Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fly Fishing: Highlights...Part 3

So far the day had not gone well. In two hours I had managed to catch just two brookies--neither of which quite made the requisite length of a dollar bill. I had muffed a chance at perhaps the largest brown of my abbreviated career when I let the 12 or 14 incher get into a root ball and break me off.

There hadn't been much surface action, just a splash every now and then. I decided to switch to wet flies but..As I settled down on the bank to make the switch trout began rising in earnest. Upstream, the Bear Hole--by the way, so named when the OM and uncle Bob years before surprised a sow black bear and two puppy-sized cubs swimming there--was stiff with risers. I recall thinking something along the lines of, "now by God catching the limit is just a matter of time." 

Frantic to make good I flailed the pool to a froth. At last I felt a satisfying tug and, fearing it might get away, backed quickly up the bank and literally towed it onto the rocks. Barely legal I broke its neck, hurried into the trees to gather hemlock boughs to line my creel--a family tradition. 

The hatch (back then no idea but if I were to guess now, caddis) intensified, bugs littered the water and filled the air ramping up what had been a steady rise to a serious feeding frenzy. The most and what appeared to be the best were as always against the far bank, just beyond range of my best casts. So I kept edging deeper into the pool. With the water lapping at the top of my hip boots finally the cast I'd been hoping. The fly landed a foot or so from the bank, floated a short ways and disappeared in a swirl.

This time the rod bowed deeply, surely a lunker. No net (and I would not have known how anyway) I started to backpeddle, stumbled on a rock, went down, scrambled back up, fell again and...And wonder of wonders when at last I regained dry land the trout was still on...Turning sideways I all but ran into the trees (thanks to Dewey's foresight for heavy tippet) and drug the struggling brown (all of 12 inches) onto the rocks. Dropping the rod, I leaped down the bank, grabbed it with both hands and...And that's when I heard the man chuckling, then, "Boy I gotta hand it to ya, never quite seen it done that way before."

To make a long story short, once the trout was creeled, he asked how long I'd been fly fishing. "Not long." Asked if I'd be interested in his showing a me a couple "tricks" might improve my casting. "Sure" Handed me a couple flies, said "this one's been workin' pretty good for me this mornin', give it try. Good luck, maybe see ya around another time."

And that was that. 

As turned out I learned more about fly casting in just a few minutes than in all the time since I first picked up the "wonder rod." The flies were wets, Orange Fish Hawk, a pattern I later discovered ranked high among Ray Bergman's favorites--who, through his writings, I fly fished vicariously all across the country for many years. 

Interesting to note, the stranger who took me under his wing was none other than the guy who wrote the weekly outdoor column in our local paper (sorry the name has long since evaporated). The same guy the OM's gang despised yet when it came to hot-fly-of-the-week treated as gospel--no questions asked.

Later when I spilled the trout and the tale for the OM to consider, adding I'd decided to become an outdoor writer when I grew up, naturally he scoffed, "Yeah boy, and when I grow up I'm thinkin' maybe President, headin' up the whole goddamn kit and kaboodle--make yourself useful and fetch me another beer from the ice box.

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