Before the eat, and before the reel-in, before the smile, and before the release, comes: the choice. The choice may have been decided the moment before, or days in advance-it may have been from experience, advice, trial and error, or luck. But this choice is paramount. This choice is looped at the end of some tippet and locked tight with a knot. What fly are you going to choose, and why?
Last week I went to the Lower Provo River. I hadn't been in awhile and these hiatus's leave me feeling empty. The Lower had been up to many things since I'd visited last. The change from Winter to Spring has started for one, and for two the spawn was over and the next generation planted their future linked with mine. The river was supposedly hosting the seasonal face of the Blue Wing, I was curious. I was looking forward to observing what the river had to teach.
Observations I have learned is a leveled skill, and it takes time. We are observational creatures our survival, even in this modern era, has been linked to this. Be it: the patterns of traffic, the unrelenting pressure of gravity, and the one I am still working on: hot things. I am struck by the levels of seeing that exist out there on the river with your fly rod and a dry fly on the heart. For me, there are hundreds of micro-observations that I make and process throughout an outing, my goal is thousands perhaps there are millions. These observations start as I drive over the bridge of the river I hope to spend the afternoon with. How does she look? Always the question is are there any rising fish?
There are other choices besides what fly to choose: like time of day, weather etc...that greatly impact The Choice, but let's just say you know the spot, you know the time, and you know the water... and you end up surrounded by rising fish, what fly do you choose?
Being a student myself I miss lots of clues that the river is giving me. This I know. I am very imperfect. I rush. I get excited. I forget. I pick the wrong fly sometimes... ok.... quite a bit. But I am learning, as every dedicated flyfisher is, and will be forever.
On this particular day a friend and I struggled down the train tracks that were icy and troublesome. But, we found open water, somewhat of a luxury these days. There were fish rising, we were expecting this. We had intel. I quickly tied on a white winged baetis pattern despite the cloudy, snowy weather we were experiencing. The pattern worked, on one, likely near-sighted fish. But after that, I was just a bystander to a feeding frenzy. The choice I had made was obviously the wrong one. And when fishing isn't working, the cold feels colder. My fingers started to hurt, the weak link in my winter attire armor. I knew that I should change flies but motivation wanes in such weather. As four eyes scanned the water, there was a suggestion on drift, (it needed to be slower), and perhaps wing color on a size 22 fly. I couldn't believe that would matter, but of course it did. The dark wing made all the difference. Pretty soon we had eats, or rather we had toothed rockets launching themselves at our flies. Lesson 4,876, contrast is important. The choice is vital.