Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fly fishing for a gentleman's fish

A thick crust of ice covered the storm door, so I had to go outside to see if it was snowing. The air had a sharp bite to it, and snowflakes danced around like feathers from a goose fight.

After about 15 minutes strapping the tarp over the trash in the truck, my fingers ached. I decided the landfill trip could wait. It was overcast with battleship gray skies, perfect for some blue wing olive action on the river. And it was snowing.

Trout don’t mind the cold. It was time to fish.So, with the remote intention of running some errands, I headed for the Davidson River. When I arrived at the hatchery parking lot, I decided to hike a bit up the trail to seek out some new water.

A portion of the trail was layered with a challenging coat of ice, and the rest of the well-worn path was full of tree roots looking like piles of snakes, so you had to watch where you stepped.After about 30 minutes, I veered off the path, down a slippery bank past some old campsites and to the riverbank where I could cast without getting into the water. I was traveling light, with no waders, so staying out of the river was of paramount importance.

Right off the bat, the little black caddis fly was nailed by a medium-sized rainbow trout that leaped twice before shaking the hook. I had tied a half dozen of the tiny CDC flies the night before, and they were working well. Black was back.Snowflakes continued to flutter like little butterflies, but the snow wasn’t sticking.

And the air began to warm.Back upstream, I stopped at the mirror-smooth pool where all the well-dressed fly fishermen gathered to toss nymphs and streamers and impossibly tiny flies into pods of humongous trout. These fish get big as pigs mainly because of all those nutrients coming from the hatchery and the fact that you cannot keep any.

There were rise rings all over the surface, and a few fishermen were landing trout here and there. You can see those big boys, the fish that is, from the bank, but they are not easy to catch. They are educated in the ways of fly fishing and can be exasperating. They can make grown men cuss and cry.

Today, though, the little fly that was nothing but black thread and feather fooled a few of of those educated trout. I cast the fly across the water while standing high and dry on the bank. It would float downstream over a ton of fish before it would begin to drag. Then, I would cast again.

I was getting into a rhythm. Snow kept falling. My mind wandered. What a nice day.

Wake up, said a monster brown as he tried to jerk the rod from my hands. Lord, was he huge. I was certain he was going to break the tippet, but the 6X held. I got him to the bank, slid him up on a shelf of ice and was almost ready to snap a quick photo of the biggest brown trout in the history of the world when he shook the fly from his mouth and slowly slid back into the river.

My heart was thumping.

The guy downstream smiled when I told the story.

“That was a gentleman’s fish,” he said. “He got off so you wouldn’t get your hands wet.”

That was good enough for me. Three trout on dry flies from the snow-covered bank made for a fine day.

Perhaps I’ll go to the landfill next week.

Let’s see what the weather’s like.


Hoss said...

Great post. I have had a few of the moments where I was seconds from taking a pic that I could bragg about to the buddies and the fish gave me the fin and took off. It is always a fish story unless you have the pictures to back it up. Only if those fish were so kind to come back for again and pose for a picture.

Hugh Koontz said...

Thanks for the kind words, Hoss. I did go back Monday but, alas, they just laughed at me.