Clouds

A pleasant change yesterday, with clouds framing the morning and a light touch of rain as I waded gently into the river. Would that the rain had lasted the day and the night, but it was but a glimmer of the moisture we so desperately need. Still, it gave the day an autumnal feel, cooler, damp, with a change of light in the sky when the sun briefly appeared. Here and there I have seen the barest tinge of yellow on a handful of leaves: a hint of change.

Yes, it is high summer, but the cool snap has been lovely. Eighty-five degrees is expected tomorrow, and with plenty of sunshine I expect it will be warmer than that. The eighties will dominate next week, though I hope the forecasters’ prediction for 60-degree lows will come to pass. Yesterday’s interlude, it’s hint of autumn was welcomed at any rate.

I chose the lighter, gentler approach, armed with a three weight rod and light reel, I stalked as slowly as possible. I cast the lighter terrestrials, a soft hackled ant tied that morning, but the calm of the river was undisturbed. I decided after a time that a bit more of a tidbit was needed to awaken the interest of the resting trout, and turned to an old favorite.

My Baby Cricket was my favorite dry fly for most of my years in the Cumberland Valley, replacing the size 16 Letort Cricket on that pedestal when my experimenting ways at the bench brought success. The Master had always liked his smaller cricket and hopper best, and I decided it would be prudent to go down one more size.

The Baby Cricket was designed to be just enough to get the interest of a reticent trout, and hopefully a large one.

The Baby as I called it was tied on a size 15 standard length hook, black finished to hide the hook bend somewhat, as opposed to the 2XL dry fly hook of Shenk’s Letort originals. The TMC 102Y hook has a wider gape too, so it hooks it’s takers particularly well. The fly body is peacock herl spun in a dubbing loop for bulk and durability, the underwing black Antron yarn. The design idea was a fly that looked meaty enough to interest a larger trout, but was light to land gently: an unobtrusive little nugget that just looked alive and appetizing.

The Baby can be fished on the preferred 5X tippet very nicely, but it plays perfectly on 6X when low, clear water and spooky trout demand extra delicacy. I stalked my way to a particular bank where I had noted a sip or two earlier in the week. A trout had popped my larger cricket pattern rather than taken it, something that happens more in low water, and I thought that fellow might be home again on this calm, cloudy day. Seeing no activity upon my approach, I offered the soft-hackled ant a few times without response. That was when I decided it was a perfect scenario for the Baby.

With deft hand, the three weight allowed me to present the fly very gently from a distance, and I was able to work that bank carefully, dissecting the cover cast by cast. When I sent it in tight to the remembered location, it was gently accepted. I paused, struck appropriately for the 6X tippet, and set to work battling a very good fish!

Releasing that beautiful brown, I smiled to myself a little, remembering all of the times the Baby Cricket has proved to be just the right fly for difficult conditions.

Of course, a 2022 fishing day is not complete without regrets. The first came as I prospected a boulder strewn backwater area. A subtle take, a heavy fish immediately coming my way as I stripped line frantically, and yes, the hook pulling out.

As the day advanced, the sun made a brief appearance. Hearing a thunk well off in the distance, the glowing orb illuminated the white tail feathers of the eagle as he rose triumphantly. I wished him well, while hoping it would not be trout he was having for supper. The sun’s brilliant display was as short lived as the eagle’s appearance, and the clouds gathered and darkened quickly as I approached the day’s final lie and began to cast.

A thought came to me then, a memory of another day with rays of afternoon sun on my back as I waded back up that same pool, heading home. I had made an impromptu cast that day, a cast below the lie that I had fished thoroughly that morning to no avail. A fish had taken hard, fought well, and I had netted a brown better than twenty-three inches long, a parting gift from the river. The clouds further darkened the sky as that thought passed through my mind, and I made one more cast, reaching out to that same place below the lie. Passing remembrance, or premonition?

The Baby Cricket disappeared in a soft ring, I paused and struck, and a great fish jerked wildly out there, the light rod high and bouncing with his energy. I held him too tightly it seems, hoping to keep him from the snag I knew was close at hand, to urge him to come my way and fight on my terms. One great surge and he was gone, the Baby his to remember, the tippet parted cleanly.

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