Just like two weeks ago, every little bend with a pull-out on the Upper Stanislaus river was filled with a car.
I went to meet fish, not people, but ended up doing both.
Twice when I turned to the shore I was startled by the presence of a dude watching me. I started a conversation both times since they had almost certainly heard me talking not only to myself, but the fish, rocks and river. If I ignored them after conversing with inanimate objects, that would be rude.
One guy was a retired teacher who had a cabin in the area. He complimented me on my nymph-ing skills which made me laugh a little bit. He had been fishing for 40 years, and I still had to talk myself through a roll cast.
The next guy was from San Francisco and had driven his Prius up for the weekend. We traded pattern secrets but didn’t take much heed since we were both catching fish.
The last encounter was with a trio of guys that had at least nine rods between them and epitomized fly-fishing legitimacy. They could wade out into the current with no fly rod at all, simply point at a fish, then to their nets and the trout would have to obey.
One of the guys was particularly friendly either because he liked seeing a young guy interested in the sport, or felt bad since I had duct tape wader patches.
He had tied flies professionally and started handing over masterfully crafted dries, midges, and nymphs. He offered them quicker once I opened my fly box, revealing the evidence of a fly-tying neophyte.
I thanked him profusely, and continued down the river, feeling more a part of the sport than ever.
I had gone 5 for 5 on people encounters which, even when fishing, can be tough to do. There are always jerks out there who seem to hate life even when they are supposedly doing something fun.
Not Saturday. I could have quit fishing at any of those points and talked fish, gear, patterns and water over a box of Wheat Thins and jar of peanut butter for the rest of the day.
But I didn’t.
I hiked across a little meadow to an empty stretch of water with a deep sweeping run. The slow part of the current was protected by bushes that stretched a few feet over the water.
A perfect spot for trout.
Since the water was too high to cross, I snuck down river of the 20-yard pocket and surveyed my casting options.
I decided the only way to bring my nymph through that fishy water was to throw a sidearm cast up river that laid down in the 12-inch gap between the leaves and the river. I knew it wouldn’t work, but it did, and as the indicator drifted straight back at me, it bounced the disappeared and I fell in love with my life all over again.
I had just acted like someone who knew what they were doing. I read the water, stalked a trout I couldn’t see, then made a cast I had no business executing and hooked a fish. It was pretty, maybe 12 inches.
I thanked the fish for helping with my self-esteem and released it. I sent the next cast into the leaves and lost my fly.
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.