I cast one of the nymphs I tied the night before and began a slow retrieve. Almost immediately I had a hard grab just ten feet from the bank. I set, the fly came undone, and the momentum of the fish brought its head and shoulders out of the water. It sank out of sight. That was a good beginning.
I went back in. A few casts later there was another hard grab, and this time a hookup. I would show you a picture of it except that it was a smaller fish and I attempted to land it without the net. I had it in my hand for a couple of seconds, and then it flipped out of my grip, off the hook, and into the water.
It left me the fly and a scud it had recently consumed. Looking at them side by side, and remembering that hard take, I thought I had discovered the secret formula and the combination to the safe all in one. I went back to work with great expectations.
That, however, was that. I fished the nymphs rigorously for awhile with no further action. So I began to try the other flies I had tied the night before--unsuccessfully. As is so often the case, the slower the fishing the more absorbing it is. Before I knew it the afternoon light was slipping away.
I now put my hope on the evening feed. In past trips, once the sun is off the water and the light is waning, feeding activity has increased, and I have found fish willing to throw caution to the wind and slash at big stimulators or muddlers.
The feeding activity did increase. Fish were moving and waking and rising, and I got bumps and follows on a couple of different stimulators. But that one jacked up fish that slams the big fly never showed up.
So I went small. There had been a good hatch of midges all afternoon, and come evening I saw for the first time this year small pods of fish moving and rising together. But they were calm and methodical; no sign of a frenzy. And they ignored my flies. Even when I went even smaller on a lighter tippet.
Dusk settled over the water. I finally tied on that green-bodied nymph again, thinking that maybe I could end the day the way it began. I thought it was a good concept, but the fish didn't go for it.
So I started for the truck with Venus setting in the west and Jupiter rising in the east. I was remembering the one fish I caught, and feeling grateful.
But as I packed up I was also wondering why I caught it. Why then? Why that one and no others?
All the way home I was processing those questions, and more. It's what a slow day gives you: food for thought.
It will always be like that: when the fish won't eat we end up with plenty to chew on.