Anything worth doing in life has its challenges if undertaken correctly. Sunday morning dawned bright and cold. The calendar declared that winter was over, so an outing with the fly rod seemed a worthy task, indeed.
Stepping into the river at midday brought challenge number one. After every several casts, ice began to clump inside the small guides of the cane rod, slowing down the line speed and paring away my patience.
To ward off the chill, I began an upstream walk and soaked up a bit of red-hot chatter from a band of migratory blackbirds. At the Meadow Hole I noted that the suckers had a comatose appearance on the chilled bottom of the pool, but the trout were darting back and forth despite an apparent lack of bug activity.
In the riffles upstream of the pool, I stumbled on a large pod of trout holding near a seam of water formed by drowning alder branches. One of the trout gave chase to the flies on my initial cast at the site, but then the whole bunch ignored the following deliveries, as if to say, “Yeah, we know what this routine is all about.”
It was a trick to place the fly within striking distance of those fish without getting hung up on the alders. Oh, I did leave a Bugger in those branches but retrieved it after the school of fish grew bored with my employment and shuffled off to the darkness underneath the bush.
Before the fish departed, I had kept them minimally interested in the flies by offering something new after every several casts. I even got a strike at an Egg pattern, but that brings up another issue of the day. I wasn’t holding on to the trout. They were tossing the hook. Maybe I’ll blame the cold air, or maybe my numbing brain, for the weak connections.
All in all, I hooked a half dozen trout, but landed only one. The netted rainbow had taken a stone fly nymph drifted in tandem with a Quill Gordon wet. And that was it. Result: a slow afternoon on the river where it kicks into gear a few hundred miles east of Pittsburgh, on its route to the Gulf of Mexico. Consolation: from here on out, the action would surely quicken.
Arriving home, I found my neighbors at the house. One of them enjoys fishing. He listened to my report then stated blandly, “A slow day on the river beats a half-fast day at work.” Those words came readily enough. Cliche, perhaps, but true.