Whip Finish


Ralph Long - March 30, 2018

Removing waders always feels like a chore at the end of my time on the water, and so it was as I struggled with separating damp Gortex fabric from the layer of jeans beneath. I doubt in reality that it is as troublesome as it feels however, and more a reluctance of the mind to be leaving at all. It’s sort of your minds way of “dragging your feet”. Work however, required my attendance, and I would turn into a pumpkin at 12:00 should I fail to appear. So there I was, breaking down my gear as I watched a dozen or so vehicles begin to trickle in to the previously vacant gravel cul-de-sac near the Benner Spring hatchery in State College PA. I also noticed the odd questioning looks as folks arriving began to notice that I was not part of the crowd, and was in fact preparing to leave. The quizzical looks on their faces told me, I must have missed the news that the Trico hatch was on. Either that, or more likely in their eyes, something was obviously wrong with me. Finally, either out of pure curiosity or a need to set me straight one of the elders in the crowd strolled over and asked exactly why I was leaving? I smiled and informed him that I had been on the water since dawn and only had the morning available to fish.

"You do realize you are leaving when the best hatch of the year is about to come off right?" he offered. I nodded in agreement and echoed my last statement, adding that I only had the morning.

"Your loss" he chuckled. "It takes a few years for you new guys to get why we are really out here", and then abruptly turned away toward the trailhead.

It took a second before his last remark sank in. I think mainly because it was completely unexpected. Should I have felt insulted? I could have corrected him, but in the end I may have insulted him in return, which would not have served any good purpose. I knew very well the Trico hatch was coming off. It would kick off around 11AM and would draw in any number of anglers who had traveled far-and-wide for a chance to experience the "Trikes". And while I appreciated that, reality was I had scheduled my time on the water in order to avoid that very crowd. The creek would be filled with folks posturing for their "place", and the occasional fish would be caught as the fish gorged in millions of naturals on the water. I understand the aspect of fly fishing that drives us to match the hatch. And I enjoy it as well. However, Trico's for me would be experienced on a smaller and much lesser known piece of water, minus the crowds. That in a nutshell is why long before the crowds would come looking for the magic of fishing over the Spring Creek Trico hatch, I had already enjoyed my time on the water. It had been a good morning as well, catching well over a dozen fish on caddis nymphs, a few on Blue-winged Olive emergers, and yes even a few on Trico spinners. All with not another soul in sight..

The foundation of fly fishing, its beauty, grace and artistry rises out of the hatches themselves, which quite often dictate the appreciation and history of any number of waters. For many anglers, that is the single most important reason they are there. Yet far too often for this anglers liking, the draw of some near legendary hatches pulls throngs of anglers which can at times dwarf the crowds of the general season opener. This malady often brings me to the situation described previously, as I seek to avoid a particular hatch altogether, or seek quieter water lesser known for its hatch activity. Mind you, there is little that compares with standing in the flow as your mind realizes that you are in fact smack in the middle of a hatch. Rise forms all around you, insects taking flight, clouds of spinners dancing in the air, birds swooping in, and the sound of a reel’s drag singing to a fish. All of which is impossible to improve upon, except by the presence of a good fishing partner, or complete solitude.

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