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Part One hundred eighty-eight

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One Chance

Jason Tinling

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA


For a Southern Californian in Pennsylvania, 3 years still isn't enough time to adapt to the concept of cold, snow, and regularly freezing temperatures. So, as I sat staring into the vast field of pixels before me, I heard the DJ that the day's high would reach 52 degrees. Wow, that's almost human.

I stepped out the doors, headed to my car and it sure didn't feel like 52 degrees. But, I haven't been fishing for more than a couple of months, so I pointed my truck in the direction of the river, and made the 5 minute drive over. I stood at the tailgate, pondering my own sanity, and whether I should try to squeeze my vest over my coat.

I snipped off the Skip's Predator, a remnant of the warm days of Indian Summer of late October. If I catch anything today, it's certainly not going to be on this. I tied on a white Suspended 'Gill Buster, and headed down to the water. A brief glance into all the "usual" locations came up empty. A few small wakes trailed out of the pool at the end of Deer Run, a small creek that feeds into the Conestoga here. A lone sunfish finned silently next to a line of debris that had accumulated over the course of a few small winter storms.

I cast the fly out, letting it settle to the bottom, then retrieving it with short, hopping strips. I varied location, depth, and retrieve, all to no avail. I stared downstream, towards the train trestles and river spillway. In my mind's eye, I saw beyond and behind the drab grays and browns that filled my vision. I could see the vibrant greens of spring, the lush streamside plant life, burgeoning with flowers and insects.

The vision disappears as a breeze cuts across the river, swirling the surface with rippling traces, and sliding over me. I see the water beneath an overhanging tree downstream of me ripple and roll. Fish?

I track down the bank, and as I near the tree, the water boils once, and a wake traces out towards the deep middle of the river. Whatever it was, it's gone now. I work further down the bank, probing the piled rocks, downed branches and other assembled structure that spot the river bottom.

I head back up to the feeder pool, working casts out into the deeper water, letting the fly sink down into the depth, lost from sight. I watch the tip of the line for any twitch or quiver. Anything different that may signal the presence of a fish. As I work the fly up towards the shallows of the backside of the pool, the line tightens. I pull up tight and see a flash of color, a tensed line that just as quickly goes slack, the flash blending back into the cold gray of the water.

It wasn't a big fish. A smallmouth bass, maybe 8, 10 inches long. But on days like today you're lucky if you get one chance. I'd just missed mine. I cast into the same area a half dozen times, working slowly, quickly, anything to draw a second strike. A cold wind, funneled through the trestles below, barrels up current and cuts into me, a chilly reminder that my day needs to be done.

I walk back to the truck, through open paths that will be choked with greenery again in a couple of months. I stow my gear and climb into the cab, grateful for the warmth. I wave my fingers gently before the vents, taking the chill out of them before heading back out to the main road. Maybe next time I'll do better with my one chance. ~ Jason

Here's the fly: (Thanks to Steve Davenport)

Gilbuster

Suspending Gilbuster

    Hook:  16 to 8 3XL nymph hook.

    Thread:  Black Danville 6/0.

    Body:  Rabbit strip whipped down with thread, or thin wool dubbing.

    Tail:  White Zonker strip.

    Legs:  White round rubber, 2 strands.

    Weight:  Beadchain eyes.

Tying Instructions:

    1. Set hook in vise, shank up, barb down. Wrap down thread to secure eyes on top of hook shank.

    2. One eye length behind hook eye*, tie on lead eyes on top of hook shank with an "x" wrap. Just behind lead eyes, tie double hitch on shank, then liberally apply head cement.

    3. Wrap down shank to just above barb and tie on the tail material, which should extend behind the fly the length of the body. Wrap back toward the lead eyes over the rabbit hide to create a thin body. If a thicker body is desired, dub on a wool body.

    4. Tie off behind the eyes with two double hitches or whip finish.

    5. Apply liberal amount of head cement at the tie off point. Snip thread and GO FISH!

    * Three eye lengths for minnow immitation.

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