Sunday, May 24, 2020

Into the Mystic

Let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic...

On the verge of deep sleep, a distant rumbling cut through the nightly chorus and stirred me out of my stupor. I peered out of my hammock and into the upriver void. The approaching sound of civilization reminded me that I wasn't alone and that my location was still connected to its industrial past. As the train rounded the bend, its lights cut through darkness and fog. Each passing tree creating a flickering effect, like a strobe, that reflected off the water and into my rain fly. I laid transfixed on the light making its way through the gorge as it illuminated the journey ahead. 

The image stoned me to my soul. 


It rained throughout the night. Parked in the middle of the river, my makeshift rainfly kept me dry but also served as a party spot for the mosquitos. The morning was overcast and foggy with the rim of the gorge resembling the Misty Mountains from Lord of the Rings. When I got into my waders and took the rainfly down, it started to rain. It didn't stop until almost 7 p.m. Compared to the sunny conditions the past few days, I welcomed the weather, and promptly grabbed my streamer rod. 

It was a day of windows, as it always is on this river. The whole morning had me shaking my head at the general lack of action in what I knew were prime conditions. I caught some little browns and smallmouth bass and even moved a large non-committal specimen. I explored some tributaries and posed for some selfies when the rain died down. I floated long stretches and didn't even pick up the rod. It took until the afternoon for things to turn on and when it did, the fishing was ridiculous. I lost way more fish than I landed but was content with the steady adrenaline rushes. In one hole, I went 2 for 7. I blame the lack of a proper hook file and my stubbornness at changing flies. I'll never forget the aggressiveness of the takes or the gator rolling of one fish that used a boulder field to its advantage. The images are permanently seared into my memory. 

At that point, I was soaked. Old rain jackets, no matter their quality, can't stop a half day of hard rain. Then, it decided to rain even more. I floated on and into the mystic.The end of the day came quick. The conditions made the light fade an hour before normal. I thought it would create an extended hatch window but the soaking dampened the march browns and sulphurs. Nonetheless, I positioned myself in the fog on one of my favorite pieces of water. 

Near dark, two large browns began rising inches off the bank on a bubble line. The day's rain was dripping off the riparian buffer along the edge. The rise forms of the two browns were difficult to make out, but I knew my eyes were not deceiving me. Ideally positioned, they humbled my meager offerings. As their rises intensified, the chances tilted in my favor. There was still enough light to make out the first brown's take. Heavily spotted with large fins, the fish was as beautiful as the surroundings. I didn't see the second brown eat. The fog and darkness had me relying on muscle memory and an innate ability to judge distance. I lifted to make another cast and he was on. Fortuitous. We tangoed in the darkness before I slid the net underneath the hook jawed male. I admired the brown in my live well and slid him back into his lair. 

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