I hadn't planned to fish on Friday, then a window of opportunity opened in the evening, so I went. I had to get gas in town, so I took the back way to the lake. It takes you to the top of the ridge with a fine view of the big valley.
It had cooled down, I didn't have as much time as I usually do, and the wind was blowing out of the north instead of the south. But it felt good to settle into a cast and strip rhythm, this time with the Carpet Caddis. At least at first. After awhile I began to realize that the lake had a different feel to it than before. There simply wasn't any consistent activity on the part of the fish. I wasn't getting any follows, let alone bumps, or, God forbid, takes.
There were midges coming off--but no ants--and there were a few single rises here and there, but they were widely scattered and all too infrequent. So I reached into my bag of tricks and ran through a series of tactics: I switched to the muddler and cast and stripped some more; I trolled the muddler; I fished a nymph and then a soft hackle under an indicator; I trolled the soft hackle. Nothing.
I was missing my trout buddies.
The wind died down, and a few more fish seemed to be rising. I tied on a Peacock Midge and tried my best to get close to some, but there just weren't any fish staying up for more than one or two rises. Then the wind came up again, and the rises disappeared.
I saw this eagle take two shots at a fish. He didn't have any luck either.
I kept trying to figure things out, but all kinds of reasons for my lack of luck began going through my head: the cool weather; the north wind; the approaching eclipse; the approaching new moon; the eagle had scared the fish away; too many ducks; fracking; global warming; I had broken my routine by coming by a different route; I was making bad decisions; I was just a bad person and God was punishing me.
Adding to my state of mind, for better or worse, is that I have had a very long run--going back two seasons--of not being skunked at the lake. I have tried not to get too focused on that, and not to let it add any pressure or influence my fishing. I've even thought it would be good for me to get skunked again--just once--and start fresh. But, the truth is, I'm just a little bit proud of my run of success, especially after a season when I went for what seemed weeks in a row of getting skunked every trip.
Well, pride goeth before a fall, and maybe I had gotten prideful enough that it was time for a comeuppance.
It was dusk and a chilly wind was blowing when I decided to head in. I was resigned to the apparent skunking, but I had one more chance. I tied on the black bead head micro-leech for the troll across the lake to the truck. I was almost across, writing a "skunked" post in my head, when I got a take and brought this rainbow to net.
Was I happy? Yeah. Not proud, exactly, just...happy. I can't help it; I feel better when I catch fish. And the run of luck? Doesn't this just increase the pressure? Well, I'll just have to try to live with that.
I cast out and started up again and got another bump, so I gave the line a strip and had a strong hit but then the fish was gone. I was feeling encouraged, so I took a little loop before finally heading in and beaching the float tube. I reeled in and started looking for the fly. I do that by raising the rod high and looking for the fly's silhouette against the dying light so I can catch it and hook it in the hook keeper. I looked and looked and couldn't find the fly, so I caught the line and traced it down to the end and finally realized that the last fish had broken me off.
Get a little, give a little. It all seemed to balance out.
When I got up to the truck an actual skunk ambled across the road about twenty feet away. If that had happened after I had just gotten skunked--well, I don't know what I would have thought. As it was, it made me laugh. And yes, I avoided that skunk, too. He disappeared in the underbrush--downwind of me.