Epilogue: One More Cast

You know how sometimes (most times for me at least) you find it just a bit too difficult to leave the water? I mean, it's time to go, you know it, I know it...there's someone waiting, it's getting late, or dark, or light, or cold or hot, rainy or sunny, crowded or deserted, you're famished or thirsty, loops are getting ugly...t is for time to leave. But you can't. You're just not finished yet.

Don't quit...don't even quit.

Gotta finish out the run, or put that last decent cast/drift/swing together. Gotta get that one last rising fish in the corner to commit...or at least show him one last variation. Just one more...

Gotta end on a good note.

Never mind that your buddies are staring daggers into the back of your head from the running car or the lady is wiping your number from her phone.

Sometimes you just need one more cast.

"The Trip" still consumes me. Can't help it. Probably won't be able to do much about it until next fall. There were plenty of "one more" moments over the 9 days.

Like me hoping for a second chance while we were all hungry, tired, cold and parched after over 11 hours on the Oak. In one spot.

Or Brian fishing over the visible pod on the Catt for 8 straight hours.

Or the 3 of us doing the same on 18.

Overall, the "never-say-die" attitude we were barely able to hang onto throughout the trip.

Or that last Genny, shared by 4.

Brian's refusal to leave the fish that were "randomly" taking eggs from the 2 anglers above, but snubbing him, until 15 minutes after Joe and I reached the car.

Sometimes it's not an end-of-the-day thing, like that 2nd fish I picked up in Paradise that day...as I was getting ready to reel-in and cross.

Then there was that legitimate, mind-altering experience. The battle by which all future battles are to be measured. The catch that exemplifies the journey-over-destination mentality. My own little Brad-Pitt-in-ARRTI moment.

Nearing the end (well...after 2:30 anyway) of our big day in the Upper Fly Zone, I was exhausted and satisfied. The other two stayed up top while I began my long journey down the North bank to cross the easy water. After picking up a couple browns with them, I still had my nymphing "leader" rigged, terminating in (slightly nicked) 6lb fluoro and shot above the ESL. Figured I might as well plunk through any open water on my way down with what I had. I contemplated what had happened in April and decided I was just too tired and satisfied to worry about it. Besides, I wasn't really fishing, I was walking with a line out.

I worked my way down to the middle rapids, where a guy was drifting the first "plunge pool". I gave him a wide berth and worked my way out onto the ledges above the 2nd big drop...maybe halfway through the 100 yard plus long rapids. It's big-boulder land. The type of place you always suspect to be holding good fish, but near impossible to fish in higher water. I've put my time in here before but never so much as a tug. Starting from the rod tip, I worked out line slowly, drifting and swinging from the drop-in through the holes and channels between the rocks. A few "casts" in, at the start of the swing, with the fly no more than 15' from the tip, my rod suddenly arced directly into the water.

It was what you might call an "OH SHIT!" moment.

The studs of my boots were the only part of me under water, but one step forward and I'd likely be over my head. These huge boulders that give respite to fish are a bitch to navigate on foot and grab line never to let go at the first opportunity. Not to mention my poor worn leader or the steep banks and complete lack of soft, landing water.

What the hell was I thinking? I need a plan. Maybe I can keep her in this pool, she's frantically circling but doesn't seem too eager to run me...if I just keep the pressure d-OH HERE WE GO...

Suddenly a docile, controllable fish circling at my feet transforms into a blazing hot pissed-off she-bitch cartwheeling down the chutes 100 feet from me. I'm doing the awkward run-jump-and-stumble over and through rock and pool with my rod held comically high for fear of entanglement. She abruptly turns around and jumps back up one pool, natch, but now I'm warmed up, reactions all catlike and shit, and take the line she gives me, no prob.

We play some more give-and-take, all the while leading her downstream and to the bank as my feet slowly catch up. By the time she's ready to come in, we're just above the head of Paradise, and I've got her corralled in a tiny side-pool. Well, until she jumps over the lip and into a downed tree. Now we have a problem.

I'm lifting and jabbing my rod, trying to keep some tension on my poor leader, which is partially wrapped around a limb, while reaching for the tail and trying to hold my balance, leaning in over/under the tree, one foot on the bottom, one knee on a rock.

One headshake and she'd have been gone, but I think she pitied me at that point. I took her tail, dropped the rod, popped the hook and cradled her body for a look. She had a little bit of length and some decent heft, not too much of either, but she was my silver bullet. We were both too tired for me to dig out the camera, which would have just cheapened it anyway. Throughout the ritual glove-and-fly-rinse, I couldn't stop laughing, my knees were shaking. I was done fishing a half hour earlier. Good thing I made that one more cast.

My birthday was a week ago (Miss Hannah has always claimed I'm an old man, but apparently now it's official). After quite the birthday dinner I was laying in bed and decided to set the alarm for 3 am. If I feel like going when it goes off, I'll go. I was strung up and waiting for light by 6:30. By 8:15 I had landed a gorgeous hen. By noon I was driving back home, elated.

It's "The Holidays" now, followed by hardwater season. It's been a good year, and it seems I've finally taken my last cast for some time. Certainly the last for '09.

...well...maybe one more?


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