I just walked through the back door and into our air conditioned sunroom. Today is the fourth day of a hot and muggy week, and it finally feels like summer outside. So it’s nice to be out of the early afternoon heat for a while. Last night I set the alarm to rise early and fish a full morning, but since the fishing was so good, I kept fishing until it was hot enough that I wished I was wet wading.
Not surprisingly, I had whatever section of water I wanted all to myself. While relocating twice, along the most popular stretch of one of the best wild trout waters in this state, I saw just one other guy out there. And I recognized him. He fishes all the time.
I’m sure the reason most fishermen stayed home today is because the weather report read, hot early and damn hot later. It was also a weekday morning — and that always keeps the crowds at bay. But last Sunday, during the peak of our Sulfur season (the prime hatch on my home stream) the creek was empty then too. Again, the weather was surely the reason: drizzling rain, kinda chilly, with the river up and off color.
The conditions of these two days aren’t exactly at the extremes, either. And yet, anything on the far side of each will keep many anglers away. It’s predictable, and I’ve seen it ever since we moved here. I drive along the popular section of my home stream most every day, often multiple times, on my way to whatever errand I’m chasing to the bottom of my to-do list. And on a stream where half of the cars may display out-of-state license plates, there may be no cars if everything isn’t just right (e.g.: hatches, weather, water, light conditions, etc.).
I have an old college buddy who fits into this mold. He won’t take the time to fish unless things are either perfect or damn close to it. I call him Goldilocks, and he hates me for it.
Last month, on a whim, I gave Goldilocks a call. He’s one of the few people left who still answers his phone, and he picked up within seconds.
“Hey. Want to fish tomorrow?” I asked quickly. I figured that rushing him into a decision was my best chance at the preferred result.
“Where? Up your way?” He asked.
“Didn’t you just get a pile of rain over the weekend?” He asked.
“Sure, but the creeks are coming down and the fishing has been fine,” I replied.
He paused and stammered for a moment. My fast pace was thrown off, and I already knew what was coming.
“Did the tan caddis start yet?” Goldilocks asked, skeptically. “I mean those morning ones — the number sixteens that the trout actually look up for.”
“No, not really,” I said honestly.
He paused again. And after a moment, I repeated my first question.
“Hey, do you want to fish tomorrow?”
My friend blurted out before I could finish the question . . .
“Hell no!” He yelled into the phone.
“I thought you might say that, Goldilocks,” I chuckled.
To be fair, Goldilocks lives one-hundred and forty miles away, and it takes two-and-a-half hours to get here. Through the years, I suppose he’s saved a lot of time and gas money by choosing his moves wisely. Like most of us, he doesn’t get a lot of free days, so he tries to make the most of them. He’s a salesman who sort of makes his own hours, so he has the luxury of choosing when to fish.
At his best, this type of angler can really maximize those free days and turn them into something special. And Goldilocks seems to hit it right every time. He watches the weather and frontal systems like a sailor, compulsively checks USGS water flow gauges on his phone, follows every fly shop stream report in the tri-state area, and has regional hatch charts committed to memory. He also has a fishing log with picture albums full of successful trip reports, hitting big number and big fish on a pretty high percentage of his trips. It’s impressive.
But here’s the thing: Goldilocks is way better at this than most. He has a set of variables that matter to him, and somehow, they’re the right ones. He’s scientific about it, not emotional. And when the day is right, he gets on the river early and sticks with it. Often, I think he makes things happen, which is more of a factor for his success than the perfect conditions really are. The point is, he wants to fish.
On the other hand, it seems that some fly fishermen are constantly looking for reasons not to fish. Provide them with a logical reason to stay home, and they will — and they’ll feel good about it.
Most Goldilocks-type anglers are paralyzed by the data. They watch the weather and read the stream reports too — and they sit home too often, waiting for even the good days to be better ones. And after a few years of that, they’re out of the habit of fishing. As a result, more circumstances and variables enter the equation: the gear isn’t packed; the fly boxes aren’t stocked, and that leaky wading boot was never patched after the last trip.
Most Goldilocks anglers think they can predict what conditions are good, bad, better and best. But this is fishing — and the trout always have the final say about all that.
Over and over, I’m told that fly fishing is more popular than ever, that the creeks are overrun with anglers, and that things aren’t like they used to be. But I just don’t see it. Instead, as I drive that same stretch of popular water near my home, I see what I always have: on the sweetheart days, the Goldilocks angler is there. Any other time? This morning? Not so much.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N