You get out of the truck and think you catch a whiff of smoke. The "No Fires" sign is up all over, and the campground is deserted. But there have been thunderstorms recently. You wonder if there's a lightning fire burning on the mountain. Just when you begin to think it was your imagination a forest service helicopter with a bambi bucket dangling beneath whaps over the western ridge and settles down over the lake behind the trees.
You rig up and kick out into the channel. There are damsels everywhere, and fish are leaping out of the water to take them off the reeds, and on the fly. You try for them with what you have--non-damsel flies--but the fish want damsels and only damsels.
You give up and take your muddler on down the shoreline. Not as many damsels here, and not as many fish. Nothing comes to the muddler.
You decide to change flies. You pluck a different muddler off your fly patch, and there, hidden under that fly, is a fly you forgot you tied and never used: a damsel imitation. You tie it on and kick back to a reedy little bay where one or two fish are splashing around.
The fish are cruising up and down the bay. You never know where they'll be. When you cast to a rise they're already gone. It's like shooting at a moving target. You finally get the fly in the right place and a fish rolls on it. You have him for a split second, then he's off. You're encouraged. You try again and get another splashy hit and a good hookup. Not what you were hoping for, but you'll take it. You're glad to see all these little Browns cleaning up their plates and getting their exercise.
You give him the full photographic treatment.
Meanwhile the helicopter is making its runs. Two more forest service fire trucks rattle up the road. Another helicopter flies in from the east, lands beyond the trees at the north end where there must be a fire camp, rises up with a bucket attached, and joins the first on the water runs. Every time they come back over the western ridge you stop and pull out your camera.
Dusk settles in.
You've seen a few Brown Drakes again. You'd really like to catch a fish on a big drake pattern, so you tie one on and go hunting. But again the rises are sparse and erratic and you run out of light without a fish.
By the time you troll in, the helicopters have been grounded for awhile. But you haven't caught another whiff of smoke all evening. Looks like mission accomplished.