Readers Cast


Jason Goad - November 21, 2011

The angler was heading home from work. The road was full of pot holes and he drove slowly and carefully, though eagerly as well. At the bottom of the hill was a bridge spanning a familiar creek. His wife and child weren't going to be home for a while so he had plans for this creek. He slowed down even more when the bridge came into view; with a smile on his face he stopped the truck on the bridge. It was a one lane bridge and there wasn't much traffic here. With a glance in the rear view mirror he knew he was alone as the truck came to a stop. He stepped out of the truck and leaned over the rail.

The bridge was sitting at the bottom of the hill. As you came onto the bridge there was a huge bluff to the right making access to the creek on the downstream side impossible without crossing the bridge. The creek was deep and fast on the upstream side of the bridge making access there dangerous. But across the bridge on the downstream side was a corn field, and the angler was friends with the farmer.

As he leaned over the rail he caught a glimpse of something large and shadowy near the bluff, just under the bridge. His eyes narrowed as he tried to see. He took a pair of polarized sunglasses from his pocket and slipped them on. There! He smiled gleefully as he seen the shadow move between the rocks. There was the big brown of which he had been told.

Just then, the sun came out from behind the clouds and his shadow was cast down on the water. The shadowy brown was gone in an instant.

The angler stood and quietly cursed himself. He turned and looked up accusingly at the sun. Maybe tomorrow, yes maybe tomorrow.

The next day the angler started home from work. The road was still full of potholes but maybe the county would get around to fixing it one day. As he started off the hill towards the bridge he had an eager smile upon his face. He had spoken to the farmer that owned the corn field last night on the phone and he had permission to cross the corn field.

As he drove across the one lane bridge he didn't stop. He did, however, cast an accusing glance up at the sun. He drove across the bridge and quietly turned into the corn field. There he got out of his truck and began putting on a pair of waders and a vest over his work clothes. Once he was suited up he took up his rod and made his way across the corn field. The corn was up over his head and made his arms itch but he paid it no mind. He had only one thing on his mind today. The shadow in the water that he had seen the previous day was on his mind. An eager smile was on his face.

As he reached the edge of the field he could hear the trickle of the cool water in the creek. He wiped the sweat off his brow with his hands, took his hat off his head and took a deep breath. Knowing that it would be cooler on the other side of the small streak of woods that was between the corn field and the creek, and he found a place where the weeds weren't quite as high and made his way into the woods. The shade of the woods cooled the air slightly and he eagerly made his way to the creek's edge.

At the creek's edge he paused for a moment, taking in the beauty of the stream. He could see a rise form up next to the bridge amongst the rocks he had seen the day before. With an eager smile he stepped out into the creek.

The water was clear, too clear. He thought the stream was only knee deep here but he went into his waist. With a yell his hands shot high into the air, his rod forgotten. He stumbled, nearly lost his balance completely before recovering himself. Gasping for air, his heart feeling as though it would jump out of his chest, he took stock of himself. He was ok and his gear ok. However, he knew that the dark shadow by the rocks was gone. Maybe tomorrow, yes maybe tomorrow.

The next day as the angler spent the day at work, trying to concentrate on his customers as he took their orders, laughing at jokes at the water cooler, and eating lunch but his thoughts were haunted by the dark shadow, rising through the currents. Later as he rushed home his thoughts tarried at the bridge while his truck didn't slow. As he gobbled down his dinner and rushed to get ready for the game, he occasionally thought of the next day, when he'd have a chance to go after that dark shadow in the currents once again. He was haunted, possessed, or possibly obsessed by the dark shadow. Only the time spent sitting in the bleachers that night, watching his son run after the ball, was his mind free of the seemingly demonic possession of the dark shadow. On the drive home, smiling and listening as his son told them every detail of the points he had made when he shot the basketball into the goal, his thoughts never wandered back to the dark shadow. Only on the bridge did he wonder if the shadow was there, still waiting for him. Only then on the bridge did the dark shadow come to his thoughts, once across the bridge he was smiling at his wife and laughing at his son's description of the game. The dark shadow had lost its hold upon him. When he kissed his son good night, the dark shadow was long gone. After all, the shadow was only a fish, and some things are much more important than a fish. As he laid down that night beside his wife, all thoughts of fishing far from his head, but just before he drifted off into peaceful slumber he thought of the upcoming day, tomorrow.

"Tomorrow is Saturday," he thought sleepily, "no work."

"Maybe I'll go fishing," he thought to himself, "tomorrow."

The next day the angler was up early. It was Saturday which meant no work, no alarm clock, however he was still up at the regular time. He always set his alarm through the week, though he seldom needed it. He ate a quick bowl of cereal, kissed his sleeping son, and kissed his sleeping wife good bye. She mumbled sleepily to him, he smiled. She knew him, and she knew where he was going but he left her a note on the kitchen table anyway.

The old truck headed down the familiar road headed for the corn field where he had parked a couple of days before. There in the dawn's morning glow he stepped into his waders and pulled on his vest. Rod strung up and leader tied he started across the cornfield. The dew was heavy in the field, and it was a good thing he had his waders on. He was drenched with the early morning dew when he got to the small stretch of woods between the field and the creek. He carefully picked his way through the woods and paused at the creek bank. There he ever so cautiously lowered himself into the waist deep water. There he paused and watched carefully.

As the sun slowly rose in the sky, the water in the creek flowed steadily downstream and the angler watched. He wasn't aware of the smile upon his lips; he only knew that he loved every moment of this. He felt at ease with the world. In a word, complete. As the sun came up and warmed the water, the world began to wake up from its night slumber. Squirrels played in the trees on both sides of creek and birds began to sing. Still the angler waited.

"Awe shoot, let's fish," thought the angler, his patience had run out. He was an angler after all, and he wanted to fish. He opened his fly box looking for a hare's ear nymph, when he noticed a disturbance on the water. All thoughts of the Hare's ear vanished as he watched the ripples spread out in the circular patterns. Suddenly there was another rise formed just in front of the first.

"A hatch!" the angler thought excitedly. He held his breath in anticipation. Another rise formed and a large smile came to his face. Then just as quickly a small frown on his forehead, "what's hatching?" he desperately thought. The fly box was quietly closed and replaced in his vest pocket, the angler's eyes never leaving the water. He saw other rises form in the water as his hands went to another vest pocked and pulled out a small aquarium net. His mind raced, "I don't see anything," he thought frantically. "Emergers, nymphs?" his mind racing as he lowered the net into a seam in the creek. As the net stayed in the water and he watched even more rises take place his heart began to race. "I think it's a little late for mayflies," he thought and then silently cursed himself for not studying hatches more. He looked down at the net and saw a bug of some kind coming down the stream. He scooped the bug up and to his surprise it was a mayfly. With an eager and almost frantic smile on his face he retrieved his fly box and opened it. There was an Adam's dry fly, he gazed at it closely. The Adam's was the same size and shape as the mayfly, though the color was a little darker. "That's perfect!" he thought, his eyes immediately going to the water where the rises were coming up all around. He replaced the net and closed the fly box, though he did notice that he only had the one Adam's in the box. "It'd be just my luck to get hung in a tree." he thought with a quick glance up at all the low hanging limbs.

With the Adam's securely tied to the tippet the angler stepped further out in the stream. He needed to get out from behind the tree he had been standing behind to cast properly. Some anglers could have made the cast, but the angler knew he needed to be about three steps further out in the stream for him to be able to cast properly. He made the first step cautiously watching the rises form in the pool up stream of him. He paused and only breathed when the rises continued coming. He made his second step, further out into the water when he seen the large rise at the rocks near the bridge.

In his excitement he had forgotten about the big brown he had been after. The rise a good 25 feet from his current position, upstream and across to his right and he knew his limits, 30 feet was a long cast for him. He needed to take one more step out into the stream to get out from under the overhanging limbs, and then he felt sure he could place the fly above the rise from the big brown. It may have been his imagination, or it may have been the third step out in the water but he could have sworn the rises seemed to have stopped for one heart wrenching moment. Then they started again. Taking a deep breath and trying to relax and calm his nerves he started watching for the rise at the rocks next to the bridge. He saw it again and he began to get the rhythm of the rises. "Just be calm and breathe," he told himself as he began to strip out the fly line. By the time he had the fly line stripped out like he wanted the rise came a third time. He smiled to himself, "I got you." he thought. He began his false casting, timing the rises, knowing he wanted to place a reach cast to his right aiming for a spot a few feet above the rocks. He knew that it was at the outer limits of his casting ability, but he was focusing and concentrating on the timing of the casting.

Somehow, he just knew the moment he made is last forward cast that he was right on the money. The line unrolled in front of him in perfect fashion. He made the reach to his right and the fly landed gracefully within inches of where he had wanted it. The dry fly floated down the stream peacefully. The angler had a smile upon his face and held his breath all at the same time. There was a moment of brief panic when he realized in his excitement he had forgot to put floatant on his fly or leader, when the fly was suddenly sipped under right at the rocks next to the bridge.

The angler raised his rod and the rod bent with the violent tug of the fish on the other end of the line. "I got him!!" screamed the angler silently to himself. The reel screamed as the brown pulled out the fly line, headed toward the rocks. "No!" thought the angler as he leaned his rod to his left, trying to steer the brown away from the rocks. He placed his left hand on the reel in an effort to slow down the line streaming out of the reel. As the angler leaned to his left and palmed the reel the big brown turned from the rocks, still pulling out line as fast as he could. There was a brief smile upon the angler's face when he saw the brown turn away from the rocks, "I got you !" he thought. Immediately the smile turned to worry, "No!" he thought as the brown headed toward the piling holding up the bridge. He didn't consciously think it, but he knew the fragile tippet wouldn't stand a chance against the concrete of the bridge. On pure instinct he stepped toward the bridge, giving the big brown more slack and the brown flew past the piling to the far side of the bridge, thus insuring that the fragile leader and tippet were past the concrete. The angler holding pressure against the screaming reel with his left hand started out into the middle of the stream and to his right in an effort to keep the line away from the concrete.

The bridge was plenty high enough to be out of the way of the angler, but the creek turned to his left on the upper side of the bridge and his view would be blocked if he didn't get under the bridge. The water was deep, but all caution was thrown to the wind in his excitement and he hurried toward the bridge the big brown still pulling out his fly line. It was sheer panic to the angler, he couldn't see where the brown was going and he rushed as quickly as he could through the water to the bridge. The angler knew that above the bridge was a large open pool, with nothing but some overhanging limbs on the bank to get in his way, but in his excitement he had forgotten that and all he wanted to do was get to the bridge so he could see where the big brown was going. When he reached the bridge the reel stopped screaming, though he felt the constant tug of the big brown on his line. It was the first let up the brown had given him. He reeled in some line as he stepped under the bridge and got his first look at the pool and could see the big brown was next to the far bank on his left. "Now I've got you." he thought as he began to reel in some line. As the line started in the big brown had other ideas and took off on another run. The angler palmed his reel and excitedly realized, "he's fifty feet from me!" The brown's run this time didn't last nearly as long as the first marathon run he had made. The angler stood under the bridge, rod held high in the air and watched the line slip away with a huge smile upon his face. The brown stopped running and the angler began to play him in, "He's over sixty feet away from me!" he thought excitedly. He had never had a fish run so far or so fast, and he was enjoying every minute of it. The brown shot out again, taking more line from the reel, as the angler watched him run. "Incredible!" was the word that came to the angler's mind. "Look at him go!" said the angler out loud. The sound of his voice startling him slightly and he laughed with pure enjoyment of the moment. The brown stopped again and the angler began reeling in some of his line. A brief thought of the backing came to his mind as he glanced down at his reel, he knew he was as close to seeing his backing as he had ever been, but he wasn't there yet. The big brown pulled out a few more times, but the angler could tell he was tired. As he reeled in the line the angler stepped out from under the bridge and to his right, "I can land him here." he thought. The big brown was pulled to within 20 feet when the angler got his first look at him. The big brown came to the surface and rolled, "he's over 2 feet long," gasped the angler. The angler got the big brown up to within 15 feet when he made one last run. He went deep, the line screaming out of the reel. The angler held the rod high and enjoyed this last minute fight, when the brown did the unthinkable. The water exploded out in front of the angler as the big brown went air born. The brown jumped out of the water, glistening in the early morning sunlight. In a briefest of minutes the angler saw the brown up out of the water, drops of water flying up out of the air, the angler bowed toward the fish lowering his rod tip as quickly as possible, trying to give the big brown all the slack he could and protect the fragile tippet.

The line went slack, the tug on the rod gone in an instant. The rod and line felt dead in the angler's hands as the big brown made a mighty splash in the water and was gone in an instant. The angler stood there staring at the lifeless rod and line in his hands. His head dropped, his mouth hung open and he silently cursed his luck. He stood there like a statue, not moving then he slowly raised his head up, the sun beat down on his face and warmed him. As he stared up at the sky he smiled. He slowly lowered his head and looked out across the water.

"Ah well, there is always tomorrow." he said.

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