Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Sep 09, 2013

I had fished most of the pre-sun morning working my way downstream to the bridge on a creek that my partner and I had fished a number of times before. Our agreement was I would walk the trail upstream and he would walk downstream where we would then work our way towards the bridge in the middle and meet to compare notes. So far for my efforts I had only been able to pull two small browns very early with a subtle micro-caddis pattern in #20 tied with a wood duck down-wing. Yet since those couple fish it had been nothing but inspections and rejections or the outright ignoring of my drifts.

I came around the last bend to the pool just above the bridge and noted my buddy intent on changing flies. The tell-tale lowered head, rod under the arm and motionless appearance was a dead give-a-way. I chuckled to myself as I enjoyed the view, having been in much of that same pose for most of the morning while trying to figure out just what these fish were expecting me to give them for breakfast. How could a creature with a brain the size of a pea be so stubborn I thought? Seconds later there I was again, gazing into my box in the very same pose. I had tried everything in the box already, except an ant pattern. "Can't hurt", I thought to myself, choosing a #20 fur ant. It was your classic ant pattern with the dubbed body and small center hackle for legs. After cursing at my 7x fluorocarbon tippet for being nearly invisible in the bright sunlight, I finally managed to pierce the microscopic hook eye, tie the knot and apply floatant to the tippet. With my first cast I saw the little morsel of terrestrial offering leave its ring at the head of the pool. I tried to follow the route of the fly, but it was instantly in the film and invisible to my eye. My mind switched to a broader view of the surface hoping to see the swirl of a take in the film. I was not to be let down, however it did take place about 4 feet further downstream than I had guessed my fly to be. A lift of the rod and I was connected to another fish of 9 inches long and it began the electric dance of a stream-bred fish adorned with all its brilliant colors. I looked up after releasing the fish just as my buddy was playing a fish of his own to hand. Taking a moment to watch his victory take place I reeled in and headed in his direction as he released the fish into the current. He looked up as I approached.

Reaching his side we exchanged notes. He had done one fish better than I had throughout the morning. However, just as with my morning, they had all came early and on dries. I looked at his hook keeper and laughed out loud. "How long were you fishing the ant?"

He shrugged as his eyes went to my rod as well, "Just changed to it here. You too?"

"Yep, I just decided to try it at the bridge. One cast and one fish for my efforts." I replied.

"Same here!" he laughed. "One cast, one fish."

We both waded to the bank and took a seat on a couple of boulders to compare boxes and watch the water. Not really expecting to see any activity, since we doubted an ant hatch would come off any time soon; it was an excuse to rest our legs. As far as ants go our patterns were similar in size and color only. Most all of his patterns were chunky pieces of foam, orange yarn tied on top and plenty of glue and epoxy to be found. Mine, on the other hand, were primarily hackle-legged, and built with dubbing and a bit of CDC thrown in on occasion. Both boxes were polar opposites for sure, yet we both have very similar success with our individual patterns. A fact that doesn't really allow either of us to lay claim to any superiority but we still insist on doing so. He likes to chide me on being a hopeless romantic at the bench, and I accuse him of quitting fly tying for his new hobby of craft making with superglue and foam. When he catches a fish it's a new-age trout that wouldn't know a hopper from a cigarette butt, and when I hook-up the fish was probably blinded by a heron and can't  tell the difference between an ant and a piece of pocket lint. It's the type of good natured banter that keeps us both happy and also helps to keep other fisherman on the water at a distance. It's a win-win in our book.

The differences pretty much stop there though. Our fishing styles mirror each other aside from the manner in which we both approach the tying bench. Although lately, with age and eyesight what it is, a little foam with an indicator spot would definitely help my cause; something that I will not offer up to him since it would lead to much grief on my behalf. A fact not missed judging by the abuse I took after he noticed a bottle of well-used Loc-Tite on my bench last month. Some things are just better left to discovery over time; a very long time.

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