Summer, and the river grass is more than head high as I walk an old, favorite path along it’s banks. I can trace my steps back twenty years and more…
A last cool morning, though warmer than the previous two, and the insect availability has returned to summer conditions. The river is still cold this morning, though the few degrees of warming since midweek has changed things once again. Tiny flies… and technical dry fly fishing are the order of the day.
As often happens, the flies the trout are sipping are only in their line of drift, there is nothing in mine, so I squint and guess, running through the flies of the season; five minute hatches. In the time it takes to figure out just what is being taken, the bugs change again: wonderment, puzzlement, then elation as each little discovery is made. What’s that, something shining, moving…there a spinner, red, no olive, a cornuta spinner! It’s smaller though, an 18 perhaps, not the 16’s the duns have been, not the spinners I tied. Try anyway… no, no, not having any. Surgery: clip the wing tips and tails, reduce the profile and maybe… no, not having it.
By the time that little sequence concluded I spotted something lighter in the drift out there, tiny sulfurs perhaps? Tiny olives then. I try those flies again, but once again they are not the answer. Suddenly there are more fish rising, all the most delicate little sipping rises! Perhaps a cripple will do, a very small cripple… Have a taste for that? No, huh, forever no. What about you, you seem to be fairly regular my friend? Drift, drift, drift, twitch and PULL! Yea, that’s what I needed, he’s a good one! The brown takes line, and slowly I reclaim a little before he takes some more. Can’t be heavy handed with 6X and little hooks. Oh, he doesn’t want to come visit my net, not in the least. Oh my, there you are! Lets see now, settle in the mesh… twenty one, very nice, a big heavy boy. There you go, stay a moment and recover.
The game persists into mid afternoon. Solving one fish does not reveal the answer for another. The wind finally arrives, and a fly change to a different crippled emerger, half and half style. A gust catches the cast when the fly is half way to it’s target, and blows the fly too far upstream straightening out all 16 feet of leader and tippet. I knew it would drag before it drifted down to him. All I could hope for is a bit of luck, that he ignores it and I can wait for a second shot. Luck gives me a refusal to the dragging fly; that fish is done.
The rises are quiet now, little to see on the surface. Wait, here’s a little flurry just over there. Sulfurs again? The puzzle remains unsolved and then, as I am contemplating my withdrawal, I see a lone sentinel, a single larger sulfur drifting slowly. Taking my cue I tie the 100-Year Dun to the fragile 6X, not the best choice for a size 14 dry fly, hoping for one more shot.
Watching another sentinel, I look away and hear a little plop. Looking back, the big fly is gone, and a bubble trail is dissipating. I work the fish, waiting when the breeze picks up; no more dragging, and no more refusals. On the right drift, he takes it like he waited for my fly alone. He bucks and boils, not wanting to leave the cover, and I can do little but hold the line gently in my fingers with the light rod tip high. We absorb that frenzy, and the first run. Each time I raise the tip high as he heads for rock, keeping his head, and the tippet away from sharp stone. He runs, darts, turns and I reel. Give and take with Old Blue’s soft action. Summer is time for four weights.
At last, there he lies in the mesh. Twenty and a bit; half an inch? A perfect way to end a beautiful day on the rivers of my heart! The sun has been bright, and the water is warming. Time to let them rest. I’ve a dinner date tonight, and there’s music on the Square.