I think somewhere around half of my success as an angler is accidental. I'd like to think that I've built some skill over the years but the facts tell a different story. Daydreaming on the stream, I've watched my indicator swim away and then half-heartedly raised the rod tip and been rewarded with a fish too lazy to spit the hook. I've caught more fish on the dangle while searching my fly boxes than I care to admit. I've caught trout when I was fishing for bass and bass while fishing for trout. The catching seems like a random mystery but that's probably because that's what it is.
Sunday was supposed to be an afternoon on a big river with a small group of friends but for a variety of reasons I didn't get out the door at an hour reasonable enough to justify the drive. In the past I've driven two hours to fish for two hours so it's not as if doing something foolish is out of my comfort zone but on Sunday the mojo wasn't right. By the time I had my gear assembled the sun was heading for the hilltops and skeeters were buzzing like they do on a warm summer's evening.
I took my black lab, Ripley, with me to fish a small stream about five minutes from the house. She's a good girl who generally doesn't cause trouble but she does distract me so she usually stays at home when I’m fishing. But this was a lark so along she came. She stood next to me in calf deep water as I cast, seemingly confused at our purpose but reluctant to abandon me. She's a good team player.
This stream is familiar. I found fish where they normally are though in the first few spots all I got were sloppy rises and hooksets that caught the branches above. I moved down along beautiful miniature runs that should hold fish but don't. Like most small streams the fish are holding in the faster water and where the food's pathways are constricted.
There's one particular pool that is as near to a sure thing as one can find. I don't catch a fish there every time I cast into it but I probably get one or two times out of three. Sunday, the water levels were perfect and the eddy that occurs midstream between two flows was in just the right spot to allow for good drifts.
My first cast along the edge yielded a quick swipe and a brief tug from a miniature fish that was quickly off. The next cast landed in the center of the the bubble platter and I let it gently swirl there until the drag pulled it free. I cast a couple more times into the same spot until I got what I came for -- a leaping slash at the fly. The trout cleared the water and gave me a fine fight for all of its seven or eight inches. In this stream that's a respectable length. I was equally gladdened to see the dark swirls on its back. It had been a long time since I caught a brook trout in this particular stretch. It's usually brown trout water.
It wasn't until this gem got to hand that I realized fortune had smiled upon me. Those deep green swirls on its back extended down its flanks; a tiger trout. This was the first tiger I had caught. Many of the streams in the area have both browns and brookies in them and while I had heard of others catching tigers, nearly a decade of angling had left me tigerless.
I should have quit at that moment, ending on a high note, but I moved further downstream. Sipping beside a rock in a miniature bend pool a fat rainbow took my parachute adams and commenced to race about trying desperately to entangle me in a deadfall. Through some miracle of tippet strength and wading dexterity I managed to horse the trout to the bank. Ripley, normally ambivalent about trout, came over for a sniff. At sixteen inches, this trout was the lord of this little river. He got the attention he deserved.
That was my last cast of the day. I know when I’ve been blessed and I’m not willing to tempt the fates. I wasn’t supposed to be on that stream on Sunday. Despite my disappointment at not meeting up with my pals it certainly worked out okay. Once again, this accidental angler had found success.