Click on photos for full size image.
These are special days, the long, warm summer days after the solstice when daylight lingers lazily over the world and the lake gives up its fish sometimes well past dark. This, of course, is what we wait for all winter, and what we were especially impatient for during the long, cold, wet Spring.
I've been fishing the last few trips at the south end of the lake. In May and June the campground there is full of people who come here for their vacation. Now, in the "off season," no one's there, and the lake is mine for the taking. I'm glad for a chance at that south end, because it tends to be sheltered from the summertime winds, it's smaller and more compact than the north end, and it's full of fish. I heard someone call it once "The Emerald Pool." OK, if you like that sort of thing. I call it The Fish Bowl.
There are times in fishing when you find what works and stick with it. Often the result is an emphasis on the fish count. You catch the fourth, then the fifth fish, and you think, "I could try something different, but then I might not catch number six. And seven. Who knows, I might break my record!" I like those times, but I also like the kind of evening I had Friday.
I kicked away from the bank and let out a long trail of line and began trolling. A few fish were coming up, but the rises were widely scattered. It wasn't long before a fish hit the red bead head Micro Leech I had on. Like all the fish I've caught recently, he was strong and fast, and fought all the way to the net--and in the net. I almost always get a good shower as I lift the fish-laden net out of the water, and this fish splashed me full in the face. I had to wipe off my glasses afterward.
So I'd been there only fifteen minutes, and I'd caught a fish. The pressure--if you can call that "pressure"--was off. I surveyed the lake and saw a few rises up along the west bank. And I remembered.
The last few times I've been there I've heard and seen rises along that bank that are bigger than the typical rise. On one evening I heard a splash that sounded like a beaver in distress and looked up to see the ripples of a very large rise ring. I watched for any sign of a cause other than a large fish, and failed to see it. Later, at dusk, as I trolled along that bank, I stopped and tied on a big floating fly--the Cicada pattern I've described before, with long rubber legs--and tried to entice...something to come up and slam it. All was calm.
On this trip I decided to forego trolling and see what else I might do to find a big fish along that western shoreline. I paddled over and tied on a big fly--this time a second generation Big Bomber, the big bullet-headed deer hair pattern that was so effective last summer-- and began casting and stripping it systematically over the whole area. Nothing.
Meanwhile, there were random rises here and there, but no depth charges. There were also a few teeny tiny little rises up along the bank at the edge of the willows. So I went small, tying on a #18 parachute mayfly pattern. I tried a few casts out in the main lake, with no results. So I started working those teeny tiny little rises along the bank.
Now, I admit I thought they were probably being made by teeny tiny little fish. But I had seen whatever was making those rises chain-rising along in one direction, then turning and cruising back down in the other direction. That didn't seem typical of the little flippers. Further, the little fish often make dimpling rises, but they almost always, sooner or later, flip, or even cartwheel out of the water, giving themselves away. These rises were small, but they were methodical.
There they went again, but too far to my right to cast ahead of them. So I tucked the fly back in the willows and waited for the fish to turn and come back. It did. One teeny tiny rise, two teeny tiny rises, it should be on my fly any second... I waited.
I didn't even see the rise. I heard nary a sound. If I saw anything it was one teeny tiny ripple expanding from my fly. It was the daintiest sipping rise I've never seen. When I raised the rod it was purely a defensive move, just in case something had taken the fly.
That's when the thrashing and wallowing began. What a fine fish, a heavy Brown going 18 or better.
I still think there are bigger fish prowling that bank. Next time I look for them I won't ignore those teeny tiny rises, you can be sure of that. But I was very happy with this one, and felt quite pleased with myself.
A breeze had been swirling around from the south for awhile, but now a wind picked up and began to blow from the north. It had been a cool day, and I was glad to have my jacket on. The few fish that had been rising out in the middle went down.
The western shoreline was still somewhat sheltered, so I picked my way back down, laying that little fly up into likely looking spots, hoping for lightning to strike twice.
That didn't happen, but an eagle flew over, closely pursued by some Kingbirds. The irony didn't escape me: that the "King of Birds" should be so disrespected by a small bird given the name "Kingbird." But the eagle proved its superiority by soaring high, high into the evening sky, far from the reach of pretenders. That, perhaps, is the mark of greatness: the ability to rise above it all.
I tied on a damsel nymph, trolled for awhile, and caught a silvery fish that mirrored the setting sun.
As dusk deepened, I paddled across to the eastern shoreline where there was a strip of quiet water, tied the little mayfly back on, and amused myself by casting to rises I could see with a fly I couldn't see.
I finally gave it up and trolled through the light of the Quarter Moon back to the truck. I had already caught more than enough.