You get away on the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Surrounding lakes are packed with campers. Trout Lake is much better. You're happy that no one is camping at your favorite channel access.
You're still in a muddler mood. You haven't said it out loud, because that might constitute a commitment, but the thought has crossed your mind that it would be interesting to go an entire season using only muddlers. So far they're working beautifully.
You're backing into the breeze down the shoreline along John's Cove when you sit the fly down in one of those fishy slots in the willows. Before you can strip, a fish comes up all back and shoulders and takes out the fly. The pure predatory efficiency is breathtaking. This is a fish good at what it does.
It was perfect. You think you could go home on that one, but you elect to stay and fish some more while savoring the experience. The first muddler is soaked, so you tie on a fresh one. You soon get another take, this one a classic Rainbow whack.
You miss some takes, and hook and lose a couple. You wish your predatory efficiency was half as good as that of your prey.
You get to the end of the willows on the west side of the south end and cut across to the east side. You miss some more takes. Your confidence wanes.
Then you make that one cast out of a hundred, to a stretch of shoreline that looks much like any other, and you start to strip as you have so many times before, and the fly has waked out five, then ten feet from the bank and you're thinking about the next cast, when the fly disappears in a boil and the line goes taut and you feel the weight and the shake--shake--shake of a big head and you know you've just been mugged by a very good Brown.
What a beauty. Before you let him down into the water you lay him across the measure on the tube's stripping apron. It goes up to 18 inches, and you estimate that this Brown lops over a good three or four inches. At least.
You're glad you stayed after that first fish.
You wend your way down the shoreline savoring like crazy. You get some hits, and then you're amused by this little Brown. He hit hard, and he killed the fly. You know what he wants to be when he grows up, and you hope he makes it.
You take a break back under a flooded tree. This time of year, when the water is so high, shallow places that allow you to stand are few and far between. This is one of your favorites of the ones you've scouted out over the years. You take care of business, take a good stretch, and then sit and look at the photos of that big Brown. You feel real good.
You kick out and continue on your way around the lake. Not much is happening and you end up back in John's Cove. You know there are fish along this stretch. You've missed some of them, and seen some of them. And you remember big fish from years past.
You work it over pretty good, without success.
Then you find a fish.
It's a signal. All around you, as the light dims, random rises begin to bloom out in open water. You stick with the muddler and patrol that prime stretch of shoreline for any fish that may begin working the edge.
You find them. There are miniscule rises up along the bank, a fish working right under the willows, and you cast a few times before getting a take. You hook him, but he comes off. You keep watching, and then realize you're seeing tiny ripples radiating away from the bank, even though you didn't see where the rise was. So you cast in as close as you can. You don't need to strip; the fish slams it.
You keep watching--more tiny ripples. You cast the muddler in tight and another nice fish is right on top of it.
And then one more time, but this time the fish bores deep and keeps going and comes off the hook. He felt big.
You try a few more casts, but the moment has passed. You kick across the channel and slip into the willows at the takeout.
As you pack up and drive home you think for the hundredth time about that big, beautiful Brown you caught--and the big one at the end that, like a hundred more before it, got away. How did it do that?
Just goes to show you: a fly fisherman's work is never done. And you're already looking forward to when you can be back on the job.