The afternoon wind never quite makes it today. And it’s warm … really warm for this coast-bound wader. It never really dawned on me to make the dash over the hill any earlier. I got off work, the idea of being on the water for nightfall stuck in my head and a mad dash to the sweet water on the middle river. Fishing before 6:00pm. One cast to get the line out, and the next three casts with two fish to hand – big, sassy half pounders pushing past the 18″ mark – I think Dr. Welch called them “super pounders” when he first told me in 1986. Ten more casts and eight missed grabs or fish to hand … all the while a bright, hot sun glaring down. Throw in a few long, slow mystery grabs along the way. The fish-per-cast statistic, while sounding impressive, only really reflects my cheating by dropping right down into the bucket first thing. I’ll save the rest for dusk.
It’ll really be a swell evening, I think. I swing a long, wispy spider though the surface and watch a fish boil on it.
Then the transition happens, the sun dipping over the ridge, and somewhere after that, over the great horizon far off at sea. The crickets, frogs, caddis and bats all ramp up in song and flight. Curiously, the fish taper off to near nothing as darkness falls. This is not the first time this has happened here .. actually it seems to happen all the time here. Why is it that this place fishes so well from about mid-afternoon until evening then dies off? Surely, it’s not me taking another pass through? Regardless, the river at the witching hour is an ultra-sensory experience – bats swoop for a slow-cast fly, crickets and frogs rise and fall in mysterious unison and caddis zig-zag inches above the water. Nothing sums it all up better, except for the arc of an adult steelhead just as darkness descends and the woods behind me crackle with bears coming out for fresh black berries along the river bar. Not tonite….