Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Sep 10, 2012

I smiled as the fish stripped line from my reel, prompting it to sing like only a single action click-pawl reel can. It dove for the center of the pool, as I lay my rod on its side and used the fish's own strength to my advantage in tiring it out. Sensing a failed attempt to gain the deep water rocks it turned just as quickly and shot downstream just to the left of my waders. I lifted the rod high and spun in the current to get the rod angle I needed to put the brakes on the golden finned brown trout that had taken my Sulfur LTD. A few minutes later, as I held the rod high and stripped the last length of line, the fish rolled over and slid into my wet hand. A hefty 16 inch brown trout with stream colors of buttery yellow-gold and black leopard spots shined back at me. It held still in my hand as if no energy was left in its entirety as I popped the #16 hook free. Yet as I lowered the fish back into the water it came to life instantly as if it had been playing opossum all along, and with a flick of the tail it was gone. Rinsing my hand in the cold water as it churned around the immovable obstacle formed by my waders, I took a moment to inspect the fly which appeared unaffected by the recent struggle. Swishing it as well through the water to clean it, I then pinched it dry and in a movement akin to second nature roll cast ahead, picked back up, and then false cast several times in order to dry it out as my eyes searched the water for my next target.

A scene I have played out countless times over so many years, and one which holds a beauty of natural perfection that is still not lost to me. Early in life I was provided a heritage of trout fishing, and thankfully so. Maybe it's the sights, sounds and smells of trout waters. It could be the waters where trout are routinely found draws me Or possibly the challenge I find in a quarry that to me is as beautiful to the eye as anything found in nature, but more than likely its all of the above plus the aspect of fly tying thrown in to further add fuel to the addiction of sorts I have grown to love. It's an art in itself, yet is far more than a simple art form when applied to ones time on the water wading for trout. It's at that point the art of the tied fly becomes much like the pigment that brings the brilliant colors to a finished painting. Where colors are so obvious to all who view them, yet for the artist who painted the piece there lays still another level of appreciation. Colors that were seen by the eyes that envisioned the finished product before the brush even touched the canvas.

For me, without fly tying fly fishing in itself loses some of its color. That fat brown trout loses a little of its buttery gold without the added pigment of catching it on a fly tied in my vise. Without the thought and deliberation applied to material selection and the hatch its intended for, the entire process would lose some of its luster. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the rise of a trout to the tied fly is the purest form of flattering nature with art. It brings us closer to our quarry, as well as the environment in which we seek them. That is the reason why this chess match we call fly fishing continues to both draw me to water and pushes me back to the vise in the same breathe. Because with every rise to my fly there is a desire to again put feather and thread to hook. To match the hatch with just a bit more perfection next time. To find the better combination of materials that will put a fish in hand with one or two fewer refusals in between. And once again watch that speckled nose break the surface and turn, as my fly disappears in the swirl.

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