A slate gray light filtered through the drapes into the room. As my eyes opened, I smiled. Bright skies and oppressive heat would have some time off this morning. Evening thunderstorms lingered, leaving a soft drizzle and a low-lying fog as its morning remnants. This morning would be a good morning to fish.  

Inspired by recent podcasts and tips from friends, I decided to use terrestrials, specifically ant and beetle patterns on a familiar reach of a nearby stream. Navigating an eroding, washed out entrance, I parked in the gravel lot near the trailhead. The empty parking lot was my second angling bright spot of the day. I followed the light rain as I drove and as I rigged my rod, the precipitation faded. 

I walked down the road from the lot toward the bridge with the intention to work my way upstream toward the trail. A great blue heron greeted me as I stepped through the rhododendron into the river. It did not seem happy to see me. The majestic hunter bowed its head and took a drink from the water. One last drink, then like an angry angler who had just been high holed, it huffed and took flight downstream. Making friends already, I felt guilty for forcing the heron from its hunting grounds.  

Checking my pockets, I realized I left my cell phone in my truck. Typically, I use the camera of my phone to track fish caught, and to document water conditions and inspiring settings. After a brief internal debate, I decided to not retrieve the phone, with the hope that fate would grant me the blessing of catching a personal best trout since I lacked the ability to document the catch. Laziness also factored into the decision, as another fifteen minutes of walking would take time from being on the river. I also committed to be more observant and mindful than normal, without the crutch of a camera or clock. 

I moved upstream from the heron’s perch and began to prospect in riffles and shallow runs. I took it as a promising sign that my fourth cast fell nicely in a seam adjacent to several submerged boulders. The drift was true and induced a strike from a beautiful brown trout. With either a late refusal or an early hook set, the connection was not made. I missed the fish, but gained helpful information on feeding lies of active fish. 

With some trepidation, I moved slowly upstream through the hazy fog. In the early morning with clouded skies, the river scene felt dreamlike, with the sensation that an unknown creature, real or fantastical, may suddenly emerge to change my state from dream to nightmare. I managed to stir several trout from their cover while keeping my imagination in check. Whether it was a wandering mind or not quite awake hand eye coordination, I was flubbing my chances.  

Around the first bend, I reached a steep, boulder cascade riffle that pushed flow into a deeper, “trout” green run. My second cast found the main seam of flow from between two protruding boulders. As the fly passed the boulder chute and entered the deeper, darker water, a gold-bodied trout rose and with a fearless commitment, it engulfed the fly and turned to find its hiding place. I lifted the rod and set the hook. With a strong tug and several jumps, the fish did its best to continue its ferocity until it reached the net.

Three casts later, I hooked and landed an equally beautiful 8-inch brown trout from similar water. Moments later, just upstream from the cascade, I cast along a fallen, submerged log. Within an inch of crossing over the log, a small rainbow trout surprised me with an aggressive take of the fly. 

My success led to a short period of hubris where I was forcing longer casts and producing poor drifts, tangled lines, and lost flies. After struggling and losing my favorite parachute ant fly, I knew I had to settle down. A few deep breaths and some reflective time observing the beautiful rhododendrons, hemlocks, red oaks, and tulip poplars helped me to regain my focus. 

Voices on the trail above me interrupted my solitude and I guessed it was late morning, when hikers or tubers would be joining me on the river. With a promising run ahead of me, I decided a few more casts wouldn’t hurt. Another willing rainbow trout was fooled by the ant. I thought back to my interruption of the blue heron and realized now maybe it was my time to give way to others and fly off. Without catching the largest fish of my life, I left after catching the rainbow. Leaving on a catch, like a walk-off home run, helps me to carry the success and lessons learned from my time on the water.

Keep Mending… 

3 Replies to “Ending on a Caught Fish”

  1. The blue heron always seems beautiful and majestic. “ Around the first bend, I reached a steep, boulder cascade riffle that pushed flow into a deeper, “trout” green run.”
    ….what a lovely word picture!

  2. Great blog Scott – your writing really makes one feel like you are there – always enjoy reading these as I start the week!

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