The rapid was looking as boney as I’ve ever seen it. Our recent floods had shifted some key boulders and rolled in a few new ones, and I just couldn’t find a safe path through. So I lined the boat along the bank and dropped anchor still well above the run below, the whitewater roaring in my ears.
It isn’t a long run, or a wide one either. In fact, to the unaccustomed eye, it wouldn’t look like a “run” at all. But this little spot, a boulder-strewn trough we call Pony Keg, puts out fish.
It isn’t an easy place to swing a fly. The current over top is cranking, and the fish hold deep. I clipped my blood knot, slipped on a cone, and retied the knot. I stepped on to the casting ledge, took a long look at the soft water on the far side, and stripped out all the line I’d need to reach it.
I’d been on the river for six out of the last eight days, mostly guiding, and this was my first day out all by myself. I’ve been accused of being a “social person,” and sure, I enjoy the company of others while fishing, but dang–I cherish nothing more than stepping to a prime run all by myself. Looking at the bluegreen currents, knowing there is a fish there, and feeling the lightness of absolute freedom: I could spend rest of the day here and nobody would mind.
My first pass through Pony Keg and I felt nothing but the heavy current and the deep swing of a my fly. But there had to be a fish there, so I clipped the Intruder and tied on another brighter one. This time I worked a little harder to sink the fly on the far side: lob cast, airborne mend, dropping the slack before the fly landed…down down it went.
And then it snagged bottom–except the bottom was pulling back and then the bottom was running downstream, already into my backing. Just when I allowed myself to believe that IT was happening, the slab of chrome cartwheeled from the heavy water downriver.
A buck of about eight pounds cradled in my hands, wild and mint, lice behind its rear fins, and not a witness within a mile.