Fishing The Chill


It was forty-five degrees when I reached the river, wisps of cloud hanging on the ridgeline, the autumn colors so full and bright just days ago, now gone. Last week I fished in shirtsleeves, and today in a poly fleece hoodie, Thermoball jacket and rain gear; enough insulation to stay comfortable while I waited and hoped for a trout to rise.

I called the wardrobe right, as I was still comfy after standing and scanning the surface for an hour. I was about to consider the merits of a sunken fly when that little ring appeared near the opposite bank. Try as I might, I could see nothing but a bubble line on top, yet that trout had risen to something. The rainy day, and being nearly November convinced me it had to be olives, something between a size 20 and a 24. And so the game begins…

It was another half an hour I guess before that rise was repeated, and the fish settled in to feed lazily on something I still couldn’t see. I went through all three sizes, T.P. Duns with and without a trailing shuck, a tiny Flick BWO, and a couple of CDC sparkle duns. Mr. Trout was unimpressed. I changed it up for a few casts with a beetle: nope. Finally I was able to see a speck of gray here and there, and once or twice what looked like upright wings. Hmm… the twenties looked too big, but the 24 didn’t draw any interest either.

On the third dig through my three fly boxes I found a single size 22 T.P. Dun, and decided that just had to do the trick. Twenty or more presentations later, it finally did. The fifteen inch brown cavorted in the shallow water and pulled some line from my CFO, a nice fish. I twisted the fly free when I had him in the net, and he settled to the bottom right in front of my feet. He seemed to like my company.

Perhaps half an hour later another trout rose once or twice, and came for that 22 right there in the bubble line. I was maybe a split second late in my reaction, the tiny dry lost in the bubble line, but I hooked him, at least for a moment.

I whiled away the afternoon presenting different olives to the occasional riser, but the two that had felt the steel in my frauds must have spread the word; there were no more takers. A couple of times the rises stopped altogether and, just when I had decided the game was done for the day, a new fish would show himself with a bright little wink in the surface. The possibility kept me interested, the insulation kept me warm, and the activity actually picked up as it got later, the opposite of my expectations for a forty-five degree rainy day and forty eight degree water.

It was getting on after four o’clock, time to be heading out, when a good fish sucked in the half drowned size 20 T.P. that had the honor of being my last fly of the day. He wasn’t happy finding the sting in his supper, and I was equally surprised when a good size brown leapt out of the water to show me his indignation. I guessed him at better than eighteen inches, with a dark back that blended with the stones on the bottom. He made a second jump, convinced me that he meant business, and I began to slowly work him toward me. Everything was working out perfectly, the best fish of the day on the last cast and all that, when the hook let go.

I checked the traitorous fly, but found the bend secure and no reason for the hook to have let him go early like that. Must have had him in the bone of his lip where the hook didn’t penetrate enough to hold I thought, so I tipped my hat to him and headed for the trail.

On the way out I was pleased to see my friend the eagle heading home upstream. “Hope to see you again”, I told him, “and if not then goodbye until next year.” I do hope to get back, maybe find a few nice browns sipping those cantankerously tiny duns again. It makes for a fine way to spend a wet, chilly autumn afternoon.

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