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Sunday would have been the day to fish. I drove across the bridge that morning and saw rocks visible along the banks and thought, "It's time." The temp broke 50 degrees again, and there was a thin overcast. Perfect.
Something came up.
So I went out this afternoon. Wintry weather was trying to make a comeback, and temps barely made it over 40. It rained last night, and it may have been my imagination but when I looked at the river today there seemed to be less rocks visible along the banks. At least it was still overcast.
I was rusty. Corroded. It started with my attempt to get down the steep bank, now half-frozen mud, not the ideal footing for felt soles. I started edging my way down sideways and instantly slid all the way down, one leg at what you could call "an awkward angle." It hurt at the time but there seem to be no lasting effects.
I rinsed the mud off my hands in the river: cold. I can't tell you the exact temperature but it was somewhere between "stinging" and "numbing." And the river was up a bit--or still up. It wasn't long before it washed the mud off my ass.
I tied on a fly I had tied today--a stonefly nymph variation--and started working the bridge run. The fly was weighted pretty good, but I couldn't keep it down in the strong flow. So I unlooped the leader from the line, fly attached, and looped on a sink tip. When I was ready to loop the leader back on I realized I had dropped it into the river--fly attached. I thought it might be a lucky fly. Guess not.
Now, if I wrote that I had dramatically shortened my leader today you might think it was a creative innovation to meet current conditions. I did shorten it, but only because all I had with me was 8 lb and 6 lb leader material, and it seemed silly to have a long flimsy leader. So I used a couple of feet of each. It cast very well with the sink tip, and, as events would prove, it served its purpose well.
I covered the bridge run without any results, then waded across and turned upstream along the island toward the long glide. I actually debated whether I wanted to make the effort. I was chilled, and my feet were numb. But I remembered how long I've been waiting for a chance to fish.
This is the head of the island...
And this is the glide, looking back downstream toward the bridge.
I went to work. In mid-channel, right about here...
I had a take. No matter how hard you work to make it happen, no matter how much you expect it, that take, every single time, is a surprise, and seems completely inexplicable. But there it was.
It was a cold water take: not a hit, but a grab and a tug. I wasn't using the steelhead loop, but I let the fish take it a ways before I rared back on the rod to make sure of the hookset. Then I vastly enjoyed playing it in. It wasn't a big fish, and it didn't jump or take off on screaming runs. It was just a good fish, the first one I'd seen since November, and it was on the end of my line. What more could I ask?
And it was such a pretty little thing. I was happy. And I was warm.
I worked the rest of the glide, hoping for more, but my work there was finished. I made the wade back across with enough light left to avoid the holes and dunkers, and then steered clear of the muddy climb up the bank and clambered up the dry rocks under the bridge instead.
I think catching fish makes you smarter.