Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcome Home!

    I had a ball in Vermont.  I caught trout, lost trout (big ones!), caught tons of smallies and perch, and floated some beautiful rivers.  But no matter how much fun I had in those foreign waters, there is still no feeling that compares to setting foot back in your home stream and producing--just like you knew you could.  I experienced this feeling dramatically just the other day.
    I got home at 4:00 on the last day of the week that I had the opportunity to fish--with no homework.  I was ready to go by 4:15.  My mother however, couldn't be reached on her phone till around 6:00.  This inconvenience greatly reduced my fishing window.
    The car pulled in the driveway at 6:15, and fifteen minutes later I was power-walking through a riverbottom that had grown up a lot since my last trip.  I was wetting my feet by 6:20.
    The sky was sunny and clear, and the temperature was in the mid-eighties.  The sun reflecting off of the water revealed a potent presence of damselflies and other terrestrials.  The graphs I'd studied all week indicated that the water was slightly below seasonal average, but you wouldn't know it, because the seasonal average was significantly higher than in the prior months.  Grass now filled the river bottom in the slow sections, but now that was helpful in eliminating water--I didn't have much time.
    I assembled my four-piece fly rod and tied on a new hopper pattern.  I slipped into the water.
    The first few minutes were slow, but I caught two hefty bluegill, sharpening my reflexes, which I needed for the long casts I had to make.  The next fish surprised me, an aggressive take was coupled with my hook-set almost instantly, and another scrappy 'gill fell to the hopper.  I was focused.
    On the next consecutive cast, I added a sideways flick and stopped the shooting line abruptly to hook the fly upstream around a hanging vine.  The hopper hung, stationary, for several seconds.  I stripped line and started the drift.  The hopper struggled down the riffle five feet or so, and was slurped down subtly.  I set the hook hard.
    As it turns out, it was a good thing I set the hook as hard as I did, because instantly, the long, green torpedo swung my rod downstream and surged.  The stripped line was on the reel in seconds, and the little three weight doubled.  The strong Smallie was flanking me when he turned and swung around me back to where he was hooked.
    My vision was second best that night, for I had no sunglasses, and the evening sun on the water was a severe handicap.  I did manage to make out a small log in about two feet of water that the fish was headed towards.  He managed to get the fly line under the log before I could react, and as soon as he was on the other side, he headed for the sky.  I prevented the jump, sticking the rod tip in the water, and quickly horsed the Smallmouth away from the log.
    He was getting tired now, as was I, and he headed towards where I entered the water.  This was a mistake on his part, for the current twists and turns here, giving me the advantage.  Pressure mounted on the light rod as I pulled him over the head of the run and towards my hands.  He was mine--all twenty inches of him.
    I lipped him at my first chance, and popped the hopper out of the top of his mouth--a perfect hook set.  I snapped some pics of the magnificent creature and released him.  He may not have been massive, but at twenty inches, he was the biggest Smallmouth of my career.
    Slopping back on shore, I pulled out my phone, it was hardly 7:00.  I phoned home and said I'd be back in half an hour.  What a night!

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