Short Story on Fishing Alone this past week
After a long quite drive down a dusty dirt road, I finally made it to the local tail-water since the flows dropped to 300 cfs… Approaching my favorite hole, I realize I have it all to myself, it is already a great fishing day, and I have not yet wetted a line.
Normally when I reach the river after being away for more than a week, I am so excited I rush through the process of getting ready, but today, I was in no rush at all. As I put my jeep into park, the river pulls me to the edge. I quickly remember fall is in full swing. The river is full of brightly colored Kokanne, which adds to the evening yet again without a fish being landed. I finally get dressed, and begin my approach into the river. After watching the water for a bit, I decide to tie on an Olive Bellied Caddis, first cast full drift and nothing. Second cast happened to land exactly as I had hoped and the water exploded with a large rainbow. The excitement was short lived as I realized I missed the take. I blamed the bad light caused by all the smoke (forest fires abound), but we who fish all know that this is simply part of the game.
I gain my composure, check my fly and knot and recast. This time a little further down river as I know that same large rainbow is too smart to strike at the same fly this soon. I again get a great drift, but this time, with a take and hook set. The battle is on. As I am trying to land this large bo into my net, I find myself laughing at the scene. We all know what I mean. Large fish, wanting nothing to do with you landing it and you are all alone. At this point, I was thankful I did not have company as I am sure I looked somewhat foolish. Finally the net becomes heavy with the weight of a strong, high backed fish that finally gave up the fight. I gently remove the hook, return the fish to the water and appreciate the experience as a whole. See, normally I fish with buddies. Not that we are in competition with each other, but when fishing with friends, we all keep track of the fish landed, missed takes, etc. I am not saying it is a numbers game when fishing with friends, but I will admit when I fish alone, I have no idea as to the numbers of fish netted. When I am with a buddy, the bean-counter is always on.
After landing the fish, I actually went back to the jeep, cracked a beer and completely appreciated the moment. My thoughts went back to the large bow that I missed when I first arrived. Some time has passed and the light now seems different. I changed my fly, this time going for a Pink CDC Cripple. I cast a practice cast behind me to check the visibility…. Much better than the first go, it is now game on.
I make the cast, again, a full drift and nothing… Is the fish still there, did I spook him. Did I blow my one and only chance? A couple of false cast’s and a gentle laydown of the fly. Time seems to stop as I stare at the fly. Again, the river explodes with a powerful splash. I temporarily forget that I have some slack in my line. As I raise the rod to near vertical, I begin to kick myself for the miss… How did I miss again. Then, one more strip of line and I feel the weight. Fish on…. The fight begins. He makes a run down river and simply sits on the bottom. I know he is big. No head shaking, no tugging, just weight. I keep the line tight, and move to the edge of the river where I have better footing. I get the fish on the reel, I set my drag. The whole time, this fish is just keeping the line taught. I know, when he realizes he is hooked, the battle will be on. I raise the rod and cannot believe the weight of him. He is not in current, therefor I know this is all fish. I finally put enough pressure on him to get his attention. He makes a run… straight at me. I am reeling in line like a crazy man. I actually have to strip line in by hand as I cannot reel fast enough. The whole time, I know that if I do not get this fish on the reel, I will lose him. That first burst of energy stopped almost as quickly as it had begun. “I actually have a chance with this one”. The rod again feels heavy as I rotate the handle on my reel. I am expecting him again to make a run right at me, he turns begins to come upriver towards me and then passes me by. My reel is screaming off line. I am watching this large hump-backed fish, drag all of my fly-line up river. Is he going to take me down to my backing. There is enough line out that I can see my bright orange colored backing on the reel, but not a true “down to the backing” scenario.
That last run used up much of his energy. He entertained me with a couple of small leaps and a few more thrashes, but in the end, he came to the net. He was an old beautiful rainbow. Big Head, broad back and amazing fall colors. After removing the hook, I dipped my net into the river and the fish seemed to pause. I faced him upriver as he sat in my net for a few moments, he then swam away under his own power.
I caught many more fish this night, some almost as big, but none that created such memories. Missing that fish on our first encounter, made actually landing him so much more enjoyable. I have enjoyed more fishing trips than I probably deserve, but this one 3 hour early evening trip is one of my most memorable. I think, it is because I was alone. No distractions. Just me and the river. There are many times that I remember not going fishing simply because one of my buddies had to cancel on me. That will never happen again. I am looking forward to many more solitary trips in the near future.
Cutthroat Leader Co.