Well it’s another early winter morning…wait, no. It’s not. It’s 39 degrees at 9:30 am, but it’s Late June? With gusty winds and no sun, my day on the water requires full winter dressing including hot hands in the wool lined hand warmer pockets of my waders. As I pull into my launch area I find one other vehicle. Doors swung open resembling a majestic Phoenix with wings spread, its presence seems a foreshadowing of something epic. The Phoenix, with its symbolism of renewal, cyclical rebirth, and strength is a relevant symbol for all of us who long for the outcome of a vibrant, self sustaining trout fishery. But until then, at least in the New England, we have “the truck”.
Of course, only fisherfolk have such a metaphorical/emotional response to a NH Fish and Game stocking truck. To the average person, it might be mistaken for a septic truck with its ample tank. We know better. As I ready my boat and gear, I listen to the officers chatter as they dump nets of trout into the river. Now, this is not the first time I have been in this scenario. The time previous, I was already in the lake when the trout truck pulled right up to the bank and commenced shooting fish out of a water cannon in a trajectory that seemed to be ridiculously close to my boat. It was like a feverish dream, or perhaps a nightmare. I was literally sitting on top of hundreds of fish. I could see them, smell them, hear them. And do you know, I couldn’t catch a single trout! I did, somehow, manage to catch a bass in all that trouty mess. Needless to say, I left that lake dejected and having a serious feeling that I should hang up the rod. I mean, who can’t get a trout to bite in those conditions? So, long and short, while a was marveled by the perfection of timing this morning, I prepared myself for a potential total devastation of confidence.
Once on the water, I could see fish snacking in the slow current. An 88 revealed a couple of stocker sized rainbows within the first 15 minutes. As the nibbles slowed, I moved downstream to a more shallow narrowing section of river with quicker currents and subtle elevation variation. Here is where the rodeo in earnest begins. Just about every cast, these newly re-homed fish are spunky and consistent taking a swinging 88 just about every other cast.
I’m simple. The catching never bores me. No matter the size or variety. However, I will admit that my focus heightened after hooking a larger rainbow who gave me lots of smile worthy trouble on his way to my net.
The 88 doing all of the work today is one of the first I tied. My friend Art has provided me with a generous supply in the past, but he is a real fly tier and needs to focus on tying other inventories that, well, are too challenging to be fun in my opinion. So, I made a commitment to learn the 88 as a production tier for our season. This scene is essentially a quality control laboratory for my first production line and, to my disappointment, he loses his wing at around fish #30. Don’t tell Art! His 88’s last years.
An interesting aside, as these rainbows are feeding on my 88, there are 3 fishermen across the river cranking spinners. Only one trout is interested in their metal. I think this is the first time that I have been the “catching” fisherman in this equation. I’m usually the fisherman trying to manage my rising frustration as I work my tail off to get some interest as smiling folks with spinning gear pull up handfuls of fish all around me. I think that these gentlemen today might suspect that they are on Candid Camera. I mean it’s so ridiculous. Every time they glance over, there’s another fish on my line. Of course, they also don’t know the stocking truck came 2 hours earlier! After an hour an a half, they retreated to their truck to have beers and conversation about “what the hell that lady is using”, I imagine. Luck, gentlemen. She’s using the classic and under-recognized pattern of good fortune. I, Phoenix-like, have risen from the ashes and will leave the river today with my fisherwoman self-esteem intact.
Because of the wintery feel, I decided to stay upriver of the quick water and wade/paddle back up to the launch. After all, I had the gift of certainty that there were fish here. The rest of the lower river has been strangely quiet so far this season. I missed the sounds and motion of the float, but greatly enjoyed not walking the 2 miles back to the car when I finally came out of the water at 4:30. After removal of my 2 insulating layers, winter hat, wool socks, and jacket, I reached over to escalate heat to full throttle as I settle into the seat. I barely have the energy to raise my arm to wave to the Fish and Game officer who is turning in as I am turning onto the highway. Perhaps he is coming to see how his school is adjusting to their new habitat. They are safe and sound, Sir. Doing just fine. I will return home to the warmth of the inside until summer returns. It will give me time to address the poorly tied lot of 88’s that came off of my production line and, for god’s sake, avoid supplying my teacher with a fly of marginal longevity!