The small spring creek burbled gently, with big foamy white bubbles pressing against the undercut brush of the outside bank before rushing over a log and into a wide, deep pool. That log had claimed 3 of my flies in the past hour; the big brown who relied on it for refuge seemed to have gone incognito. So there I was, alone with the burble of the creek and the sounds of birds and wind, and my cigar that lit up and shrunk with my long, drawn out inhales; my last attempt at trying to salvage some sort of inner peace.
So I leaned my head back with that cigar dangling from my lips and I looked up at the clouds, swiftly moving by in transience against a deep blue canvas of sky behind them. The suns rays moving in and out of hiding; the edges of the clouds illuminated brilliantly, like a halo, where a spectrum of light burst from the straggling water escaping the clouds pull. My own puffs of smoke wafted up in front of me, lingering briefly in the stillness, before being swept away by a light breeze coming from the west.
As my cigar disappeared into ash, I closed my eyes and fell into a calm, peaceful river nap.
I awoke a time later; a time that could have been 5 minutes, or an hour. One never knows when he drifts off to the sounds of the river. Instead of awaking with a newfound resolve to catch fish, I awoke with a deepening resentment towards this seemingly evil little creek, and a lame resignation that I wasn’t cut out to catch these fish. The thing is, that was truly why I was on this creek anyways; because of my deepening resentment towards my own life, and the lame resignation to myself that I was literally blowing it. It was fitting therefore that I felt this way now; it is amazing the parallels between life and what happens on the river.
It wasn’t that life sucked; there were just many parts of it that sucked, and I was resigned to allow them to be so. Complacent, one might say. Unsure of every move that was to be made next. Rash in my decision making. Fearful, instead of bold. Accepting an unsatisfactory fate before even really considering a different alternative. And then lamely rushing to the river side and meekly pretending all of those things didn’t exist, convincing myself that as long as I could fish all would be well. But all was not well; because all of these things were now being perpetuated on the river, all of the harsh realities of my own corrupt brain, and here I was on the riverside once again, resigned to leaving the river without what I came for.
I had come to this creek 5 times, all in the past month. My refuge, of sorts. And out of all those times, only once had I ever caught fish. A day when the beautiful Browns came early and often; but had left empty handed every other time. And they would always show themselves; I would watch a large brown gorge on something for 5 minutes and then disappear once again like it never happened. And then the entire creek would sleep; for hours, and hours on end, lifeless and without hope, while that image of the big browns tail breaking the surface gnaws away in your memory, seeming less and less real with each passing minute…
Lifeless. That was the only way to describe the creek right now. As I gently mosied back upstream from where I came I saw no sign of fish of any sort. If I didn’t have that image of that big brown in my head it would be easy to believe there was no fish in this tiny little creek. I was sure most who drove this way didn’t pay it a second thought; unless they were like me, and enjoyed torturing themselves. Walking around a river and feeling sorry for themselves. I lamely cast my fly to a couple of the good looking holes; holes that I knew I wouldn’t catch anything in because I already fished not a thing came to show themselves. Slowly, I made my way to the final stretch of water before the bridge and my last real chance of catching a fish; my last chance to stop myself from spiralling deeper into the rut I was digging for myself each day of my life.
So I smoked another cigar; urging myself patience, willing myself a good approach to give myself the best chance. I changed and added extra tippet to my line. I switched off from my dry fly and put on a nymph, thinking maybe the phantom browns might like that better. I sat and awaited any signs of a trout that might be interested in bringing me out of this rut. For a time, it was the same thing; nothingness. I decided to drop the nymph into the pool in front of me and see if a flash of light might emerge from the depths. As I fished, I noticed something different…
The birds; I watched as they began to congregate in a mass feeding frenzy, right up ahead near the bridge. A Hatch! The bugs were coming off. Surely the fish were not too far behind. They circled and weaved and darted in and out among each other. The zipped and glided inches from the water surface and flew through the willows. There numbers grew larger, like a swarming buzz of oversized mosquitos. There voices and rings echoed through the meadow. The hatch was clearly in process… But where were the fish?
And then I saw a rise ahead in the next pool. And then another. There we are, I thought, so smugly, like I was a some sort of prophet who had prophesized the coming of this moment, there are the fish. So keenly did I want that perfect moment I totally forgot about the beautiful pool in front of me and quickly pulled my nymph up from below, and hastily threw on a dry fly. I crashed and banged through the willows up ahead. All I could keep seeing up ahead was risers and fish feeding; at the front of the pool, at the bottom. Each rise registered keenly in my brain as my opportunity to break away from the lameness of my life. I ducked some barbed-wire and got to the pool.
I began casting to where I had last seen a rise, covering it with what I thought to be a perfect cast. Nothing. But no matter, again, up ahead, I heard another rise and saw the riffles where he had come up, I worked my way forward and began casting to that fish. Nothing. Quickly, I changed my fly; hearing splashes of rising fish all the while, invigorated by the sounds of fish. I snipped off the excess and waited for the next rise. It came right in front of me, but it didn’t look normal; certainly not a large fish. Any fish is a good fish, I told myself as I began casting wildly to it. And then another abnormal rise came, so gentle you couldn’t even see the fish come out of the water. These fish truly did seem tiny. But I really didnt care if they were tiny; I just wanted to catch one so bad that I wildly flung and re flung my line out into the endless chorus of splashes and tiny fish rises.
They were everywhere! I had never seen browns rise like this before. I had no idea there were this many tiny fish in this creek! I again switched my fly, this time getting it all tangled up, having to retry several times. I finally got it on and looked up. And in that moment, everything I had been thinking in the past hours about my lame life, about how poor of a fisherman I was, and how much I hated this little creek came piling up on me, like some cruel, cringe worthy joke by the trout gods.
I saw a plop, heard the same sound as I had been hearing, and a little riffle on the water no more than a foot in front of me. A blotch of white bird poop dispersed itself into the current with it. I looked up at the hundreds of birds above, and then back down at the river, where blotches plopped and plopped all over…
Silently, I gathered my line and walked to the car. I took off my boots, got in the car, and departed home; thinking all the while about what kind of idiot is stupid enough to stand in a shower of bird poop and think that his luck was about to turn. 🙂
– Kevin Rossi