Heartbeats

I have no doubt that many of the young, modern fly fishers that run around and fish like their waders are on fire believe that those of us from an older generation no longer feel the excitement of fishing. After all, there we are, sitting on the bank with our bamboo rods patiently watching while the youngsters fly past with a Euro nymphing rod in each hand, racing to the next riffle where they can sling their leaded jigs. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the excitement that has kept us coming back to the rivers for several decades.

That excitement can be our drug, or our undoing. It helps the game remain interesting and fulfilling.

The largest trout I brought to hand last year had some well defined feeding habits, peculiarities which I discovered during some of that bank time. I know the area where he feeds, and I know how stealthily he can go about it, so when I saw a dainty little rise in a particular location this morning I immediately took notice. You can track the events with a look at the readout on the heart monitor I wear strapped to my wrist!

I had just taken a ten inch brownie by offering a size 20 spinner to another dainty little rise, and I immediately shot the extra line required to lay it down upstream of the veteran trout. On my third cast, he appeared to take it though, since I couldn’t see it clearly at distance, I tightened very carefully. No fish was attached, though I feared that little movement might have done me in. It didn’t.

Still convinced the fish was eating tiny spinners, I changed the fly to an Antron winged version with a bit more visibility. He rose again momentarily, and I cast again, all the while feeling my heart rate climb and that tingling I get at the moment of truth. The breeze gusted and my cast fell short, with all four feet of tippet blown back toward me. While I was retrieving my line, up he came again, this time sticking his nose above the film and taking a small fly from the surface. I thought of the tiny caddisflies I had fished with some success last week, and made another change. The tension was palpable as I checked my knot and waited for another gust to subside.

The first cast with the caddis remained un-assaulted by my foe, but number two, well that one seemed to float forever…

I was staring at that little tuft of a wing, staring a hole right into the river when the fly simply vanished. No rise, no ripple, simply gone! My mind took a microsecond to consider that event, and then it was followed by a slight wavering disturbance of the film, and I knew. My reaction then was at least two microseconds late, and we all know what happens when our reactions are late. I tightened gently initially, then swept the rod to my left as panic set in. There was a little picture of the trout’s nose turning toward me, and that sweep, and then nothing.

Retrieving the line brought me the answer: a leader with a little curl at it’s end where the tippet used to be. Victimized as much by one of those twice tested knots, as by my own overreaction, I envisioned that brown settling down on the bottom with a four foot fluorocarbon streamer trailing from his jaw. My Forerunner showed my heart rate had peaked at 140 BPM, after a ragged little up and down tracing of the moments leading up to that climax.

I was left to consider the other big fish I had spoiled in making that fateful cast. The line was in the air when he rose, nearer to me and just a few feet to the right of my line to leviathan. I could have moved the rod back and let line and fly fall behind me, then shorten my line and deliver a cast to the new trout. I have done that maneuver many times successfully. The excitement of the chase prevented reason though, as I wanted the big fellow I started fishing to.

The river grew strangely quiet, and I knew my game was done for the day. Neither of those fish would rise again today. I had ended my fishing just as if I had tripped a switch.

I waded out, took a break, and watched the lifeless surface for a sign of redemption. I stood in the shallows and watched for a very long time, allowing my elevated heart rate to recede, and calm to return to my demeanor.

Instead of the cool, cloudy conditions promised, the day grew bright and warm. Each floating leaf in the distance had me wishing it was a mayfly, but I knew better. I did not expect to see a hatch today. I had ripped the fabric of a glorious fishing day, and only time would heal it. Perhaps tomorrow.

Old fisherman can be stubborn. I wasn’t ready to give up, to pack it in and wander the path back to the car. I pondered the fact that this is the last week of spring. Since the promised spring day had become another hot summer afternoon, I took out the lone little fly box that holds a few terrestrials. I knew the trout hadn’t been taking terrestrials, but I tied a Grizzly Beetle to my tippet anyway. I went to work on the nearby holding water, just to see who might be at home.

The rise was heavy, at least for a simple dry fly tied on a smallish No. 17 hook, and there was no delay in tightening this time. The CFO set about screaming to anyone who would listen, as one heck of a big brown trout made known his intentions to get away clean. When he dove for rocky cover, I turned him, and when he ran hard upstream I palmed the reel to muffle it’s protests; all the while staying conscious of keeping smooth even pressure with an arch of caramel colored cane. I hefted him in the net and used my forceps to remove the little bug from his mouth before checking the measurement: twenty-one inches. My heart was beating pretty hard again for a consolation prize.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s