Fishing blindly for trout with an eternal optimistIt’s thought that fly fishing is the genteel angling pursuit set aside for the upper-crust of society’s fishermen, an activity for which only the well-bred gentleman angler endeavors to participate. Fly fishermen can be a bit snooty — sometimes.
By: By Darrell Pendergrass, Superior Telegram
It’s thought that fly fishing is the genteel angling pursuit set aside for the upper-crust of society’s fishermen, an activity for which only the well-bred gentleman angler endeavors to participate. Fly fishermen can be a bit snooty — sometimes.
Through experience and repetition these highbrow fishermen become educated to the well-mannered ways of taking trout. These anglers cast lines smoothly and elegantly and with the precision of surgeons; they make exacting offers of fake bugs to rising and wanting fish. These men smoke pipes and imbibe of drinks made with gin-and-sometimes-tonic. They shave their faces daily.
However, my fishing friends are not of that stock. We’re run-of-the-mill fly fishermen; we are guys who whip lines around in the air with reckless abandon, our flies snapping in the wind. Just because you’re lineage isn’t pristine doesn’t mean you can’t fish with flies. You might actually catch a trout. So we go.
Drearily, Dangerous Dan Bloomquist, my son Jack and I stood along the banks of the river looking like water-logged cats nearly drowned in the flood waters that rolled past; we were soaked through to our boxer shorts from the hard rains that continued to fall. Night crept closer. It was getting dark. We sloshed about in the river. Though the overcast skies continued to empty a deluge of rain upon us we still fished. We were not having fun necessarily, but we weren’t heading home either.
I swore under my breath at the rain. Even Jack swore under his breath. Dan never swears.
Dan and I could not have kept a pipe lit in these monsoon-like conditions to save our souls, and I’m sure if offered, we both would have gone for something a bit stronger than simply gin. Jack won’t shave for another seven years. I imagine the cultured angler was probably wearing his smoking jacket and lounging in his study right about now, the sound of classical violin music softly playing in the background. I don’t like those guys, not one bit. But I was wishing I was one of them at that moment.
I’d gone out to a lake near my home a week before and had used a light-weight fly rod to cast yellow bee-like poppers to big bass lurking just offshore. Broad-shouldered bass — unlike their refined cousins, the aerodynamic trout — bull rushed the poppers once they’d set their sights on them. These fish crashed about in the water, careening through the weeds in their escape attempts. Bass fight like weighty boxers in a smoke-filled and dirty gymnasium. There is nothing aristocratic about catching bass with a fly rod.
But this was now. We three dampened fishermen spread out along our stretch of the river. When we could actually hear the river above the crescendo of hard falling rain the waters gurgled and popped around us. The sporadic cloudbursts splattered down and around the bends. It was impossible to tell if trout were feeding. But we kept casting.
On a good, clear and calm night — the opposite of this night — when a trout takes a fly in the pitch of black it isn’t anything that can be seen. You can hear a fish feeding. You know they’re there. But you can’t really see them. In the dark you have to feel them; you have to sense they are right there in front of you.
Simply put, almost blindly a cast is made, a fly drifts casually for a bit, and then the soft sound of a trout coming to the surface is heard. You need only to lift your rod and line from the water to know that you’ve succeeded in hooking a fish. It’s calm. It’s quiet. It’s perfect. And I believe the term ‘blind luck’ was actually coined by Scottish fly fisherman back in the nineteenth century.
There was not going to be any blind luck for the three of us on this night. There was not going to be much luck of any kind, unless you count that we’d be lucky if none of us got off the river without pneumonia.
“Dad, we should have brought a snorkel,” Jack quipped, his darkened and damp form a few feet down from mine. His hat sagged in the rain.
Dangerous Dan, always the optimist, was rewarded for his good attitude as karma delivered him not one, but two trout on this night. Neither Jack nor I witnessed these catch-and-releases, but Dan is never one to bend the truth. “I had another one on, but he came off. I suppose he was about 12- or 13-inches.” Dan smiled; sometimes he gets under my skin that way.
Together we slogged up the river from the big hole we’d hoped would offer up our deserved rewards. Every now and then we’d stop and cast our flies about in the rain, more to take a break from fighting the weather than in the actual pursuit of trout. The skies spit at us continually. Eventually we poured ourselves onto to the road, crossed the cold gray bridge and made for the waiting truck.
We made it home alive; which is about all that can be said of this trip.
Sometimes a guy has to pay his dues — I guess. An angler must know how bad it can be in order to realize the greatness that can be had. That is what Dan says. I hope to find out next time.
Read more from Darrell Pendergrass at outtherewithdarrell.blogspot.com