There I was, sitting in my wading raft a bit below the bridge at Hale Eddy on the West Branch of the Delaware River. There were several trout rising sporadically within 30 feet of my raft. At this point they had disdained the fly that I had been showing them. I had been about to make another cast when I found myself sliding off the raft seat into the river. I went into the water as smoothly as an otter, causing nary a ripple. To my dismay, I found myself sitting on the bottom of the stream in water up to my waist. Since the river temperature was only 56 degrees, I was well motivated to get up on my feet. Brrrr.
In the brief moment that I had been sitting on the bottom, a fair amount of water had slipped into my waist waders. Apparently the straps holding the raft seat up had slipped due to my weight causing the seat to collapse. I was now wet and cold. I decided to carefully make my way back to the access and call it an evening.
The following day, I examined the seat straps and the locks that were supposed to hold the straps in place. I tried several ways to place the straps into the locks, but they all allowed the straps to slowly slip. No good. I sat staring at the problem.
Surely I could come up with a solution. Many people have told me I am full of it. So whatever it is, with my fertile brain I should be able to come up with an answer to this aggravating problem.
Aha! Suppose I pull the seat straps up tight and then glue the straps to the seat in their fully extended position. If the straps cannot slide back through the locks, the seat will not be able to collapse. It certainly seemed to be a good theory, if only it would work. I went to work measuring where each strap should be glued and applied the glue and pressure.
The following day, my work encouraged me to feel that the problem was solved. Late in July, at Centerville on the East Branch of the Delaware, I put the raft to the test. I carefully waded out until the water was knee-deep and very carefully sat down. I held my breath, but I did not feel any of the straps slipping. After 15 minutes, I stood up and examined the position of the various straps. Yeehah! The straps had not moved so much as a quarter of an inch. The problem of the raft seat appeared to have been solved.
Alas, the problem of the fish proved to be more difficult. Despite a very slow, cautious approach, the fish that had been rising against the far bank showed no interest in the flies I showed them.
I stopped casting and studied the rise forms they made as they fed. It appeared that they were feeding on something that was trapped in the surface film of the flow. Perhaps the flies were spinners, the dying form of a may fly after mating. No, that was not the answer.
Several fly changes later I had yet to hook a trout. Ah well, that is why they refer to it as fishing rather than catching.
An evening such as this reminds me of something that Art Flick once told me: “If you were able to always catch every trout you cast to, fly fishing would quickly become a monumental bore.” I guess Art was correct when he said that. However, it would be nice to hook one every once in a while.