They don’t bite when you’re expecting.
They know when you’re trying just too damn hard and simply let your drift be.
But when your mind wanders, heads-off with the color of the season and song of the current…
weight of deadlines and work-a-day monotony bound and gagged in the trunk back at the parking area…
Then, my friends.
Monthly Archives: October 2010
They don’t bite when you’re expecting.
OK folks…the big giveaway is here. I’ve managed to blog my way through a whole year and have had some great support and response. As a thank you, I’m giving away 5 of the new fishingpoet T-shirts. Winner’s choice of color.
The random drawing will be held on Friday November 5th from the Facebook fan-base. Become a fan (if you aren’t already), subscribe to the blog and share this with folks you think would appreciate it. If you aren’t on FB, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to get you in.
Here’s to many more years to come!
How in the hell am I supposed to see this thing on the water? I asked.
You’re not, was the reply. If you see a rise within 3 feet of where you think the fly is…lift the rod.
3 feet, I laughed. Good one. Seriously, how’s this work?
Dude…just start casting.
I grew up bass on Canandaigua Lake. And growing up bass meant pitching lures with some backbone. Minus-4 crankbaits and 6″ senkos, rattle-traps and double-bladed spinnerbaits. You don’t get after fish in brush covered cut-banks, stump fields and blow-downs with fru-fru artificials. I guess that’s why, when I first took to chasing fish with a fly rod, more often than not, big flies were along for the ride.
2/0 Deceivers and crease flies, lead-bellied crayfish patterns and deer-hair poppers the size of field-mice. I like the aggression big flies attract from fish. Crashing the surface, torpedoes from submerged logs or weedbeds, brawling like someone hit on their girlfriend. Even the runts get tough, throw haymakers and go brag to their buds about how they’re not gonna take crap from the pickerel anymore.
But truth be told, any fish on the thin end of a fly line has got his jaw set for the next bend, valley or other end of the lake anyhow…regardless of fly size. A fight’s a fight.
And so it was I went to the Cohocton River for the first time to fish for browns and rainbows with flies much smaller than I was used to casting. Blind casts to mid-current pockets. Invisible drifts through steady rises. Guestimates and shots in the dark. I wanted to learn, and a friend of mine was willing to broker the introduction.
He supplied the flies. Black gnats…22’s and 24’s. I supplied the doubt that they could hold enough meat to actually bring a trout to hand. I had heard of big fish, over 20″, caught on flies size-20 or smaller. Catches like that ran counter to my run-and-gun belief in big flies/big fish. Seriously, what use does a bruiser have for a fly that’s size is the equivalent of broccoli in my teeth? Of course, the Cohocton wasn’t going to be giving up any 20+ inch fish. 15″ maybe. But a 15″ trout is a nice fish.
We hiked our way to a likely stretch of water and got to work.
Unlike their hefty brethren, casting small flies takes stealth. An effortless delivery that drops the fly on the surface like a whisper. After several hundred casts, I had snapped at least a dozen flies off the line like a bull-whip crack. Whoo-tish! Big-fly muscles slow to ease up.
After several hundred more casts the flies stopped taking their freedom-flights into the woods and brush that lined the banks and started finding my aiming points…landing on the surface more like mumbles than whispers, but my stealth was in full effect. I took to stalking runs and riffles and pools as purposefully as a Shaolin monk takes to infiltrating an enemy camp.
I laid a cast up and across the current to slick stretch along the far bank, choked with brush. The drift was right. The rise was unremarkable. But when the line went taut as I lifted the rod, hot-damn-and-hallelujah, that fish ran like he stole something. The gnat stayed put and after a time, the fish settled into my hand. Cold, sleek dynamite.
Kneeling in the shallow water near the shore, the brown in my hand was the truth of delta blues on a summer breeze, one giant new fly fishing door flung wide open. I felt like I needed an Amen.
Holy crap, I said, smiling. On that tiny fly. Man that is too cool.
Big fly. Small fly. Doesn’t matter much, my friend replied. As long as they’re biting.
Just wanted to give everyone a shout…
New look. Same fishingpoet.
* The 6th installment in a series of sections from my Masters thesis, which was (in large part) about fishing.
Villager Restaurant. 5:30 a.m.
Laminated breakfast menus. Short lived eggs, toast, sausage—coffee-to-go, toothpicks by the register.
We head to the bait shop for sawbellies, a wriggling handful of bump & tick in our aluminum bait bucket. Slight lapping of water against marina-moored boats, footsteps echo quietly on the dock.
Wind & engine, water & shoreline, we nose a white V out onto Canandaigua Lake. Bare Hill a hunched silhouette above black trees under the dawn sky.
5, 10, 15 minutes. The boat slows to an idle, settling into the dark water toward the south end. Ears ringing from sudden silence. I stir my hand into the flipping mass of minnows, lift a chubby sawbelly, its head in my palm, tail wagging from between my thumb & forefinger, mouth gaping a small o. My tackle box holds a snelled double hook & black bait-threading needle.
I cast my line.
Bait & bobber end-over-end then plop onto the surface.
We sit quietly, sipping our coffee. The sawbelly swims random circles three feet below a barely tipping bobber. Shore is now slightly visible. Trees, rocks, cottages through mist clinging to the water’s surface. A loon’s cry drifts across the lake. Another answers, closer.
The bobber disappears for a moment, then follows the bait & fish, trickling, bouncing the surface for thirty yards, forty, fifty, then stops. I wait. The fish flexes its jaw, exhales the stunned bait for a moment, circles to swallow it head first. The idle bobber springs to life again.
The line sings its tense song. Sunrise has cleared Bare Hill.
I reel. Dad waits with net in hand.