In the Net
Of the fish we catch, which ones do we remember, and why? Iíve been lucky enough to have brought many to hand, but when I recently tallied up the trout that stick in my mind (and, as I grow older, donít want to forget ó the purpose of this exercise), the list totaled a mere nine.
What made them memorable was either the circumstances under which I caught them or their behavior. Yes, two ó big, heavy browns ó might be considered trophies, but why I remember them was because I was dredging a Spruce Fly, a streamer now pretty much vanished from fly shops. And the first fish on my list is, of course, also the first I caught on a fly, a rainbow hooked on Coffee Creek with hand-me-down gear from my granddad.
Three others were also caught from creeks. All were large for their waters, and two required careful positioning and wouldíve spooked if the first cast hadnít been spot on. This tactical problem-solving made them noteworthy for me. The third involved considerable bushwhacking, so when a (relatively) big rainbow smacked the nymph on its drift through a granite slot, the hookup was reward for the effort to fish where no one else would go.
The final three trout remain in mind because they acted in unexpected ways. One large fish in a heavily pressured river took a nymph and then made seven almost desultory leaps that couldíve been timed to the rhythm of a metronome. A mackinaw, the only one Iíve caught on a fly, surprised me with its total lack of fight. And, perhaps the fish I recall most fondly, a feisty and perfectly formed rainbow, took a bluegill popper retrieved along the face of dam.
The fish we land always leave our hand. What remains are the stories, memories, and the experiences they entail, a sense of event, of place, of companionship or solitude. These are what we creel, and their value only grows over time.
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