By: John O’ Bryan

 This is a cautionary tale about a river, a fish, and a fly.

There are times when I look at a stretch of river and know exactly where I’m going to catch a fish.  Of course, I have been wrong countless times and been zeroed in on a beautiful sweep of the river that I was sure held fish.  Maybe I’m just making an educated guess and being confident in the fly I was going to cast, which is important, but when you fish long enough sometimes you just know where the fish will be.  This was one of those times.

I was on the last day of a three-day fishing trip and I was tired and ready to be home.   Even though we had planned to camp together, at the last-minute Dream Crusher had to cancel because her mother needed some help with something or another.  This made the trip barely tolerable.  I like to fish, but I really like to fish with Dream Crusher.  Life is just better when she’s around even if she’s just reading a book or questioning why we have to let the fish go once we catch them.   She has never understood catch and release. I tell her it’s like dating in high school, which makes sense to me, but usually gets me a dirty look.  Ours is a totally codependent relationship where I can’t live without her and she tolerates me.  I’m happy with the arrangement and consider her tolerance a sign of her undying love.  It works, at least in my mind.  

I pulled onto the road, my pop-up camper in tow and about ten minutes out of camp found the most beautiful stretch of river on the South Fork of the Clearwater.  It won’t hurt to just fish for another half hour, I thought as I pulled Over to the side of the road.  I grabbed my rod and made my way down the steep embankment.  I would wet wade if I had to.  

I made my way from boulder to boulder until I stood above the river on a rocky outcropping some five feet above a beautiful fifteen foot run and even though I couldn’t see it I was sure there was a large fish hiding in the depths just behind the big rock   I stripped about twenty feet of line and dropped the fly in the water just above the rock so it would float into the good water.   The Purple Haze moved its way down the swift water and into the pool.  As soon as it slowed a huge fish rose violently to the fly, turned and ran off with it.  I lifted the rod, setting the hook and when I did the fish jumped high out of the water…  and then it was over and I was left with the fly twirling in the wind at the end of my rod tip.  I flipped it back into the water and let it float through again, but he was gone.  

I moved ten feet upriver and tried again.  As the fly made its way through another beautiful pool, I had the same result.   Another beautiful fish took the fly and once again I lifted my rod and the fly came shooting out of the water straight back at me.  I ducked and it swung in an arc and back into the water.  Not being the brightest tool in the shed I moved another few feet and cast again… and got the same result.

Many of you will know exactly why this was happening, but apparently, my momma did raise a fool, because it took me three tries to figure out that something had to be wrong with my setup.  I had lost three beautiful fish and created for myself a ton of frustration before I figured out that fishing with this particular fly was absolutely pointless.

This sport will humble you often and almost every time I stand in a river with a fly rod, I learn something new.   Today’s lesson was: When you lose a fish that you shouldn’t have lost stop and check your fly – the one on the end of your fly line I mean.  Checking your other fly at other times is probably a good idea, but I’ll let you figure out when and where to check that one on your own.

Bio: I am a husband, father, grandfather, photographer, and fisherman… in that order. I grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and Fall River Mills, California which is arguably two of the fishiest places in the world. I currently live in Northern, Idaho where I chase steelhead on the Clearwater and the Snake and trout on St. Joe and Kelly Creek.

One thought on “Pointless

  1. Ha! I’ve done this a few times myself and I have learned to check my “fly” (both of them) regularly!

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