Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Jan 27, 2014

This past year, when compared to my normal years on the water was a struggle for time. On average I try to get out once a week on at least some type of water. But this year brought a new home relocation and health issues, along with a daughter deploying overseas. So time was at a premium along with a priority shift. The trips out west were postponed, and most of the planned overnighters were changed to day trips on home water. Yet although during the ordeal I was often left chomping at the bit, upon reflection it was far from a negative year. The streams were still inviting, the fish were still there and when I was able to present a fly properly they even rose every now and then to eat one. Who can possibly find fault in that?

Over time we can tend to glaze over as we drive by home waters. Along with familiarity one often finds boredom following close behind. Not necessarily because the fishing is poor, but rather because we tend to look over those yonder blue mountains and imagine greener pastures and larger fish. So we travel. And whether the fishing proves to be better or not, we become enthralled in the romance of the journey as much as the fish catching. To be walking a new stream in awe of the never seen before scenery, we wonder at what may lie in each pool we encounter. There is no memory of the fish you once hooked by "that old deadfall", or the fish that took you into the "pool below". That in itself tends to make a person fish water much more thoroughly since there are no preconceived notions about where the fish will be found.

This was cemented into my consciousness on a trip this past fall to water that I have been fishing since my childhood. I found that I had about three hours of time with no other wants-needs-or desires from any outside influences, so off I ran with quickness to take advantage. It is a slower stream often affected by the summer heat, but the cooling of fall should have improved things. And the normal summer crowds should have subsided. Or at least I hoped. I had fished several pools above the access point, and had been rewarded with a few smallish but beautiful browns. Then, as I had on countless times over the years on previous trips, I stepped off into the brush to go around the pool ahead that took me into a cow pasture. Why? Just out of habit mainly. In past years I had been skunked there more often than not, so I had begun writing that pool off. So for many years, it was a "no fish zone" in my mind. But on this day after settling into the water in the pool just upstream, I looked down to see rise-forms. I stood there watching for a few minutes, and there they were again. A pod of fish seemed to be regularly working in the pool. The pool with no fish in it! Being stubborn by nature, but not always foolish, I made a quick about-face and made my way back through the brush to the tail-out of the pool. In short order I was in position to cast upstream to the head of the pool and waited. It took about 10 minutes, then just as I was about to tell myself "I told you so" and head back upstream, there they were.

The next 2 hours found me in the same place. After landing close to a dozen fish on an Elk-Hair Caddis dry, I switched to a Squirrels Nest nymph and pulled another dozen fish off the bottom! I had no reason to move and right about the time the bite began to slow, I realized that I had just enough time to get back to the truck and home before turning back into a pumpkin.

On the drive home my mind kept going back to that pool. Trip after trip over the years I had fished that pool, and NEVER so much as caught a single fish. So my mind had written that piece of water off. How many times had I done that? I began to dig into my subconscious and think back to sections that I had been walking past for much the same reason on other waters. There were others. And as I catalogued them away, I decided to end that bad habit going forward. The move proved to be a good one. Where familiarity had embedded negative impressions of certain waters, I had begun walking past otherwise productive waters. Mainly due to the fact that I had personally not been able to crack the code of a particular pool or run. That is something that does not happen on new water. On new water you dredge and drift every likely productive looking lie you come upon. Along with otherwise non-productive looking lies that are just within reach at the time. Many of which prove to be holding nice fish. We never second guess those times because as is the case many times, fish are simply "where you find them". Which is something that we know and accept as common knowledge normally, yet often ignore on home waters.

The result of this season; I reconnected with a few waters that I had not fished in many years. Waters that I would drive over and ignore on many trips elsewhere began to take on a new light. I found new pools, new access points and in many cases fish where I had never before found them. They were not new waters in reality, but with a fresh approach and a new outlook they were again trips filled with the wonder of what the next pool would hold. Hopefully this upcoming year will provide a bit more time than the last. But even if it does, there is still a bucket list on my tying bench of home waters that are due up next for another visit. Those long trips may just have to wait a bit when the weather warms.

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