Whip Finish


Ralph Long - December 05, 2011

You would think that after 48yrs, of which nearly 38 of them were spent doing some form of fly fishing that I would get it by now? But at times, it seems that I've only gotten worse with age. So much for that "aging like a fine wine" remark I always throw at my wife whenever she accuses me of getting old.

It all began at the trunk of the car, getting ready for a day on the water. I still don't know whether or not I can toss it up as a day of bad luck? Or possibly a day when the "Fishing Gods" were not on my sideline? But the fact remains those opposable thumbs aside, Bert the Space Monkey could have cast a fly rod and managed line better than I was about to. That fine line of separation between me and the primates became physically blurred for a portion of an otherwise gorgeous fall morning.

But there I was donning my gear and rigging my rod. I began by perfectly threading my line through the guides without once letting go of the line, which would then customarily zip back through the guides and land unceremoniously at my feet in the gravel. So happy with myself upon this small but ever-so-important victory towards beginning my morning, that I failed to realize I had missed the 1st guide on the tip section. With a sigh, I promptly let go of the line and watched it all pile up at my feet as previously described. A major let-down to say the least. I was still grumbling as I tied a loop in my tippet section in preparation to attach it to the leader ring, grabbed my nippers, and then chose something other than the tag end of the knot as I cleanly snipped the running tippet from the knot. "You %#$&*@&#^%$" I mumbled to myself as I now crawled around behind my car in the slate grey gravel like a drunk looking for his keys, as I tried to get a visual on the ever disappearing 6X fluorocarbon. That stuff really works let me tell you! I bet fish can't see it at all in the water!

Finally finding myself rigged and standing on the bank surveying the pool, I was half paying attention as I pulled my bead-head nymph from the hook keeper and went to strip off line from the reel. Pulling about 4 feet of slack out, I let go to swing the fly forward. It didn't move? Looking down I came to find the nymph hung up in the top handle of my chest pack. Tugging backwards on it I popped it loose from the webbing, and in turn applied pressure like a bow and arrow to my fly line. That pressure then pulled the bead-head out of my grasp where it proceeded to spin 2 loops around my left wrist in speed of light fashion, and then imbed itself directly into my left thumb! "AH # %$^@( #&^%" I mumbled again, except this time it seemed to carry a bit further in the morning air than the first. Catching myself I looked up to see who I could very likely have offended, only to see a blue heron staring at me from the far bank. I'm certain that he was laughing. I could see it on his pointy little face! I mumbled "What the hell are you looking at?" in his direction as I sucked the blood oozing from my thumb, and he slowly turned and walked away downstream. The whole event left me with two realizations. First, thank goodness for barbless hooks. And second, I really do not like Great Blue Herons. Especially those with attitudes!

Recovering slightly, I was actually able to catch a fish in that 1st pool. I am convinced that it was either a little slow, or partially blind to have allowed me to catch it at this point. But nevertheless, I'll take it. I'm not sure exactly what happened after I released that fish, but the situation got rapidly worse. On my second cast after catching the fish, I hung my back cast in a tree? But how could that be I thought as I turned. There were no trees behind me? I turned to look and saw it. In the stream stood a branch that must have been swept downstream, only to catch a rock and have the current prop it up in mid-stream. How in the world? Two quick tugs failed to pull the tippet loose, so like the knowledgeable fly fisherman that I am I proceeded to use my entire fishing prowess to rip back hard in frustration, all the while of course mumbling a few more expletives. This in fact did get my line off of the branch, just not in the exact manner I was shooting for. It sprung back to me in a heap half-draped over my right shoulder. My tippet had snapped off, and my previously "furled" leader had sprung into an absolutely "unfurled" mess. It would have to be replaced. Turning in anger at my stubbornness that resulted in ruining my leader, I swung my leg around towards the bank, slipped, and fell flat on my backside in knee-deep water. Beaten I slogged my sore butt and now soaking wet right arm over to the bank and sat on a big creek side rock to gather myself and re-rig.

I sat quietly for about 20 minutes in the cool autumn air, and contemplated heading home. But instead, stayed and stared at the water in a form of nature's therapy until deciding to rig again for another attempt. However, the morning changed. I was back fishing in short order, and oddly had seemed to find my "center" and feel like I was again in control of all of my facilities. My hands cooperated for the remainder of the morning, I actually caught fish, and my casting seemed as if it couldn't miss. What had it been I thought? Was it excitement? A morning funk I had found myself in? Was my blood pressure up? And what changed things? Was it the time spent calming down? The beat-down I had just experienced from my own gear? Or was it the therapeutic ice-bath I had unceremoniously received? Or better yet, was it all divine intervention? That just maybe, I had gotten too confident too arrogant in my ways too cock-sure of this sport I love so much? That maybe he felt the need to knock me down a peg and make me take a look around? I will never know. But if he did - Thanks.

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