I swear I fish best when I’m alone. I can’t prove it without a witness, of course, but I guess I don’t care to verify it anyway . . . and that’s the point.
In what seems like another lifetime ago, I fished the mountain streams alone and often, and I miss it now. In daydreams, I sift through memories of small water, the infinite brown-green variations of spruce and ferns, moss and bedrock. I see the variance of shadows oscillating in the wind among tree branches and impeding the passage of sunlight, from the deepest blacks to the hazy flickering shade marbling a maple leaf canvas on the forest floor, with its fresh but dying colors of fall. I miss the brookie streams.
Fishing mountain water is how I first defined my fishing self, and I long for that adventure and discovery again. I guess I stopped fishing the mountain water once my life became more about other people and less about me: marriage, a real job, kids. I had more time before all that, more days for dedicating to the miles and efforts it takes to reach lonesome places, to fish a while and then just walk back out . . .
I still get excited about a new fishing book. And I trust that will never change. After all these years, I still look forward to shedding the dust cover, stressing the binding and digging in. Whether it’s tactics or stories doesn’t matter. If it’s a book about a life on the water, I’ll give it a look.
My uncle taught me to fish, to read water and find trout, to explore — to get away — and to enjoy fishing for more than just catching a trout. We fished bait. Mostly fathead minnows. And what I absorbed in those young years were the largest building blocks for any angler. I learned to love the river and feel at home there. And without that, the books that I later picked up would have felt like a foreign thing, like fiction, a tall tale, or like some branch of mysterious and inaccessible science.
Years later, my early tutelage into fly fishing came not through a personal mentor, but through two key books. (I’ll list them below.) And it was the enlightenment of those works that served as the gateway into so much of what has shaped my life to this day.
The words in a good book — the shared ideas — can change lives. And I’ve always wanted to be part of that, to pass on what I too have discovered, both technically and in experiential form . . .
That extra morning coffee you drank on the way to the river, the auxiliary ounces you used to fight off the sleepyhead before dawn, it now settles into your bladder and brings on the urge about fifteen minutes after you finally wade into the water and start fishing.
The thing is, how to take a leak streamside isn’t real obvious to most anglers. It’s the waders. No, actually it’s the suspenders. That’s where the trouble starts. But here's a trick . . .
. . . Laurel Run was heavily stocked with trout in those days. The arrival of the big white trucks was an event in itself, and each year we volunteered to float-stock the forested section between road crossings. If it wasn’t float-stocked, all the hatchery plants sent by the state to Laurel Run ended up at the bridges, making an artificial situation seem even more counterfeit.
I didn’t think of it as fake or artificial back then. It was just trout fishing. It was part of my Pennsylvania surroundings, and a place where the water remained cool enough for trout all summer long. But the raised PH level from acid mine drainage made the cool water insignificant for the reproduction of wild trout.
So we float-stocked it, and through the middle of May, the fishing was always good. A couple weekends into trout season, most fishermen accepted the deadbeat line that Laurel Run was “fished out.” But that’s just when the fishing got interesting . . .
. . . At close range, Bill flipped the streamer’s head by lifting the rod tip and dramatically changing the angle — so the streamer head followed. At long range, Bill mended the line to force the head flip. And that day, his head flip drew one strike after another. It’s like the trout were just waiting for it.
When a streamer changes positions in the water, it draws attention. In fact, the head flip is the most reliable trigger in my arsenal of streamer tricks . . .
Here is part two of a short Troutbitten series answering frequently asked questions about the Mono rig.
What rods and reels are a good choice? Why choose one over another? How do we cast these long leaders anyway? Are there certain crucial techniques to use for gaining accuracy and distance? What about sighters? And can we use split shot in addition to weighted flies?
. . . When I hooked him, I felt a tremendous release of emotion. Satisfaction merged with adrenaline. My yearning for such a moment finally came to a close as the big wild brown trout slid onto the bank. I killed the trout with a sharp rap at the top of its skull, because that’s what I did back then. I knelt by the river to wet my creel, and when I placed the dead trout in the nylon bag, the full length of its tail stuck out from the top.
Then I began to shake. The closing of anticipation washed over me. The fruition of learning and wondering for so many years left me in awe of the moment I’d waited for. I trembled as I sat back on my heels. With two knees in the mud of a favorite trout stream, I watched the water pass before me. I breathed. I thought about nothing and everything all at once. I felt calm inside even as I stared down at my wet, shaking hands.
When a gust of wind pushed through the forest, I stirred. Finally my lengthy revery was passed, and I stood tall with my lungs full of a strong wind. Then I walked back to camp . . .
Keep it tight and crisp. Cast with speed. Be more aggressive. Build more momentum with the rod tip. The casting stroke should be snappy, energetic and sharp with abrupt and forceful stops between two points. I’ve used all of these descriptions and more to communicate the correction for the most troublesome fly fishing flaw out there — lazy casting.
By the end of December, I will log over sixty guide trips this year. On these trips I meet a lot of good anglers from all over the country who want to take the next step and turn a corner with their fly fishing game. I also meet anglers relatively new to fly fishing who are looking to build on the basics. And on the majority of my trips, at the end of the day, the number one thing I leave with my new friends is this: put more juice in the cast. Cast with more power.
Here's why . . .