Lessons From the Past

Mementoes from my own history, long past and recent: My trusty FSO cap, adorned with a small Letort Hopper, supports The Shenk Tribute Rod and my late mentor’s venerable Hardy featherweight. I learned to tie the Hopper, and the Master’s other classic patterns, and fish them at his side. I am forever grateful!

Elation one day, humility and a good soaking the next: truly the wages of this game! Honestly it is all part of the magic that draws us to rivers great and small, season upon season with a rod, a reel and a wisp of fur, feathers and steel.

The trappings we carry have great importance to us. They are far from simply tools. Why they are the products of magic and alchemy, time and history, all woven together! I talk to Ed when I stalk the river with the Tribute Rod in my hand and feel his presence when I touch the handle of that diminutive Hardy to keep the line tight to a good trout.

Too much familiarity with a given beat defeats us. The fishing can grow stale. I believe the trout learn our habits in their rudimentary way, changing their habits and location in reaction to our presence and approach. This day I took a small step back in time, with the Tribute Rod in hand I stalked the trout from the opposite direction, at a different time of day, fishing the water anew. I at least confirmed the presence of fish in a couple of lies that never seemed to offer signs of habitation.

The chosen fly was “popped” ever so gently when cast to these places; not taken, but nudged away as if to say not a bad play sir, but try another pattern the next time. There is an improvement in concentration and execution when approaching cover from a new direction. Casting angles must be re-analyzed, the effects of sunlight reconsidered. The beetle is offered, taken it appears, but nothing is attached when the strike is made. Ah yes, try something different…

Why not the hopper? It is August is it not? And no, this is not a meadow stream, but there are grass lined banks upstream. This wise old warrior probably doesn’t see too many, but I’ll bet he has a taste for one when it does come along.

Taking the time to rebuild the business end of the leader, knot the hopper securely, and test the cast and the turnover prior to the offer. All ready, and so the game begins anew. First cast outside a bit, to tease the edge of his abode. No sale? Okay then, cast number too splits the difference between the edge and the heart of the protected lie. Not coming out today are we? Very well sir, here it is in the center of your dining table!

Ah the virtues of seven feet of perfectly tapered split bamboo when it’s time to wrestle a heavy old brown from his sanctuary! My thanks Mr. Whittle! Outside the labyrinth is the place to play him, switching angles with the throbbing cane as he darts to and fro, thinking now more of reacting to the pull of rod and line than diving back into his sanctuary.

Thanks for the game my friend… rest now until we meet again!


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