Monday, April 26, 2010

The Telegraph Take

When everything works as it is supposed to while nymphing for trout, the fly rod, leader, and fly line work as a telegraph tapping out signals to the angler. When the telegraph connection is working, nymphing can be nearly as much fun as watching a brown trout rise to sip a spinner drifting in the film.

The other evening, while trying to show by little brother Super K the finer points of steelheading, the telegraph was working just fine, but the steelhead weren’t. Low water and heavy fishing pressure had the old males in deep run more than skittish. The normal flies weren’t working, but I could feel them bounce along the bottom. I switched to smaller nymphs and worked to keep them on the mossy bottom. The Scott 7-weight (learn more about great Scott fly rods by reading Jerry Darkes’ Fish Dog blog) is sensitive enough to send out a message when moss attached to the trailing nymph. I’d pick up the drift, remove the moss and try again.

The skittish fish would bump the line, sending another set of signals to the telegraph operator. The frustration built, but I wanted to avoid a foul hook up so I focused on keeping the drift as clean as possible. Too slow a drift and the flies would catch on the boulders. Too fast a drift and the flies wouldn’t get down to the fish. A good drift would send the steady tap, tap up the telegraph wire as the split shot bounced along the bottom.

From Steel Pursuit
And then a new signal was sent. A dead stop signal. Sometimes the signal sent when a fish inhales the nymph is all but subliminal. I referred to it earlier as the moment. Well, this is the other side of that coin. It’s not the crushing take of a trout hitting a swung fly, but it is a strong signal nonetheless. Reliving the take later I can imagine the fly being sucked into the fish’s mouth and stopping as its drift through the run comes to an abrupt end. That stop sends a signal up the leader, through the fly line and into the head of the telegraph operator. The response is to lift the right arm, set the hook and hand the rod to Super K so he can enjoy the fight. For a 13-year-old the fight is the fun part. For the 48-year-old telegraph operator the fun part is getting the message.

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