The fly lands with a light splash and quickly sinks through the off colored water, pulled down by its own weight and held down by the sink tip it is attached to. A slight upstream mend before the line tightens gives slack in the line and sends it deep into the depths. I can feel the line "hook up" as it reaches the deepest part of the swing and the line gets tight again. The line bellies out slightly and begins the familiar broadside swing of winter. I lead the fly, keeping it at the desired depth, feeling every movement in the current and how it affects my fly. I can actually feel the fly swimming and imagine what it look like under water in my minds eye. I close my eyes and see it pulsing and waving in the current, the materials collapsing and expanding as the current and line tension act upon them. I am lost in the moment, in the zone as it continues to swing through the heart of the run.....
I am in a swingers daze when the ever so slight hesitation in the line comes. After being so in tune these hesitations are felt immediately and instinct kicks in. Is it brushing over a rock? Am I hung on a log? Is it a fish? The line tightens up ever so slowly, I wait on it keeping my rod down. And then, there it is, a quick couple of short pulls indicating to me that the fish has the fly now and has turned. Its all feel. His movement and the turn on the fly signaled to me in the short pulls I felt. I leave the rod down and wait for him to flee back to his holding spot. The words of a friend echoing in my head "10 feet or ten seconds, whichever comes first!" The 10 feet comes first as he finds a new gear and realizes he's stuck peeling line of the reel like you dream about. The 10 feet turns into 30 feet and I lift the rod firmly now and give him a quick jab.
The quiet of the early morning is shattered by the sound of the
growling gears of a reel paying out line.........
The seasons they are a changing. Seems like it was just yesterday that I was throwing dry flies to free rising steelhead in 55 degree water. We now move from those free rising steelhead eating dry flies, to the slightly less active and harder to find fish found in the cool water of early winter.
The water levels can rise and fall dramatically at this time of year. Rivers go from blown out to fish-able and back in a matter of days. Each high water episode brings in a new pulse of fish. These early fish are great biters and have not seen many if any offerings on their way up river. The high water that brings these fish in allows for a river mostly devoid of people and they use this chance to gain quick access to the upper drainage's of many watersheds.
They arrive in the general vicinity of where they intend to spawn and they settle down and wait. These early winter fish are still sexually immature and will use the time, often many months before spawning, resting. Encounters with these fish are fleeting at this time of year. There can be good days and then there are multiple days without a sniff. The fish are solid and strong from their months at sea and are really a force to be reckoned with when hooked. These are really ocean creatures that have entered the relatively tame world of the river. They have the spirit of the ocean in them still and they act like it on the end of the line.
Have a safe winter season.
Tight lines and screaming reels to ya
Proverbs 4-26-Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.