Some of my most exciting times on the river are not always good fishing days. Catching trout is so fun, but watching nature unfold is priceless. My old friend John and I had one such night this 4th of July weekend. Our lives crossed paths for the first time in 1961 at De Lasalle High in Detroit. After a 35 year hiatus in 1996 we met again on the river. He had spent a life as a cardiologist in Detroit, I as a hunter and fisherman in northern Michigan. Now however, it was time for fly fishing.
We both enjoy late afternoons chasing Brook Trout, but like children, you don't know when to quit and sometimes linger to long on a river into the dark of the night. We caught about a dozen trout, and missed a few whoppers. The dark was settling in, but with the infamous statement, "One More hole", we crossed over a beaver dam into a long deep stretch of calm water.
Reading X-rays is his job, reading water is my job. The river had begun to turn silver, it reflected the bright sky as the night began to fall. An unusual surface feeding was taking place, not the slash or porpoise feed of the Brook Trout, but the smudging and slurps of the Brown Trout. Why, I thought, are these Browns feeding in numbers? Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a giant spent Mayfly floating by. It had a 3 inch wing span. It was big as a butterfly. "John", I said, it's a Hexagenia Limbata spinner fall.
We were ill prepared, no light and two senior citizens that can't tie a fly on in the fading light of the day. I had on a Royal Trude which was the wrong fly. John had a mayfly, brown body, white para, size 12. It would be on the smaller edge of the hex profile but it might work. He cast it out a mere 20 feet. The Brown came from the undercut bank and took the fly. Like the experienced Brook Trout fisherman he is , he immediately set the hook. The line went taut, the rod bent 45 degrees...suddenly the fly, like something on a stretched out rubber band, came shooting at us. The fly flew over our head into the brush.
A quick scramble to re-lock and load. John cast again, "Slurp", he's on again! The Brown Trout held his position, we held ours. Dang...again the fly shot back over our heads into the trees. This time when we retrieved the fly. It looked like someone's spaghetti dinner. It was a knotted mess. With my steamed up glasses, I was no help. He gave it a try struggling with the knots while I watched several Browns feeding on hexes. In his frustration to re-tie, he was laughing and swearing, something he learned from me. We were out of business. It was too dark. The 30 yards of thick, pitch black undergrowth along the river would have to be traversed to reach the two-track road out to our car. Down on our hands and knees, fumbling in the dark, I turned and whispered to him, "next time we should hire a good guide ".
Laugh and swear, it was a fun night.
Sweet Is The Lore That Nature Brings