Trout hunting, not fishing, hunting.
Trout are fun, challenging, they have personalities, territories, habits. Big fish claim their spot, staking out the better lies for feeding, the stealthier hiding spots. Big fish are old fish, and old fish eventually perish, replaced by the next, and the next and the next. The lies, the lanes, the channels evolve, weeds grow and encroach, fallen trees decay, but for the most part good lies are good lies. The deep holes are still there, but maybe a bit different now. Was out of the game for a while, bit over a decade since I stalked the banks of the Letort the way I do now, again.
The stream grows, changes, morphs, banks seem swampier, muckier, more of a challenge to get around without raising a ruckuss. But for the most part, the old beats remain the same. Memories of memorable fish seen, but never taken, never hooked. Recollections of seeing a few of those legendary browns on occasion, when they go on the prowl during the witching hour and into the darkness, working their territories.
Right place, right time, put yourself into that anticipated spot ahead of time, and you just might have a shot. Might, maybe, might, if you're lucky and it all comes together. When stars allign, when the moon winks and the weather trends in your direction, maybe, just maybe. Was out in that cool water the other night, enjoying Nature's sweet conditioned air, another world existing only a few blocks from oppresive townie heat. Getting reaquainted with a beat that I'd fish on occasion back in the day. Standing, observing, chilling, literally. It was good.
Find a fish working the surface, and work over that fish, eventually putting him down and off the feed. Good practice, always always always need casting practice. Pursuing first cast perfection, precision. Keep an eye on the sun and guess the time based on angled shadows, confirm with the time on the camera, shit, bit later than I thought...gotta move, gotta get down to the end of the other meadow. Retreat from the water and boogy on down, hop, skip, jump across the next meadow, then approach the water carefully above that downstream bend. Crouched head down amongst the weeds doing that fisherman ninja walk, playing peek a boo with the trouts.
Pop the eyeballs out of the cover and gawd damn, there he is, cruising the weedbed. Hot diggity dog, cruising thru the exposed eight, ten inches of water. Big fish, at least 18, maybe over 20, 100% wild Letort brown. He's not afraid of herons, kingfishers, turtles, he's top predator in this stretch, so the exposure as darkness falls is comfortable for him. Observe, watch, observe and watch. Watch him work the lulls in the current, those hidden eddies and upwellings that allow him to park motionless in the current. Watch him slide or tip and take in a morsel, then turn his flank to the current and drift to the next station, big jaw working on whatever it is he just picked up.
It's getting dark, going on 9ish, humid fog on the water obscurring my sight, but also shielding me from his. Back off the stream quietly, and hustle another 10yds downstream, creep back up to the edge, settle and breath. Unclip the little brown streamer, playing the hunch that he's looking for a meal, not just a snack. Top predator, remember. Scan the water and find that golden hued shadow hovering in the current. Qwik check over the shoulder to find that backcast snagging willow, then begin stripping off some line.
Get the line worked out thru the tip top guide and false cast out the length I need, keeping that unrolling line off to the side. Don't cast direct to him, reduce the chance of spooking. Work out the line, work out the line, then a mid air mend to put the fly on target. Drop it a bit upstream and off to the near side, verifying the distance for sure...damn, that's just about right, guess I'm starting to figure this shit out.
Fly hits the water, splat. Peer into the water and pick up that little streamer tumbling along, give it a small twitch and keep a peripheral view on that golden shadow. Then GO! He's on the move, spooked? please don't be spooked....oh shit, here we go! Not spooked, not spooked at all, he's got the fly in his sights, making a bee line straight for it. Fly drifting back towards me, drifting, drifting and he's chasing, chasing. And then into a glared shadow, I lose my window into that watery realm and lose track. damnit.
Is he still on it? Is he still interested? Can't. see. shit. Shit. Did he take it? did he, what's going on down there? Play the odds, the odds that he didn't take, that he pulled up short, that my presentation wasn't good enough for this smart old fish. Give it a twitch, a small strip of line to bring some life to the fly and suddenly there's a small wake where I think the fly should be, did he just take it?! Go for the set and the fly comes zinging out right past my head. Ripping up out of an immediatley boiling, churned up stream, big old trout all but exposing his back as he turns tail back into the current.
Boy, I sure screwed that up, yanked the fly right out from under his nose. Guess I need me another helping of that split second Jedi patience.
Another lesson learned, to be continued....
Trout hunting, not fishing, hunting.