Whip Finish


Ralph Long - October 10, 2011

This weekend was a tad different than most late summer weekends for me, in-as-much as it was barren of any water aside from that which fell from the sky. Here in the Northeast we have undergone a generational storm system that not only hit our area heavier than hurricane Agnes of the 70's, but followed up only days after with another tropical storm that caused many of the area waters to reach their breaking points. Currently area waters are slowly subsiding, and a sense of slight recovery is in the wind. Fortunately for us we avoided any water damage, and only dealt with the loss of power and tree damage. Yet for many there was not only a lack of recovery but truly a lack of anything substantial to come back to, with streams cresting at record breaking levels and mountain streams in the higher elevations producing devastating flash floods.

So it was with mixed heart that I found myself standing on a small metal bridge watching one of my haunts rage by to unknown destruction; over its banks, muddied and full of debris. It is said that water is the purest cleanser for both the body and soul, and I think the same is true for the world we live in. For the many blessings that living along a stream or enjoying its company through our days can provide certainly there is no stopping the earth when its waters cleanse itself despite our existence. With waters the earth is shaped, and life is then reborn with its receding. Never so real is that acknowledgement then when the resulting power of that water is experienced first-hand. There I stood with the water still very high though much lower now than the crest, feeling the bridge tremble with its power and watching its destruction flow downstream. Nevertheless wondering, as many fishermen are apt to do, just how this storm would change my little world as I knew the stream?

The pool below the bridge would certainly change, which was obvious by the new course of the stream itself. Shifted from the rock ledges on the far side, it looked to have widened on the near side into what had become low lying vegetation. I envisioned the stream channel being leveled much more than before, and much of the gravel getting carried away to be deposited further downstream. "And I was just beginning to figure out the fish in that run," I thought quietly to myself. I noticed that the tail-out area had changed as well, since the 2 larger boulders that used to help form the pool had been unbelievably relocated another 100yds downstream! My favorite tail-out, GONE! Yet as I looked downstream there was another change to the water. There were three giant deadfalls piled tightly against the far bank on what used to be a slight curve to the left, but now was a huge eddied pool that turned back on itself creating a large hole. I wondered what sort of run would be just around that turn now with the formation of that pool. Would it catch the gravel lost to this shallower pool I stood over? What would happen to the hatches? Would we completely miss some that were on the verge of coming off in a short time? Would the storms wrath sweep away all hopes of next year's early hatches? All this ran quickly through my mind, until suddenly hit by a guilty feeling over how I could be thinking about fishing and hatches at a time like this? What was wrong with me? Had I no heart or conscience? There I stood reprimanding myself for the thoughts I dealt with yet not being able to stop them as I stared out over the water.

It was then that I looked down at the railing near my left hand. There, perched on the railing in all of its natural perfection, was a perfectly minted Slate Drake on full display! He looked to be about a size10, I thought to myself as I edged the back of my hand closer to it and coaxed it to step up on. Bringing it up for a closer look I admired the regal fly as it sat uncaring on the back of my hand. Checking it out I found no flaws or damage to it whatsoever. It was a perfect specimen of the hatch I so interestingly sought along this very stretch of water each September. For me as a fly fisherman, they are what draw me to this water, even as much as the trout in which the stream holds. Moving my hand back down to the railing the little mayfly seemed as if it had taken its queue, and seemed to casually step back down off of my hand and onto the railing. We stood looking at each other for a short time longer, and then suddenly it lifted off and danced its way out of sight over the muddy water. I smiled to myself. Sometimes nature has a way of showing you the truth. That try as we may we are not masters of the natural world. We are simple observers in the dance that is put on display for us all to enjoy if we should choose to do so. We no more hold the key to bending the will of that mad rushing water, as we do understanding what tomorrow may-or-may-not bring. All we really have is the opportunity to decide whether or not to join in, either willingly by enjoying its beauty when afforded, or unwillingly in a battle against mad waters downstream.

I turned back toward my truck. I was thinking of a pattern I had not tied in quite some time. It was a Slate Drake with a biot body that always did well on that water in particular. The Blue-winged Olives would be arriving in mass over the coming days and close behind them would be the Brown Sedge. Soon the waters would subside, and the urge to hit these waters would rise. Meanwhile, I had flies to tie during this bout with the rain. And I had an upcoming date scheduled with a certain Slate Drake, along with an invitation to a dance that I would not soon pass up the opportunity to join.   

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