A fire, a fly and a rainy afternoon
“The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t.” ~ Patrick F. McManus
The fairly steady rain on Saturday was nothing short of miserable for folks who had to be outside. But no matter the weather in Pocahontas County, there is always something interesting going on – and it’s usually off the beaten path.
Interesting and off the beaten path pretty well describe the Pocahontas Fish and Game Adventures’ cabin and ponds on the Big Spring Branch of Stony Creek.
Fish and Game Adventures, LLC is a product of hard work and the ideas and designs of owners Ernie Shaw, Roger Trusler and the late Bob Keller.
Rich and Sonja Beckwith, of Parkersburg, discovered the cabin in 2001 while searching the Internet for a place to vacation and fish.
The Beckwiths contacted Keller, and thus began a friendship and regular visits that soon included an annual event.
Traveling to the area for the first time, the couple stopped at Shaw’s dentist office in Marlinton and Shaw’s daughter, Kathleen, guided them to the secluded property.
And they kept coming back – first as vacationers, and, later, as a part of their business, Angler’s Xstream in Parkersburg, they began to host an annual Orvis fly-fishing class on the property.
A couple of knowledgeable and several beginner fly-fishermen joined the Beckwiths at the cabin this past weekend for the 10th anniversary of the class.
Although it was raining and cold outside, it was warm and inviting inside as the group sat around a large table learning to tie knots, warmed by a blazing fire in the stone fireplace.
Who would want to be anywhere else?
But if we could turn back the clock to around 1993, we would find the property to be pretty well trampled, the stream edges nearly flattened by grazing cattle, and the cabin would be located across Elk Mountain at Crooked Fork.
Originally owned by the Dunmire family, the log cabin was Ernie’s childhood home, shared with his parents, Ernest Keith and Corabelle Kathleen Snyder Shaw, and his siblings Dave, Mike and Judy Dean Shaw.
“We lived in it up until I was out of college,” Shaw said. “It originally had a lean-to attached and that’s where the kitchen and dining room were.”
Shaw said there was also a lean-to to the lean-to that housed the freezer and what they called a “catch-all.”
The exact age of the cabin is not known.
“The research I did amounted to going to the courthouse and tracking the property back,” Shaw said. “The jump in taxes was in 1847. That seems to tell me that is when the house was added to the property.”
The Shaws built a new house, but Ernie still enjoys the old home.
Shaw, Trusler and Keller bought the cabin in 1993-94, took it down, log-by-log, and rebuilt it on the Stony Creek property.
“We took it down to the square and Jimmy Jordan, the logger, was going to move it with that grabber thing [grapple],” Shaw said. “He was supposed to be there at 6 a.m. He arrived at 6:15 and we left there about 8 a.m. Every log was numbered and lettered.”
“We had a lot of work to do on the creek,” Trusler said. “We planned to have a cabin in five years, but we had it in three.”
Today the cabin is only18 x 24 feet with two stories and no lean-to.
Over time, the cabin was finished to include propane lights and kitchen stove and Shaw’s hand-built, “first and last” stone fireplace as its heat source.
Rain barrels on the roof provide gravity-fed water to the cabin as well as to a high-tech outhouse which has a sink, a shower and a composting toilet.
“At the right time of year, you can have running water and warm water,” Sonja said.
That warm water comes from one of Shaw’s many ingenious creations – a heater out of an old camper.
Rich appreciates the heater.
“In the middle of the summer, the water was so cold it took your breath away,” he said.
Keller, armed with a backhoe, put in the fish ponds.
While the ponds are an attractive and worthwhile addition to the landscape, it is Stony Creek running through the property that adds the crowning touch.
Next to the owners, perhaps no one enjoys and appreciates the location more than the Beckwiths and their friends, Dave and Kelly Carpenter, of Little Hocking, Ohio. The Carpenters have been a part of the fly-fishing classes since they began in 2004.
There is a lot to learn about fly-fishing, and many people have learned the basics here.
“We teach them how to read the water,” Sonja said.
Rich explained that that means learning where the fish lie in the water.
“We teach the proper release for catch and release,” Sonja added. “Which fly to use for the water condition and time of day, the different insect hatches and when to fish on top of the water or under the water.
“Dry fly to float, and nymph to sink,” she said.
Paul Hicks, of Parkersburg, and his brother Bob attended the class.
“This is my first time touching a fly reel,” Bob said. “This morning we practiced – breaking bad habits.”
Carol Greening, of Belpre, Ohio, was a first-time student, as well.
“This is my first time to fly-fish,” she said. “I have been coming to Watoga and I ride the Greenbrier River Trail. I saw people fly-fishing, and I said, ‘that’s what I want to do.”
The Beckwiths advertise their classes, but Scott Fisher, of Lower Salem, Ohio, met Rich through the fly shop, and he became a student of Stony Creek on that rainy Saturday.
No fishing trip is complete without casting a line, so Shaw picked up a rod to demonstrate the art of fly-fishing – and caught a fish on the first cast.
Shaw can cast a line in more ways than one. He is quite the storyteller and one of the most entertaining of the day had to do with his explanation of the purpose of bales of barley hay on the back porch of the cabin.
“There was an old Scotsman who had a load of barley hay on his wagon,” Shaw began. “One of the wheels fell off and dumped the hay into the pond. ‘To hell with it,’ the Scotsman said. Two weeks later he looked at the pond and there was no algae.”
So, the moral of the story and the purpose of the barley hay is to get rid of algae.
Fly-fishing is a hobby for most folks, and not a profession.
Rich was a computer specialist for the Treasury Department before he retired to do what he loves.
Equipment and attire have improved through the years, but the soul of the fisherman has remained the same.
“Fly-fishers are usually brain-workers in society. Along the banks of purling streams, beneath the shadows of umbrageous trees, or in the secluded nooks of charming lakes, they have ever been found, drinking deep of the invigorating forces of nature – giving rest and tone to over-taxed brains and wearied nerves – while gracefully wielding the supple rod, the invisible leader, and the fairy-like fly.” – James A. Hensall, MD, 1855
For more information about Pocahontas Fish and Game Adventures, LLC go to pocahontasflyfishing.com/
Visit Angler’s Xstream at anglersxstream.com/
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org