November 25th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .


By Wes, (flyfshfool)

It could be any morning, but this happens to be a Thursday morning, a cold dark 5:30am Thursday morning. I hear whispers of sound in the pre-dawn darkness from others that are with me.

I shiver a little and reflect that I could still be lying warm in my bed; perhaps with one of my children curled up against me - using me as their shield against the unease of the night. The thought is fleeting however, as I begin to suit up in my armor to face the hoped for and anticipated battle of the day.

Long underwear, neoprene waders, felt soled boots, wool shirts, jacket, fishing vest, polar fleece gloves and finally I hold in my hands my good luck helmet, the old felt hat. It is the survivor of many a crusade, dented and crushed, water stained - with a drop of blood sprinkled here and there; some is mine and some belongs to my quarry. As I tug it into place I feel complete. All I need now is my fly rod and I will be fully equipped for the rigors that loom before me.

The pontoon boat sits at my feet. I feel it gently tugging at its leash as the river uncoils past. It has been a trusty steed carrying myself and equipment over many a river mile with never a complaint; well that right oarlock does squeak a little when it gets wet, but it helps to set the tempo of our stroke, almost as if we have our own walking drum.

A gray curtain of fog obscures any feature more than a few feet away. I hear one of my companions softly mutter a complaint; but I know from past experience the morning sun will quickly burn it away. But right now, even the energy of the river as it flows on its way to the ocean is muted by its heavy blanket.

There is a soft glow in the East, just enough to give form to the men grouped around me. On this day I happen to be our leader for I am the one that knows this river best. On my mind is mapped its curves and runs; it hidden dangers that lie in wait for us. I have scouted this river many a time and while I do not know exactly where our quarry is, I know the likely spots it might hide.

I feel a small smile form as I remember other trips with some of these men - the time three of us decided to take our annual bath in 41 degree water trying to save a plastic bottle with only 5 or 6 dollars worth of flies in it, rowing as if death himself were after us, our shoulders popping from the strain, to retrieve an oar before it is lost downstream, an afternoon lunch on a sun baked gravel bar as Eagles soared above our heads, the sharing of stories about other rivers, other trips and other companions who are no longer with us.

I shake my head to clear the almost dreams from it. I look at the others as they stand waiting for the intangible signal, not necessarily from me, but from the day herself that it is time to start. I surreptitiously check out a couple of new guys, just to make sure. This is definitely not a time to be ill prepared.

I step into my pontoon boat and am away with barely a whisper of sound. Soon we are strung out along the river in a loose line, those of us that are in the lead slowly back stroking, giving the others time to catch up. We form a ragged regatta heading for the first run just down stream.

I lean into the sticks to get properly set up and then the current does my work for me. With barely a stroke or two I am deposited exactly where I wanted. I hide a small grin as I watch the others labor mightily. I myself have struggled here. Perhaps I should have been a little more forthcoming with the knowledge of that hidden cross current. No, who knows, perhaps this will be the basis of some of their remembrances shared with another companion in another place.

"I remember the time old so and so didn't warn us about the current and we where swept downstream about half a mile before..."

Everyone finally gets to the right side of the river and we stalk downstream on foot. As we go I recount the lay of the river bed and a couple of bad spots to avoid. This particular run is long and there will be ample room for all us to fish fresh water. I warn a couple of the over eager ones not to wade too deep too fast and remember to fish the soft water at the edges, you just might be surprised.

I stand on the bank and sift through the countless bits of information and lore learned from other trips and finally decide on the pattern to use. I tie on a Silver Hilton and gently move to the river. I can feel the soft caress of the water here at the edges and know that this is a mistress who's touch is not so gentle just a few feet further out. I almost loose conscious track of the others as my focus narrows down to the task at hand. I short cast with about 20 feet of line, performing an aerial mend before my line hits the water. The sink tip does its job and I can feel the fly swimming through the current. The swing is complete, no surprises here, I have rarely had success on the first cast of the day. I lengthen my cast and soon the routine is set. Cast, mend, swing, retrieve, step down.

My attention begins to wander with the sameness of the sequence. I spot a deer, spying on me from the opposite bank, and see some racoon tracks in the mud and sand at my feet. I glance up and down the run watching the others. At this distance you can't really tell the difference in their equipment. It is only by watching very closely that you begin to notice the performance difference in the high end rods and less expensive ones, or perhaps it's not due to the rods at all and just an indication of the casting ability of the more experienced anglers. The expense of their gear more a reflection of personal desire than anything else. It is easy though to tell the difference between those who have pursued our quarry before and those who haven't. I will have a few hints to share when we group up again.

Suddenly my whole being is riveted on my line, I detect the slightest of pauses in the swimming of my fly. Not knowing if it is the river bottom or if I have a hook up I pull back on my rod and instantly feel the thrumming on my line. In concert with the turn of my quarry and almost without conscious thought my rod is lifted back and high setting the hook deep.

I feel my heart quicken in my chest as battle is joined. Will my equipment stand to the rigors of the engagement? Do I have the experience to outwit the instinct of an opponent whose ancestors have survived eons of struggle to return to these waters? All these questions are lost in the fray that I am involved in. I hear, over the screaming of my drag another sound and realize it is my own voice shouting in exhilaration of the experience. Using all my skill I bring my opponent closer to the bank only to have him bolt downstream in another surging run as soon as he feels the gravel beneath his belly. Two more times he valiantly tries to escape, but my 8wt. rod is to much and eventually he is at my feet. I lean down and gently remove my fly. Giving him support, I watch as his strength returns. Just as my hands begin to release him back to his world there is a bright flash, someone has taken our picture. I turn and am somewhat shocked to find most of my companions gathered around me, sharing vicariously in my success. I step to the bank feeling spent and satisfied. There are shoulder slaps and arm clasps. Someone asks what I am using, you know, what's the magic fly today? I grin as I say, "It's a Silver Hilton. But you know its not the fly, it's whether the god's are on your side this time."

Soon it's time to move on downstream. Day light is wasting and just around the bend is another good run.

That's why. ~ Wes, (flyfshfool)

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