Don’t get me wrong. Ol’ Maya (now a six-year-old Pudelpointer) is hell on four-legs when it comes to chasing game birds in the field. And many a feathered creature’s last earthly sight has been Maya’s furry snout pointed right at them.
I think my bird dog likes trout fishing more than hunting birds.
When I pull on my hunting chaps and lace up my old boots in the early hours of a crisp fall morning—especially when I pull the crack-barrel out of its sleeve—she’s spinning circles and ready to rock. She knows the drill.
But curiously, it seems, especially lately, that her level of excitement goes even further through the roof when I merely slip into my crumpled waders, and lace up my wading boots, grab my rod off the rack and head toward the stream.
The only problem is that Maya is an absolutely terrible fly-fishing companion. We’ve worked on this for six seasons now, but this is how the situation usually plays out:
We’ll stake out a good spot on the river, and she heels at my side, then sits patiently on the bank. Right up until the first trout rises to eat a dry fly. Truth is, she usually notices that before I do.
“Whoa! Wait!” I’ll say. And half the time she still sits but starts groaning. I cast my fly. Nothing happens. Louder groans reverberate from the peanut gallery.
Another rise… but not to my fly… and she figures, “enough of this, I’ll get it myself!” At which point she dives headlong into the run, tracks right toward the rise-ring, and starts chomping at the water surface where the fish was (but is now clearly long gone).
Okay, we’ll walk a bit and try another run. This time she sits and waits again, I make a cast, and the trout actually eats my fly, but spits it clean after a thrash and a jump. That’s when Maya gets downright angry with me.
When we’re bird hunting, and I miss, which is regrettably not all that uncommon, it’s “boom… boom,” Aw shucks… “NO BIRD! Maya!” and she toodles right back and smiles as if to say, “It’s okay, nice try.”
When I punt a fish, on the other hand, I get the “Eye of Mordor.” “Dude, you’re supposed to be good at this stuff, what’s going on?” I have nothing… no credible excuses in those instances.
When we’re merely covering water and fishing with an attractor dry, a wet fly, or a streamer it’s a constant battle to try to hook a fish before I hook my dog.
She likes to swim back and forth through the runs, and always likes to be in the lead. Fortunately, I rarely hook her through her skin (but I do bend down all the barbs). Still, a Pudelpointer is basically a four-legged fly patch, like the piece of wool on a wading vest, so even with the barbs bent down, it takes a good 10 minutes or so with hemostats to locate the snag and twist it free.
She feels no pain, but is miffed by the inconvenient waste of time, and wonders why I am not doing my part by casting and fishing.
In those rare (very rare) instances when I do hook and land a trout, it’s a race against time. It’s not cool to let a dog hold a trout in its mouth. Maybe a sniff. Followed by watching her dunk her entire head, time after time, trying to find the creature we just let go.
The other day, I was sitting on the porch above the river, listening to the melody of trout rising. Slurp. Crash. And then I realized that Maya was on the river herself, making those crashing noises as she dove at the rings of rising trout. She decided she didn’t need me and was fishing on her own.
The next morning, I left Maya in the cabin. I could hear the howls and whines from a quarter mile away. My wife couldn’t take it anymore and opened the door. I heard the “Tasmanian Devil” beating a path toward the river… crash, splash… to my side… a loving lick… let’s go fishing!
So, it started again.
And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Good fishing isn’t always about how many you catch, or how big they are. Sometimes, sure. But for me, it’s more about the places you’re in, and the best friends you share the experience with. When those best friends have four legs and live for the experience of being with you and nothing more, well, so much the better.