Rattlesnake Bites

I was on my way back from town – Williamsport – early this afternoon, driving the detour on St. Michael’s Road from Old Rt. 15. I am forced to make this two-mile longer trip due to my usual route of Rt. 973 being closed due to replacement of an old metal overhead truss bridge on Lycoming Creek. I had not driven a quarter mile on the road, I was going maybe 25 mph, when I saw something with my car and I immediately recognized it as a snake. I straddled it, not figuring it was anything other than a road-killed black snake. Then I remembered my neighbor and Lycoming Creek fishin’ buddy, Jim, telling me that our other neighbor, has seen a few rattlesnakes in that area of St. Michael’s road. It’s little more than a mile from my home. In this section the road passes along the base of a wooded mountainous area, rather steeply-sloped toward the south-east. That exposure combined with the dappled sunlight created by a partially open tree canopy and lots of rocks creates perfect rattlesnake habitat.

I no sooner passed over it when the thought occurred to me – was that a rattlesnake? I stopped and put the car in reverse. Not much traffic on the road, usually. When I got beside it and opened the door, sure enough, it was a rattlesnake, a smaller one about two feet long. Apparently a vehicle that passed by not long before me had hit it in the rear third of its body. No details but it was still alive, almost appearing dead, but not quite. I looked at it for a minute, wishing I had my camera with me – the eastern timber rattlesnake is not that common, and then I drove on.

The last one I saw was five years ago right here at my house, in my driveway. I never saw it until I got out of the car one morning, opened the trunk, got something out and with my mail in one and hand and whatever in the other, I started toward the back door. Then I heard the “buzz.” It was five feet from me, right on open gravel beside my patio. Startled I was! As I instinctively backed up it slithered into a corner landscaped area of shrubs and flowers between the patio and garage. Skipping the details of the next minute, (I usually have loaded firearms in the house); it was a large black rattlesnake that measured 44″. The mid-section of its body was as large as my forearm.

My father-in-law had lived in this area all his life, then at age 82, and he said it had been decades since a rattlesnake was seen where we lived “in the valley.” In the mountains a mile distant, another story, not common, but if one were to go looking for them one could probably find one.

In 2004 my wife and I encountered another rattlesnake while biking one evening on the Pine Creek Rail-Trail just above the village of Blackwell. Prior to that, I was still in high school when I had last seen a rattlesnake.

Where does that fit in with fishing? Well, some area streams keep the more timid anglers among us away just by the word that a number of rattlesnakes have been seen. Slate Run, possibly Cedar Run, both tributaries  to Big Pine Creek, to name a couple. Just ask Tom Finkbeiner, owner of The Slate Run Tackle Shop, and he’ll show you plenty of rattlesnake photos.

This also ties in with my recent posts and discussions of Elizabeth Benjamin, a 19th century fly tier from Ralston, Pennsylvania; my recent evening fishing trips to Lycoming Creek, and from referencing the 1879 book, Bodines or Camping on the Lycoming, by Thad S. Up De Graff, which I pulled off my bookshelves to see if any information on Elizabeth Benjamin was in his book. I discovered a paragraph on the treatment of rattlesnake bites. That, combined with my encounter yesterday have spurred me to write this post.

I wanted to conclude by presenting the paragraph written by author Thad S. Up De Graff, MD., from Elimra, New York; the author of Bodines, who gives his “medical” advice for treatment of a rattlesnake bite. The guy should know, right? He was a doctor, and had spent ten years, camping and fishing for a month each time on Lycoming Creek below the village of Ralston.

Quoting the good doctor Up De Graff:

“Rattlesnake bites are best treated by applying a cloth saturated with liquor ammonia over the bite, and immediately administering large doses of whiskey. Let the patient (I love how he refers to the bite victim as the patient ), drink all he will hold, or until intoxication is induced. Many physicians doubt the efficacy of this treatment, but I have seen it employed in several instances and am confident of its success. It acts upon perfectly scientific principles, sustaining the nervous system under the shock induced by the poison.”

I’d say it might be better to watch your step while fishing or traveling on foot along streams or to and from the stream when in areas of rattlesnake habitat, and never place your hands in an area you can not see. Otherwise you might have to get drunk.

Kids: Don’t try these perfectly scientific principles at home.

I drove back up a half hour later to hopefully get a decent photo I could use here; rattlesnakes are beautiful in their own way, but the poor snake had been de-rattled and run over a few more times.

The View From Wantastiquet Lake, Vermont

The View from Wantastiquet Lake, Vermont, is something that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy on two occasions during the last eight months. My friend, Quill Gordon, the caretaker at The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club near Weston,Vermont, has a blog titled The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond. It’s on my blog list on the right, but also here: http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/  The View… is always good reading; often humorous, sometimes side-splitting funny, usually entertaining, always interesting, and contains various insights covering a multitude of the aspects of a remote camp caretaker’s interactions with humans / local government / anglers / responsibilities / sporting camp visitors / nature / and trout. It is well worth checking out, perhaps even posting it to your favorites. In addition to today’s post on The View…, if you need your spirits lifted, check out; “Quill Gordon and the Nonesuch Mountain Howler.” http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/quill-gordon-and-the-nonesuch-mountain-howler/

If you do, better pee first, you may just wet your pants laughing. It’s very much akin to a Pat McManus outdoor tale.

Yesterday Quill wrote a post that at first I thought was all about bugs. In large part it was, but not entirely. He has some really great macro images of a “hex” dun (Hexagenia limbata mayfly), moths, damsel flies, etc. Here’s my favorite bug photo:

Luna Moth Convention near Weston, Vermont, at a camp on The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club, where I recently visited. If you’ve never seen a Luna Moth, these things have a wingspan of four inches. “Quill Gordon” photo.

I have only ever seen two or three Luna Moths in my entire life, and one of these was on June 12th at the camp in Vermont.

I visited the Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club a couple weeks ago as a guest of Steve, Dick, and Bill, mentioned in Quill’s post. I had a great time, caught lots of trout, most all on drys, some on buggers, and two nice rainbows on a Trout Fin wet fly. I need to load and post my photos and my own report of that trip. But these pictures and the following text were taken from Quill’s post. I thought you would find them enjoyable.

“I admit it would have to be a pretty special set of circumstances for some of those big moths or their caterpillars to wind up in the water, but you can bet a trout would eat them if they did. Mayflies and damselflies, on the other hand, are eaten by fish at all stages in their lives and one of the most challenging aspects of fly fishing is coming up with a suitable imitation. I am not a rotten fly tier (“tier” vs. “tyer”; discuss below) but, while I may play around and try a few new patterns over the winter, I certainly don’t sit down and whip off a few dozen of anything, even if it is claimed the trout will eat them “like candy”. Of course, what we anglers present is more like the Halloween candy they warned us about when we were kids — the kind with a razor blade in it — but we anglers don’t like thinking about that, do we?  I’m the kind of guy more likely to gaze at the water in late afternoon, take a guess, and tie up three or four flies I think might work that evening. If I’m lucky I’ll finish before dark and actually get on the water with my concoctions. If I’m really lucky, someone else will sit down and tie some flies for me.”

“A couple of weeks ago that someone was Don Bastian. Don has fished here before and knows my super-secret true identity. He is also a good sport, taking a good-natured ribbing as well as anyone I’ve met and, as it turns out, he is also a pretty good angler. Don and I shared a boat one evening last week, fishing a yellow drake hatch that came off just as nicely as a hatch can on these waters, using a couple of extended-body patterns Don tied before we went out. The fish were feeding close to the bank and we each hooked up on nearly every cast. Bird song and the sound of slurping trout filled the air as we drifted along the shore in the fading light until only a thrush remained, serenading us from fifty feet away. Eventually, even the thrush went to bed and, as the other boats headed in, I lost my fly and reeled up my line but Don kept right on fishing. I have a feeling that if the hatch hadn’t shut down and full-on dark set in we’d still be out there now.”

Quill, I only stopped fishing because I was a guest and everyone else was done for the night. I wanted to “fit-in.” :mrgreen: I remember that night, so many trout! My favorite was when we both saw those two rises, two fish feeding close together, you made your cast, I was mid-cast in a different direction and instantly changed my angle of stroke to punch my Yellow Drake Dun pattern six feet from yours. It was classic! A second apart, slurp, slurp, two trout took both our flies for a double hook-up.

The song of that hermit thrush was especially memorable, so close to us, the sound of its ethereal voice echoing eerily through the otherwise silent stillness of the deepening gloom of night. Thank you for sharing that evening with me.

After the evening fishing, I was tying (using head cement) at the station shown below until about eleven PM.

My screen porch tying station, June 2012 at Wantastiquet Lake. First time in my life that I ever tied on a screen porch. Lovely! I had set this up on my arrival Monday afternoon, and tied up ten Extended-body Yellow Drakes before the evening fishing. Five of each, parachutes and spinners, so that everyone would have two flies to fish with. In fact, one of them is still in the jaws of my vise. Quill Gordon photo, used without permission. 😉

“Above: A well-stocked fly tying station in late afternoon on the porch of a camp, complete with vise, light, bobbins, thread, tinsel, scissors, etc. I have no idea how that beer got in there, but the Mason jar contained weapons-grade head cement thinner which just happened to be blackberry flavored in case someone got thirsty (we did). In the foreground is a full beaver pelt with enough fur to dub hundreds and hundreds of flies. I’m still learning about natural fur dubbing so I asked Don if he could do anything with it. In mere minutes, Don had half a dozen nymphs ready to go.”

I can explain the beer bottle; it’s pretty simple: I was drinking it. And the beaver pelt will dub thousands and thousands of flies.

My “Flying Bobbin.” I was using the full beaver pelt from an animal trapped on the lake this past winter by Quill to tie some Black Drake nymphs, and a few other creations. Quill Gordon photo.

Beaver fur nymphs. I tied these except for the one at lower left. Not sure how that one slipped in there. Perhaps Quill applied a little too much of the blackberry-flavored head cement thinner. The one at lower right employed the use of beaver fur in a split-thread dubbing loop. Quill caught a couple trout on that one. It’s entirely beaver fur, tail of guard hairs, abdomen and thorax – beaver fur. Quill Gordon photo.

Application of some of the weapons-grade head cement thinner described above “enhanced” the tying of these nymphs.

Extended-body Yellow Drake Parachute Dun, Ephemera varia imitation. Pattern design concept, tied by, and photographed by Don Bastian. This dun pattern and a spinner were part of a batch of ten that I tied on the afternoon after my arrival at the Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club. They worked very well. Everyone caught trout on them. They held up remarkably well to more than ten-twelve or more trout per fly; I was nearing 20 myself. I finally lost my parachute pattern in a fish that was deeply hooked, and the spinner took over where the parachute left off. I’ll make a separate post of this fly and the recipe.

On my way back to Pennsylvania on June 13th, I had the opportunity to examine and photograph a Yellow Drake Dun in Ulster, Pennsylvania, about 11:30 PM. It was resting on a support post at a mini-mart when I stopped for gas. Since seeing that fly, I changed the brown thread rib on my pattern to yellow, because Yellow Drakes don’t have brown ribs, but they do have brown mottled markings on top of their abdomen. I have figured a way to incorporate these alterations into a more accurate representation, not that I needed to do that after the phenomenal success we all had with the patterns on The Lake, but the result is that this pattern, a prototype, has been improved. I’ll make a separate post of this prototype, the new fly, and the real one soon.

“I had a blast hanging out with Don (and Steve and Dick and Bill, who I see on a regular basis) and, even though his bobbin moves so fast it’s a blur, I picked up a few tricks and a lot of fly tying inspiration while Don was here.”

Be sure to visit The View…you’ll be glad you did.