Last week I published “Gone Fishing: Skunk.” For those of you who have been following Casting Across for a few months, you might be aware that I post the Gone Fishing series from time to time. If you are uninitiated, these posts are photographs only. No words. No trademark wit. No wading through obtuse vocabulary.
And if I’m honest, these go up when I’m fishing and too busy to put together anything truly substantive. But art, right?
So came “Skunk.” I had a last-minute hall pass up on some spring creeks in southcentral PA. It was my first time back on these waters since my grand return to Northern Virginia, and I was ready to knock them dead. (Not really, all the creeks are catch and release.) On one hand, I was looking forward to sharing this trip down the ‘ol nostalgia river. On the other hand, I was happy to be fishing and decided I’d take the easy route by just throwing some pictures up for my Wednesday post.
Oh how we can speak of the best laid plans of wooly buggers and men…
So to start off the day I got stuck behind someone ordering two pepperoni pizzas at Sheetz. At 5:00am. Just go ahead and pick a problem with that situation. The MTO staff was frazzled. There was a customer that couldn’t figure out how to wait, and was laying his ‘tude on thicker than that early morning mozzarella. I finally left, Shmiscuit in hand, and ready to drive up to PA.
I did see four people fishing off a bridge over the Potomac with deep sea gear. They were fishing in about six feet of water. 50 feet up. That wasn’t really a frustration, but more of a weird omen.
A few hours later I showed up on the stream, and it was amazing. The water was more or less the same as I remember it. It looked healthier. I know that TU and some local folks have been doing some significant work to improve habitat, and I could tell. I spooked a few small trout, which was simultaneously disappointing and reassuring. I missed a hookset on a decent brown and told myself “you’ll get the next one!”
I’ll cut to the chase: there was no next one.
No one wants to write about a morning of fishing failures, but I’ll give one situation that presents an adequate picture of the day. A microcosm of angling mishaps, if you will.
Hopper season is upon us. There are few “slam dunks” in fly fishing, but being able to loudly throw a big fly to waiting trout is about as close as one can get. These clumsy, plump, little orthopterans filled the streambanks where the creek flowed through sunny meadows. I wisely(?) tied on an imitation of appropriate color and size and approached the water.
Again, the location featured a spring creek meandering through a field. The shoulder-height riparian weeds extended about ten yards from the bank. This is great for habitat and the integrity of the river’s edge, but presents a bit of a challenge when it comes to casting.
The logical next step is to creep through the brush to get in better position. Although I have little to no inclination to eat a grasshopper, they don’t know that. Flinging themselves with reckless abandon, the little insects would fly off in any and every direction as I made contact with the tall grasses. Ironically, many hit me about the head and face in their attempts to escape. More ironically, and more infuriatingly, many landed in the creek.
Where trout proceeded to eat them.
“Ah, confirmation in your tactics!” you might say. In principle, yes. But there were a number of factors conspiring against the situation being a net positive.
The spring creek, while healthy and a great little fishery, is diminutive in the headwater stretch where I was walking. Consequently, the population is made up of smallish browns. Two or three grasshoppers puts them under the table, so to speak. I’d make my approach, and there would be a boiling in the water as dozens of hapless hoppers got gobbled up by opportunistic trout. Then… nothing.
There is no lesson to be learned, no sage advice to be dispensed. I was more than happy to get a half-day worth of fishing in, and it felt great to be back on “home water.” But at the end of the day sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, the bear eats you.
And this time the bear was a ten-inch fish eating real grasshoppers.