Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Game

"All first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and John, 
the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.” 

There are in my opinion two religions when it comes to fly fishing. Are you a dry fly fisherman or are you a nymph fisherman? Some people claim to be both but in my experience you are truly one or the other. Sure a dry fly fisherman fishes with nymphs occasionally but it is usually just to see how the other half lives and vice versa. I fish both nymphs and drys, but I am a dry fly fisherman. I am better at it and I enjoy it more. For those that don't know what that means, it means the fly you are fishing with floats on top of the water imitating an insect that has just hatched or has returned to the water to lay its eggs. While there is no doubt in my mind the nymphers catch more fish, they don't have the same level of connection with the trout that us dry fly fisherman have. 

For me fly fishing with a dry fly is magical. Watching the cast from start to finish, the loop unfurling behind you while you change rod direction to start the line, leader, and fly moving in the forward direction, to the very moment when that forward loop unfurls in front of you and the fly gently lands on the river and starts the drift. All the while making sure the drift is perfect, by mending and watching and mending some more. The fly getting to the end of the drift and starting the process all over again, but maybe this time altering the length of cast or the lane for which you want the fly to drift. 

I am lucky because I fish a river essentially in my back yard that is one of the best dry fly rivers in the United States. The trout in the Pan are "usually" looking up and looking for insects on the surface so hence the excellent dry fly river. Of course the trout in the Pan can mess with you as well, and since I think they are starting to know me, they are starting to mess with me on a daily basis. Thus the game begins.

As I have said before,  just being out on the water is the reward, but having a fish on the end of my line is a gift. While there is nothing better than catching a trout on a fly, as a dry fly fisherman there is something else that is almost and is sometimes more exciting than the catch, what is that you ask? It is what we call the refusal. The Pan is a beautiful river, healthy and gin clear. Therefore with some practice you can see the fish in their lanes waiting for meals to drift by, whether underneath the water or floating on top of it. And with that you can watch how they react to your dry fly. Tonight I fished for about 2 hours, I caught 2 fish but I had about 12 of the best refusals ever. This for me leads to some very exciting not catching anything! I cast my fly out and make sure the drift is as natural as I can make it, I watch my fly drift over fish and I watch them turn and start to rise for my fly and at the last minute they turn and swim back down, that my friends is a refusal, sometimes they can be very dramatic with splashes or they can be very subtle. But it is always awesome. Because the minute you see that fish turn you know you have about a 50/50 chance. Is he going to eat it or isn't he. My hand tightens and I get ready to set the hook and then he swims away, dang it! But man that was cool. This cat and mouse game is what makes dry fly fishing so exciting. When you can see the fish turn showing interest in your fly and actually eat it and turn back to head down to the bottom with what it thinks is a prize insect, there is nothing better. But at the same time the refusal of a dry fly is just as exciting, because for me it makes me think, was I doing something wrong? What did that fish see that made him think twice? This to me is why fly fishing is a beautiful sport. There is so much to it. You really do have to out smart that fish. Fish have tiny tiny brains, but it amazing to me to see their instinct take over. They turn, follow and then decide something just isn't right with that insect floating there and they head back to their spot. It is truly a beautiful dance between man and beast. 

“ is not fly fishing if you are not looking for answers to questions.” 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Riddle

This past week has been one of mixed emotion, my wife and I were in the last steps of underwriting for our loan for our house we are buying here. I won't go into much detail but lets just say that the entire process was a nightmare, especially for two people with 793 and 798 credit scores, zero debt and fairly good jobs. We went from sweet, we got our house, to crap lets just go back to Minnesota were things are normal, to your loan as been approved and you are closing in 4 days. Overall I am happy to be here, but it is really different and I am having a bit of a hard time settling into "small" town life. There are things I miss about Minnesota and sadly those things aren't going to be replaced by anything here. Anyway, we are moving again and this time it will be for a while. And we are thrilled.

OK, enough of that crap. I have been out fishing 5 times since my last post. 4 times on the FryingPan and once up at some spots that I have found up Independence Pass.

The FryingPan has become a riddle to me and I am having a hard time solving it. I am not sure if it is the time of day that I have been fishing or if it is the fisherman but I just haven't caught much. I get one fish here and one fish there, but nothing in the way of a multiple fish day. Hmmmmm. I am trying to figure it all out and while I admit I am not really into this sport of mass numbers of fish, I would like to see a fish a little more often than once and a while. Last night Melissa and I went out and spent the evening on the Pan, we brought food and drinks and planned to fish until dark. We got a great spot and geared up. We fished with no luck for about 45 minutes and then took a break to eat dinner. After dinner we tried again. I was throwing everything I could think of, everything that "always" works on the FryingPan. Royal Wulff's, Sparkle Dun's, Parachute Adams and even Rusty Spinners. No luck, no rises, no interest. Hmmmm what is the deal. I noticed Melissa had switched to a nymph and indicator rig and was casting away in a really nice run. A few minutes later, I hear, "I got one" I looked over and sure enough there is a good bend in her rod and a couple seconds later she has a fish in her net. She held up a nice brown for me to see and then placed him back in the water. Again I switched flies and not more then 2 minutes later, I hear, "I got another one.." Sure enough again there is a big bend in her rod and a couple seconds later she has another nice brown in the net. After releasing that one I walked over to see what she is using. But as I get to her spot, I seeing her indicator hesitate and then jet downward, she raises her rod for the hook set and sure enough she has another fish on. This one is jumping and fighting her good so I grab my net to help her get him in. We work pretty well as a team, and Melissa knows pretty well how to fight a fish now and does her thing to help me net the fish for her. In the net another nice brown trout. She reaches in, unhooks and sets him free. Melissa catches 3 fish in about 20 minutes. I finally ask her what she was using and she shows me she has a beadhead flashback pheasant tail on, a size 18 about 3' under her indicator. She solved the riddle of the Pan last night. While I was bummed I didn't catch a fish, I was happy and proud of her. She is newer to the sport so there is nothing that I have enjoyed more then watching her progress and watching her learn and perfect her technique each time she gets out there. It makes me happy.

To me fly fishing isn't about catching fish, it is about trying to fool the fish into even taking a swipe at a fake bug that is made from string and feathers. It is about feeling the cool stream around your legs and listening to what the stream is trying to tell you while you are a visitor to it. Last night I wasn't listening carefully to it, while Melissa was. She listened and solved mystery. Even though I didn't catch any fish last night, I was able to practice casting and mending my line to give those feathers on the end of my line the perfect drift. It is amazing how fishing 3-4 times a week make you a better fisherman, while I still have a lot to learn, the fly rod has become an extension of me and I can usually control it pretty dang well. All of these things I mentioned make an evening on the water rewarding for me whether there is a fish in my net or not.

Stick with me here: My father taught me how to play golf when I was 8 years old and during those times especially as I got into my teens, I would get frustrated and mad when I wasn't playing well, he would slow me down and say, "Eric, you are never going to be better than the game. So just do your best and the rest will fall into place." I listened to him and played my best and just enjoyed the game whether I was having a good round or not. I became an 8 handicap golfer heeding that advice. And while I don't play golf as much as I used to, I bring his words into my fly fishing world. I am never going to be better than the sport of fly fishing so just enjoy your time on the water. I do that every time I have that fly rod in my hand and am tying on a hook covered in string and feathers. Enjoy your time on the water and take something away from it every time. I do and I am a better person for it and I owe much of that to my father, who never fly fished in his life.