This summer I was fishing Rock Creek, in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. I came to this place during five days of camping and fishing, intent upon bringing newfound fly fishing skills to bear upon its finned population. Since those days I have been haunted by an undisclosed embarrassment.
Despite my trepidation of venturing into these waters without any certainty of christening my fly rod with its first trout, rather frequently and surprisingly I would hook a small wild brook trout. I can’t help but think that some of these trout discussed before my arrival the idea of obliging this budding fly fisher by hooking themselves. Some would just as frequently educate me on how fast a wily fish might escape a single barbless hook. Perhaps these fish apparently weren’t in on the aforementioned discussion.
My strikes were incredibly varied. Even a poor cast would draw a brookie into a mad rush under the water for my midge. Another would suck my dry fly from the surface. Yet another would timidly tap either fly without commitment.
A good many of these members of the species Salvelinus fontinalis charged upstream to investigate one or maybe both of my flies. But they would stop short of striking. Perhaps an equal number of brook trout would strike when I was not ready, or distracted, or lulled into the belief they had stopped biting.
Midway through my evening, while making a dry cast, simple laziness allowed my flies to briefly rest in the water’s surface tension. In the blink of an eye I began a backcast. As my line lifted from the water, I suddenly felt unusual tension in my pole and in a lazy arc a very small brook trout flew through the air. I swear his eyes were wide as he splashed down a few feet behind me. He disappeared in a swirl of irritation.
I fished on, without drama, catching and releasing a dozen more brook trout. I didn’t take a fish worth mentioning the rest of the day.
Rather than lament that I can’t brag about the size of my first trout on a fly, I’m content to chuckle — with some embarrassment — at my flying fish.