Home waters

Home waters

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 6 November 2018

After an enjoyable yet confounding trout trip, getting back into my comfort zone brought on a great sense of relief and satisfaction. To add to my amusement I was enjoined by an old friend who just happens to be a dedicated and accomplished trout angler. We have fished together for decades, most often casting flies from a canoe into far-off-the-beaten-path waters deep in the Everglades backcountry.
When we are not fishing we are about as opposite as two people can be. He is a business owner and an outspoken right-wing fan of politics. I am a left-leaning scientist who prefers to keep my political opinions to myself. Yet, we have found common ground that has flyfishing at the center.

The truth is, we need each other, we both realize it, and we are willing to put up with each other because of that fact. This type of backcountry fishing we enjoy has some rough edges and can be a bit more uncomfortable than the usual day on the water, not to mention potentially unhealthy. We have learned to adapt. It is also physically challenging, and neither of us is getting any younger. The last hurricane didn’t make traveling the tightly twisted creeks any easier, that is for sure.

So, I put up with his incessant biased yapping when I would much rather listen to the lyrical flocks of herons and egrets squabbling in the unseen distant shallows. He, in turn, puts up with me spanking him about 4 to 1, as at least on this trip, as I brought these eager snook and tarpon to the canoe almost at will.

Rember that I noted above that he is an avid and accomplished trout angler? He has an ingrained habit of attempting to set the hook by lifting the rod. No matter how much I ridiculed him, his unconscious reflex was to “trout set”, which is almost guaranteed to fail on these hard-mouth species we have down here. Even threatening to refer to him as “TS” from now on could not wean him from his frustrating unconscious flaw.

Now, I am not bringing this up to boast (well… maybe a little), but to highlight just how important some very subtle tweaks in technique can be, and how much time and practice is required to perfect them.

Trust me, when a small tarpon blows up on your fly it is very hard to remain calm and continue to strip until you feel the weight of the fish. Even though many of the takes were very showy, the fish were actually somewhat reluctant to eat. This was probably due to the vast abundance of bait: the fish were feeding but not necessarily aggressive. They would track the fly for a while before committing, and then they would resume their leisurely pace and continue forward after inhaling the fly. The only way to get tight to the fish was to shorten the line faster than they were moving.

When I teach my class I call this doing an “Is he there” strip. Using Mac Brown’s “pulley haul” can come in real handy as twice as much line can be taken up quickly and smoothly. Once the fish is felt, then, and only then, should the hook set be attempted.

I actually force myself to say the phrase “Is he there?” while I feel for the fish. When I fish by myself I often say it out loud. On this last trip, I only whispered it to myself in my head. Good times!

Now, you might think I am a big jerk for not helping out my buddy, but I did point out his problem more than once. We both knew what was happening and apparently, neither of us could do anything about it. Rest assured, the day will come when he will get me on a trout stream. At that time I will not expect nor receive any mercy from TS!