Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Trout Lake Report: A Better Day

Some days are all about the fishing. As someone has said, a day of fishing, regardless of whether you catch anything, makes you a better man.

You push through the many downed willows that choke the access and kick out into the channel with broken twigs covering the float tube and sticking down your neck. This is your first time at this part of the lake this season. You make a mental note to throw a saw into the back of the pickup the next time you come.

A strong wind is pushing out of the south-southeast.

You go with it north through the channel, and then turn west to follow the long shoreline to the far end where the Brown Drakes will soon hatch. The wind goes with you.

Some clouds begin to build over the mountains.

The wind picks up strength. The pines roar, and the lake rolls.

All this time you're throwing a muddler into the shoreline and stripping it out. You have the notion that this might be the best way to find a brown on such a day as this. And, indeed, you can remember a similar day when the float tube pitched on the swells and browns and rainbows alike came hungrily to the muddler as it sliced through the whitecaps.

You get all the way to the western end of the lake. You switch to a bead head streamer and troll your way on around the shoreline to a refuge you know about. You're in your shirtsleeves, you're wet from the spray and slapping waves, and you're cold. You put on your jacket and kick out again.

You got a single pull just as you were heading into the trees, so now you troll up and down along the waves. No more pulls. The wind blows and gusts, the trees thrash and roar, the lake pitches and heaves, you bob up and down, up and down, and think, what an amazing place to be!

Against all odds, the wind begins to abate. You kick back over to the little bay at the end of the shoreline you came down.

By now it's break time, and you push through the willows and find a good spot. That's when one, then two, then three fish rise not ten yards from you.

You rig up a dry fly and get out where the fish are. It's perfectly calm. As you drop the pheasant tail parachute onto the smooth surface a breeze kicks up. As happens here, the wind has shifted and is now beginning to blow out of the north. Its riffles quickly approach as you work your dry. A fish suddenly breaks the surface and rolls on the fly. You can see its red side reflected in the water. You raise the rod tip and come up on nothing.

Then the wind is up and the smooth water is gone, and so are the fish. Streamers of rain blow in, and cold drops sting your face.

You go back to a trolling rig, and start kicking back toward the channel. You count your blessings: the wind that blew you down to the west end has shifted and is now helping you get back.

You get one tentative pull on the long troll back into the channel. You go on through the channel into the south end. The wind has died down again, and you tie on another dry, a little Adams.

For what seems like a long time you work your dry, roving around following the few rises that materialize on the water and then disappear.

A swirling breeze comes up, then goes down, then comes back. Thin veils of rain pass over. You cast the dry, and cast it again.

Then you decide to troll one more time. You tie the bead-head streamer back on and begin a long loop. You complete the loop without a take. You decide that you're still a better man for the day's fishing, fish or no fish.

But you make one more loop. Halfway through, as you're turning for the take out, the line in the crook of your finger thrums, then tightens. A fish. Just barely.

You aren't a better man because you caught a fish. But somehow the long day is complete in a way it would not have been without even this diminutive trout. The hard fishing may have made you a better man, but catching this little fish sure made it a better day.

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