Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fun With Named Runs

One curiosity of steelhead and Atlantic salmon rivers is the common practice of naming the runs or pools or water complexes. These names range from the deeply rooted in shadowed lore and history, down to the downright obscure, and even ironic. The runs are often named after a natural structural identifier such as Black Rock, The Slot, The Braids, Pine Trees, etc. Man made structures such as Powerlines, Tractor Yard, The Factory Run, etc. also enter into our river run lexicon. Some runs are named after people who popularized them as well.

One run on a western river is called locally “Gomer’s corner,” due to the fact that it always has one person standing in it, and the run itself rarely produced a fish. When a friend and I heard what the run was called, we looked at each other sheepishly and whispered, “Oh crap, that was us. Remember when we got up at 4:00 am to get into that run?” D’oh! This year, as I drove up and down the river, there was always someone in Gomer’s Corner. I fished a run downstream at last light, and there was an angler standing, seemingly not moving at all, at the top of the Corner. I fished my run through, and as I was making my way back to the car in the dusk, saw that there was still a single figure in Gomer’s Corner, who seemed not to have covered any water at all or moved downstream. I then got it stuck in my mind that instead of an angler, the figure was a scarecrow or dummy someone had fixed up. It made sense, as the angler/object/dummy never seemed to move, and always wore the same gear. Then as I was driving back past the run, I stopped, got out of my car, and stared at the object in the run. After about five minutes, the dummy moved and made a cast, and a quarter of a step downstream. Aha! Mystery solved. Now I know why it is called Gomer’s Corner.

Another run is named “Slickrock,” and has an evil reputation as a wading hell that is well deserved. Slick basalt ledges and shelves are mixed with bowling ball sized rocks that tend to move when to step on them. One step is fine, and the next a complete lulu. A couple of years ago, I lost purchase with both feet at once and did a face-plant in the water in this run. Now I use a wading staff. Duh.

Every river has a run named for an old car or truck abandoned by the river, and many rivers run through towns suffering from poverty, meth, and cultural decay, and have runs named “The Town Run.” Here one dodges garbage and tarps over ratty sofas, and old cars that serve as homes for people who have seen better times.

Some runs are named for Native American folklore. One gets a sense of timelessness on these runs, as if the boulders and structures have not changed in five-hundred years, and if one could be transported back in time, only the costume of the anglers and methods would change.

Back here in the Midwest, we have a sort of tongue-in-cheek convention for naming runs. Shopping Cart, Lower Crack-Pipe, The Low-Hole Run, Parking Lot, etc. The runs are really not as bad as they sound when they actually have water in them, but one never knows what one might encounter on the side of the river or even in it.
Sometimes we might want to pay especial attention though, when fishing a run called something like “Angry Old Man,” lest we accidentally trespass and meet the man himself.

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