Bill texted me at 2:00 pm.
“How’s the fishing, and where should we meet?” he wrote.
The day was changing from a perfectly cloudy and drizzly cool day to a pure washout. More dark sky slid over the horizon as I hustled back to the truck. Patches of heavy rain were dumping buckets throughout the region. In a few hours the whole river would muddy completely. Some sections were still fishable, but not for long.
Under the shadow of the rear hatch, I stashed wet gear into the truck and changed into a drier shirt as another SUV arrived from upstream and turned into the dirt pull-off. The side windows slid down, and I saw three fishermen inside.
“How’d you make out?” they asked. “Is it muddy down below too?” The driver gestured in the direction of the rising river, just out of site beyond the hemlocks.
I hold on to winter longer than anyone else I know. I love winter for what it is, for what it makes me feel, for what it turns me into — for how it forces family to huddle closer, and for how exquisitely alone I feel outside.
Winter is the season of absence.
My friend, Steve, texted me yesterday to ask if I knew that my name was in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports section. Since my mediocre Little League baseball career ended at twelve years old, I’d figured that my chances at making the sports section of any paper were shot. But to my surprise, there it was, both online and printed in the Sunday paper.
And I have to admit that it makes me smile. I grew up reading the PPG, and I still do. As a home grown western Pennsylvania boy, I follow my Steelers, Penguins and Pirates with devotion.
I walked against the current for most of the evening, working a mid-river seam with a pair of nymphs, stepping slowly upstream after a few casts and picking off a trout every ten yards or fifteen minutes (however you want to measure it).
In the heaviest sections, the water was…
Fly fishing done well is a mental game, a series of tips and tricks. Those tricks are like a deck of cards, all stacked up and ready to play, ready to pull out and utilize the one that best fits the moment. Sometimes we know what card to play, and other times we stand in the river befuddled and confused. In those perplexing moments, we shuffle the deck and then choose: Pick a card — any card.
Adding cards to the deck of tricks is half the fun of this whole thing. All the good anglers I know are constantly searching for the next trick, the next clue, because a larger deck provides more options and more solutions.
Multi-fly rigs allow for more chances to screw things up, and that’s undeniable. In tip #31 of the Fifty Tips series, I brushed off the tangles problem like it’s not a big deal. With experience (and some resignation to the inevitable errors), it really isn't a big deal. Here are some ideas to keep the tandem rig tangles to an acceptable minimum.
Keep in mind, that I've grown into these strategies. I’ve done a lot of fiddling and wiggling with rats’ nests out there. And remember, the thing they don’t tell you about trial and error is how much the errors suck the life out of your will to keep trying.
As a young troutbitten kid, I learned to fish live minnows strung on a small double hook with a barrel swivel and split shot. My uncle taught me to cast upstream and dead drift the unlucky creature, adding a slight lift when necessary to keep it off the bottom. When the fathead minnow was across from my position, I allowed the line to tighten and swing as the minnow was carried downstream. That transition between dead drifting and swinging was the sweet spot of the drift, and I learned to understand where it would happen. By considering the speed and direction of the various currents, I tried to position myself adjacent to the prime holding water for the best trout. Even at ten years of age, fishing was a beautifully complicated game and every cast was full of possibility. It was captivating.