Fly Fishing activates the senses. Eyes marvel at the inspiring scenery and the intricacies of handcrafted flies. Hands feel the tension of a perfectly looped backcast. Ears capture the soothing sounds of flowing water. Tastebuds cringe at the gritty flavor of mud as you lose your footing and face-plant into the river.
Every once in awhile a trip kicks my ass. It always starts out with such promise then one thing after another goes wrong until the plan falls apart. The only thing I can do is look back at the pictures and laugh. I’m man enough to admit when I’m beat. I’m just too damn stubborn to quit when I should.
I traded in a rainy Sunday afternoon on the couch for a solo run to the Huron River. My plan involved landing a few smallmouth bass with some big, nasty, terrestrial flies. The parking lot at the Metropark was empty when I arrived as the rain slowed to a drizzle. So far. So good.
I stepped out of the truck and was instantly swarmed. I pulled on my waders while slapping at my neck and my temples which were slowly swelling from a hundred tiny insect attacks. I remained undeterred and headed to the river.
Three casts into the day and the first canoe (first of 1,000) came around the bend and just about ran me down. No apology issued. Just a dirty look. A few more casts, more canoes. I waded back to shore, took a few pics of the scenery and headed downstream to a promising stretch of water I spotted from the truck.
By now this section of water was hosting a beginners fly fishing class. I watched as the new anglers stomped around the river hooking branches. I talked to them as swarms of biting gnats gnawed at my face. They hadn’t landed a fish either. I was just about ready to pack it up to try a different spot. In hindsight I should have.
A small path through the woods caught my attention. I pushed through thick brush watching the river for fish sign. He suddenly materialized behind a rock. The faint outline of a fish. I knew I had a shot when he rose to a floating leaf.
I crept over a downed tree with my eyes glued on the fish. I tried a cast but it came up a few feet short. I tip-toed up-stream and quietly stepped into the water. I placed my left foot on a bunch of tree roots and tried another cast. Just a foot short. I placed my right foot into the muddy bottom. I thought about another cast for just a second. Then my right leg sunk up to my hip. My left foot slipped from the roots and my face met the Huron River.
Cold water rushed into my waders just about knocking the wind out of me. Air in my boots made my feet float to the surface so I had to swim to a branch to get my bearings. I climbed to shore with mud down to my socks and a throbbing shoulder. A curious glance confirmed that fish was gone.
Back on the wooded trail I discovered the pouch in my waders is not at all waterproof. My digital camera was soaked. Over a week later and it still won’t even power up.
Damn if my camera died in vain. I waded back into the river determined to land a bass. Moments later a rain cloud delivered the final punch in the mouth. Rain pelted my newly acquired bug bites and sunk my giant dry flies. I was forced to admit it.
I’d been beat.