I saw the fish rise to slap the water’s surface as midges bounced like popcorn in the air over the water. You just knew it was going to be a stellar day for fly fishing. Even though the sun was way too bright and the water way too clear, I was ready to settle into the groove of an unseasonably balmy February day.
The cloudless blue sky seemed to beckon. Come on out. Have some fun in the unheard of at this time of year warm sunshine.
I remember most Februarys as months that should have been abolished, ripped from the calendar with authority to bring spring closer. I have always hated February. The month has a long history of cloudy, drizzly, unbearably chilly and stinky days on the river.
Bring on March. It’s blustery and often nasty, but it’s not February, which is always lifeless. It’s the month between two others, and that is all.
But here I was on the river, watching trout rise to hatching insects when the outdoor world should have been snoozing under a thick blanket of gray clouds.
I even caught that brown trout on about the third cast. It felt like a big fish at first, then I discovered the little caddis fly was stuck in the fish’s tail. I guess I jerked the fly too quickly, or the trout missed or just changed its mind at the last minute, or it was just a lucky hookup.That fish felt way heavier than he turned out to be. I unhooked the fly, slipped the sparkling brown back into the water and looked around, a little embarrassed, to see if anybody was there. Snagging fish is not a skill of which to be especially proud.
There was a break in the action, some errands to run and lunch in the city before I got back into the fishing, this time on the Davidson River along the other road to our cabin. There were few rising trout. There were fewer fly fishermen.I snapped off the little caddis dry fly and knotted a super-small midge, a speck of a fly I thought would surely interest these picky trout in the Catch and Release section. That caddis fly would never work.
An hour later, I had not enticed one hit.It began to get dark. The sun slipped behind the ridge. Soon, it was just me, and one other fisherman, a little bit upstream. The light waned just in time for the fish to begin popping the surface, jumping and gulping whatever it was floating on the surface. The fellow upstream — barely out of my casting range — had trout splashing all around like little children hopping up and down in a swimming pool.
I watched his rod bend and shake. I kept casting my little midge, with no takers. I’d stop, and see that guy fighting another hefty trout. Then another, then another.
I was catching nothing but air, and that was getting darker and cooler with each cast. It was too late to begin fumbling for another fly, and besides, that guy had all the action within reach while the rest of the river was quiet as church on Monday. Those fish almost jumped into his fishing vest.I kept catching air.
When I finally gave it up in frustration and despair, I asked the fellow catching all the fish what fly he was using.“Little caddis fly.”Violent and unseemly thoughts erupted in my mind. I felt this strange desire to wade into the water to whack those stupid trout on the head with my rod.
You see, even when February days are warm and pretty, they turn cold and ugly just for spite.
Life’s not always fair. Especially in February.