Yesterday at work was one of those rare days when everything is as caught up as it can get and nothing new is happening. After spending a couple of hours going back over everything one more time and still not finding anything to do I left work early. Told the boss that I was going fishing, and I did.
When I got home I asked my son if he wanted to go fishing with me, and he did. We restocked our fly boxes and headed down the bank and into the river, which was up a bit from the recent rains. The water was just short of cold, but well past just cool. We waded upstream to the squirrel hole, a close by spot that is always one of my very favorites.
This is a place where the river channel is narrowed by a shelf of rock that extends more than halfway across the river, forcing the water against the near side bank where the water is generally about waist deep. Since the river is up a bit it's about shoulder deep right now. This pool has a fairly fast current due to the narrowing, and a clean gravel bottom. It runs right up to the bank where there are trees that hang over the water several yards, some of the limb tips touching the water's surface and tracing fingers of ripples downstream.
The sky was thick with low dark clouds that scudded by slowly and there was hardly any breeze at all. The trees are still deep green and the water was clear enough to see the gravel bottom at four feet, fading off into darkness as the water got deeper. Shadows from the overhanging trees fell further out into the river as the sun lowered. The river water smelled good, smelled fresh and clean, and I could have sworn I could smell fish in the water, but that had to be my imagination.
My son moved up-stream from me and we began casting. Both of us were using the 1" gulp minnows. We used them quite a while with no hits. After a while I switched to a black wooly booger with blue tinsel in it. I would cast upstream and let the fly dead drift, mending my line as it came by to keep it moving at the same speed as the current. I made five or ten casts when I noticed that the end of the line wasn't drifting as fast as it should, so I set the hook.
I set the hook and WHAM! Suddenly I had one hell of a fight on my hands. I was using my new 9' 4wt with floating line, 8lb leader and the black wooly booger. The fish was heavy, before I could see it I knew it had to be a bass though, just from the weight and the type of fight the fish was putting up. Bass send a rapid pulsating through the pole, different from catfish or drum. Just down stream of me the water channeled into an even tighter spot that is shallow and right there the current is very stiff. The bass headed for that swift water right away, so now I was fighting the bass and fast water, which he was using to his full benefit.
He came up out of the water in a classic tail dance, throwing water and shaking his head rapidly, then back down and surged into the deeper part of the hole. I gained a bit of line, then he took off downstream again and I lost more than I had gained. He came up again out of the water, down there in the fast shallow water and my heart skipped about three beats because that would be an easy place and way for him to throw the hook - but the hook held and I pumped him up against the current, praying the leader would hold, the rod bowed nearly double and my arms straining. He fought, and fought hard. I'd gain some then lose some, then lose some more, then gain a little. he fought side to side, doubling his body over one way then the other, rapidly and almost continuously, silver flashes and water spray and huge gurgling noises as he ripped up the top of the water.
Slowly he began to tire and as he tired he began to head up river. When I finally got him back even with me he was dead tired and my right arm felt like it was going to crack into a thousand pieces and fall off at the shoulder. I got him up close, lipped him and son of a gun he was a beauty. Probably about six pounds, maybe a bit more. I don't carry a tape but his length was the distance between my hip bone and my knee. I'll have to measure that some day, but for now I'd say about sixteen to eighteen inches. He was slim and trim, all muscle, and in the prime of health. Gorgeous was the word that came to mind as I slipped him back into the water and watched him swim quickly away.
Later I caught another smaller one, maybe a four pounder. My son caught a sweet brace of bass that were in the four pound range as well - he had switched to a wooly booger as soon as I caught that big one. He was also fishing a new fly rod, an 8'6" 4wt that he's had out five times without catching a fish, until this trip when he broke it in, in the best possible way.
We went a long time without another bite and the sun was below the horizon so we started fishing our way back to the house. Caught a nice bluegill on the way. When we reached the point where we emerge from the river we looked at each other, grinned and did a fist bump. No words were necessary, no words would have sufficed.
When I was catching the big bass I would normally have still been at work. Sometimes it pays to slip away early. This time it payed very well indeed.