Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trout Lake Report: Brown on Brown

A thunderstorm is rolling through when you arrive at the lake.

You sit in the truck for awhile waiting for the rain to stop, and wondering what the brown drakes will do. You've come a little early. You should be in prime water by the time the hatch begins.

The rain stops enough to get geared up and to put your rain jacket on, and you kick out into the channel.

The storm rumbles away to the south.

You head north out of the channel and begin to work your way down the shoreline to the Drake Grounds. You're casting a Damselator damselfly dry on 5X tippet. It's the only one you have. You get nothing on cast after cast. Then you find the fish looking for damsels right where you drop the fly. It grabs the fly and snaps the tippet in the twinkling of an eye.

You switch to a black-bodied muddler and head on down the shoreline. You put the muddler next to a log and get a hard hit and the first hookup of the day.

And you see the first drake rise into the sky. Here's to drakes, trout, and pygmy owls.

You keep going. You don't find any fish, but you see more drakes.

The breeze dies, and the sun goes behind the ridge.

You come to the little bay that has been the eye of the drake storm in past years. There are drakes popping along the bank, not heavy, but steady. You find a cripple and compare one of your recent ties. Still needs some work, but the #10 hook seems just right. You tie it on a 4X tippet.

You work around the shoreline. You drop the fly between two logs and get an instant hit. It's a beginning.

You backtrack and cast right up along the reeds beginning to reach out of the water. You saw a rise there, and it rises again and takes the fly.

You stay right there and work over those reeds. You get a strong take, and the rod bends double as a large brown feels the hook. You work him in carefully, giving him line several times as he makes one lunging run after another.

You think you've got him licked, and you'd really like a photo of the bending rod, so you take the rod in your left hand, hook the line under your index finger, and aim the camera with your right hand. You give the rod a lift to make it bend--and the brown makes one more quick lunge and breaks off.

You're chagrined. You tie on another drake and go back to work, and get the consolation prize.

Drakes are still popping, but they haven't increased in numbers. The light is going, and you have a long kick back to the truck. Fearing that you already lost the best fish of the day, you decide to change tactics.

You tie on another muddler. This is a brown drake muddler, designed to imitate the drakes. You fish this in a size 8. You start back up the shoreline to see what you can find.

You come to another stretch of shoreline famed in your personal brown drake lore. There are two long indentations in the bank that have mud bottoms and reeds along the bank--drake factories. When the fish are on the drakes, they crowd into these areas for the feast.

You look in and right away you see the quick, snapping takes that you associate with the drake hatch. You cast the muddler right to the bank, and there's an instantaneous take. A beautiful brown.

You cast back in as soon as you can and get another instantaneous take. A hungry rainbow.

The light is going fast. You cast back in and again get an instant take. This is the fish of the day. It takes awhile to work him in, and there are no photos until he's safely in the net. He's all shoulders and has a head like an anvil. You measure him on the float tube's apron. He's pushing 21, maybe 22. The best brown so far this season.

All that takes time, but you're finally ready to cast again. It's deja vu all over again.

It's now too dark to see the fly, and you still have a long way to go. So you start the long kick back. The moon lights your way. You drift the muddler behind you on a long line. Halfway back you catch another rainbow.

But you're thinking about brown trout. And brown drakes. Brown on brown. A good start to a good time of year.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

"May opens wide" by Marge Piercy

"May Road" by Julian Merrow-Smith

The rain that came down last night
in sheets of shaken foil while thunder
trundled over the Bay and crooked
spears of lightning splintered trees

is rising now up stalks, lengthening
leaves that wave their new bright
banners tender as petals, seventeen
shades of green pushing into sun.

The soil feels sweet in my hands
as I push little marigolds in.
Bumblebees stir in the sour cherry
blossoms floating like pieces of moon

down to the red tulips beneath
the smooth barked tree where a red
squirrel chatters at my rescued tabby
who eyes him like a plate of lunch.

"May opens wide" by Marge Piercy from Made in Detroit. © Knopf, 2015.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Trout Lake Report: The Hatch of the Year Has Begun

It's a rainy, cool afternoon.

You find some rainbows along the shoreline, but no browns.

You're enjoying yourself immensely trying to find the door with the prize behind it.

A fish rises splashily out in open water as you're passing by, so you drop the muddler on his head. He takes it splashily.

The sun leaks through the clouds eventually. You kick across to give the other shoreline a shot.

You catch one little rainbow. But you catch it on the biggest mayfly dry you can find, which isn't big enough. Why the change to the mayfly? You saw some Brown Drakes helicoptering around. Not a lot, and the fish aren't on them yet. But it has started.

You kick for the take out under the quarter moon feeling excited. You're going over big drake ties in your mind. You can hardly wait to get back to the lake. The hatch of the year has begun.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mid-May in Mid Wales

The Veil of May" by W.S. Merwin

"Spring Trees" by Jim Cox

No more than a week and the leaves
have all come out on the ash trees
now they are more than half open
on the ancient walnuts standing
alone in the field reaching up
through the mute amazement of age
they have uncurled on the oaks from
hands small as the eyelids of birds
and the morning light shines through them
and waits while the hawthorn gleams white
against the green in the shadow
in a moment the river has
disappeared down in the valley
the curve of sky gliding slowly
from before not seeming to move
it will not be seen again now
a while from this place on the ridge
but over it the summer will
flow and not seem to be moving

"The Veil of May" by W.S. Merwin from Collected Poems. © Library of America, 2013. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trout Lake Report: Just Kidding!

You plan an evening trip, hoping to get to the lake by 5:00 at the latest. You load up and walk around to the driver's side and see the reason why the truck seemed to be canted at an odd angle: a flat tire.

It's the left front tire and since you park on the left side of the garage there's precious little room to get in and change it. It's not easy--lots of sweat, some tears, no blood--but you manage it.

The spare looks a little low, so you decide to go into town and pump it up.

You're just getting up to speed on the highway when you hear a scraping sound on the roof, then silence. You instantly know what it is. You brake, pull over onto the shoulder, and begin the walk back along the road to find your rod and reel.

The tools for changing the tire are behind the jump seat in the extended cab. To fold down the seat and reach the tools you had to move the rod and reel, which you keep stored there broken down into two sections. So you naturally put them on top of the cab to keep them out of harm's way.

They didn't fall off when you backed out of the garage, or when you stopped, shifted into first and started down the long drive, jouncing over the ruts. They didn't fall off when you crossed the railroad tracks and stopped at the highway, or when you accelerated through a left turn onto the road. No, they waited until you were on the highway going about 60.

You find them in the ditch. You give everything a quick visual once over. Everything looks OK. So you drive on into town, pump up the spare, and head for the lake. (You wonder if it's pushing your suddenly bad luck to risk the trip over rough roads on a spare without a spare. But you only live once.) 

You get there more than an an hour late. You rig up, putting the rod and reel on top of the cab where you always put them while you don waders and vest. You see how these things happen?

The last thing, as always, is to assemble the rod. That's when you discover that the reel is busted. The fall onto the highway has bent the case so that the spool can't rotate freely.

You think you might have an extra reel in your gear bag. No, you don't. Well, you find you can pry the spool out of the case, so you'll be able to unwind line and spend the rest of the evening casting and stripping as you usually do.

You're back at the channel. You kick out, pull the line off the spool, and begin to fish. Finally.

It's another warm, still evening.

You're working a muddler again.

But nothing is happening. You're thinking, No wonder, with the luck I've been having.

You just do what you did last time. After coming to the end of the willows on this side you kick across to the other side.

You like this side. On the last trip this is where the fish suddenly came to life. You cast into the shadows under a stately old willow. You have caught memorable fish out of here before.

You cast once, twice, into likely spots, and nothing happens. Of course, you think. It's my bad luck. It will surely send me home fishless.

You cast the muddler out again. And this time a fish sips it in, you raise the rod, and you get a hookup. You're relieved and happy as you strip it in. Your luck has changed! How foolish of you to give up hope! This is a good fish. It's surely a brown. Whatever it is, you'll take it!

You're reaching for the net when it comes loose. Splash, and it's gone. You sit there for a minute thinking, Of course, this is how it had to happen. You will not only go home fishless, you'll go home a beaten man.

The last of the sunlight is slipping over the ridge. Resigned to your fate, you kick along the shoreline flipping out the muddler and giving it a desultory strip or two.

And a fish whacks it. It's a feisty little brown--it jumps three times--and you net it!

You go on down the shoreline and another fish whacks the fly. That one too, a fine rainbow, ends up in the net.

And farther on, another brown that takes you into the weeds.

Then you see one of those half rise rings right up against a driftwood log, and you drop the fly within a whisker of the log. And a nose comes up and takes it down. One more very fine brown ends up in the net.

You feel better. And somewhere in the songs of the frogs and the honks of the geese you imagine you hear a voice saying, Just kidding! Sorry about the reel.

The spare gets you home safe and sound.