THE WILY ANGLER AND MR. BROWN
Photo by Don Douple
Mr. Brown, the wild brown trout, is in his prime lie. The cushion in front of his rock provides a place to lie effortlessly, while watching detritus drift by. Occasionally, Mr. Brown discerns a nymph among the detritus.He slips into the current, intercepts it and returns to his cushion. All Mr. Brown has to do is breed, feed, and survive. His focus remains the same all day, every day—watching for food or danger. The view encompassed by his very limited binocular vision is all he can see. His world is narrow. Anything out of the ordinary means danger.
Earlier today he saw a flash of orange with his peripheral vision. It was a pretty girl jogging by. He bolted—a mistake! Wily Angler sees his wake and remembers. Mr. Brown slips back to his lie, in front of a rock, below an over-hanging bush.
When he was 10 inches, he was not large enough to dislodge the larger, earlier resident of the lie. He had to settle for a Sheltering Lie, moving to a Feeding Lie to eat. Having to move from his Sheltering Lie required him to waste energy and exposed him to danger from above. One day as he was feeding a heron struck. Mr. Brown narrowly escaped and became acutely aware of his window. He would never expose himself to danger from above again. He coveted the Prime Lie occupied by the bigger fish but wasn’t large enough to dislodge him. Then he got lucky, the larger fish was caught by Wily Angler. Mr. Brown immediately took advantage of his new role at the top of the pecking order. After fighting off a few underlings, he took control of his new home.
It's "Stocking Day" on the river. Many new fish appear. They immediately move to feeding lies and begin feeding in fast water. They have no regard for the energy they expend. Eighty percent of them, the Stockies, will perish from over-exertion even if they aren't caught. Anglers appear in our trout's window, very casual anglers and lots of them. Mr. Brown sees orange, bright green, and lots of Disco colored fly lines flashing overhead. He sees flies drift into his window and then drag unnaturally. Large numbers of anglers dressed in bright colors appear in Mr. Brown’s window. The flash of their shiny tackle; the appearance of flies attached to large, drag inducing, very visible tippets alarms the trout. He moves to the side of his rock and conforms his body to its shape. It’s too dangerous for him to feed. Suddenly legs appear in the water. They thrash around like Labrador Retrievers as they try to find that perfect spot. Shiny spinners, worms, even plugs crash into the water as an angler lets his Springer Spaniel go for a swim. More of the stockies are caught as they swim over to the familiar forms they became accustomed to at hatchery feeding time. Mr. Brown will not move or feed any more today. It's just too dangerous!
Wily Angler recalls the wake caused when Mr. Brown fled from the girl in orange; He observes the stocking day chaos. He shakes his head, and then bites through his pipe stem as an "angler in a red hat wades through Mr. Brown's lie.
A few days later, as Mr. Brown intensely scrutinizes the water in front of him, he notices nymphs drifting in his cushion. They're Sulphur nymphs, Ephemerrella rotunda. He intercepts one after another. The intensity of this Natural Drift becomes overwhelming. Mr. Brown starts to feed with reckless abandon. As he feeds, the sun reflects off of his lateral line. Always observant and tranquil, Wily Angler sees the sun’s reflection. Mr. Brown continues to feed on Sulphur nymphs, but something is changing! The nymphs are starting to ascend to the surface. Wily Angler ever mindful of Mr. Brown’s window continues to watch from a distance. Wily Angler knows, normally, Mr. Brown would never exert the energy to feed on little surface invertebrates, but a nymph ascends right in front of his nose. An involuntary, genetic response kicks in - like a dog's natural instinct to chase a car- Mr. Brown chases the emerger takes it and crashes through the meniscus. [surface film]. He returns to his lie. Wily Angler observes the action, time to induce the "take.” time for the “Leisenring Lift!" Luck Wily Angler, dressed like a turkey hunter, is on his knees, below the cone of the Mr. Brown's window. Wily Angler has even painted the reflective parts of his outfit with olive drab bow paint. Mr. Brown has no idea he is there. Wily Angler knows what's coming next. He crawls to a position in which he can launch one perfect presentation of the "Leisenring Lift." Crouching low, he casts across stream. Sulphurs are emerging prodigiously. Wily Angler’s emerger drifts downstream. At the end of the drift, right in front of Mr. Brown's nose, the current lifts the fly, perfectly imitating an emerger. Mr. Brown's instincts kick in again. He chases the fly and intercepts it. The Wily angler executes a "slip strike". The fight is on!
Mr. Brown feels the sting of the hook. He charges in the direction of the angler producing slack, then crashes through the surface shaking his head wildly. Fortunately the Wily angler sharpened the hook until it was sharp as a needle and removed the barb. No matter how hard Mr. Brown shakes his head, the hook won't fall out. Wily Angler learned years ago a barbed hook creates a hole in the fish's tough flesh which will allow the hook to fall out if there is slack in the line.
Wiley keeps rod pressure on the fish by holding the line between his index finger and the rod. He strips line quickly keeping the slack between his finger and the reel. This allows him to maintain rod pressure on the fish while reeling in the slack. When he has the slack line on the reel he plays Mr. Brown with the rod. By lowering the rod he increases the pressure on the fish, then he moves the rod to the right and then the left to disorient him. Wily Angler plays Mr. Brown expertly and quickly so as not to fatally exhaust him. As the fish becomes ready for landing, Wily Angler knows to stay out of Mr. Brown’s window as he nets him. He knows that if the fish sees him it will cause him to panic and use more precious energy, reducing his chance for survival. He allows Mr. Brown to drift back with the current into the net. Keeping the fish in the water,( it's been shown, after only ten seconds out of the water, a trout's gills will start to deteriorate) he quickly removes the barbless hook, grasps Mr Browns tail and moves him back and forth to revive him. Mr. Brown regains his bearings and slips back to his lie. The Wily Angler wipes off his hands, fills his pipe and watches the stream. A casual angler with an orange fly line, red hat, and shiny tackle congratulates the Wily Angler on his luck. The Wily angler smiles graciously and thanks him, as he thinks "the harder you work, the luckier you get."
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