Everything pointed to the day being wrong. The skies were gray and cloudy, threatening rain, with a steady east wind that harbored ill feelings toward fisherman. The temperature was in the mid-60’s but felt colder because of the clammy breeze.
On the eighth day of my vacation, the weather gave every possible excuse to stay home and be productive. However, I had made great headway on the to-do list and my kids had reached critical mass of summer vacation boredom. About 4:15 p.m. my last nerve snapped so I went fishing.
As a firm believer in the idea east winds portends terrible angling, I had no hopes for the day aside from spending a few quiet hours by myself without constant demands for gas money or permission to begin some messy project.
I arrived at the creek already feeling better. Even if the fish weren’t cooperative, I could feel an improved mood arriving like a clear dawn after a night of thunderstorms.
The water looked low and clear, like sheer green silk in the flat afternoon light. I assembled my rod and gear slowly, savoring the temporary freedom while listening to the end of a favorite blues tape. It began to mist as I tied on a black size 10 wooly bugger fly and zipped my rain parka. I lumbered toward the sandy creek bank, clumsy in my cumbersome rubber chest waders.
I eased into the current and shuffled up to the first riffle. The initial cast wasn’t a thing of beauty as I hooked a maple tree on the backcast. I gave up and moved upstream to a favorite pool just above another small rapid.
Two dozen casts later, it seemed my prophecy of lousy fishing was coming close to fulfillment. I sighed, resigning myself to an afternoon of casting with nothing to show for the effort. A nice cast unfolded into a round eddy framed by water willow.
“Why am I even doing this?” I asked myself sullenly as a small gray bird flitted overhead despite the growing mist. Turning back to my floating green line, I absently wondered why the leader was heading into the current at such a rapid pace.
“Hey!” I said out loud, startling myself into setting the hook. A streamlined green shape exploded from the pool, a solid pound of coppery fury, angry at the sudden pain in his jaw and mysterious pressure kept him running in circles. He dove toward a rock then yielded to the pressure and jumped again.
Eventually, the bass grew weary and came to my hand. I carefully cupped him and gently pulled the fly free. He paused for a moment then flipped his tail and drove toward a nearby rock pile. I could see him, circling, trying to get his bearings. A second later he was gone.
“A mere fluke,” I thought cynically. It was a pleasant diversion but I ruefully congratulated myself on having already caught the only fish of the day. The next cast was uneventful but the next stopped in mid-retrieve and began moving sideways at an alarming speed. Still unbelieving but more alert, I set the hook.
This fish was considerably bigger than the first. I could see mud clouds raised by a powerful tail as it streaked across the pool, trying to find something to cut the wispy tippet. It headed momentarily for deeper water and sulked for an instant, then cut back across the creek and ran downstream. All the while I performed the angler’s traditional give-and-take while the world shrank to revolve around a single smallmouth bass in Indiana.
Several minutes later there was a flash of bronze as the fish rolled over. It was not yet done but the tide had turned and it became my captive instead of opponent.
The three-pound fish eventually submitted to my demands and reluctantly drew near. Easing out the black fly from its lip, I held the fish upright in the water for a moment until it recovered and swam away in a dignified fashion.
Those fish proved to be merely the opener. The smallmouth tally stopped at an even dozen and more than twice this number of chunky rock bass tore into the rapidly disintegrating fly. Sadly, in the middle of the excitement as the fish were biting like piranha, I was forced to leave to attend to a family commitment. Darn families…
In the end, the day holding no promise had become perhaps the best two hours I’ve ever spent with a fly rod on Hoosier water. The creek had once again reminded me no matter how much you think you know about fishing, you’re probably mistaken.
Once in a while, it’s nice to be wrong.