At about two on Sunday afternoon I was writing the ‘skunked’ column in my frantic, frazzled head. The previous day, the sky was spitting rain and blowing my roll casts back in my face. But I caught fish. It was new water, and until it started raining, there were other fishermen in good spots, but I still caught fish. So it would make sense that the very next day, with hours of experience under my wading belt and conditions more conducive to accurate casts that I would get into fish.
Not the case.
Hungry trout were taking bugs off the water every couple seconds but they ignored whatever I threw. I went to stand-by nymph patterns since 80-percent of what trout eat is consumed sub-surface. I caught nothing. I started talking to myself and at one point when my fly got stuck in a bush on the bank, I had to sit down, finish my coffee and get some perspective.
I looked blankly at the water, got up, and started walking back to the bridge to cross the river. Halfway over the bridge I started to get that perspective.
I was about to lose my mind while fishing. It sounds stupid, I know, but anyone who has gone frost-bitten nose to frost-bitten nose with an older sibling or played competitive sports then needed to find an outlet for the quest to conquer, understands what 16-inch trout that won’t bite can do to a man.
In moments like these you really wonder why it is that you put yourself in such situations. Why not just go to the familiar Stanislaus and catch your dozens of trout in the same holes choked with slimy rainbows and come back successful, even if not challenged. Why feel the pang of inadequacy? Why subject yourself to the chance of unneeded or potential failure?
I didn’t know. I philosophized that exploring calculated doses of discomfort led me to Arizona, then California and to be okay with getting pithy rejections from fishing magazines. That whole drive thing had enabled me to carve out a decent life, it was just one of my flaws, impatience, that was ruining my day.
I then noticed how great the river looked. It didn’t feel California. I felt a little like I was in Colorado, crossing the South Platte River on my way to my grandparents’ place in Greeley.
As I walked through the grassy meadow on the other side of the river, I felt a little stupid, but not for getting out-smarted by fish.
A couple buddies of mine are really going through it right now. Real stuff. Here I was stressing trout and a hit to my ego. Stupid.
I stopped the ‘skunked’ column, stepped slowly and relaxed into the water then proceeded to catch a handful of trout on a No. 12 Cahill. The only thing I could figure that changed was my attitude. Most times that’s enough.
The skunked column will have to wait.
See column at: