Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Sometimes everything goes right. Casts are smooth. Line lays out upon the water. Leader and tippet unfolds without memory and the fly settles slowly, only a dimple upon the surface.

Sometimes the conditions are right, too. The water unstained. The sun not so hot. The breeze a breeze and not a gust of wind.

And then there are times when the casting is right and the weather is right and the river is right. And there are times when the fish are right, cooperating by doing what they should be doing, which is feeding actively and aggresively, taking from the top in the early morning and late afternoon; feeding from the middle of the water column in the early afternoon; foraging from the silty bed after lunch and then lazing static above the river rock. Sitting, shining, beautiful color in flashes of sunshine.

The hatches were happening. Stoneflies. Blue-Winged Olives. Caddis. We were using flies we'd only ogled. Stuff we never thought we'd tie on and toss. Sometimes I'd throw a stone as a joke in the 'hooch, just to see what it felt like. The traffic blaring from 75 ruined the illusion. It sure aint the West. It aint even close.

Reliance, TN sorta felt like the West. Green humps of mountains. Greener hills. Sunshine settling in patches over the rocks. Clackacraft creeping by with thick bearded guides rowing, pointing, spitting chaw over the side. The water was clear. It was cold. The beds were smooth accumulations of rock, round as prehistoric eggs. We could see the fish in their holes before we slipped into the water. We could see them rise and thrash and smash the bugs lighting upon the surface.

I saw osprey and beavers take rainbows from the river. I saw a big doe trample down the side of a hill and buck and splash in a hole and clip-clop back up the hill. I saw copperheads and thick swarms of mayflies. I saw crows and buzzards and hawks. I watched the spiders creep over the picnic table while the fire pulsed thick gray smoke into the air.

We caught a lot of fish. We caught nearly all of them on dries. Big dries. Royal Wulffs. Adamses. Stimulators. Trudes. Stoneflies. Caddises. BWOs. PMDs. Yellow Sallies. I shoulda tried Clousers or lightning bugs. I shoulda used bigger flies. Like when I saw that brown; he was the size of my calf. I watched him bump my BWO. And then I watched him dart back into a clump of submerged wood. I didn't have to watch my fly; I watched the fish. I watched them react and I tried to counter. I missed a lot of fish.

After a long day of fishing, we wrapped the ribs in foil and drowned them in some awful "NASCAR" BBQ sauce we picked up at the local Piggly Wiggly. We settled them into the fire. Had a few beers. I tied on a big Stimulator and slipped back into the river.

Pulled a lot of line out, watched it settle upon the water in long green loops. I picked the line up and pulled back, shot it out over the river to my left. The false cast swished, swished, and then to the right it fell. I watched the line drop through the air. I watched the the leader settle, the tippet settle. The fly standing upon the water and sailing across out in front of me. I watched the chunky rainbow soar up and tear it off the top. There was a splash and my reel ran.

Fish on!

I was laughing.

Awesome... Was that your first cast?

Tim was on the bank, tying on.


Man, I wanted to play this fish for years. I wanted to tug and give him line and let him run and get him on the reel over and over again. Instead, it was over in seconds. I popped the hook from his lip. No clip on the adipose. He was wild. Gorgeous color. I kissed that fish. I kissed him on the head. And then I held him in the water and let him gather his strength. I watched him swim back into the dark. And then I cast again.

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