My First Buzz

“Oh, yeah…oh…look at that. Mmmmm that looks good.” said Travis Swartz in a seductive tone, as we approached one of his favorite spots to fish. Lucky for me he was talking to the river.  Travis is best known as Hank Patterson, the alter ego he plays in a variety of comedic fly fishing short films. Though the Hank Patterson films over-exaggerate his persona, in reality he is still a pretty funny guy, cracking jokes whenever the opportunity arises. 

“Well, let’s check it out.” Travis said, putting the truck in park. We hopped out and gazed at the water, looking for hungry fish. 

“There…” I said, pointing a ways downstream at the ripples of a rise, “…and there’s another one.”

“Oh, yep, yep, yep.” Travis said, seeing a third. “Well, should we fish here?”

“No, I think we should push on. Let someone else have this spot where we have just seen a multitude of rising fish.” I said, nonchalantly. 

“Well, you can go ahead and leave, but me and the truck are staying right here.” Travis snapped. “Should I move the truck over there?” he asked. I looked up to the spot that couldn’t be more than thirty yards away.

“Yes…better get it before someone else does.” I said in a dreadful tone. 

There were no other vehicles in sight as I got out and started walking downstream. Travis started the truck, spontaneously threw it into gear, and floored it. The roar of the engine grabbed my attention as the tires tore at the gravel, only to come to an immediate, skidding halt in a cloud of dust two seconds later. The engine was off and Travis flew out the door. 

“I GOT IT! I GOT THE SPOT!” He yelled, as I stood a few feet away. 

“Geez.” I said with a laugh, and together, with the truck nearer to our spot, we geared up.

Each of us had a rising fish to approach, but in the water I noticed something. 

“Hey. There are cicadas on the water. Two of them.” I watched as both cicadas floated lifelessly downstream. WHAM! “Whoa! One got smashed!” WHAM! “The other one got nailed too!” 

“Seriously?” Travis asked, getting in the water. 


“Oh!” Travis yelled. “I just saw a fish take a salmon fly!”

The fish I had targeted was still consistently rising to what looked like a caddis. With an easy casting distance, I shot my fly in the feeding lane of the fish.  

“There’s a fish!” I yelled. 

Travis looked over and went right back to fishing. 

“That’s a double!” He yelled. 

“Oh the double! The double impact!” I yelled cheerfully. 

“What do you have on?” I asked. 

“A salmon fly. What about you?”

“A size eighteen caddis.”

“I bet that’s what these fish are actually feeding on.” Travis said.

“Are both of you guys seriously on fish right now?” An all-too familiar voice called down to us from the bank. Michelle Babcock was there, and we let her know what we had seen on the river and how quickly we were into fish. Both Travis and I netted our trout, and were amazed at the size of each one.

“You guys want a doubles picture?” Michelle asked, walking down the bank and taking out her camera. 

“Well, yeah that would be nice.” I said. 

“I actually would love one. I haven’t posted a picture of me holding a fish in a long time, because I screw it up…every time…somehow.” Travis said, keeping his fish underwater as he approached.  

I took the hook out of the fish’s mouth and laid my rod aside. Travis on the other hand, was holding his net in one hand, and in the other hand he was getting the fly out of the fish’s mouth while simultaneously trying to hold his fly rod.

“Travis, what the hell are you doing.” I asked. 

“I got to get the fly out of its mouth, Erik.” He snapped. 

“Well…yeah, but…what the hell are you doing?” It looked like Travis was on the verge of dropping his fly rod, fish, and net, which had no security attachment in case it did drop. 

“I’m ready.” Michelle said.

Travis now had one hand on the fish, which had so much girth that there was no way he had a firm grip on anything he was doing. With his fly rod and net tucked under one arm, he used what he was considering his free hand to remove the fly from the fish’s mouth. The moment the fly was out of the fish’s mouth, it kicked. 

“Oh jeez, oh, oh, oh!” Travis yelled, as he lost grip of the fish and it splashed in the water. Travis tried re-netting his fish as if he was swatting at a wasp underwater.

“Travis, you stupid idiot!” I yelled, “The opportunity to get a double shot with two fantastic fish…wasted.” 

“Well how was I supposed to know the fish was going to do that?” Travis exclaimed.

“Even I saw that one coming.” Michelle said, not holding back her laughter.

“Well, I’ll get a shot of Erik’s fish. We apparent don’t need you anymore, Michelle.” Travis said, getting out his phone. 

“Okay, I’m ready!” Travis asserted, as if he had been waiting hours with his phone in his hand. 

I put my hands around the fish and brought it out of the net, when it too kicked HARD! The fish flew out of my hands and splashed into the water. 

“NO! NOOOOO!” I yelled, as if I had just discovered Darth Vader was my father.

I too grabbed my net and wheeled it forward to catch the bolting fish, but it was gone.

If Michell was laughing at Travis, it was nothing compared to what she was doing now. 

“YES! YES!” Travis yelled. “Thank God that happened, because I would have heard about me losing my fish for the entire day. SO. GOOD!” 

It was hard to breath with all of us laughing at what has just unfolded. Recomposed, the three of us got to fishing. I took off my caddis and replaced it with a dark stimulator to mimic a cicada, while Travis and Michelle went with a salmon fly. 

As I got into position to cast, I wondered if the fish that rose to a cicada would still be in the same location. So, just like the dead drifting cicada I saw pass in front of me, I simply let go of the fly and let it drift downstream. 


“Oh, the fish thought it was a cicada!” I yelled, as my fish jetted downstream right in front of Travis. 

“Would you get your fish out of my way.” Travis yelled up to me, as the fish took my line, blocking him from making a cast. 

“When has that ever stopped you?” I said, holding my line tight. 

“Alright…” Travis mumbled, and made a cast right over my line. 


“Oh…I honestly didn’t expect that to happen.” Travis laughed, as we both, once again, began fighting fish. 

Travis’s fish darted downstream without tangling our lines together, which was lucky, considering his little joke of casting over my line. Michelle was fishing too far upstream for another attempt at a doubles picture. 

Salmon flies and cicadas were the flies to have, and it was non-stop fish catching for the next few hours. 

With each of us having fished the spot hard, we had cleaned house. The fish that were coming up were now skittish towards the natural bugs that were floating downstream. Michelle had already left to look for a new spot, and it was time for us to do the same. 

“This spot was killer a few days ago.” Travis said, parking the truck. 

“Oh, I know this spot.” I said, getting out and grabbing our gear. The brush was thick as we stepped through it. “Watch for snakes.” I said, as Travis made his way through the brush. 

“I’m ok. They say it’s always the second person who gets bit.” Travis said, nonchalantly. 

“But I manage to get my fly rod stuck in all these branches every time.” he said, carefully maneuvering his rod tip through the brush. 

Out in the clear, we each looked for rising fish and saw none. Downstream where Travis was planning to fish stood an angler that came into view as we walked around the river bend. We turned around to go back upstream and out of eye and ear shot from the other angler. Travis had a fish slap his salmon fly, but there was no connection. I was fishing some pocket water, but quickly gave up on the spot with no luck. I was now taking pictures of salmon flies on the rocks when I heard the thrashing of a fish. 

“Traaaaaaaaviiiiiiiis!” I yelled in triumph, watching Travis fighting his fish. 

“Where did that one come from?” I asked, as the fish was bringing him downstream and closer to me. 

“Way up there, under that tree.” Travis gestured with a chin point, as he was still fighting his fish. 

“Need help?”

“No, I got it. Go see if there’s another fish up there.” 

The water was swift but not unmanageable as I unhooked my fly. Casting upstream from the tree, my fly drifted under it into the shade. Just when it was about to pop out in the sun again, the river bed came to life. A shadow bolted out from under the tree and smashed my fly. 

“There it is!” I yelled, as the fish bolted downstream, just as Travis’s fish had done. 

“Oh sweet.” Travis said, making his way back up in search of more fish. He found them too. Together we took turns pulling fish out from this tree until there were none left. 

“It’s been such a good day. I can’t believe it.” Travis said. 

“These are the kinds of days that make up for the slow ones on this river.” 

“Well, we caught all the fish here, want to go for another spot?” Travis asked. 

“Yeah, let’s go.” 

Travis led the way back through the thick shrubbery. We could see where we were stepping, but I stuck close to help if any rod tips got caught in branches. 

“We could always check that place downstrea—” Travis was cut short by what sounded like the shaking of an infant’s toy rattle.

“THAT’S  A F***ING RATTLESNAKE!!!” Travis shrieked, as he turned on the spot and bolted. His eyes wide with fear, he started to run passed, through, or over me; I could see in his eyes he didn’t care which of those he needed to do, he was going to do it. For a split second I saw his fly rod tangle in some branches, but none of that mattered to Travis. It was every man for himself, and he was at the top of his list. Travis was already passed me by the time I had turned around and ran. 

Out of the shrubs and back to the river we ran still. We ran as if Tom Riddle had commanded the basilisk from the Chamber of Secrets on us. I was soon out of breath, both from running and laughing as to why were still running. 

“That was a rattlesnake. That was a rattlesnake.” Travis wailed, flicking his hands and jumping like he was covered in ants. 

I too was jittery as hell. My body had chosen flight before I consciously knew what was going on. I was still trying to catch my breath in between hysteric laughter, as Travis continued his verbal dislike of the situation. 

“I hate rattlesnakes. I hate em!” 

I had finally caught my break enough to say, “You know, some people like rattlesnakes because they rattle.” 

“Well there’s your path.” Travis pointed to where we had just ran from, “Be my guest.” 

“Hell no!” 

The two of us stood there, looking over our shoulders just in case the rattlesnake was planning a sneak attack. Nothing came. 

“How the hell are we going to get out of there now?” Travis asked, seeing only thick shrubbery, which we both wanted nothing to do with.

“I know a way.” I said, and we walked downstream towards the angler that we had seen before. I would not typically have approached another angler this closely, but we were not looking to hone in on his water. We wanted the hell out.

The walk back to the truck was a scary one. We both were hyper snake aware, checking every stick in our path and getting startled when a cicada chirped in the tall grass as we passed by. 

“Stupid cicada.” I said. 

“You know…” I continued, “I heard that people can get bit by snakes at their car, because they hide near the tires to get out of the sun.”

“I have heard that too.” Travis said, as the truck came into sight. 

“Please, after you.” Travis said, gesturing to the truck.

“Oh, no, no, I insist, after you.” I beckoned, laughing off the trepidation.

Like chimps nearing a large black rectangular prism in 2001 a Space Odyssey, we approached the truck. 

“Hey, snake, hey…” Travis called in a gruff voice, while kicking the rear driver side tire. 

I was no better, eyeballing under the truck before placing my gear in the back. 

We both hopped in the truck and pulled our feet in fast, as if there was some demogorgon under the truck trying to grab our feet and rip us into the upside-down. Our doors slammed shut, and right when that happened each of us recognized we had both done the same thing. 

Laughter filled the cab of the truck and I had caught my break enough to say, “We are both so scared.” 

“Damn right we’re scared. The size of that thing!” Travis was almost yelling in his defense.

“You saw it?!” I asked.

“Well, no.” Travis said, which started the laughing frenzy all over again. 

“By the end of the day it will have been the size of an anaconda, much like the fish you caught.”

“Hey!” Travis replied, as if that part of the joke had gone too far.  

We drove downstream to check out a spot that had very little foliage separating us from the river, but still we approached with caution. 

This particular stretch of river was covered in mormon crickets. They were everywhere, and the only rising fish we saw were white fish. We bailed on the spot quickly and got back to the truck. Travis was taking the lead through the brush again, and I was becoming increasingly snake paranoid.

 “What are you doing?” Travis asked, as I shifted around in my seat, looking at my feet over and over as we drove to the next spot.

I started to laugh. In my head it all was simple and clear, but to say it out loud was asinine. 

“Looking for the snake.” I said, laughing. 

“Geeez! What do you think it did, slither in the truck while you were not looking to attack later?” Travis asked.

“Well it sounds crazy when you say it like that!”

“How would you put it?” Travis asked, and my only defense was a guilty smile one would easily want to slap off my face.

“Crazy.” Travis confirmed.

It was at that moment I realized I was giving this snake way too much credit. Still, when we arrived at our next spot, I couldn’t help but look down before stepping out. You know, just in case the snake had followed the truck to get me.

Travis told me of the few times he had run into a rattlesnake while gearing up. For me, this was my first buzz ever, and boy could he tell. I steered clear of even the smallest shrubs as we went down to the river, with Travis noticing every time. 

I found serious comfort being waist-deep in the river, even though I have seen swimming snakes. Still, I tried not to dwell on that.

A BWO RS2 was the evening fly and the fish seemed very interested in it, but I only got one to take. 

To my left, Travis had hooked into one, but it too was a ‘one hit wonder’, meaning it took his fly but the other fish wouldn’t touch it.  

A salmon fly fluttered on the water, helplessly drifting downstream. I watched it drift and drift with not so much as a sniff. Another salmon fly drifted down, and I ignored it to tie on another little mayfly pattern when, SMACK! I looked up to see the rings of a rising fish, and no salmon fly. I placed my small fly back in the box and tied on another salmon fly. I pitched it out, and WHAM! However, it was over before it started. The fish took, and when I set the hook I felt the weight of the fish momentarily before it spit my fly right back at me. 

“DAMN!” I yelled, “I had it.”

“What did it take?”

“A salmon fly.”

“What? I already tried one of those.” Travis said. 

Another fish rose in front of me and I went after it for way too long without success. I turned around to look for another fish to target when…

“Ohhhhhhhhh! Yeah!” Travis yelled, having casted to the very fish I was going for and hooked it. 

“What the hell?!” I yelled in amazement. So many time I have done this to Travis while on the water, and now it was payback.

“Erik, this fish is such a good fish. Too bad you couldn’t catch it.” Travis said with such glee. Every aspect of the fight was announced to let me know what I was missing. With the fish landed, I was ready with my camera to snap a hero shot. 

The fish slipped out of Travis’s hands when he released it, and off it swam. Though it was in the mid-seventies outside we were both freezing due to the cold water. It was time to get going and, as we put our gear away, Travis made something very clear.

“Now when you go off and write your bloggy, be sure to let everyone know I caught your fish.”

“In MY blog you will have had trouble with every fish you caught until I came to help. I will be sure to let everyone know how I also suggested you fish under that tree at our last spot.”

“I PUT YOU ON THOSE FISH!” Travis protested.

“Mmmmm…that’s not what I remember.” I said, casually.

“In your blog you will have singlehandedly saved me from the rattlesnake while I screamed and ran.”

“You did run and scream.”

Travis laughed, “That’s kind of true, but I wasn’t the one tiptoeing around every weed afterwards.”

“Also true.” I laughed. 

With fly rods all tucked away, Travis shut the tailgate.

“Well we better get out of here. It’s getting late and the snakes will be coming out.” I said.

“Damn right they will be.” Travis said in agreement, and we got in the truck and ended our day on the river.

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