There is a mystery moment when nymphing that every experienced angler knows, but only the really good anglers understand. I don't come close to understanding the moment -- and I know that I often don't even recognize it when it occurs.
But sometimes I get lucky and get to experience the moment. Then I try like heck to remember just exactly what it was like so I will do a better job of recognizing it again when it occurs next. But for the life of me, I cannot recall enough detail to add much to the slim memory folder in which I hold what limited fishing knowledge I have accumulated over the last 40 plus years. It's kind of like the elusive dream you cannot recall upon awakening. Instead of a clear memory you just have a strong sense that it must have been a great dream ... if you could only remember what it was about.
Last week that kind of steelhead moment arrived with the sunrise on the Rocky River. The river was as fine a green tint as it's been all spring. The water was still cold from the lingering snow melt, and the steelhead hadn't yet moved into the river in large numbers. I cast slightly upstream, allowing the fly to sink before it passed me and headed into the deepest part of the run. I tried to keep the rod ahead of the red monofilament leader to keep in contact with the three small split shots bouncing near the bottom. Then the moment occurred. I cannot really say what happened. A signal was sent from line, to rod, to hand to brain and I lifted the rod sharply in response. But what sent the signal? I'm sure the line paused, but I don't remember seeing it. I may have even felt a slight bump caused by the female steelhead inhaling the two-inch white marabou minnow fly tied below the nymph. But if I did, I really don't remember what that bump felt like.
I just lifted the rod, felt the unmistakable weight of a steelhead, set the hook and held on for dear life. She took me for a long ride that morning, but I ultimately walked her to the far bank to land and release her. But the whole time I fought the fish I was trying to remember the moment. But there just wasn't enough there to remember. I will have to pay more attention next time.