A few weeks after the outing described in my last post, I headed back to the same stream. I had had a very hard hit in a pool the farthest upstream I had ever traveled. My plan was to hike up to that pool, start there and work upstream, covering entirely new water.
I couldn't resist a quick stop at the place where I had missed the two stockers on the previous outing. Almost immediately I saw my line hesitate, so I set the hook and landed a...rosyside dace. Well, at least the skunk was off.
I headed up to the pool I wanted to start at, holding myself to only a few casts here and there. I couldn't get anything to hit in that pool, although it looks good. I worked my way up to the next spot, and still nothing. I couldn't see anything that looked good, so I made my way back to the trail to make an easier way.
I hadn't gone 50 yards when I came to an SNP trail marker, letting me know that there were falls just ahead. I was unsure which way the main trail went, but I took a few steps and saw some pretty magnificent falls.
There's not point sidestepping something like that, so I took the little footpath and crawled my way up toward the top of the falls (and here's how you can tell I've matured -- I actually planned my exit strategy on the way in, which wasn't easy with a rod in hand; in the old days that would have been a potential disaster). About halfway up I stopped, ate a protein bar and drank some water, and admired the view.
I made it to the top, more or less, and got over to the water. It was a beautiful sight, but I did want to get back to fishing. I slid my way back to the main trail, crossed the stream and continued on. I didn't see any obvious fishing, figured I'd probably used up about as much time as I wanted to, and turned around.
On my way out, I ran into a pair of anglers on their way in, who asked if I'd fished upstream from the falls, explaining that it was much better than downstream, which is the only water I'd fished (and which I had already decided not to hit again too often because I was suspicious of its quality, despite taking three native brookies my first time through there).
I was feeling a little silly about things, but I was pleased to have learned a little about the water. I went down to the parking lot and headed for a nearby pool. Some hikers were going by, which meant the odds of me hooking my own ear or something were doubled. Instead, I saw the end of the fly line move a little oddly downsream and I set the hook, eventually bringing a nice stocker of about 9 inches to hand.
I worked my way on down. I snagged my nymph, retrieved it and then came the closest I've ever come to stepping on a snake, which was making its way downstream barely visible just in the water. I yelled, splashed, and did a general snake-avoidance dance before getting out of its way. I was so surprised that it had neither spooked nor bit me over all this that I went back to make sure it wasn't a stick. It was a snake, just going about its business.
Needless to say, that pool wasn't so fishable anymore.
I went home, and it wasn't until the next day that I realized how stupidly I had failed to execute my plan, which, I had learned, would have put me into better fishing water. I was frustrated for a second, and then realized I didn't care. I'd had a great day: a wonderful hike to a cool waterfall, learned something about a river, had a funny snake experience, and, incidentally, caught a trout.
So while I haven't reached that point (and kinda hope I never do) where catching fish never matters, there are definitely great ways to enjoy fishing without fish. Hopefully I'll get around soon to some further explanation on why I think this is.