Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Jul 28, 2014

While I'm usually not often one that will speak for the whole, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that creek chubs, are for the most part, the scourge of trout fishermen. On the left-hand coast, the whitefish is a close second, but on the right-hand coast the diminutive wart-headed creek chub wins when it comes to the disdain of trout fishermen. They are to the trout fishermen what juvenile schools of sunfish are to bass fishermen. Never seeming to show themselves when expected, more often than not they choose to announce themselves whenever expectations are high and a fat wild brown is on the mind. So it was that I found myself on stream near my home.

With time to fish a scarcity of late, I hit the road on a Sunday morning with expectation of trout and much needed therapeutic waters. Waders and moving water is to me the Sigmund Freud of a healthy life. They heal, calm and otherwise keep me out of trouble in more ways than one could ever put into words. So was my state of mind on this morning, and a calm period of piscatorial solitude was much needed. Pulling into the small parking area just off the creek, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of trucks. I was winning all the way around at this point and spirits were high as I rigged my rod and pulled on my waders. Today would be good. Walking down the bank to the first large run, I tied on a small size 16 Elk hair Caddis pattern and positioned myself to fish the majority of the run. My first cast lit exactly where I wanted it and was met with a quick swirl and short strike which I cleanly missed. Telling myself that would not happen on the next cast however, I was ready. This time the fly hit the water, travelled a scant 12 inches, and was again engulfed in a swirl. The result of my anticipation was a reflex action that would have certainly shocked the meaty lip of a 20lb carp. The little 4-weight rod snapped to attention with a quickness seldom seen on my part. I recall watching in amazement as the fly left the water, arching up-and-back towards the trees behind me, but it was also attached to the lip of a 6 inch creek chub! My second reaction was to keep my line out of the trees, causing me to reverse my previous reflex action. It worked. Unfortunately for the chub, it worked all too well. The fly came back to the water, and the diminutive fish kept travelling into the briars behind. For a short moment I stood looking back into the woods behind me. Was I debating going back in there to rescue the fish? No, not really. All I was doing was coming to grips with the past 4 seconds of my life, and thinking that it sure was a bad day to be a creek chub. Now I know that Isaac Walton would certainly have a few stout words on my behalf, had he been present. But he was not. A fact that again was good for me, yet bad for the creek chub.

Gathering my senses I turned back towards the water. However, the creek chub Gods were not on my side on this day, as cast after cast resulted in more chubs. After about 20 fish, I was debating whether or not the more prudent thing to do would be to leave the pool or go find that damned chub and give it a proper burial to make amends. I chose to work my way down to faster water. Maybe the warmth of the run was the problem. My decision did improve things a bit, but not in the manner intended. What I found in the faster riffles were larger chubs! Their stature was now in the 8 inch range. Large enough to hammer a nymph like a trout, but still, not a trout. Each fish was beginning to wear on me just a tad as I felt my therapeutic tonic of the trout stream slipping into oblivion.

The sun was beginning to warm, and so was my blood pressure as I eased downstream to the next pool. My first cast was with a Caddis/Hares Ear dropper rig, and halfway through the drift my indicator fly went under. Setting the hook I was immediately treated to a nice heavy fish. "Finally!" I said out loud, just happy to set the hook on a trout. Then I saw it. It was nearly 12 inches in length and fighting heartily. But it was again, a chub! Amazed, I landed the fish and looked it over. A strong cold fish, sort of attractive if you were to remove the head warts it wore. I released it with a chuckle and instantly caught 2 more just like him on the next 2 casts. They had won. If I had wanted larger fish, well then I had found them. If I had wanted a better fight, well then I had found that too. Somewhere along the line I was simply fly fishing. Somewhere along the course of the morning I went from being irritated, to catching fish. Somewhere along the line I stopped being the wart-headed individual on the "other" end of the line and began appreciating what the day had provided. In the end I was able to leave the water better off, and despite my best efforts, Creek Chubs were no longer the enemy.

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