Saturday, November 8, 2008

The worst day fly fishing ...

The sky was swept clean of clouds, with even the tiniest wisps tucked away behind the horizon. The sun was shining hard and bright enough to bounce off the granite and hurt. Leaves were falling like huge flakes of multicolored snow. The air was mild.

It looked like a great day to get on the water and fly fish for trout.
Well, I knew it was going to be tough. The solar/lunar tables predicted the slimmest of chances of finding hungry trout and, like I said, the leaves were beginning to fall heavily, clogging the streams and creeks in the Pisgah Forest where I hide on my off days. The forecast was so bad, in fact, that I almost didn’t go. On a scale of one to 100, my two off days registered in single digits.

Of course I went.
I turned off on a dirt road, driving through a tunnel of sparkling color to one of the tiny creeks that help swell the French Broad River. Some beech trees were bare, resembling a skinny old man’s hands reaching to the sky.
There was, though, enough color to give the feeling of driving through church. Red and orange and golden light poured through the hemlocks, dappling the service road with splashes of light.
I could have just pulled over to take a nap.
But the urge was too strong. It kept pulling at me, like a big dog on a leash that wants to play.

I gave in.
After getting rigged up, I gulped what was left in the beverage bottle to wash down lunch and walked downstream to get to the water.
I nailed a fish early, a tiny wild rainbow about the size of my thumb. It may have been the littlest fish I have ever caught on a fly. It belonged in an aquarium, but a big guppy probably would have eaten him. I let him go.

Upstream, I caught another little guy, popped him off the fly into the water and moved on.
It all went downhill from there.
I was soon getting hookups on just about every cast. I hooked up with rhododendron, hemlock and pesky floating leaves that seemed to go out of their way to attack my fly. I popped off several flies.

I got nasty tangles in the whispy tippet that rivaled anything my mother could crochet. My language grew more colorful.
I slipped twice, busted my thumb enough to cover the rod’s handle with blood and knocked off my brand new sunglasses, an event I didn’t notice until after I got back to the car, which meant I had to struggle back up that little creek to search for them.
I had a few more tangles and stumbles and cussed some more.

But I made it to the smooth pool where the creek opens up. I let out a soft cast, watched the fly float for what seemed several minutes before the water expoded and brought in a brightly-colored rainbow trout.
I had him in the net so I could get a picture, while keeping the fish in the water. The rod got stuck in a tree branch, I stumbled and dropped the rod and the fish got away before I could snap the photo.

Dang. (Or words to that effect)
The sun slipped away as easily as that last fish, and the air got suddenly cold.
I slipped away with the headlights on, wondering how on earth it could have been worse.
Later at the cabin, the answer came to me … I could have stayed indoors.
The worst day of fishing is still better than the best day on a couch.

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