Another Bite of The Apple

A Green Drake Dun in all its glory.

Of course, the long awaited taste of the excitement of the Drakes led me to return. Who would not hope for another bite of the apple.

I still mourn the loss of the grand abundance of two decades ago, though I welcome whatever return to that unique feeling I am given. Our rivers have been ravaged by numerous floods, ever intensifying traffic, and the whims of the water hoarders, so it is something of a victory to witness Nature’s small attempts at renewal.

Everything about the fishing changed on my second evening. There were no Coffin Flies to sweeten the mix, early, late or otherwise. Indeed, there was little in the way of early fishing throughout the beauty of the early evening hours. That is not to say that there was not a player or two.

During those golden hours, I witnessed the occasional dimple, typically hard to interpret. The rises were exceedingly sporadic, generally of the softer variety, and to no visible insect. I scanned the surface for spinners, tiny emergers or hanging nymphs, finding that at least whatever drift line I was standing in appeared devoid of anything. It was classic, that moment we have all lived over and over on trout rivers.

The angler’s reactions typically find their base in logic and experience or pure chance and whimsy. Often it seems that one path is as ineffective as the other. My tendencies are to take the high road, offering imitations of the various flies of the season. In June, that can be a long term avocation.

Observation finally bore fruit, and I saw a small yellowish blur of motion escape a rushed dimple. Applying the logic and experience – it is sulfur season, and many of the flies of the season have been smaller than normal, led me to knot a sparsely tied, size 20 CDC sulfur dun and offer it to an otherwise totally reluctant companion of two evenings running. No, I cannot swear it was the same trout both Sunday and Monday, but his location and behavior certainly suggested that. He dimpled away sporadically both evenings, never seeming to change his attitude, not even when the big mayflies made their appearances; and he simply ignored everything I offered.

That tiny little sulfur unmasked the gentleman for what he was, obviously one of the noted small fly connoisseurs that have become somewhat common on these rivers. He took it gently on my second drift and then lost all semblance of his haughtily maintained decorum. He leaped, ran and cavorted maniacally all over the shallow flat, vexing my identification with an unusual mixture of light and dark coloration. It can be hard to form an accurate picture in the mind of a blur.

Reduced at last to a momentary rest in my net, he was revealed as one of the more unique brown trout of my memory, silvery and heavily spotted from his gill plate to just past his pectorals, and dark and miraculously colored from that point astern. Vibrant, unique and a respectable eighteen inches long, he was appreciated for his ability to elude me for two days as well as for his vigor and aerial display.

As said, that was my main entertainment for the early evening. What Drakes came did not appear until the fabled last half hour of daylight. I cannot count the times that last half hour has provided the only fishing for the day over more than three decades of angling. The flies were not numerous, but there were enough of them emerging to finally bring the other lurkers in the pool on the feed. I set about fishing them as efficiently as my excitement and sense of the rapidly ticking clock would allow.

After trying a couple of different patterns, I knotted a 100-Year Drake to my 5X tippet, having gone down earlier in deference to the skittish behavior of the trout and ever lower and clearer water. The first taker in the gloom fought enviably, as I showed him no mercy in light of the lighter tippet. Netted, measured and released, he was an inch longer than my multicolored leaper and noticeably heavier through his body. Catching my breath, I checked the tippet for abrasions and defects, then began searching for my next opponent.

There was one good fish moving, taking two or three Drakes in rapid succession, each in a different location. My casts never seemed to catch up with him. The sporadic nature of the hatch caused a lull while I searched for another trout on station. The one I finally found was nearly even with me, and I knew my drift would be shorter without the advantage of a sharp downstream angle for my cast.

I made half a dozen pitches, checking the rod low to throw as much slack as possible into the leader, before my Drake vanished in a white flare followed by a quick explosion as the hook sunk home. He ran immediately, the rod arching and throbbing, then turned back as if remembering the advantage of cover. A bit of artful rod manipulation kept my fragile tippet from the rocks, until he was off again on another sustained run. If a tactic doesn’t work the first time, try it again was clearly his game, though he was using precious energy running back and forth; advantage angler. Thrashing in the net, I measured him at an easy twenty-one inches!

It was dark now, with moments remaining in my magic half hour. One terrific boil ninety feet away caught my attention despite the gloom, and I knew there wasn’t time for an approach. Curbing my enthusiasm’s tendencies to push the rod too hard, I concentrated on the timing that allowed the twenty-year-old Paradigm to do what so many modern rods cannot. The big Drake alighted gently out there, barely visible at that distance, but the boil was more than big enough to see even in the dark. A long, wide flanked silver gleam erupted several feet into the air, and it was finished. I was left standing there in the darkened river, laughing.

Nine o’clock, and the boils here and there throughout the pool quickly diminished. Stillness reigned. With but a final, faint glow in the sky, the magic time passed into memory.

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