Friday, December 9, 2011

The Itch

The itch started on a hot early September afternoon. After crawling down a cliff to a new hole on the Wilson. I was rewarded with the sight of several large trout cruising a nice deep pool. Sure of success I setup my pole with a small dark spinner and carefully cast into the pool's head. The trout initially moved to the splash but when the spinner got within a few feet they turned away. I thought perhaps my offering wasn't interesting enough so I knotted on a flashier lure. Again, the trout would start for the spinner only to peel off. This time further away than before. I reasoned that this was too flashy and switched to my smallest darkest spinner. While they did not retreat from this new device, they would not hit it either. The most reaction was a slight move to keep from actually being bonked. This whole time, while switching spinners or resting the pool I watched the trout. They were happily taking invisible things from the surface bubbles and foam floating by. That day, while being ignored and sometimes shunned by the trout, I thought to myself, "I bet I could catch them with a fly". 

Curiosity about fly fishing had been in the budding stage for awhile at this point. Earlier in the year a fly combo went on sale at Fred Meyer. It included a 6WT rod, pre-spooled reel, 6 forlorn looking flies, a pair of nail clippers on a tether, and a hat pin all for the paltry sum of $35.99. Though tempted, I am not a fan of "starter" equipment. I once related the concept to someone thusly, "Would you teach your child to ride a bike with one pedal and sketchy breaks?".  I bought some more spinner parts instead. Later "A River Runs Through It" came up in my Netflix streaming recommendations. I went out and started looking for fly equipment the next day. The fly combo at Fredy's had made it's way into the clearance bin. Poor packaging had made it easy for people to "liberate" the flies and hat pin. Now the package contained, rod, loaded reel, and tethered clippers, all for fifteen dollars. Brad Pit's epic ride down the river, fighting mobby trout the whole way was fresh in my mind. Inundated by that epic scene, the "starter" gear came home with me. 

I began to learn how to cast the fly rod that night. I visited a bunch of sites and learned about the general terms. I watched several youtube videos repeatedly. I found some insightful advice. Foremost of which was to practice casting with a piece of yarn tied to the tippet. For an earlier experiment with flies and a casting bubble I had acquired a 9ft tapered leader and a couple flies. The leader had a loop at one end, and my new fly line also terminated with a loop. I spent a few minutes searching online and found how to join them together. Then ignoring the insightful advice, I pulled out one of the flies and snipped the hook off at the bend, then knotted it on to the tippet. All set I headed for the wilds of my backyard and began to flog around. I flopped "loops" into the garden. I caught my line in a tree that I was sure was far enough behind me. I discovered how out of shape my techie arm was. The next evening I was back. Scaring the cat and baffling the chickens. I would manage several false casts in a row and have the whole thing fall apart in mid air. Then spend the next few minutes untangling the magical knots. I ended a particularly good streak of false casts with a smarting pop between my shoulder blades. I followed this feat with a stinging flick to my right ear on my next attempt. I embraced the wisdom of yarn. After a week or so of daily practice I could false cast with moderate success and shoot line to the extents my yard allowed.

May arrived and the Domestic Goddess took a trip to visit family. This left me to my own devices for a weekend and the Fisherman's Shack beckoned. The shack is a place that specializes in all things spinner. I had never visited because it's over an hour from my house and not really close to anything interesting for my girls. Free to roam I headed south and fell back into the arms of spinnerdom. Once there I picked up enough trout sized parts to keep in lures for the next few seasons. I also found some excellent copper blades that produced some great cutties on the Wilson. Shiny new bits and success with the fish conspired to keep my hand from the fly rod through the summer months. 

Back a top the rocks on that hot September afternoon, I notice the itch. In my mind's hand is the fly rod. A respectable loop unfurls over the water, gently wafting a fly to the surface. My mind's eye watches the trout rise through pellucid waters toward the drifting fly. In an explosion of droplets the trout abandons cautious mottled green for flashing hungry silver. I dreamt of arched rod, taught line, singing reel, and flashing fish.  

The weather soon began to cool. From mid September to late October I fished for trout, but hoped for salmon. Those closing weeks of the river's trout season we full of feisty cuts and the rare surprised salmon. I thought often of the fly rod. However, visions of salmon tearing through trout tippets kept spinners in the water. The end of October neared and my family accepted an invitation to our friend's annual pumpkin carve. My friend, Wally, had moved his family to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho earlier in the year and we looked forward to seeing them again. 

On the second day Wally took me fly fishing with his boys. We drove along the Coeur d'Alene river and seeing all this great fishing water roll by had me really excited by the time we all piled out of the truck. After a few quick pointers I was off and casting. Two false casts and I noticed I had snapped off the fly, not an auspicious start. Tied on a new fly and after a few more pointers I actually got the fly into the water twice before I snapped it off. Determined not to lose another one so quickly I relaxed a bit and the casts started to flow. I played in the riffles for about twenty min and managed to keep the fly the whole time. 

With bolstered confidence I moved down to the pool. The head of the pool is just to the left of the log jam above. I drifted an Adams dry along those logs a few times. While doing this I noticed some small fish rising just to the left of where the light falls across the river in the pic. I moved down and let my next cast drift over the area. There was a small flash and over excited I set the hook so hard the fly landed on the rocks beside me. Thankfully the little guy didn't really have it! I let it drift by a couple more times with no interest. After trying the tail of the pool a couple times I came back. The fish were rising again so I got ahold of my self and let the Adams drift again. The flash came again, larger this time and I managed not to rip it's lips off. It was game on and I started reeling. The only problem was the fish didn't seem to get any closer. At this point I realized I had been paying out line instead of taking it up! Worried the fish would run under the logs I started stumbling backwards away from the water while I sorted out which way to reel. All the while the fish danced in the pool like a silver leaf in a stiff breeze. With everything sorted out I landed the beautiful nine inch cutty.

After plucking the fly from his lip he shot off for the logs. I realized while he was free of the hook, I was definitely not. I've heard that some drugs create an addict on their first hit. All I can say is that catching a fish on a dry fly is one of those drugs.

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