June 23rd, 2008

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

View Through A Pale Glass
By Richard A. (Dick) Taylor

Time is veiled, dark night and darker day
Looking back, fleeting images scurry
Nothing's revealed, truth and truer still
One can only see through a pale glass.

The pearlescent fog still hung low on the water as he stooped to slide through the stream side brush. A slight wind splattered dew drops off the worn and tattered straw hat. Noiselessly, he entered the stream, one wadered foot after the other, till he stood just in the shadow of the sycamore shaded run.

He wasn't a large man; but, the stained and worn vest tended to round him out like a substitute Santa at Christmas time. No net, no lanyard, no wading staff were part of his regular routine.

It's all about observation he always said. Sort of like a red light at an intersection or a stop sign at a four way. You wouldn't just plunge ahead without looking around first so why should fishing be any different.

The gnawed stemmed pipe came out next followed by a pouch of "Half & Half". When asked long ago just what it consisted of he replied, " Well - just what it says. Half of this and half of that!"

With a wreath of "Half & Half" smoke enveloping his upper body there was no need for generous squirts of "Bugs-B-Gone"or other miracle insect spray, foam or oil. He said that anything on his hands except some clear fresh water or the scent of a freshly released trout would just scare off the fish and ruin the day.

The first pipe bowl full was spent studying the long run; from the foam tossing bouldered head to the tranquil terminus of its course. A large blow-down poplar half crossed the stream. Its collection of refuse provided a screening sluice that deposited a ready meal a nose length away from a lurking trout.

Above the tree were several submerged boulders of various proportions, each fashioning arcs of concurrent ripples around, while providing almost a stagnant flowing lair behind.

The pool tail narrowed as it traversed an undercut on one side and a tailing rock shelf on the other.

The old man continued to study the water and no dimples were disturbing the glassy reflections let alone anything leaping from the depths to secure a crippled or low darting insect.

His vest wasn't crammed with all manner, type or color of every imaginable fly from the catalogues of some big box store or even a local fly shop. Of course, that's supporting the supposition that one would still be in business in the area after the proliferation of cheap imitations from a global restructuring of the economy.

His entire repertoire revealed various shades of only a few dries, streamers and nymphs. Never mind all this soul searching hatch matching nonsense he was fond of saying. Everyone knows that a trout will eat anything dark, hairy and about half an inch long no matter what else comes floating by!

It was time to rig up and the wisest choice seemed to indicate some one of his few nymph imitations would be appropriate for this present time. The nine foot leader was knotted to a four foot piece of 5x tippet and onto that he threaded a size 12 bead-headed, hairy looking, hellgrammite pattern.

Starting at the lower tail of the run he produced a measured series of high sticking flips. Each followed the other, in a slowly widening arc, till coverage of that portion of the stream was concluded.

The stealthy progress continued to the head of the pool without a take nor a flash that indicated the presence of his quarry.

The deeper and quicker flow at the beginning of the run dictated the necessity of weighting the nymph somewhat for bottom bouncing it right into table fare for a waiting diner.

This also brought into play the necessity to carefully negotiate the slippery streambed and be mindful of topping the chest highs that might lead to a soap-less, unwanted bath on this cool morning.

Finally! An abrupt slowing of the leader and an almost dead stop in the swift water attested to the need for an instant hook set.

The first run was down and across towards the safety of the debris collecting tree. After turning it slightly the next tactic was a multi length leap that put some slack in the line; but, not enough for freedom. Several shorter runs brought the large brown to the surface and it was then possible to gain some line and distance.

In his excitement, the old man hadn't noticed that he had surreptitiously edged farther out into the streambed little by little. The water was now almost to his armpit and the lack of a waist belt made the prospect of a bad situation even worse.

The trout was almost within his grasp when it happened.

He slipped slightly forward and water poured into his waders. He turned and tried to fling his rod to the near bank and that twisting motion occasioned a total loss of contact with the stream bed. With the vest covering his wader shoulder straps there wasn't time to attempt to pull free from them. He drew in a deep breath as the fast water pulled him even deeper.

He had a blurry vision of blue sky and then rocky dark bottom as he rapidly tumbled in the current. Suddenly he felt the bottom with a hand and soon was able to draw a breath as his head exited the water.

Now, totally exhausted, wet, cold and miserable; but, ever thankful to be free of the watery obstacle, he staggered to the near bank and collapsed into the brushy undergrowth.

Regaining some equilibrium his next thought was of his cherished fly rod and he stumbled back into the stream to search for it. He found it not far away in a couple of feet of water and bent to pick it up.

What was that strange feeling in his arm? Must be the cold water exposure taking effect.

No - wait! His chest was now constricting and the pain was starting it's inexorable march through his entire being.

They found him later in the morning floating face down at the end of the run. The favorite straw hat nowhere to be seen. The beloved fly rod clutched in his hand.

As they gently laid him on the gurney and moved to the rescue vehicle one of the squad was heard to remark, "Was it my imagination or did the old man have a smile on his face?" ~ Richard A. (Dick) Taylor June 17, 2008

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