Lady luck—her “cycle” was nigh

Lady luck—the fickle mistress. As anglers, we’re at the mercy of her bi-polar swings more than most. I suspect the majority of us have had enough bizarre riverside experiences to banish any doubts over her existence, and those of us who have been fishing long enough have likely observed that luck tends to come in cycles. We do our best to prepare, to take all cautionary measures in an attempt to ensure success, but at day’s end things often come down to chance. Will he dash downriver or up? Have I just tied on a dud fly? Does that unethical guide feel like dropping in on my river today? Sure, I hear what you’re thinking. Ramblings about “luck” can also be mere loser-talk from the guy who was too tight (skint) to buy “superior” flies, or the guy who doesn’t know how to tie a proper knot—guilty as charged!—but I’ve stopped masking over my deficiencies with lies. It’s all in the past.

Anyway, getting back to Lady Luck. I’ve come to learn that in order to have a happy day’s angling in her presence—albeit overbearing at times—we must get through the four stages those self-help groups preach. Denial, anger, fear, acceptance. “I can’t believe he wouldn’t eat my fly. Are you too good for my fly?! Maybe all my flies are rubbish? Oh well, I’m at the river now, just enjoy the day”. Or something along those lines. Basically we must acknowledge, and be grateful for, her spells of benevolence while we’re blessed with them, and prepare and ready ourselves for her impending malevolence.

My season, to date, had been going swimmingly. I was enjoying an unprecedented bumper spell of Ms Luck’s benevolence, with my previous two outings seeing me bag a couple of terrific fish, in quite unlikely scenarios. And today, it appeared, everything was again falling into place. First to the river; sandflies slow to muster as I dithered in the car park adorning all the usual angling paraphernalia; a first fish on the board no more than a hundred metres from the car. My victim even performed some nice acrobatics for the action camera. Good fortune such as this was enough to make me suspicious—fearful even—of the inevitably impending bad luck front. I knew it was only a matter of time before the mercury in the fortune barometer dropped like a stone.

029Unfamiliar light in this photo—I don’t usually rack up a victory this early in the day!

When I heard a distant mechanical drone growing louder, followed by the sight of a helicopter pass by overhead I assumed this was the turning point. It seemed ludicrous—this metallic backcountry bird must be lost!—as no one flies into this place. But despite that, I couldn’t shake the suspicion I’d been jumped. An audacious helicopter jumping certainly would’ve been an apt way to shatter my prolific run of good luck. As I fished on up the river, extremely low, swift-moving cloud entered the valley, concealing much of the clear blue sky. It was a peculiar weather phenomenon, and had me wondering whether this was the gods way of letting me know the game was up.

But no, to my disbelief line soon again went tight, as I hooked up on a solid brown. Initially I thought him to be a half-decent fish as I glanced his upper half briefly break the surface, but as he continued to tear line from spool my estimation of him rose several notches. He was like the trout version of Sun Tzu, this guy, waging total war on me. He defied my previously held approximations of brown trout and their battle capacities, as he steamed ahead on run after run after run—a couple of which came close to achieving his endgame of bust-off-via-gorge-wall. Tiring in the trenches—or rather the waist-deep water—I maintained my Spartan reserve, bent rod angled low to water’s surface, hoping to distance fluorocarbon from rock—Nature’s ever-present long-range release tool.

Each time he dived for his crevice sanctuary—submerging the full length of the leader—he forced my hand into applying a little more pressure than I’d normally dare. As I eventually pried him from the deep and into the confines of the black nylon corral, it appeared Lady Luck was still feeling philanthropic! He was a sleek, athletic specimen. A stunning, sheeny scale veneer concealed eight pounds of muscle.

044Possibly my favourite fish of the season, so far….

Meandering up the gorge I sighted the occasional fish, but failed to get much interest. It was amazing just how close you could get to them (casting multiple times from a side-on position when circumstances called for it) without them bolting off. Their feeding habits, sadly, were far less obliging.

Having had my offerings shunned by a decent fish, I spied a youngster sauntering up into the pool. It’s flank was covered in ostentatious aqua-chrome, and she was finning about with a little too much swagger for my liking—young un’s and their bloody “SWAG!”. Well, it was time to tone down that exuberance of youth. She’d likely never met a troutophile before, and well, that curious colouring begged closer inspection. To my ego’s relief it was a straightforward process. Nymphs in, fish on, admirable fight, in the net. Diminutive specimen aside, she was in decent condition, and sported a dazzling blue hue, and some interesting oversized spots. Perhaps she’ll grow into them! If she does keep this condition and colouring she’ll certainly be one to keep an eye out for in a few seasons time. Though by that time wisdom will likely ensure she tones down such flamboyance, opting for longevity over eye-catching, flashy bling.

136Introducing Ms Aqua-Chrome

148Those spots!—guess you had to be there….

When I finally did arrive at a (proper) fish more keen on their food—one in the midst of a feeding frenzy on the opposite side of an uncrossable section of river—I succumbed to some fairly frenzied excitement. It was one of those rare circumstances where you just knew that hooking them was a formality (almost)—something of a rarity on this river. Fearing detection, I hastily slung a few crude casts upriver of him, but the rushing current caused drag to swiftly set in. Eventually—around the seventh cast perhaps—possibly thanks to some line mending of dubious quality, the fish turned downriver mid-sway. With my waterlogged indicator rendered untrustworthy, I was unsure what’d happened but struck regardless. For a moment line was taut, fish flapped at surface in the strong current, before line once again fell slack and fish bolted down and across to my side of the river.

To my immense surprise the just-hooked fish came to a stop merely a half dozen metres downriver of me. Hopes eternal, I flicked out my nymphs and allowed them to drift down to him. With flies arriving first, the indicator was again redundant. There wasn’t really any noticeable sign that he took the nymphs but I struck regardless, and upon lifting the rod—to my amazement—I’d re established the connection! Moments later, however—just like my old Telecom dial-up—the connection was lost, again. The culprit, a failed leader-to-tippet knot, and fish was on his way for a second, and final, time. A solid fish lost twice in a matter of minutes! I suppose it was the kindest sort of knot break, offering the consolation that even if I had of set the hook better the first time, the knot would’ve failed anyway. Still, it was a little concerning. Lady Luck’s mood, it appeared, was darkening. Or was this loser-talk, should I have just retied my knots more often….

107Gorge-ous day

119 - CopyWPPromising pool

The next fish I found was a good one, but another tricky one. He was prancing about his home gobbling up god knows what. The only thing I was certain of was that it wasn’t my nymphs. I invested a half hour on this fellow, and left feeling rather humbled. It was now late afternoon, and concerns about dwindling daylight and a long walk back began to enter my mind. Turn around? But not before exploring what lies beyond the next bend! The thoughts of a shameless trout junkie.

A quarter hour later I sighted another fish—a goodie. Late afternoon glare did it’s best to thwart me, but I achieved a hook up. This guy fought valiantly, reminiscent of the second fish of the day, with the exception of the most gormless, comical jump I’ve ever witnessed. Despite turning to flee—well maintain line tension—as he swam toward me, I still managed to catch it on the action camera. It was like some sort of airborne spent spinner rise, quite an intimidating thing when it’s directed right at you! After a lengthy duel through pools, runs, and riffles. he finally tired and I got ’em. A rather odd thing had happened while pursuing him down a knee-deep run, I almost trod on another fish! Unfortunately the memory card in the action camera had maxed out by then, so I missed capturing it. Oh well, lessons hard learned!

229Just before it all turned to sh#t

Now then, you’ve probably been wondering about Lady Luck, and when she’s going to strike me down. Well your patience is about to be rewarded! (Be honest, you only read this far with the hopes of reveling in my woundings!). On the way back downriver, with daylight dwindling, legs thoroughly spent, and moving more recklessly than is wise, the toe of my boot met with the exposed half of a rock fixed in the riverbed mid-stride. I kept moving forward a while but increasingly lost balance. Okay, I know what you’re going to say. Luck?! Try learning how to walk dipshit! Well, fatigue and hurry-induced recklessness leave you prone to these sort of things. In normal circumstances, with legs that weren’t ghosts of their former selves I would’ve probably succeeded in running it out. But try as they did—six or seven paces, ever-increasing in speed—they couldn’t restore equilibrium. I suspect their attempts actually made it worse, as this caused me to meet riverbed with greater speed.

Upon picking myself up, the first thing I checked was my reel. Well the clicker no longer worked, but the rest seemed fine. Looking up I noticed the rod seemed a little shorter. Huh, the end section must’ve come off on impact, was my initial thought. But no, it was busted. It wasn’t just any old break either, it’d managed a double fracture! Ah well, bright side was I wouldn’t get suckered into wasting the precious remaining daylight on fish.

With Lady Luck now clearly “on the rag”, I made a concerted effort to negotiate the mineral minefield which lay between myself and my getaway vehicle. Eventually, as rock-paranoia gradually dissipated, I allowed myself the slight distraction of reflecting on the day’s events—whilst keeping a close eye on those mineral booby traps! I was in a state of ambivalence about this day. I’d caught a couple of cracking fish, yet also finished off an already amputee rod. As I pulled out onto the road it was clear I wasn’t quite out of Lady Luck’s reach, as she had one last trick up her sleeve—a police car laying in wait. But I dodged that one, with no further damage inflicted.

On the drive home, engrossed in contemplation of the day’s events, I began to wonder. Perhaps the day’s dark turn wasn’t a product of Ms Luck’s manipulations after all, and rather, a swift serving of karma dished up for my fiddling with the underage (yet lovely) Ms Aqua Chrome. Being something of a superstitious man, this thought had me scribing a mental note to self—leave the little ones alone! Well, at least till a couple of my carbon fibre cripples complete their convalescence.

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