It has been a couple of days since you went to the lake and came up empty. You are grateful to be able to say that hasn't happened in a long time. Still, it rankles.
You wind your way up through the hayfields and pastures to the lake. Time to get back on track.
Hummingbirds are working the elderberry blooms at the south end access. This is where it happened; this is where you will turn things around.
It's breezy and warm. You start across the lake dragging a muddler behind you and get an early bump. That makes you confident.
But you spend the next few hours without seeing a single piece of evidence that trout actually live in this lake.
It's just one of those mysteries. You try every tried and true fly and method you know--and nothing works.
In the midst of your efforts, the wind comes up.
You keep working.
You take a break on a little shelf of reeds.
You sit there for awhile, mending your leader, going through fly boxes, and thinking over the problem. It occurs to you that you're having a fine old time. There is something invigorating about the challenge, and the trout's indifference to your presence and resistance to your efforts raises them even higher in your esteem.
You kick out again even more committed to fooling these wily competitors.
The wind has backed off, and soon it's calm.
You begin to see and hear the occasional leaping trout. They're leaping, but they aren't rising.
One comes out of the water right next to you, as though to make sure you see it.
It spurs you on. You begin to see occasional rises, but even when you can get a fly over them, they don't come up again. You try nymphs, you try little dries, you try big dries. You let the fly sit and you move the fly. You try everything you can think of all over again. Nothing works.
It's dusk. A breeze has come up. Time for the last resort. You search your fly boxes for one of your go-to flies in the past, a proven fish finder when you were down to your last hand, a little black bead head micro-leech. You tie it on and begin to troll.
You're tracing a big circle around the lake. You make it halfway around through the gathering gloom. You got nothing. Not a single bump. You go for broke and dig out a big bead head Woolly Bugger. It should work--even though it hasn't worked yet this season. You knot it onto a 4X tippet and set out again.
You've already given up, and you're philosophical about it. You can handle it. Two skunks in a row isn't the end of the world. You're thinking about what you'll write on the blog about it when the rod lurches in your hand and a fish takes off with the Woolly Bugger. It takes line off the reel, but you stop it, and begin to bring it in. You're extremely careful with it, and finally get it safely into the net.
What a relief.