Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

May 10th, 2004

First Trout
By Dave Micus

The first trout of the season is the most important fish I'll catch. There is something about taking a trout on a fly rod with a little fluff of fur as bait that seems so unlikely, so magical, that, until I am holding the fish in my hand, I am not convinced that it is even possible. I recall catching trout last season, but that seems an age ago. I haven't cast a fly over a long winter and I am filled with self-doubt. Have I lost my touch, my instinct, my verve? I feel as if I've never done this before.

It was with these trepidations in tow that I arrive at the river on a Saturday morning in April. The water is running high and fast, not the best conditions, but my obligations are few and it's important that I accomplish this. I begin with the almost sacred ritual of stringing up the rod-carefully extracting the feather-weight graphite rod from the aluminum tube, matching the ferrules and nudging them together, positioning the reel on the seat, doubling the line and passing it through the guides, straightening the leader. Then it's on to that crucial multiple-choice test that is fly selection. Will a heavily weighted soft-hackled nymph tick the bottom in this current? I am hoping it will. And though I've done this more times than I can count, my fingers still shake with anticipatory nerves as I thread the fine tippet through the hook eye of the bead-headed nymph.

In the middle of these ruminations a truck pulls up. This isn't good-it's 5:30 a.m. and it can only be someone disposing a dead body or, worse, another fisherman. Though I'm not greedy about water, believing there is plenty for everyone, it is part of the ritual that I do this alone. Hurrying off before the intruder leaves his truck, I scamper upstream to a pool by the dam that's always produced for me in the past.

I wade thigh deep and begin to cast, tentative at first, then more fluidly. I prefer to fish from the middle of this river, casting to the banks; it's like being on the playing field as opposed to calling in plays from the sidelines, but with this current it would be foolhardy. I can feel the cold water through the 5mm neoprene waders, and the river grabs each cast so I have to make quick and frequent mends, but this fast action is a great way to get the rust off. After an entire winter of reading about fishing, fussing with gear, and tying flies, it is invigorating to be on the water.

And even more invigorating to be in the water.

I foolishly shuffle backward without first looking and I stumble over a submerged log. It happens in slow motion, and as I'm falling I'm thinking, "not over the waders! Please not over the waders!" but I land on my behind and, though I spring to my feet as if on a trampoline, the icy water pours over the top, pauses for a moment at the wading belt, then follows the path of least resistance (which happens to be the most uncomfortable route).

"There is no taking trout with dry breeches," wrote Cervantes, but there is also no taking trout with frostbitten buttocks. I cast a few more times but my heart isn't in it and I'm thinking more about the numbness in my legs than catching trout. Ignoring another fisherman is bad karma and I got what I deserved. The basement wood stove replaces trout as the sole object of my desire and I head for home.

The following week the river is down and a bit slower. I head back to my favorite pool and find it unoccupied. It is drizzling slightly and the fly selection is easy-a weighted wooly bugger that, stripped quickly, will make the usually cautious trout reckless. On the third cast I make three strips when I feel that tap, tap, GRAB that sends a quiver through the line to the rod to my arm to my heart. I'm fast onto a trout which I realize, when it jumps, is a rainbow. He puts up an admirable fight, but he is small and I land him quickly.

Keeping him in the water, I turn him upside down and he ceases to struggle. I take the barbless hook from his mouth, turn him right side up, and admire him for a moment. He is about ten inches long and vividly colored. I think, "now here is a beautiful fish," but I'm prone to think that about every fish that the gods are so kind as to put in the path of my fly-brown trout, striped bass, even carp.

The current coursing through his gills revives him as he's revived me. He darts from my hand taking with him all of those doubts garnered over long fishless months about my fly-fishing prowess.

At least until next winter. ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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