Thursday, October 3, 2019

can't catch 'em all.

It seemed like a good plan: Do a little work around the house, take the dog for a quick hunt, and then head for the river. You didn't actually get much done at home, but you flushed a couple of grouse with your dog and missed the one shot you took. It was a fine autumn morning at any rate, and before long you'd be standing in a river.

You hear the weather forecast on the truck radio talk about the approaching cold front with possible frost and notice the sky filling with clouds, but you're prepared with warm clothes and raingear. You get to the river several hours before dark and hike into a favorite spot. Steelhead and lake-run browns were said to be in the river and you decided to test out a new sinktip line swinging streamers. A couple years ago you'd landed a big brown trout in this very hole, swinging a streamer and hoped to duplicate that success. After working upstream to the tail of a big bend pool you give up on the streamer and toss a little prince nymph into the current. It was almost a surprise when the line goes tight but the rainbow on the other end is even more surprised. The fish takes off downstream going airborne with five big shaking leaps. Once in the net you wondered how that tiny little fly stuck in the trout's top lip could manage such a fish. And the fly falls right out before you could unhook it!

It's time to head upstream for part two of the day's plan. A big wide spot in the river, they call it a lake, is rumored to hold large brown trout that feed at night and love big mouse patterns. You park the truck as close as you can and lift your canoe off. A rucksack is packed with PFD, canoe seat, net, and fly box. Two paddles are jammed into the bow and you pull your headlamp onto your hat before hoisting the works onto your shoulders. Then you reach for the rod tube leaning on the truck and set it up in the bow. The portage to the river is easy, thanks to the downhill trial and anticipation of over-sized trout.

You're on the water just before dark and pondering where those trout will be. No fish are rising but that could change any minute. Will they be in the weeds? Out in the channel? Or perhaps along the shoreline banks where you'd cast for bass on a different river. You tie on your deerhair mouse before it's too dark to see the tippet and start casting.

Maybe the fish are laying by those rocks. Nothing. Ease to the shoreline but be careful not to overshoot and hang your fly in the overhanging cedars and maples. The mouse lands with a light plop and you can see it riding high. Twitch it. Strip it. Darn, it grabbed some weeds.

It's full dark now. The only sound is the breeze and your sailing fly line. You turn on you light to change to a Morrish Mouse, one you tied for Alaskan rainbows, thinking a lower riding fly will help. Flip the light switch off and everything is black. Before your eyes can adjust, the canoe bumps a rock and your heart jumps. Alone in a canoe, it's pitch black and you can't see a thing. And there's no action from the fish. Trout season will close on this water in a couple of days and you'd like to end with a bang, but you're losing hope and without confidence you send your fly here and there and wonder what the heck is going on.

It's downright chilly by now. The breeze is bothersome, your back is sore, and there's a comfortable restaurant a few miles away. Paddling along the shoreline you flip the light on to find the landing and are startled by a lone angler standing in the water. Doing any good? Nope, you? Nope. Damn cold front.