It’s Not the Same

by | Jan 26, 2018 | 5 comments

** Note: This February 2016 story is revised and revisited here today.

Sawyer skidded the truck sideways a little and pulled the e-brake as we lurched to a stop in the fly shop parking lot. He looked at me and grinned.

“Be right back,” he yelled, and he jogged up the short set of stairs.

Sawyer ripped the wooden shop door open, and it clattered on the old hinges. I noticed the square sign on the door: No Waders in the Store.

Really? Who does this? Apparently, the sign is a necessary appeal. I’m sure the owner has a collection of stories about soggy men slopping on the carpet with wading boots, scratching the floor, scratching their bald heads (or maybe tilting their flat brims) and asking the dreaded question,“So what’s been hatching?” I could never own a fly shop — I can’t grit my teeth hard enough.

I sat in the warm sunlight that pierced through the windshield while I swirled the sugar and black grounds at the bottom of my coffee, wishing I was on the water already. Normal people love the sun. Fishermen do not. And if Sawyer and I weren’t going to be fishing by dawn, then the last and worst thing to do was stop at a fly shop — just get to the damn river. Sawyer knew this but couldn’t help himself.

Tippet. He needed tippet.

The shop door rattled again as Sawyer emerged with a victorious smile, holding the round spool of nylon monofilament over his head like an Olympic medal.

“That’s the stuff!” he puffed, as he slammed the door and cranked the ignition.

“Is that your magic tippet?” I asked my friend.

“Dom, it lays dry flies out as softly and beautifully as . . .”

“. . . a whispering butterfly,” I finished. “I know, I know. You told me.” We both laughed.

“I think we’re good on time,” Sawyer said.

I shook my head. “You’ll have to drive fast if you want to beat the weekenders.”

“Yeah.” He nodded.

“It’s just tippet, Sawyer.”

“No it’s not.” He smirked, and we merged with the traffic.

— — — — — — — —

I dislike fishing the weekends, but I’ve lived in the same area and fished here long enough that I can find a nice piece of water to call my own on even the most popular rivers and the busiest weekends. I’ll go ahead and get cocky about it now: I can find good, open water,  with no one around, at the peak of the Sulphur hatch on a Saturday evening — I just understand the tendencies of fly fishermen around here.

If those Sulphurs have been around for a while, by the end of May, the ambition of fishermen will have waned a bit; they’ll lag and linger with other distractions before hitting the water, and you can find fine fishing and solitude before everyone else shows up for the late spinner fall of dying, delicate mayflies.

Predicting the habits of other fishermen is a learned skill. It’s not an exact science, but my forecasts are way more accurate than the local weatherman, who curates his information from distant, eye-in-the-sky satellites. Yup. I’m more accurate. And my information is from boots on the ground — dirty, muddy, mileage-worn, wet, heavy boots on their third pair of laces — boots that never dry out — and I’m thankful for that.

— — — — — — — —

Twenty minutes of Sawyer’s tense, eager driving later, and our tires finally hit the dirt road. We both relaxed a bit. Dirt roads will do that for you.

“I told you I have a spare spool of 5X tippet in my box,” I said. “It’s the same thing.”

“No it’s not,” he replied. “This new stuff is really different.”

I couldn’t imagine how Sawyer’s magic tippet could be so different that it was worth the late start, but I understood.

In some ways, it seems like everything’s already been done in this small world, and it’s easy to brush off new variations on old ideas just because they’re so common. But sometimes the smallest things make a difference, and you might miss something good if you’re not paying attention with an open mind.

This good life is full of repetition and variations on a theme. Honestly, that’s what makes us comfortable. Day-to-day life is structured like a familiar song: we do some minor things everyday with a little variation, setting up some of the major things that we also do everyday, and then — at our best — we do something different before getting back to the familiar routine. It’s the verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure of life.

However, all of that’s not enough reason to stop antagonizing a good friend . . .

“It’s just tippet, Sawyer,” I poked again.

“It’s not the same,” he said.

— — — — — — — —

Around noon, I looked downstream to see Sawyer walking the stony bank toward me. With a casual, satisfied saunter he carried the fly rod in one hand and a chunk of beef jerky in the other. As he approached me streamside, I stared into my fly box, unsatisfied (and quite hungry).

“How was it?” Sawyer asked.

“I had a good run for an hour on that nymph I always tie with the red collar,” I said. “Lost the last one and my confidence with it. They won’t take anything else.”

Sawyer chuckled. He lifted the last bite of jerky to his mouth and pulled a fly box from his pack. He picked out three small, brown flies and held out his hand.

“Take ’em,” he said. “It’s the same thing. It’s just a Pheasant Tail Nymph.”

I shifted my eyes from the flies to Sawyer. “It’s not the same.”

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

. . .The flow of the fly line through the air is finesse and freedom. Contrasted with nymphing, streamer fishing, or any other method that adds weight to the system, casting the weightless dry fly with a fly line is poetry.

The cast is unaffected because the small soft hackle on a twelve-inch tether simply isn’t heavy enough to steal any provided slack from the dry. It’s an elegant addition that keeps the art of dry fly fishing intact . . .

We Wade

We Wade

We wade for contemplation, for strength and exhaustion, for the challenge and the risk. We wade for opportunity . . .

Eat a Trout Once in a While

Eat a Trout Once in a While

I stood next to him on the bank, and I watched my uncle kneel in the cold riffle. Water nearly crested the tops of his hip waders while he adjusted and settled next to the flat sandstone rock that lay between us. He pulled out the Case pocket knife again, as he’d done every other time that I’d watched this fascinating process as a young boy.

“Hand me the biggest one,” my uncle said, with his arm outstretched and his palm up.

So I looked deep into my thick canvas creel for the first trout I’d caught that morning. Five trout lay in the damp creel. I’d rapped each of them on the skull after beaching them on the bank, right between the eyes, just as I’d been taught — putting a clean end to a trout’s life. I handed the rainbow trout to my uncle and smiled with enthusiasm . . .

Eggs and Olives

Eggs and Olives

The early spring season is very much defined by the resurgence of the egg pattern. And by the time the suckers are done doing their thing, our hatch season is in full swing. Then, just like that, the egg bite turns off. Suddenly the trout favor mayfly and caddis imitations over the full-color egg options.

But as reliable as the egg bite can be in early spring, you don’t want to sleep on the Olives . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

5 Comments

  1. Another great short story! Hilarious. Superstition and pseudoscience is part of the craft……..

    Reply
  2. Confidence tippet, confidence flies, confidence knots, confidence rigging, confidence clothing, confidence honey holes, confidence driving routes, confidence partners, confidence mantras, even confidence confidence. And they’re all bred from experience because they work!

    Reply
  3. Great story! Had me all the way to the end. As a writer married to a fisherman – I appreciate both your enthusiasm and knowledge regarding fishing and your writing ability. Kudos!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Adrienne!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest