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 forceful enough that I turned sideways, just to stay upright and prevent being bowled over by three feet of hard whitewater. My backside to the bank, I cast upstream into the deep, prime currents of the early spring season.
Underneath the surface, nymphs crawled over an unseen riverbed of rocks and tree parts. Trout foods were nearing the end of a life cycle. Mayfly wing cases were engorged, ready to split at just the right moment and join their brothers and sisters in a mass emergence, with millions of see-through-thin, fluttering wings. Cased caddis outgrew their tubular homes and were on the precipice of the same emergence. The smells of spring were palpable. Anticipation hung over the river. And undeniably, it was a great time to fish nymphs.
In river sections with milder current, I faced upstream, making an easier task of casting and drifting to the main, middle seams. And from the corner of my vision, just off the periphery, I began to notice something. Time and again, I glimpsed trout moving from the river’s edge and out into the main flow. Darting shadows sprinted for the safety of faster water as I passed perpendicular to their holding lie. And some of those quick shadows were much larger than the trout I was catching.
It went on like this for a good hour before I finally accepted the suggestions of the trout shadows. When a particularly large pair of dark phantoms abandoned the bank and skirted the perimeter of my position, I’d had enough. I turned my back to the main flow where I was catching trout. I waded a little closer to the river’s edge and cast to water that looked like nothing.
Sure, I know all about fishing the juicy undercuts and logjams. Some of my favorite prime lies are right on the edge, where a good current seam rubs up against a rootsy bank and scours out a bucket where the best trout in the river make a home. These unique places are often transitional; they’re here one season and gone with the next flood, washed out and re-positioned by time and by the endless forces of nature.
I also know about hitting the banks during high or muddy water. And I know that trout love to find a shady summer corner and wait for ants and beetles to make a mistake. I know that Whiskeys like to ambush baitfish in the comfortable shallows just near the banks (particularly under the cover of darkness). And I know why streamers fished to the edges is a popular strategy.
But now I know. Now I know that even the most nondescript, average, boring bank is a good place to try a nymph. It’s a good place to land a dry or any type of fly. It’s another type of water to believe in, to give trout the chance that maybe — just maybe — they’re holding along the banks. It’s not just the prime undercuts or during high waters, either. No. Sometimes, trout are found where I least expect them.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day
T R O U T B I T T E N