Fly fishing for some can be a performance art, heck, we’ve all been guilty of smugly false casting one too many times in front of onlookers. One summer day in the Smokies I got hung up in a bush before a puzzled group of hikers. After a few choice swear words and allowing an audience to witness my fall from grace, I realized that the fish didn’t care who was watching. Since then I’ve kept my casting to a minimum.
I ventured out Wednesday morning before the rains came and found some bright fish amidst the snow-covered logjams upstream of Masemore. They were taking zonkers on a dead drift through the deep water and I missed as many as I caught. It was easy enough to blame my misses on my numb hands and being relaxed and alone on the river with my dog, Ella. Except for the incessant whining, I hardly knew that she was there. She eventually settled down and went to work on a stick buried in the riverbank as I listened to the snow promise water and the great fishing that accompanies it in the Spring.
As I finished up, I ran into Dave as he was trying to warm up after fishing the college pool stretch below the bridge. We caught up on how much the river had changed during “the year of water,” and spoke of the year as if it had already passed; recounting fish we had caught and missed, comparing notes that pointed to bigger and healthier fish in the river, and agreeing that we saw fewer folks fishing during the high water. Dave mentioned, in passing, that he had just turned 90 two weeks ago.
After wishing him a belated happy birthday, I jumped in my car, fired it up, pulled out, and figured I’d put my gloves back on before I got cooking. I stopped the car before the Mill, opened the rear hatch, and noticed Deans’ bamboo rod on the roof of my wagon. Dean Turner of Monkton, Maryland built it for me almost a year ago and since he spent more time building it than I have spent fishing it, I still refer to the rod as his.
Without saying a word, I put my gloves on, glanced around to see if anyone had noticed, and while gingerly lifting the rod off the roof and quietly placing it in the car, I hoped that I’d still be doing this when I’m 90.
Note: The day after I went fishing, the river hit a new recorded high on Thursday of nearly 2000 CFs. See the pictures at The Fly Fishing Show in College Park, Maryland on January 10 and 11.