On the Fly: Stormy weather
CARBONDALE Mount Sopris was barely visible behind the sheet of rain advancing toward my car as I plucked my rod from the back and set out into the soggy grass to fish a decidedly small creek. I tried to ignore the rolling thunder and focus on keeping a fat PMX (that’s a fly) from snagging on the tall grass bordering what looked to be a swift, deep, meandering ditch that was no more than 7 or 8 feet across in some places, if that.This likely would be my only shot at fishing this private water ever, and I wasn’t about to let a little deluge drive me off. I’d interviewed the landowner, and he graciously suggested I try the stream before I left. Since other anglers pay to play here, I wasn’t about to turn him down, even as the first bolts of lightning crackled between the ground and the menacing black clouds blowing my way.Ten minutes later, I was about to call it a day. Waving a long pole in a lightning storm while water swirled around my feet seemed a poor idea at best. Now, If I’d been catching fish, it might have been a different matter. There are worse ways to die than with a fly rod in hand, I figured, but not on a Friday evening. If I’m going to tempt death, I’d rather do it at the start of the work week, not on the cusp of the weekend.I was seconds from calling it quits, intending to lift my rod high and bring the fly to my free hand when it struck. A trout, not lightning. Of course I was so preoccupied with the weather, I missed it. Now I couldn’t leave. I worked my way around a bend to my next hole. Crouching in the grass, I tried my best to cast with the rod tip held low. Boom. I set the hook and was startled to find perhaps the largest fish I’d had on a line all summer tugging furiously. I glimpsed this fat rainbow several times during the battle, but with no net (like an idiot, I forgot it) and a difficult bank on which to negotiate, I could do no better than bring the fish in close to the grass before it snapped off the fly and fled.Lightning bolts zinged closer. I counted the seconds between bolt and thunder, just in case that old tale about how to calculate how far off the lightning is striking is true. I didn’t get to a count of two. A mile and a half. Plenty of distance.I lost two more flies to trout big enough to snap them off, and one to a tree. But I landed eight fish or so, almost all of them at least 14 inches long and fat enough to test the flex in my rod. This small stream yielded more big fish in 90 minutes than I’ve caught in a day, anywhere.Best of all, I lived to tell about it.
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