Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wee Softies at the Bitter End

     Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The ship’s band struck up a tune while the Titanic surrendered to the cold Tao sea.

In NE Washington we’re into a third week of daily temps ranging into the low 100’s. There are a great number of forest fires burning in the region & some of them are very close.  Lots of smoke in the air; the sunsets cooked to a bloody medium-rare. I worry about our ten acres of pine, thickly assembled like a thirsty army waiting beneath a hubcap-bright sun.

In addition to unrelenting high temperatures, the entire State of Washington is being visited by a plague of wasps. Never seen so many yellowjackets, & they’ve become aggressive in the heat. It’s dangerous to sit outside on the porch – & too hot anyway.

The large mayflies of early summer are long gone – & the smatterings of wee mayflies disappeared with the onset of July’s full moon. All that are left to get trout up & visibly feeding are the ever-present, reliable Spotted Sedge, their peak emergence season also past, though they will persist until the end of August, the daily emergence shrunk down to a spotty shooter at twilight.

The trout are edgy & light sensitive, not feeding until the evening sedge emergence gets underway. Even then, there aren’t a lot of them showing –  one here, a couple there – on the eddy seams trailing from the points. Having seen a fanciful assortment of imitation insects at this point in the season, & a good many of them hook-stung, the trout are hyper-wary, their lateral lines functioning as bare-wired bullshit meters so sensitive they can detect even the most innocuous ghost of a presence, & that sure to put them down.

When the world is on fire it’s good to live beside a river. You can fish. You can fish that last hour. If you are careful & do everything right there is time for one trout – maybe two on a good night. They are close, a long cast isn’t required. But the presentation must be perfect, a barely perceptible whisper of a presentation, the wee softie placed well above the working trout. I’m down to the 6’ 3wt glass, matched with the little Pflueger I acquired in 1963, a cooler year. Though just long enough, the 12’ leader is about as long as the 6-foot rod will comfortably handle. The 3-pound test tippet is as light as I dare go, but is okay in the near dark. Considering the size of the trout heavier would be better, but any heavier brings noticeably fewer takes, even in low light.

A wee soft-hackle fly will turn the trick alright, though it must be the same size & profile as a natural sedge emerger. The Hares Ear variant pictured at left has been the choice fly lately. It is tied on a #14, 1x long hook, so it is about a standard #16. It is dressed with a bit of gold antron mixed with natural hares mask, the thorax dubbed over with straight hares mask. The color closely matches a Spotted Sedge pupa – & it looks like a lot of other things too, including small mayflies. Hard to improve on the Partridge & Hares Ear, though the addition of gold antron to the dressing does make a killing version.

There is a lot of fire, & feet must be held to it. That one good trout in the evening is a fun & satisfying game, yet it is a game we are within sight of losing, & it may be the least of what we stand to lose – I hope you are aware dear readers. If you think eliminating world-destroying activities & policies will cause you to lose money & result in all of us living a lower standard of life, then you need to rethink that shit. I promise you the contrary.

I hope, as we go through another round of elections, that you will engage & hold prospective leader’s feet to the fire regarding the affects of climate change. Past time we need to bring this issue to the fore. There is nothing more important. We fiddle & faff & catch the last trout at the bitter end. Or we assume sane stewardship of the living world. Not trying to overstate or be righteous, just trying to be real in light of things as they are.