Saturday, December 20, 2008

Release and catch not for me

An angry rain beat the metal roof with ferocity, like someone had just dumped a truckload of gravel on our cabin, and I rolled over under the blankets hoping to sleep through it. Outside the sky bubbled with dark clouds.Well, we’ve had a week of rain in the mountains, the rivers and creeks are up again and I was ready to get out and catch some trout. I struggled out of bed slowly, for I feared the water would be muddy and hard to fish. It turned out to be clear as jar whiskey kept in a freezer, just not as cold.I wrapped up well, rigged up with a black wolly bugger that usually works in high water and crossed the street to the front-yard stretch of my river.
Surprisingly, I caught nothing. Not even a bite.You could tell how high the water had risen by the flattened grass on the banks. The North Fork of the French Broad had gotten rowdy during the week. Downed trees blocking the water had shifted or moved on. Most of the trash had been swept away.
Overhead, a bald eagle circled the neighbor’s pond four times, then disappeared as I reached into the car for the camera. He was fishing also and not having any luck, neither.I moved to the fire station hole, changed flies after that black wooly bugger failed to get even a bump, and began to catch fish on the yellow Tellico nymph. Boom, boom, boom.The relentless drizzle continued to kiss my cheeks, but the air stayed warm. Over the bank an old barn rose ghostlike through plumes of mist. I was having more fun than the law should allow.Then it happened.
While photographing one of the trout I caught, I unhooked the net because the cord was in the way. Dumb move. I dropped the net, cussed and lunged as it scooted downstream like a frightened duck.I began to run along the bank, trying to get a little ahead of the bobbing net.
After about a couple hundred feet of running with waders and rain gear and wading boots too large for my feet, I splashed into the river, stumbled over river rock round as bowling balls and reached for the net that was one foot beyond my reach. And missed as it sailed by.More colorful language followed.
And I began to run again with those boots flopping like clown shoes. They are great for gentle, cautious wading. They are, however, not New Balance running shoes. I leaned the rod against a tree and ran harder.My lungs were burning like fire. Again I splashed into the middle of the river, got downstream of the approaching net that was picking up speed like Michael Phelps on the last lap.
I reached for the wooden frame, stretching my arm as far as I could ... and caught it.
That catch felt almost as good as landing a huge trout. What a triumph.Normally, with a few exceptions each summer, I am a catch and release type of fly fisher. Monday, I tried release and catch. It sucks.
I’m going back to the old way.
My knees still ache.

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