May 23rd, 2004

Watching the Old Guy
By James Castwell


Let's say it's a grand afternoon, you head for your favorite stream to catch a few hours before dark and just as you make the walk from your truck to the water you see some 'Old Guy' in your favorite spot. Let's assume too that you figure he will fish it on through and so you lean back against a cedar on the bank and decide to wait him out. You've been quiet and he doesn't know you're around. Who knows, maybe you can learn a thing or two. We all can. Look for the smaller things, the tell tale signs that he may know a lot about what is going on around him. There may be much to witness.

For instance, you might see him look to the sky a few times, noticing the birds. Which ones, how far above the water they are flying, what are they eating and is there an insect spinner fall developing above the tree tops. You could miss these things but he won't. He could likely tell you the name of the flies in both Latin and layman. Years of experience produce such knowledge.

A casual glance at his wrist watch may indicate how long he figures it will be before the insects are on the water. He may pause and survey both upstream and down. Contemplating if he will be in the right section of water to best take advantage of the fallen insects, will he be downstream enough and in good feeding water to take trout.

Are the insects the kind that choose to drop on fast water or calm. Which fly should he be ready for and which should he start with. Yes, should he switch now to an emerger with a nymph below? Perhaps, perhaps not. Watch him for any signs of tackle tinkering. Will he need a new leader combination? New leader and tippet set-up? If so he will not make a big issue of it, but you may see him stand motionless with his hands working at something in front of his chest, rod snugged under an arm. Thinking, tinkering, working.

Are you seeing any rises yet? Are you absolutely sure? Can you tell from where you sit if there are any slight bulges going on out there where he is? Gentle humps in the water caused by the shoulders of a fish almost breaking the surface as it turns back down after taking a nymph just under the surface film? You may see him look intently at the water. Looking for floating insects, spent ones or are there some hatching too. Could happen, could have both at the same time. Which one will the fish key in on, or some on each? Yes, that happens too.

You learning anything yet? Keep you eye on him a bit longer. Now what, he is just standing there. Filling and lighting a pipe. "Man," you think, "get on with the fishing!" But, he only stands, arms folded and stares calmly ahead, waiting, waiting. He has made his choices. He is and will be ready, the time is not right yet to cast. All of this is part of it. He is in the right place, has the right flies rigged, knows which insects are about and which ones will be on the way, where and how and when. He has simply no reason to cast yet, perhaps in a few minutes.

He is facing upstream and somehow the flyrod is in his casting hand now, gently paying out line to the air in rhythmic waves, each loop a bit farther in front than the last. You notice the size and shape of the front loop. Rather big, not tight, no chance of a tailing-loop, none at all. The presentation is flawless. The loop straightens, extends, and drops as a unit. Gently, but in one motion with even a bit of slack in the line, measured slack in fact.

You are convinced he is running a two-fly cast. The shape of the loop was a dead give away. No hard stop, no hard recoil, just rolled out and presented. He has seen some reason to cast. You did not. From your position it was impossible to see the receding rings of a delicate sip to an emerging insect. But he did.

There is no show now to see. The rod is only slightly bent, only held at halfway between horizontal and vertical. No strain. If you hadn't been watching him cast you probably wouldn't have even noticed he was onto a fish. The game plays out silently, no fanfare, no music, no crescendo and no climax. With his rod hand held straight out behind him, rod tip over his head out in front and a short line and leader, the trout is brought to hand. Carefully he lifts it just enough, after tucking his rod under his right arm, to release the fly and let the fish be on his way.

By this time the birds are working in earnest, diving and darting above, taking mating mayflies, the water starts to pop here and there with little rings of activity, an occasional splash can be heard upstream and another caddis meets his fate. Our "Old Guy" studies the water, makes a few more casts, switches to a dry and connects on the first offering. The run is upstream, into his backing, the reel sings, the rod stays as before. Always in complete control, the performance never gets to the 'fight' stage, always remains in the 'play' stage and is ended with no great accord. A fish eased onto it's side remains as docile as a bar of soap, unless you squeeze too hard.

In the approaching dusk you can see the pipe being refilled, the deliberations as the line is carefully remanded to it's reel and you think you can detect a small smile as he turns and starts ashore. There was time left, there were fish rising, your "Old Guy" knew what to use. You retreat from your place and back at the truck you can just make him out, leaning against the same cedar you were. Just standing, watching, living it. ~ James Castwell


Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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