Readers Cast

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR [A cautionary tale]

Neil M. Travis - January 31, 2011

It was a beautiful day along the river. The spring time sun was warm on his face and the smell of sweet ferns and cedar mixed together in a most satisfying manner permeating the air with a pleasant aroma. The first mayflies of the season had briefly brought the trout to the surface but he had not been able to find a suitable match. He did manage to hook a couple of the smaller risers but he had a feeling that they had taken his fly out of pity and not because it matched what was hatching. It seemed to be the story of his angling life. He never seemed to have the right fly at the right time; his fly would always drag just as it approached the place where the big one was slurping them in, or he would get a tangle in his leader at the peak of the feeding frenzy and by the time he was able to undo the rats nest the hatch was over.

Despite his misfortunes on the trout stream he really did enjoy fly fishing. He had briefly given up fly fishing and tried his hand at golf but his luck at that sport was even more discouraging than his fly fishing failures. Fly fishing did have its high points; the occasional good cast which brought a satisfying rise, and the rare occasions when he had exactly the right fly at exactly the right time. Golf offered few high points, and he really didn’t enjoy walking around the golf course whacking a little white ball.

Finding a place along the bank he sat down and leaned back against a convenient cedar stump. He thought how great it would be if he could always match the hatch perfectly, and if all his casts were perfect. Ah, what if?

Suddenly he sat up with a start. He must have dozed off because the sun was nearing the horizon and the cool of evening was beginning to seep into the valley. As he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes he realized that there was a hatch in progress, and that it looked like every trout in the stream were actively gorging themselves on the hatching flies. The flies were so thick that he easily managed to capture one. They did not look like anything that he had seen before, which was odd since he had been fishing this stream since he was a youngster. Since he had never seen them before he was certain that he did not have a suitable imitation, which was not unusual. When he flipped open his fly box he was surprised to see several flies that appeared to be an exact replica of the naturals. He did not remember tying anything like that but there were several of them in his fly box. He quickly tied one on and waded into position to cast to the nearest rising fish.

Stripping off some line he began to false cast. Somehow his casting stroke felt different. Delivering his offering to the nearest trout the fly landed perfectly and the trout rose confidently and sucked it in. After a spirited battle a fine fat brown trout slid over the rim of his landing net with the fly hooked securely in the corner of its mouth. Wow, what luck.

Releasing the brown he blew the excess moisture off his fly and looked for another target. Just off the opposite bank under an overhanging tree a large head was appearing and slurping in the hatching flies. Given his casting skills he was certain that he would hook the tree and promptly put the fish down but he waded into position and took a shot at the fish. Again his casting stroke seemed different and the line perfectly slipped under the overhanging branch and dropped just above the rising trout. Slurp and the fly was gone. A tail-walking rainbow of considerable proportion erupted from its streamside feeding spot and proceeded to cartwheel up and down the pool. Moments later, with the fly hooked securely in the corner of its mouth, the biggest trout that he had ever caught on this stream or on any other stream lay in the bottom of his net. For the next hour he caught every fish he tried, and they were all respectable fish that were all securely hooked in the corner of the mouth. As he made his way back to his car he thought that this was certainly a day to remember.

Several days passed before he found time to try his luck again. Arriving at his favorite stream he found nothing hatching. Opening his fly box he randomly selected a nymph and attached it to his leader. As he began to cast again he noticed that his casting stroke seemed to be different. He plopped the nymph just upstream from a large rock in the center of the run and the nymph had hardly settled to the bottom when the line went taunt and moved away upstream. Raising the rod he discovered that he was attached to a very nice trout, that, when landed was hooked securely in the corner of the mouth. He hooked and landed several other trout before a modest hatch began, and again he selected a fly from his fly box and immediately began to catch trout after trout.

After an hour or so he began to become bored. He tried changing flies but the results were the same. He tried to make a sloppy cast, but he discovered that he was unable to make a sloppy cast. Frustrated he sat down on the bank. Opening his fly box he stared at the flies and realized that he could not remember tying a single one of them. In fact, he realized that the flies that were in his box today were not the same flies that were in his box the last time he fished. Suddenly he remembered thinking how wonderful it would be if he could always match the hatch perfectly and if all his casts were perfect. Somehow that wish had come true, and to his dismay he realized how completely dreadful it was. The very thing that he cursed, his poor casting and equally poor fly selection, is what had made fly fishing a challenge, and those rare occasions when it had all come together was what held his interest. When every presentation – from the cast to the fly selection – was perfect fly fishing was, well it was boring as hell. There was no challenge, no suspense, and no mystery.

The humming of a mosquito jolted him awake. The spring sun was nearing the horizon and the cool of evening was beginning to seep into the valley. He pulled a fly box from his vest and there were all his old flies. It had all been a dream, or more to point it had been a nightmare.

Just to make certain that he had really only been dreaming there were a few trout rising to a hatch of mayflies and he tried a few casts. On each drift the trout delightfully ignored his fly; he muffed a couple casts, hooked a branch behind him, and finally managed to fool one of the smaller trout that were rising. Later, as he walked back to his car, he thought that this was certainly a day to remember.

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