Our first trout was caught by Chris, using, if I recall correctly, a realistically slender damselfly nymph imitation matched with a slow, measured retrieve -- the sort of retrieve, and the sort of fly, that one would expect to take fish at this small, man-made, pay-to-play impoundment. Its fish, having been stocked half a decade before our visit, had learned the wisdom of caution when something unexpected appeared on or under the water's surface. They had felt the hooks. And these fish had seen enough anglers that they now leisurely circled the lake, mere feet from the embankment, gazing seemingly without fear at us as we waved our rods and tried to discover the flies that would open their mouths.
Which was proving an extremely difficult task. I was fishing with seven talented and experienced fly fishers -- their casts efficient, their targeting precise, a joy to watch, really. I figured the wisest tack would be to follow Chris's lead and go fine and small, using a long, light leader and a tiny . . . something. Across the course of several hours, though, I went through the contents of three fly boxes, and nothing drew a strike. My compadres were similarly baffled.
Then Victor, a handful of yards farther along the embankment, yanked his rod up, and the lake in front of him exploded with the fight of a frantic rainbow. "Black caddis, size 12!" he yelled. Twelve! Nothing like that was fluttering around the lake. We all started searching our boxes, and Victor quickly got into another trout. I had nothing black, and my caddises, all small, remained unmolested on the water. Victor hooked another fish. And another.
At the end of the evening, skunked, I walked over to where Victor was reeling up. "What were you fishing?" I asked, the frustration showing in my voice. He held out his hand. The fly was huge, maybe even a size 10, thickly bodied and heavily palmered, the sort of dry one might use on a big, choppy freestone river. An in-your-face fly, nothing devious about it. It astonished me.
And it reinforced a lesson I had learned on another impoundment years earlier, after a similarly unlikely fly, a bluegill popper, took trout after trout. When nothing is working, try the unexpected, the unfamiliar, the oddball. Things can happen in a way that our logic, our linear manner of thinking, can't always anticipate or account for. That's a reason to love this sport -- we get to believing we're top dog of the world, and then something with a brain the size of a peanut humiliates us unless we're willing to reconsider.
You know, it pays to play.
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