The fact is I’ve recently been carting people around to chase smaller counts of potentially much larger fish. I’m certainly not discriminating against 30+ fish days, it’s just that while wandering around a bend this weekend a colleague and I witnessed something that seemed like so much of the distant past:
The river was a state designated ‘gold medal water’, meaning there were likely to be big wild trout around, and yet the pair of anglers in front of us were frantically chasing juveniles feeding in a foamy backswirl using single nymph rigs. One of them had just hooked up, and was now standing before us with a six-inch trout suspended in mid-air from the tippet. Their partner noted that was their sixth fish like it, and they’d only been out for a few hours. They were downright giddy. As we walked away, my buddy turned to me and said “I hope I never see that again.” We’d been ‘struggling’ for almost five hours, and only had a few fish each. But nothing had hit the net that was under a couple of pounds, meaning our quarry would probably be eating theirs by nightfall.
I was glad those folks were having fun, but so were we. Their consistence was our persistence. While they sat in that hole, we were stalking the banks. Each time they adjusted their indicator or split shot for drift speed and depth, we were changing big flies hoping to find the color of the moment.
I’m not sure how my 3-weight (or for that matter my 5-weight) feels about this, but I’m sold on the idea of fishing solely for trophies. Each weekend I find it harder and harder to string up a floating line and a thin tippet. I find myself walking more and casting less – seeking out only the prime holding areas and then engaging in a match of wits. Toying with rigs – heavier, faster rods, short, stiff leaders, and flies that would choke many of the fish I was catching just last year – and enjoying the puzzled looks on the traditionalists around me that scream “what the hell is that guy doing?!”. I’m noticing the presence of more wildlife (besides fish) around – I’ve bumped into muskrats, badgers, buffalo, and hawks in just the last week. I also witnessed a respectably-sized fish follow a colleague’s fly to within feet of us, stop short and meander right in our slipstream – I tossed another fly right in front of its face which it immediately began pursuing, and then moments later the trout wound up chomping on a small crayfish that happened to pass between it and the dangerous, artificial meal I was offering. It was a fantastic minute to behold.
I no longer mind being “empty-handed.” When my friends hook up while I don’t, I’m just as ecstatic netting their catch and catching their picture – things that rarely happen when chasing the little guys. Call it the zen of fly fishing, or simple quality versus quantity – nonetheless I’m finding myself in a different place each outing despite having fished the same venues many times before.
Is the prospect of seeing a trout the likes of which I’ve never seen before driving me, or does waking up in the morning to the idea of finding a small file I can use to de-barb my flies streamside mean I need to seek professional help?
I can’t shake the feeling that less is really more when it comes to fly fishing, and I’m wondering how many others feel the same way.