Giants, Part 5 (Concluded)
by Jerry Dennis
Kelly also likes big bucktail streamers dyed the brightest possible
chartreuse, and bushy combinations of marabou and rabbit fur tied
to give them a broad silhouette and enticing action. He dislikes using
streamers weighted with lead wire or bead eyes, believing that unweighted
flies are more lifelike in the water. And he likes them big, on the
reasonable assumption that oversize flies attract oversize fish. When
his marabou streamers are dry, fresh from the box, they look like
Angora kittens charged with static electricity. As soon as they hit the
water and sink, they come alive. It's a wonder any fish can resist them.
Any fish, that is, big enough not be afraid of them.
Casting big flies for trout is not for everyone. It's hard work, and it
contradicts many of our favorite myths about fly-fishing - that it's a
gentle sport for contemplative sorts, that purity of intentions and good
equipment and careful application of your skills will be rewarded whether
you catch fish or not, that big fish are beside the point. With streamers
the way Kelly ties and fishes them, big fish are most emphatically the
point. If you're the kind of person who needs constant reward, you'll
get more satisfaction from catching small fish on dry flies. But I've
discovered that I have a deep longing for trout capable of yanking the
rod from my hand. Funny how eight hours of fruitless casting can be
forgotten the moment a big brown or rainbow charges out of nowhere,
turns, engulfs your streamer, and tries to drag you into the river.
All this is just prelude to what happened one day last year on the lower
Au Sable, what Bob Linseman call his "crick". Bob, Kelly and I were
floating a stretch that has the broad sweeping bends of a western river
and is known for its big trout. It looks like big-fish water. We fished it
with big streamers and sinking lines and kept our reflexes set at hair
trigger. It was one of those days when you figure out fairly soon that
you're not going to catch many fish, but maybe you'll get a giant. But
the giant didn't come. One of us was always casting from the bow
and another from the stern, while the third rowed. Periodically we
traded places. We cast and cast. We fished all day without a strike.
Late in the afternoon, on a cast no different than the five hundred that
preceded it, to a spot along shore that looked no different than any
other spot along shore, I was stripping one of Kelly's Zoo Cougars
deep toward the boat in maybe five feet of water when a sizeable
section of the bottom underwent a short os seismic shift. I saw motion,
a hint of surface disturbance, and then - clearly, with the aid of polarized
glasses and an advantageous angle of the sun - the bronze flash of a
brown trout turning toward the fly. And I dimensions. This was no
mere twenty-incher. It was three feet long if it was an inch.
In fishing there is always a risk of diminishing returns. You can set
out on a hedonistic course, always searching for larger and more
difficult fish and greater and more enduring thrills, but the search can
become like the notorious progression from marijuana to heroin. It's
possible to get strung out on giant fish and fall victim to the Hemingway
syndrome. Hemingway, you remember, abandoned the brook trout
of northern Michigan to pursue monster billfish in the Gulf Stream,
and his life went downhill from there. It's safest to avoid temptation.
Instead of always seeking bigger fish, be satisfied with small ones.
Spend most of your time catching ten-inchers on dry flies. They're
nice fish, and great fun on light tackle. Be reasonable. You don't
need to wrestle giants every day.
But in that two or three seconds, while the biggest brown trout I have
ever seen turned and flashed in the Au Sable River, I discovered that
I'm not a reasonable man. Not by a long shot.
I didn't catch the trout. Didn't even hook it. At the last moment it turned
way, its wariness winning out over the curiosity, hunger, or plain meaness
that had spurred it to move. Adrenaline shot from my head to my groin
with so much force it felt as if it had been launched from a fire hose.
It surged through me, bursting open a window to my core. While the
window was open I got a good look inside. There was no mistaking it:
I have an addict's heart. ~ Jerry Dennis
About Jerry Dennis
Jerry Dennis lives in Traverse City Michigan and feeds his
obsession for fly fishing (and giant trout) by spending as much time as
possible on the Boardman, Manistee, and AuSable rivers. He has been
a full-time writer since 1986, writes for numerous magazines, and was
the recipient of the 1999 Michigan Author Award. His seven books
about nature and the outdoors include A Place On The Water,
The River Home and From a Wooden Canoe. The
River Home was name Best Outdoor Book of 1998 by the
Outdoor Writers Association of American and is now available in
Excerpt from The Riverwatch
The Quarterly Newsletter of the
Anglers of the Au Sable.Lighter Side Archive