If the headline got you here, great. But let’s first clear the air…
I’m not the master; I’m more of a jack of all trades and master of none.
My last trip of this trout season to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada was like many before it. It offered solitude and a stillness that can only be found in the fall.
It is possible to spend time on most moving waters here — even those that are well stocked — without any company, and my usual arrival at sunup ensures that it’s just me and the fish for a few hours.
Such was the case on one of those streams, one that also sees a small fall run of spawning browns. I hooked only one of those browns this year, a big one that, after we eyeballed each other, promptly snapped my tippet and headed back downstream. Before and after I lost him, there were plenty of raceway rainbows that were willing to play.
When the sun finally warmed up the landscape enough, four gentlemen waded into the stream downstream from me, and slowly began to work their way upstream. I gave them a welcoming wave. Eventually, they were close enough that I could hear their conversation. Phrases drifted over the water…
“Some, but that guy up there is getting five for every one of mine.” (‘That guy’ was me.)
“Wonder what he’s using?”
“It’s gotta be a nymph or something ‘cause I’m getting nothing on my Adams.”
During my few years of fly fishing I’ve learned to discern the experienced fly fisherman from those new to the sport. It was clear that despite their apparent age, two of the gentlemen had probably cast a fly rod only once before.
I can’t say whether it was the ego boost that comes with someone’s admiration of my catch rate or a more altruistic pay-it-forward attitude, but since I had long lost count of how many fish had wet my net, I offered my spot to the group. After assurances that I had caught plenty of fish, they gratefully accepted. I mentioned that black nymphs of almost any style might work, offered a bit of advice on depth, and the two more experienced guys helped the other two rig up. I think between the four of them they used four different types of indicators.
One of the gentlemen broke away to chat with me. All four gentlemen were over 70 years old. While two of them were more experienced, that experience was with bass or in Alaska, not so much in the Central Sierras. There was no bragging between us, a simple sharing of information and stories. One of their group was from South Africa and had never caught a trout. He did that morning and gave me one of the biggest smiles you might imagine.
I’d end up showing these guys where to find the fish on this stretch, explaining then showing that during a limited window — when the sun is at the proper angle on this stream — during which dry flies will get some attention.
All of us accepted each other in the common bond of fly fishing. While most fish were caught and released, there was a stringer produced and a few fish taken by one guy who was recently retired, but only after asking if we thought it okay. (He somewhat sheepishly explained that he wife had complained that through all his years of fly fishing, and all the money spent, that not once had he brought home trout for dinner.) There was no dissention, knowing that these were stocked fish that might not last through the winter.
When I left, there were smiles all around. We were friends that might have never met were it not for our shared hobby. It was a good way to end my season.