Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bill Dancin'

When the winter chill sets in, the average fisherman looks ahead to the warmer weather with thoughts of dancing mayflies and rising trout. It is also a time for reflection, thinking about times on the river in the past, learning from them, and applying those lessons towards future experiences. Lately, I have been replaying some of the more memorable moments from the past year or so. In the coming weeks, I will periodically post a story from the past year that I think you may enjoy.

It was hot! I mean sticky hot. The kind of hot where your shirt, pants, and socks feel like they are glued to you. Larry was in the front of the boat as we cruised down the Au Sable waiting for the sun to set. We were after the big bugs, the condor-like Hexagenia limbata. When he caught another small trout, Larry said "I can't wait for it to get dark man." I replied slowly "we have to get where we wanna be first." I started paddling to our spot as night befell us.

On a hot day in mid to late June, there is almost certainly hex flies somewhere on either or both the Au Sable or Manistee river systems. In this case, a hot day had turned into a hot evening. As dusk came on quickly Larry and I arrived at the spot. We were slightly upstream of a bank that both him and I knew held some super trout. Dusk came and went, and I was beginning to second guess my decision to fish this stretch of river. Then, a slight humming could be heard in the distance. I thought that it was surely some of the masses of mosquitos that inhabit the swamps that surround the river. As the humming got closer (and louder), I soon realized that it was not humming I was hearing, but thousands upon thousands of hex flies performing a fatal flight called a "spinner fall." This is the end of their life. As they always do, small fish started feeding first, with the big fish starting slowly after. Gluttenly, big brown trout started slurping down the bugs all around us. As I moved into position, Larry turned on his light and was promptly swarmed by hex. When I saw this I laughed, because I knew we were in for a hell of a night.

Larry landed three fish legitimately over 20 inches that night, but one in particular stood out. To be frank, Larry is a good fisherman, and he showed it that night. After landing one beauty and pricking or hooking a few others, Larry and I heard a beast feeding on the other side of a log. In my head, I had a hunch that this trout had positioned himself in a back eddy and was picking off mayfly after mayfly. My plan of attack was to position the boat as close to the log as possible, and to have Larry "dap," the fish by holding his rod out and letting the line hang below the rod tip. As I moved the boat into position, I mentioned to Larry "better try to yank that thing over the log when you hook it," knowing in the back of my mind that such a proposition is easier said than done. Larry put his first cast on the fish. Nothing. Second cast, the fish loudly gulped his fly under and, as I sat watching, Larry yanked a 23" brown trout over the log that seperated where the trout formerly was and the boat. Breathing a sigh of relief as the fish exited the vicinity of the log jam, both of us were soon letting out a howl as I scooped the fish in the net.

As we left the river that night, both Larry and I knew that while each of us would (and did) see bigger fish later in the year, it would be hard to top the experience we had on that warm June night. That night will forever be known as the night that Larry "Bill Danced," a trout out of the woodwork.

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