Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Nov 28, 2017

It was a clear brisk autumn morning as the rising sun created a haze which arose off the crystal clear water; the results of the conflict between both water and air temps colliding. The faint hiss of a pale orange line could be heard over the sound of the stream as it cut perfect loops through the air, carving its course towards a rendezvous with rise forms along the far bank…….

OK, not “THAT” kind of performance, back on track.

Having fished the morning….yes, a clear, brisk autumn morning with my daughter and a good friend, we decided to split up and cover more water after lunch. I had crossed the stream in fairly easy water, so felt there was no need for my wading staff. I had settled into a perfect section lined with overhanging limbs where we always find fish holding. I had caught a few fish through the cold hours of morning and felt good about the afternoons fishing. The rig to begin with was a size 16 apricot and steelhead orange dotted McFlyfoam egg on top with a size 18 Ruby Midge on an 18 inch dropper, all below a ½ inch Corkie. Standing there in the mid-shin deep water all was perfect except fumbling with the light fluorocarbon with dry fingers making knots a struggle through my bifocals.

The first few casts were a bit slap-happy as I worked to get the feel for the tandem rig and indicator. But it came to me fast and the concentration set in on my task at hand. On about the 6th drift the indicator dipped and I lifted the rod only to catch a lip and miss it. The next drift was a repeat of the last but I moved up to a headshake and gone. Large fish! On the subsequent 3 casts I had a strike and clean miss. Knowing I had found a pod of feeding fish, my excitement “may” have gone up a tad bit. But I’m thinking I am past that sort of thing at this point in my fishing life? Right? Then on my next cast a HUGE brown rolls on my indicator…..my mind raced and that is where I “may” have become slightly distracted. I needed to be about 10 feet further upstream for a better drift before I wrecked the situation by trying to make a poor position work. It was at that point I made one slight mistake….I moved.

In my mind’s eye….in hindsight of course, I can see it all very clearly. My feet which had literally not moved an inch in the loose gravel were about as asleep as a redbone hound on an Alabama porch in a July sun. When I lifted my upstream foot to take a step it didn’t feel as though it even moved. But it had, enough so to catch the toe of my boot on a rock which threw me into a stumble step forward. Remember the no wading staff needed? To catch myself I planted my foot down hard and it proceeded to shoot out to the side. The move that ensued was a combination pirouette, while doing all the body movements of the entire YMCA song while in mid-air and it ended with a hockey stop in the gravel, bent over at the waist with arms outstretched to my sides. My line was wrapped completely around me, and my hat was stuck in the strap pf my chest pack. Not trusting myself at this point, I “slowly” moved out of the creek and looked around as we all always do…. for witnesses. They were both within eyesight barely, but no cat-calls were heard. So far, all was good. But have you ever had an eerie feeling that you were not alone? Laughing to myself I looked up and pointed to my parents….”You saw that performance didn’t you?” I said out loud, chuckling to myself. I broke out my wading staff and moved gingerly back into position. And on the very next cast I hooked and landed a 20 inch rainbow. It was a good fish and a great fight. But I couldn’t help feeling like it was a nothing more than roses at the end of a performance. The tail slap and water in the face on release from the fish confirmed it….they had seen it too.

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