She couldn’t do it.
I don’t remember her name, or where she was from, or why she wanted to fish the Madison with a guide. All I can tell you for sure is that she couldn’t catch a trout on a nymph. Not on a bet. Not to save her life. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors:
She could not catch them in the rain.
Not in the dark. Not on a train,
Not in a car, Not in a tree.
She could not catch them, Sam, you see.
Not in a house. Not in a box.
Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.
She could not catch them here or there.
She could not catch them anywhere!
Nymphs, unfortunately, were the sole winning ticket that bright, sunny summer day in the braided water near Slide Inn. So we did the only thing that makes sense when you’re teaching someone to fish with an indicator.
You tell them to ignore the indicator.
“What’s that?” you say? “Ignore the indicator? That’s heresy! Madness! Lunacy!”
No, it’s not. Not when you’re working with people who have good eyes and a wonderful, perceptive mind - which this particular gal had - but who have slow-to-mediocre reflexes.
The indicator would do its thing - pause, hesitate, shudder, slow almost imperceptibly, dart upstream, disappear from sight, whatever - and she’d think about it for just a second and then set the hook. Which was too late. Always too late. She had no hook setting prowess, no hard-earned muscle memory, and those fish didn’t tend to hold onto those nasty little metal things that looked so much like the real deal. Nope, those trout had learned it was best to spit them out before they grabbed you by the face and hauled you to a place you really didn’t want to go.
“Yuck!” said the fish.
So we went commando. Or Zen commando. Tom Brown Jr. Scout commando, if you prefer. I told her that I was going to walk her through everything, and all she had to do was listen to my voice and think about what was going on, then do exactly what I told her.
It went like this:
“Remember, don’t worry about the indicator.”
“You’re going to cast into the fast water at the head of this little slot.”
“Think about what the fly is going to do, and where the fish is likely to be.”
(She understood stream dynamics, so that wasn’t a problem.)
“Make your cast.”
“Okay, the fly is sinking down through the water column. It’s dropping, it’s dropping …”
“It’s in the zone. Set the hook.”
She set the hook. The rod bent. The rainbow screamed out of the little side channel and headed for the main river.
We did that over and over. 75% of the time there was no visual indication that she could see, but it didn’t matter. She set the hook on every single cast and stuck a bucket load of nice trout; browns and rainbows that she probably had no business catching, but that always made her smile and laugh and giggle.
What a wonderful day on the water.
I like nymphs!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would fish them in a boat!
And I would fish them with a goat...
And I will fish them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!
So I will fish them in a box.
And I will fish them with a fox.
And I will fish them in a house.
And I will fish them with a mouse.
And I will fish them here and there.
Say! I will fish them ANYWHERE!
With gratitude and respect for Ted Geisel - a.k.a. Dr. Seuss - who brought a tremendous amount of joy into the world.