About a month ago, I got this crazy idea that I should set aside all my conventional fishing gear and become functional with fly rods for trout, bass, and carp. In my mind, the only way to actually become a decent fly guy is through baptism by fire.
I never pass up an opportunity to chat with the buggy whip folks when I pass them on the river. And when asked if I fly fish, I am always forced to hang my head in shame as I mumble something about dabbling in fly fishing with my annual trip to the upper Taylor in Colorado.
I was finally able to get in the water yesterday for a wade. I am well-familiar with this section of the Holston, catching a number of citation smallmouth. There are also carp that are big enough to take you for a Shamu ride.
It wasn't a pure fishing trip. More of a scouting/gear testing thing. I wanted to look hard at food sources from a fly perspective. I also wanted to knock the rust off of my pathetic fling.....technically called casting. And I thought it prudent to test my back-up reel. Yes I would fish, but secondary to learning a bit.
The weather report called for a 30% chance of showers with the possibility of thunder showers late night. I love fishing weather changes, but do not do thunder storms after being forced to run for my life (in a crouch) to get off of a big iron bridge in St Augustine back in my young pup days. My hair was standing straight up (yep, I used have hair) and the strikes were so close that the blinding light and deafening noise came simultaneously.
I was hoping for a wet wade yesterday, until I stepped in to the water and noted that it was still way too cold. Back to the truck to jump in to my waders and off I went. Well almost. The rain came in. I decided to camp the bank briefly, just to verify it wasn't a thunder storm.
It cleared quickly, so off I went. Hello, old friend !
I love many types of fishing but there is nothing more intimate than wading. You are right in the middle of it! I have had bass jump over me in the water. It really is almost magical.
Saw lots of post spawn fish both cruising and looking for tasty tidbits. I noted one area where I saw fish repeatedly rolling at a seam.
Lets just say my casting was ugly. Really ugly. I flailed. I grunted. No one makes wind knots like I do. And thanks to my late shoot/release I was laying the fly in about as gently as dropping a small car in to the river. It wasn't pretty. I had little chance of making the cover of Field and Stream.
Headed up river to see if my favorite resting spot was still there. You really cant miss it. It has a rod holder.
Many have tried to remove the industrial sized wrench from the log and none have succeeded.
I love this spot on the river. One of the best places to really get a feel for it. Fish jumping. Huge carp lazily swimming by. It's way better than watching TV.
I looked down and spied a bruiser of a carp. Like a 30 pounder. No that's not exaggerating. I've spent a lot of time chasing the bigguns. The carp stopped and was feeding right under my feet, slurping like there was no tomorrow. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what had him sucking on the bank with reckless abandon..........until I looked down at my boot.
Leeches and nematodes. The area had to be crawling with them in order for a fish of this size to be expending the energy to feed on them. I see a new leech pattern in my future !
I got back on the water and flailed some more. I stripped fast. I stripped slow. I wiggled the presentation. I tried everything. Couldn't buy a bite. Clearly, I have a tremendous amount of additional homework to do.
I started heading back to the truck when I looked over my shoulder and noted a bad storm moving in. Let's just stay it put a spring in my step. And then I heard the thunder. It was pretty far off but I needed to get out quickly and safely. I was still about a 1/4 mile from the entry/exit point.
And then it got ugly. How ugly? Rain blowing sideways. Lightning strikes right on top of me. I was on a section of the river where the bank was basically a 20 foot bluff of ankle-breaking rip -rap and potential mud slides. I shimmied up the bank only to find a chain link fence. With the lightning banging approximately every 15 seconds, I didn't want to be anywhere near the chain link fence.
I didn't want back in the water either. My only real choice was to bust bushes through brambles and trees, then slide back in to the water at my crossing point. And I feel it important to mention that toting a 9 foot fly rod while traversing the SIDE of a bluff stinks !
I somehow made it to my crossing point without a broken femur, nor a broken rod tip. I still had bugs and spiders crawling all over me and I didn't care. I wanted to be out of this storm.
And Houston, we have a problem. I traveled too far and now have a soft silt bottom to cross. Soft enough to get buried to the calf. I had visions of them finding my dead carcass because I got stuck. The coroner would show up and shake his head with sadness. His apprentice would point out that I had a really nice set of waders and boots.
So I sat there, hunkered down. Lightning cracking. Thought I better send a vid to the wife to let her know where to look for my body and most importantly, to take my fly rod home. No fly rod deserves to rot away on the bank. When I did the vid, I had to remember to put some bass in my voice, because sending a vid to your wife of you squealing like a little girl is not very manly.
The lightning would not let up. I had to find away out. I knew that I was close to the road. So I scrambled back up the bank and traced the chain link fence back down to the river to its termination point at the bluff edge. It wasn't particularly safe, but neither was getting piled up in the river from a mud slide. I shimmied around it while holding on for dear life.
I finally dragged myself up out of the bushes. I made eye contact with a woman passing by and she looked horrified. Not sure what her problem was. Muddy men with contorted expressions dragging weeds and vines scramble up and out of the river all the time.
At last! My beloved truck. I broke the rod down, tossed a towel on the front seat and jumped in, waders and all. Frankly I didn't care.
So, to summarize:
I caught no fish.
My casting and stripping are pathetic at best.
I lost my bazillion dollar pair of corrective sunglasses, scrambling for my life.
I may or may not have poked some holes in my waders.
I came way too close to riding the lightning.....literally.
AND, I can't wipe this stupid grin off of my face. Heading back today !