Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Swimming Hole Rainbow

It’s hard to believe that he didn’t hear me enter the deep swimming hole carved in the rock cliffs of the old river. I hadn’t been particularly careful to be stealthy. Maybe it was the roar of the falls overhead or the way the shadows of the ancient maples dappled the light, filtering through to the surface. I must have been quiet and unknowingly camouflaged as I approached the foaming bubbles under the falls. The sensation of cold clear water over my body was invigorating, just what I needed after the long downward traverse into the ravine.

Serendipitously, I opened my eyes underwater in the cold, gin-clear stream and saw him. A large old trout, tail swishing gently back and forth behind the large rock embedded in the sediment to the side of the falls. Without, turning around, I back peddled like a sea turtle, slowly backing away from him, being careful not to attract his attention. For all he knew, I was never there.

I tip-toed out of the tail of the pool cautiously, trying to not stir up the gravel bed or make a sound. I walked up the wooded path to my truck and retrieved my fly rod. Returning to the hole I had dried off enough to concentrate on the approach. I assembled the old Diamondback rod and reel, tied an extra 12” length of 5x tippet on, and crawled up on the side of the far shore where the shadows obscured me from his view.

Over and over again I roll cast the red flannel tipped Zug Bug into the falls and waited for the current to draw it downward toward the submerged rock on the side. I cast eleven times and nothing had happened.

I took a deep breath and looked up at the cascading water. The sun poked through the canopy and there in the mist, a rainbow was formed hanging over the roaring falls. At that moment I felt blessed to be there.

I breathed in deeply and said “Thank You” out loud. I cast my nymph, once again, into the deluge. As I stripped the 6 weight sinking tip line back in, I got a sudden tug. The rod bent downward in my right hand and began to throb viciously. I took another deep breath and raised the rod above me head. He was hooked, and good! The dance began.

He leapt into the rushing water, and shaking his head in defiance, turned back to the deep pool. Suddenly, the line went slack and I reeled like a mad man. He was swimming straight at me, planning a reverse run into the downstream current. The line tightened again as he headed toward the boulders. I kept the line tight and tentatively stepped off of the shore into the clear water. It was cold and clean.

After what seemed like an eternity, the big trout began to tire. I gently towed him into the center of the powerful current, using its force to gain an advantage over his powerful thrusts. Reeling him in slowly and delicately, I reached down to tail him and saw that he was indeed a nice 20 inch rainbow.

As I cradled him out of the water, a beam of sunlight shone through the canopy above and caught his flanks glistening in effervescent crimson and green, like a rainbow suspended above the rushing water. Releasing the fly from the corner of his mouth, I said out loud, “Thank you, my friend” and set him gently back in the water.  Holding his tail with my right hand, I cradled his round belly with my left hand and pulled him back and forth to let fresh oxygenated water wash over his gills.

With a quick flick of his tail, he hunched his muscular shoulders and pulled out of my hands, headed downward to the deep hole of the falls.

As I looked up I saw the sun reflecting once again over the mist of the falls. The stream of light cast an ethereal crimson and green rainbow over the wooded falls.

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