A recent weekend presented the opportunity to get out and swing some flies. The much talked about arctic vortex and the recent drop in the rivers’ flow encrusted the edges of the lower river with shelf ice. This shelf ice, combined with the anchor ice clinging to the high spots on the river’s bottom, compressed the available swinging water into uncomfortably small pools and slots. Not good for us plying the waters with spey rods. As noon approached, we pulled the plug on fishing this section of river. We headed upstream with hopes of finding some fishable water.
To our frustration, every spot we wanted to swing was occupied. To add to our frustration, when one typically good run opened up, the water flow had moved the bucket upriver. The desired spot was already being worked over by four pinners. Up to this point in the day we hadn’t made any casts at reasonable swinging water.
Since my introduction to spey fishing 6 or 7 years ago, my sense of what makes good swinging water has evolved. In the days when I used to probe the river with a nymph the river currents transformed themselves from a blank slate to a mosaic of meaning and memories. Now with the two handed rod, the mosaic has shrunk as many lies just don’t lend themselves to the ancient art of the swung fly. We kept on walking.
On tired feet, we finally came upon some decent water. After three rotations through this stretch, the run directly downstream that I had been eyeI made a beeline for a run I hadn’t fished in a number of years, one which held fond memories.
As I stepped in at the top of the pool, I continued my day-long meditation of firing lasers of line across the currents and watching my leader straighten out into the diminishing daylight. The swing was heaven, perfect speed every time without any interruptions all the way through to the end of the dangle. I was in the “zone” and feeling every second of every cast.
My awareness of the “zone” of the swing has evolved over the years from one of beginner’s mind to that of keen awareness of the speed of my swing. When I am in that zone, I can interpret what I feel in my hand and envision a three dimensional picture my fly swimming through the pool’s features as revealed by its currents.
Stepping and casting, stepping and casting for hours on end creates a rhythmic cadence, lulling me into an altered stated of consciousness. Deep into this peaceful meditation, suddenly I find myself feeling four slow-motion head shakes in my hand. My rod is forcibly swept low towards the nearby bank sinking the hook into the fish. As the battle wages on, excitement begins to well up within me as I anxiously wait to see the long sought quarry. I feel the line slide over the fishes back and suddenly slack. I am momentarily taken aback as I realize the fish is gone.
In my younger days, losing a fish pissed me off and left me feeling empty. This day, however, I wear a smile. Getting a fish to intentionally take my fly in thirty-two degree water tickles me to the core, each and every time.