts.

Ron would have gotten his rear end wet at least twice that day, except he opted to schlepp in and then wear waders. I threw my rod into that creek four times that day to have both hands free to brace against the next bigger boulder and avoid a deeper meeting with the drink. Shirtsleeves dried quickly. Polaroid glasses are very helpful, allowing you to see the creek bottom better. And the fish when they chase after those Rooster Tail lures.

Speaking of, we both had bites soon after entering the creek. Once caught and on land, I immediately crush a trout’s head with a short section of 1” PVC pipe dangling off my pack strap. Then I clean it and put it in a soft ice pack next to a frozen water bottle. Fish stayed cold that way all day long. Some trout frustrated the snot out of us, chasing but never biting. Others bit, struggled, and came off. Many put up a frantic fight, jumping way out of the water. None of these were monsters. Biggest one we caught was 12”, but also none under 10.

Deep still pools also harbor an occasional bass. Small in size, we kept only two. Trout tend to hang out in deeper faster waters, or where water dumps into a pool. Once one trout has been ‘on’ or caught, expect no more bites. But West Clear Creek also made exceptions that day. At one deeper longer run Ron and I had almost simultaneous bites, and successfully landing both. Then the immediate killing and cleaning. We both got back into the creek, and on our first casts had bites again, which we landed. After processing those we stayed out of the water and had lunch. Then, spoiled by success, we attempted the honey hole again. Nada. Note that by then we had been quite a distance up the canyon where most people would not venture.

And still, as is so often the case, that last fish to make the limit took the longest time to get. But by around noon we had 6 trout each.

Then there was the small matter of returning to the 4Runner. That took the better part of two hours. At first we bushwhacked along the banks, crossing the creek whenever things got too thick on our side, or when a shear rock cliff made us do it. It is very helpful to know where the often obscure trail runs, to minimize the bushwhacking. It was a day of many small adventures, shared with a friend. Yes, we worked for it all. And that Sunday the delight of smoked trout.

I’m gonna like this retirement thing!

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