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Sometimes even Doug Flutie can’t help

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POSTED January 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
When up to your pelvis in a river, and the insert in your waders is bunched at the toe, its annoying. Not debilitating but something you will surely address next time you are on shore.

When it’s a metaphor for life, it’s not as simple.

That’s where I was Saturday morning when I steadied myself against the Stanislaus River current. The intent was to rid the emotional annoyances that had congregated from my psyche.

The river flow was back to fishable so I was encouraged and worked through my usual battery of nymphs until it was clear, three hours in, that drastic measures were needed. I flipped through my boxes and tied on a No. 12 Doug Flutie. Thats not a particular pattern, rather the name of the fly you choose when nothing else is working. Its when you just chuck it deep and hope a connection is made, like Doug Flutie did against Miami in 1984. You reach this sort of desperation when common sense fails to make sense or it appears the fish are tired of the same old menu, and want a Saturday morning special. New and tasty trumps logic.

But not even this Hail Mary attempt worked, so I made another pass through the old stand-bys including the Montana Special. I switched spots, went back to spots and worked the river harder than I ever had.

I ended up on a few stretches I had never waded but figured the fish had to be somewhere. By this time, my leader had been snipped short my presentations were suffering so I cut it off and replaced it. But while considering my next fly change I made a critical error. Patterns that are heavy can do a number on the delicate taper of leaders, leading to casting knots and tangles. For instance, putting a size 4 stonefly on 6x tippet can twist and tangle the leader even if you think you are doing a good job of hucking it out there. As long as the fly and leader combination is roughly similar, small adjustments like cutting a few inches off the tapered end of the tippet can prevent knots and twisting.

But in my slightly despondent state, I tied a blue copper john on to a fresh leader without shortening it.  Add in the football indicator and a long cast across a complex system of currents, within a few minutes of swinging and with the help of a particular gust of wind I had crafted a remarkably intricate pattern of loopy knots. I sat to address the 8-inch crochet job. I cut off the fly after five minutes. After five more my leader was free but my mind was back in knots.

I wanted to pout, to throw rocks, to whine. I decided not to, because I officially was due a fish. But instead of bringing in a trout, I stood up, hopped over a few rocks then fell down and put a nick in my reel.

I was more than shut out. I was skunked, further from refreshed than when I left the house. I sulked back toward my truck, blankly staring ahead, entertaining all kinds of responses to my plight. I thought about heading east into the snow, driving up highway 49 to the American River, or even up interstate 5 to the Upper Sacramento. Of course that would just cost a bunch of money in gas and I probably still wouldn’t catch any fish. I resorted to accept the day for what it was and try and find some hope in an otherwise brutal day.

I found it as I rounded the corner and saw my truck still sitting in the lot. At least my automobile had not been stolen and the tires had air.

Little things.
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