Trout in the Sagebrush

I snuck out with some old friends the other day, in an effort to shake hands with some critters. I heard some good dry fly action was happening, and it had been a good long while since I caught a fish topside. The sun was shining, teasing us with a springtime that was still a few months away from being reality. I was with the two Dave’s, both men in their late 50s who had been fly casting since adolescence. A couple dogs on the salty side, but as good a company as it gets.

We walked until we got to our temporary salvation. I watched the water, to find out who had come to play. I spotted a few fish, rising out in the open. They were making small, splashy rises. I walked around them, careful not to spook them, less they spook other bigger guys ‘n gals. But all in all, not giving them a lot of attention. Big fish don’t rise like that. After a while, I found who I was looking for. An aggressive boil, with a deeper resonance. He was tucked tight under a snarl of willow branches. I watched him rise a few more times, to get a feeling for his position and rhythm.  I made a few safe casts, just a bit short to avoid the bushes. He wouldn’t have it. He wasn’t going to move into the current to pick up a little mayfly, the bugs would have to come to him in the slower water. I looked at where I could get a cast far enough across, where it would still be out of the bushes. About 15 feet up there was a gap a couple feet wide, that went back almost to the bank. First cast made it in the gap perfectly, but the fast current seam pulled the fly out of its drift almost instantly. The fly pulled out, but far enough away from him that the poor drift didn’t seem to bother him. I tried again, and once again got it back in the slot. I mended the line up, big and hard, with a lot of slack to hopefully give it a chance to drift long enough and maybe have a chance to get that sneaky guy tucked in the bushes.

Drifting, drifting, drifting,  for eternity, drifting. Over where I saw him rise last, and past that, I was about to pull my little mayfly out to give it another shot and

SPLOOSH.

“oh crap he ate it. STRIP OUT THE SLACK IDIOT, FASTER FASTER. Got him!” I cursed at myself. Luckily the line was just about to start pulling tight from the ensuing drag, he almost hooked himself. Even luckier he took off down river instead of back into the snarl. I could feel him throb and pull down. “Good fish.” Pulling harder, “really good fish.” Luckily the rains from the day before left a tint and I was using a little heavier tippet then normal. I kept working him. He was stuck in the open, I knew I had him beat at this point unless something disastrous happened at the net.  Still, he kept surprising me with another surge, again and again. Bending my little five weight to the butt. Still, the last few runs took a lot out of him. I could guide his head now. I angled him back to me, before he got another wind, and slid him into the net. A brownie. A pretty male, with blue cheeks.  One of my favorite fishes. Attitude and beauty wrapped into a stout, predatory, yellow package.

We admired him, took a photo or two, then let him swim away. I felt refreshed, and relieved. I did what I came for. I walked up the bank and continued to scout, but I just wasn’t seeing the same kinds of rises that I wanted to see. I found a fast riffle up above and tried a nymph setup in the deeper water, somewhat reluctantly. I gave up probably too early, but again, I was satiated.

I headed back towards the starting point to see how the two Daves were doing. I stopped and just watched. I felt like Salieri watching Mozart. I could see genius, but I knew I couldn’t replicate it with the same grace. Almost fifty years of casting for fish teaches you a little grace it seems. I watched the boys hook a few more fish in the same water I fished earlier, although it looked like I got the big fish of the day. That felt good in this company. We left the water with some pretty images in our heads.

We all caught some nice, targetted fish on dry flies. Halford would be proud I guess, although Ive always been a bit more of a Skues/Sawyer man myself. Still, it was a mighty pleasant and productive day for late winter.

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