Life Is Good !
This is the last of the old man's stories/articles that I can find at this time . I am still trying to dig up his piece on fishing the film ....
Posted on March 6, 2012 by Administrator
LIFE IS GOOD By Ken Yufer
It is 5:45 in the morning, and Larry Banfield awakens us to the command: “It’s time to stock Slatyfork.” Larry Orr, Charlie Nichols, Lyndon Davis, Dave Thorne and I reluctantly agree. All the months of planning, organizing, and phone calls are about to be put into motion.
Over a pot of coffee, some last-minute details are ironed out. Then tanks, oxygen bottles, buckets, backpacks, bags, and tape are loaded into two trucks– destination the Edray hatchery. Charlie and Dave will take 1,000 brown trout fingerlings and ten people to the lower end of “Upper Elk”; load the trout in backpacks filled with bags of water and oxygen; and walk up one-half mile and begin stocking. Larry and my other brother Larry will take 3,000 brown fingerlings to the confluence of waters that form the Elk
River. We expect about 20 volunteers to backpack the trout down the river, covering a three–mile stretch.
As the trucks roll into the hatchery, a little before 8:00 a.m., Clyde Lewis and his people are ready to load the trout. Clyde, who has been honored with a Silver Trout award for his long and dedicated service, efficiently gets the trout loaded into the tanks. After ten minutes of fish stories, the drivers are ready to head the trucks toward Slatyfork.
Meanwhile, I Have started greeting volunteers at the head waters of the Elk. Denny Melton and his family are among the first arrivals. The ever-efficient Bill Pauer finds two old tire rims to use in burning stumps at his new home. Fishing experiences are being told, and new fly patterns are swapped. We share our excitement about recent articles in national magazines, which Seneca Creek was ranked seventh best. It is a perfect day, and there is magic in the air.
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., the trucks arrive at the Beckwith Lumberyard parking lot at the river headwaters. Ten volunteers are designated to help with stocking the lower end; they line up to follow Charlie and Dave. Among them are Dave Breitmeier (the guide at the Elk River Trout Ranch) and his fellow employee Shawn Swecker; Sam Knotts (the guide at Appalachian Adventures in Mill Creek) and his son. Several people are wondering why I didn’t volunteer to go downstream with the group.
With the lower contingent on their way, Larry, Larry and Lyndon get set up. I suspect that the turn-out has been even better than expected, and the sighn-up sheet confirms that we have 38 volunteers. A great river will do that for you. One by one, backpackers load up with bags of water, oxygen, fish, and some final instructions; then they begin hiking down the river. Tears come to my eyes as I watch men, women, girs and boys eagerly awaiting their turn to be outfitted. After everyone has gone, Lyndon and I distribute the last 50 trout in the Old Fields branch.
It’s a long wait. The debilitated and crippled (me included) anxiously look downstream. Is it going OK? Finally we see the first returning backpacker. How did it go? Did you lose any fish? No problem, didn’t lose a single trout, what a beautiful river! The hikers start straggling in, all with the same report: no lost trout. About 1:30p.m., the upper-section reports are all in. A complete success!
Sprague Hazard and his group cheerfully discuss their lunch on the river and a game of fetch with their dog. I watch their dog fill up on snacks. (He was probably left out of lunch on the river.) Terry Chegwidden, her husband Nate Casto, and their daughter Holly ask about the next stocking. Holly smiles and says, “This is great!” Frank Hill is getting advice from Ernie Nestor on how to fish small streams. David Simms and Randy Augustine are rigging up to go fishing as are Jeff Nelson and two boys. And so it goes-the satisfaction of a job well done.
Still no word from the lower end. “It’s sure taking a long time.” A van from Maryland pulls into the parking lot, and the driver frowns at this group of clowning West Virginians. I assure him we are not hostile, and after a five-minute chat he begins his hike up Props Run Trail.
Still no one has retuned from the lower end. I mumble, “It’s after 2:00: something must have gone wrong.” Finally, a truck arrives from below–our president Vince Dudley, Norm Dunlap, and Bob Swanson roll in. I don’t even wait for Vince to shut off the engine before asking, “How did it go?” The answer was heavenly: “We didn’t lose a fish.” Great!
It’s done. Charlie Mullins and Norm Dunlap swap ferrydiddle stories [Editor’s note: the spelling of “ferrydiddle” is in question, but not their existence.] I go back to my truck, admire the license plate “Upper Elk”, pour a gin and tonic, and smile. Life is indeed good.
To those who participated: thank you! You contributed greatly to improving an outstanding fishery, and you gave me a day to remember forever.
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