The bugs had just started and a few trout were rising, and it was suddenly very clear I’d spent most of my summer fly fishing small streams.
Fishing a small stream is gratifying, but it’s not the best preparation for throwing #22 emergers at very spooky trout – which tend to stop rising whenever you wade closer than 35′.
In other words, I was rusty.
Rusty enough that I got a little cranky with myself on the water.
That’s a bad thing, because when I’m cranky, I start cataloging my fly fishing failures, and under the impetus of an admittedly self-critical nature, that list can grow very long.
Wrong flies. Out of 6x. Every cast eight inches short. Not sneaky enough. Not piling enough tippet for a good drift. Not focused. Bad karma from prior lifetime.
It can get a little weighty at a moment in your life when a little confidence is a real asset.
Sometimes, you never do crack the code, and the bugs stop appearing and the fish stop rising, and you stand hip-deep in seriously freezing cold water and wonder why you took up this sport in the first place.
Other times you change one simple thing: tippet, fly, more reach in the cast – and the whole experience resolves itself right in front of your eyes, and the trout do their part by eating the fly.
It’s either the way things are supposed to work, or pure magic.
When that does happen, you tend to forget the first half hour or so; that stretch where some apparently immature fly fisherman would be tempted to imitate his new daughter by stamping his wading boots and whining.
(Thank goodness that doesn’t apply to you or me.)
In this case, I sorta cracked it. Barely.
Well, not really.
I was able to get fish to eat, though before it all came together, I had one actually come up under my bug while aiming for the natural right behind it.
My simply too-big #18 parachute simply slid off his broad back, and I simply stood there wondering at the unfairness of it all.
The answer, of course, is that fairness isn’t a concept often adhered to in nature, and it wasn’t the trout’s fault I was stinking the place up.
The Ugly Reality
Chris Raine – who was ironically fishing my backup rod (an 8.5′ Raine prototype) because he’d grabbed the wrong rod tube on the way out of the shop – landed two nice fish.
Naturally, I claimed ownership of half of both trout, suggesting it was a fool’s tax for grabbing the wrong rod (an obvious symptom of advancing age).
Just as naturally, he replied with a rude gesture.
I fished an 8.5′ Jim Reams hollowbuilt (a rod I love dearly for its smooth nature, but may sell because I’m not nearly caster enough to enjoy the taper when the bugs are on the water and I get impatient and start driving casts).
I had a total of four grabs, one brief hookup, one driven-by-frustration hookset (broke him off), and missed the other two on general principle.
In other words, I kinda sucked, and because I was preoccupied with rising fish, I can’t even save this fishing report with a handful of good pictures.
It was the kind of day that shows you brief flashes of promise, yet reminds you that you’re not nearly as good at this (or most other things) as your daydreams suggest you are.
Or more accurately, I’m not always as good at this as I was on the one day I did it all perfectly – a day which somehow becomes our benchmark for normalcy, which is self-deception raised to a high art.
While I’ll eventually adjust to the demands of the BWO hatch (I’m stocking up on #20 Roy Palm biot-bodied soft hackle emergers), I’ll also embrace the concept of letting the trout win the day without assuming I’ve lost my marbles.
See you on the river, Tom Chandler.