Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Mar 11, 2013

There are attributes of my outdoor pursuits that tend to affect me more than others. They are those certain little things that continue to draw me in. It's the parts of the outdoors that one can only experience by actually "being" there. Such as the first early morning gobble of a Wild Turkey in response to the soft yelps of my slate call. It never fails to make my heart rate increase and the hair on my arms come to life. Or the first glimpse of a whitetail buck as it steps into view. That sight always freezes my very next breath as my mind tries to catch up with the majesty that it represents. The first solid jolt that courses through my hands as a bass or steelhead hammers a streamer almost brings a shout to my lips each and every time. Something about the anticipation and the unknown of the subsurface strike is addicting. Even so, the cooing of roosting dove settling into pines or the hoot of a great horned owl as it calls to a rising moon; both lend a therapeutic calm to my soul. Yet nothing in all my years draws me to it like the first rise form on a pool, signaling the onset of an anticipated evening hatch.

Even as a youth with a spinning rod, standing in the stream in my hip waders, it did not go unnoticed. I stood watching, understanding that for a period of time, no matter what bait I was to throw at the fish, they would ignore me in pursuit of those little bugs on the surface. The effect was consuming and has not changed in more than 40 years. These days as a fly fisherman, it is the single most impacting event in my outdoor world. If I am observing water after just arriving, a rise form on the water will instantly send me back 30 years to that youthful impatience. I will instantly find myself fighting the urge to hurry and get my gear on before the hatch quits. All the while forcing myself to slow down and not become a fumbling mess of impatience and clumsiness. And if on the water with the feel of the current against my waders, no matter how good or bad the day, the first rise of an evening hatch takes me instantly to a point of intense focus and satisfaction. While I become acutely aware of the situation on the water, I am without fail taken to a place of perfection. The concerns of the world are gone and it is just me, the fish and that little ring on the surface of the water. As once again my fingers are youthful and fumbling, and an uncontrollable smile rides my face.


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