Readers Cast


Neil M. Travis - Mar 26, 2012

The angler waded cautiously along the edge of the stream looking for the subtle rings of a rising trout. His demeanor was such that it was obvious that he had seen more than his share of day's on the water. His face was tanned and the hair that peaked from beneath his hat was a light shade of gray. His fly vest was faded and stained from years of exposure to sun and rain. His manner was casual but focused; his senses keenly attuned to everything that was happening in the stream and the surrounding space. A tiny dimple, nearly hidden by the overhanging vegetation, caught his attention so he paused and waited.

The big brown held close to the bank and tipped up to sip in yet another insect from the surface film. The angler, standing slightly downstream and off to one side, had already determined that the trout was feeding on a steady supply of flying ants that were drifting downstream from a late summer mating flight. Figuring out what the trout was eating had been easy, how to get a cast to drop into where he was feeding was quite another problem.

He knew that it was likely that he would only get one shot at this fish so the cast had to be perfect the first time. The trout was feeding on a current line that ran along the edge of the bank. Since it was late summer the grasses along the bank were trailing in the current setting up a series of mini-current tongues that could catch his leader and ruin the drift unless it was spot on. To make matters more complicated there was a high bank behind him covered with tall grass and shrubs. This would certainly snag his back cast. If he attempted to make a high enough back cast to clear the obstructions it would likely cause his leader to hit the water too hard or drive it into the grass along the bank. The trout was holding on the left bank as the angler faced upstream so a conventional roll cast would be difficult to execute. The angler thought that it would be worth trying a cast that he had not used in years. Plucking off a piece of grass from the bank he looped it around the bend of his hook. He stripped off the amount of fly line that he deemed necessary to reach his target and allowed it to trail downstream on his left side. Holding the looped piece of grass between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand he turned and faced his target. In one fluid motion he executed a smooth roll cast using the water tension on his fly line to load his rod. As the line unfolded toward his target the fly snapped the piece of grass that was looped around the bend and the line and leader rolled high above the target. At just the right moment the angler gave a slight tug on his fly line and the line recoiled slightly and dropped just inches above the place where the trout was rising. As if in slow motion the head of the trout appeared, its mouth opened and engulfed the fly. As the fish turned down the current pulled the hook into the corner of his jaw and he instantly exploded. The fight was short-lived as the big brown shot upstream and into a tangle of roots that extended into the stream from a willow.

The angler laughed to himself as he reeled in his line and examined the broken tippet. There was a time when he would have been mad because he had lost that fish, but time has mellowed his disposition. He had executed a difficult cast, and fooled a fish that was holding in a difficult place and that was enough.

The angler moved to the bank and sat down to repair his broken tippet. Fingers, honed by years of experience, quickly blood knotted a new strand of tippet material on the remaining end of the broken leader. He extracted a fly box from the pocket of his vest, its metal worn smooth from years of use, and deftly opened it with one hand. It's an old style box and each compartment is enclosed by a hinged door secured with a metal latch. The compartments are labeled with neatly printed labels indicating the size and type of fly in each compartment. The angler quickly scans the labels; flips open a compartment and picks out a fly. Again, with skills honed from years of experience, he poked the leader through the eye of the hook and deftly tied knotted the fly on the leader. He dressed the fly with a thin film of floatant carefully applied with his fingers, and then his eyes began to scan the water for another target.

The day slipped away, and the angler moved a couple smaller trout before the heat of the afternoon sun drove him to the shade of the streamside trees. The drone of the cicadas and the hum of the bees working the wild flowers along the stream edge were a like a lullaby, and the angler nodded off in the shade of a cottonwood tree.

The sun moved slowly across the sky and slid toward the western horizon. The soul of the angler stirred within him; he let out a long drawn out sigh as a smile flickered briefly across his face. In the fading light of day his soul took flight and slipped away. The angler had gone home.

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die;" Ecclesiastic 3:1-2

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