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
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
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
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