Whip Finish


Ralph Long - May 21, 2012

Standing below the small barrier wall I eyed-up a few seams that looked promising for a drift. It wasn't a matter of "if" there were fish to be caught. But rather, which pattern and which seam they would desire today. I tied on a C2C Hare, which is a bead-head version of the Gold-Ribbed hare's Ear that I have been fishing for years. It's a great prospecting nymph, and one that I have confidence in when fishing clear cold waters of winter.

I was able to lob my indicator/split-shot/fly rig exactly where I wanted it with my first cast, and all eyes were on the pink indicator as it danced its way along the seam on its way back towards me. Halfway through the drift "something" happened? Was that a strike? Did the indicator bounce or dip under slightly? I wasn't sure really, but none-the-less my winter time reactions were far too slow to have done anything about it. I laughed at myself as the line passed by my waders and with a slight hesitation to allow the rod to load, I roll-cast the rig back up to the same location. Back it came, and in about the same spot my mind was able to catch up quick enough to realize once more that indeed, it appeared to be a strike! But, like before it was far too fast for my lethargic reflexes to catch up to. However, as the 3rd try is often the charm so it was for me on this cold and grey morning. This time as the indicator bounced towards me, in that same location it bounced just a "tad" harder, and I lifted the rod to find the weight of a fish.

It was a fat winter rainbow with its iron-grey back and burnt orange flanks of color. And although it fought hard for a few moments, it quickly gave up the fight and slid into my hand. As the first fish of the winter for me slipped along my palm and back into the cold water, my senses seemed to warm. I no longer noticed the cold water along my legs, nor were my fingers cold. And after a few more casts the clumsy handling of my line disappeared as well, replaced by the calming familiarity of knowing right where everything was without needing to look down at my hands. Funny how things that feel lost after a long break quickly come back with a single fish at times.

I was able to fish nearly the entire morning with the same nymph after that. And in almost the same exact drift, well over a dozen fish dipped my indicator and danced that familiar dance on the end of my tippet. I found myself at one point almost being able to anticipate the strike, and wondered to myself how I could have been so slow on the first two strikes? It was so easy to see now, and the fish seemed a little on the slow side at that point. I realized that with neglect, even the best of reflexes and senses grow dull. While muscle memory lessens, the mind replaces those mental reflexes with thoughts of the day, family issues, work responsibilities & a myriad of other things. Some of which are required, yet many are not and become baggage in our day-to-day life. If we're not careful those items of baggage can not only affect our daily lives negatively, but they can tend to creep into our time afield as well, often talking ourselves out of a day on the water due to cold, rain or another otherwise insignificant setting. Thankfully however, it doesn't take much to turn around. Where things can seem insurmountable in one moment, it can all melt away with a single fish. Issues that no amount of talking, dwelling, or fighting over could fix can oftentimes be removed or made clear with a single day on the water either in solitude or shared with good friends.

My struggles thankfully were not of a serious nature on this outing. Mine on this day was simply the struggle of catching up, or was it slowing down? Nevertheless it had worked. And in the end I was able to wade to the bank with a good feeling on the day. The ride home would be a good one, and the next week at work would probably turn out to be better for it as well. And it was all due to a single, subtle take times three.

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