I’m guarded about my fishing partners. I always have been, I suppose, and I think that’s alright. I grew up fishing mostly by myself, and that’s still the way it usually turns out for me. Sure, I love hanging out with fishy friends before and after, but when we hit the stream, I’m usually the guy who takes off and says I’ll see you at lunchtime. But on occasion, all of that changes for a day.
I met Jason in the parking lot of the most popular trout spot in this region — no sense giving up locations to a stranger. And as soon as we hit the water, I knew I’d made a mistake. Jason front-ended me about a half hour in. He’d started by telling me to take the water above him (as if it was his decision). And maybe he got restless when I landed a few fish. So before he stepped in upstream of me, close enough to spook every trout between us, Jason stopped to ask what fly they were “keyed in on.”
“Just a Pheasant Tail,” I replied. Then I watched him cut me off, and I wondered what to do next.
The creek was less than forty feet wide — really not the kind of place to fish behind another angler. So I shifted my focus to a thin strip on the opposite bank , a quick and shadowy seam perfect for tightlining. I missed a trout, but then nothing happened for a while.
I guess I’ve fished long enough not to let things like this spoil a trip. So I had a good bank-sit and chewed on some sunflower seeds for a while. I listened as the wind and the trees mixed with the water on the rocks, and it sounded like the flanger in Jim Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love. So good. I also watched Jason blow up every bit of pocket water for the next one hundred yards upstream. He waded roughly, zigzagging and hitting every prime spot with a couple casts. So bad.
But about halfway before the bend, Jason started to pick up some fish. Although I already knew this guy would never become my best fishing buddy, I was happy for him. I can be happy for just about anyone with a trout on the end of their line. Jason released four or five small fish before he rounded the bend, out of sight.
I walked the path back downstream toward the truck. Then I waded in well below where we had begun, and I started over.
An hour later I heard Jason’s voice bellowing before I saw him bang through the brush.
“Hey man! Hey! I got them keyed in on Blue Winged Olive nymphs.”
“Okay, nice.” I said.
As I gave a little nod and the best smile I could muster, Jason came barging through the water toward me. With the enthusiasm of a Labrador Retriever, he made waves in every direction. I stopped fishing and looked down to watch those waves ripple and rush past me before they bounced off the far bank.
When I looked up, Jason stood before me. His left hand was thrust in my direction with its thumb and forefinger pinched together, holding what to him was a little bit of magic.
“Blue! Winged! Olive!” Jason said, panting and a slightly out of breath. “They’re just hammerin’ it.”
I squinted at the fly and tilted my head curiously. The fly was nothing more than an over-sized fluorescent-orange bead on a wide gap hook, with a few thin tailing fibers and some dark thread — it was probably olive.
“Nice,” I nodded. “So they like the orange today? Good stuff.”
The bead made up seventy-five percent of the fly, so I thought it was fair to say the trout were taking the bead.
I continued. “I have some similar orange stuff that . . .”
“No man!” He interrupted. “It’s a Blue Winged Olive nymph. It has a thin profile. See?”
He pushed his fingers a little closer to my face. And I could tell he thought I was an idiot. I bit my tongue, edited my thoughts and came out with a better version of my next sentence.
“Cool, bud. How many trout?” I asked.
Jason seemed satisfied as he stepped back. Then he stood tall and motioned upstream proudly.
“Six,” he said. “And I lost a bunch too.” (As if that was good thing.)
I nodded again, and Jason hurried back to the stream bank. Then he said it again . . .
“I’m telling you, they’re really keyed in on my Olive nymph.”
I nodded again and stared back at him while casting and drifting my own Pheasant Tail in the water he’d just blown up.
“I’d give you one of these Olives,” Jason yelled back. “But I only have three left, man.”
As Jason disappeared through the brush again, my thoughts retaliated with their previous mood. So I said it out loud to myself, just to get it out . . .
“That’s not an Olive.”
About ten minutes later I bailed on Jason and didn’t even feel bad about it.
I texted him a bit later:
“Had to leave. Got hungry.”
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N