Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fall fly fishing: It's in the air

The familiar smell of approaching fall hangs in the air now. Gentle breezes shimmy through the trees in a graceful dance at the top of the mountain.
There’s a sprinkling of rust around the edges of trees, which should be expected after weeks of pounding rainstorms. The air, thick as warm syrup just a couple weeks ago, carries a sneaky cool that slips down the mountain in the early evening so you don’t even notice that the day is done.
Darkness arrives quietly. Before you know it, it’s time to go home.

Already, I miss the long, lazy lateness of summer sunsets that allow me to fish well into the night.
But I also love fall fishing. The air begins to nip with a fresh crispness. Here and there you catch a whiff of wood smoke from a nearby campfire or cabin.
Being early in the new season, the dead leaf invasion has not yet cluttered the creek to snag my flies, so there is still lots of prime unmolested fly fishing.

A couple weeks ago, my river was too high to fish, with the current ripping along at 9,500 cfs. The North Fork of the French Broad was rocking and rolling, an angry caramel monster that moved fallen trees and knocked aside boulders and, in effect, rearranged everything. So, I had a new river to fish the next weekend when the flow slowed to about 650 cfs (normal is about 350 cfs, I’m told.)

July water had been almost too low to hold a fish, and I was happy to see the rain.
Fishing on the last weekend of September, I found a lively but friendly river moving along at a moderately fast pace. I nailed rainbow trout, mostly with marabou muddlers and green inchworms.

I tossed some big hoppers into the slower current also, and was surprised by some feisty fish smacking the fly.
Fall is the perfect time for hoppers, ants and beetles. Trout love those flies.
And, since I would rather fish dry flies, the box is stuffed with these imitations.
For the first time this year, the water across the highway from our cabin flowed fast enough to fish without scaring every trout in the neighborhood with one faulty cast. Water flowed around my knees in spots where there had not been enough to reach my ankles in August.

To my delight, the trout were feeling frisky.
I tossed out a black muddler, let it slip downstream with the current and got a bump on the first cast. On the second cast, I had a struggling rainbow shaking his head at the end of my line. Then there was another, then another.
Boy, was I having fun.

Downstream, I noticed that the fallen tree that had blocked my path previously had been relocated by the storms. The way was clear.
The trout hit every fly I threw out. I even caught a few of them.
Cleared out, it was like fishing new water over old rocks. I marked in my mind the locations of the trout that shook my rod before shaking the fly. I’ll be back, I vowed.
Later, as the sun slipped behind the mountain, you could feel the bite of the coming fall in the air.

Again, the air filled with the scent of wood smoke. I pulled out a sweater.
I love fall.

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