The day started off well. We got to the Rapidan river by 10 AM. The weather was beautiful. There was a chance of rain, but optimism won out, and the storms steered clear. The three of us spread out, hop-scotching each other, sharing the pools. The air was filling up with midges, a few duns, butterflies, and gnats. I tried to start slowly, taking in these new surroundings.
I haven't fished the same water twice for a long time. Moving to Virginia has dumped a host of new species, habitats, and thus, opportunities at my feet. It is exciting, but also slightly hectic. Each fishing trip has brought new challenges.
After the last outing for trout left me contently skunked, I new I needed to really take the time to study the water on this trip. This river was a buffet line of good pools, but that doesn't mean I should just dig in and throw myself at everything in sight. Careful study of each entree is needed to ensure optimal satisfaction of each portion.
So I took my time. When I saw a rise, I switched to dries. First a griffiths, then a midge, then the closest thing to the duns I had. I had droppers, emergers, then scuds and soft hackles. I eventually switched to a stimulator and began getting some looks, even a few takes, but the size was too big for the little brook trout mouths. Slowly, the takes and looks went away. No fish in hand yet.
I had heard that the fish were hitting on nymphs, so I tried. I really tried. I am, however, extremely uncomfortable nymphing. Maybe it is because I can't see the nymph in the water. Even just watching the indicator is hard for me. I like to see the fish take the fly. I don't know, maybe I just need better glasses.
Regardless, the frustration was mounting. I had taken a slip or two, scratched the waterproof lens on my camera, and was losing fly after fly to the forest. I started walking up a ridge to get to another pool when I came upon a bed of moss. It looked too inviting. I set down my gear, took off my sunglasses, and laid down.
I slowed down my breathing, taking in the fresh mountain air. Listened to the birds and the brooke. Felt the sun on my face. My mind cleared itself of the negativity that was filling up all morning.
I sat back up, feeling the serrated edges of the lichens with the palms of my hands. I looked back at the pool I had planned to fish next. It looked good. Hearty. There were fish in there. I knew it. Not only did I know it, but I knew where I needed to cast. The water made sense again.
On the second cast, my fly slid on the seam of the run. A errant strike splashed next to my fly. I let my drift finish and casted again. The second strike was dead on target. I set my tenkara rod and felt the small body fight with every ounce of power it possessed.
A beautiful fish. I sent it back and continued up the stream to finish off the day. The water made sense to me all the way back to the car. I even managed another fish and a few more looks. I met up with the guys and we shared beer, stories, and dinner.
The day started and ended great, but it was funny how things added up to really pull me down and shake my confidence on the water. When I commit an entire day and eight hours of driving to fish a single stream, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. Today, I got to spend a gorgeous day with friends doing something I love. That should be good enough. My ability to catch fish, while important, shouldn't dictate my happiness. Of course, I fish to catch fish, but I won't always do so. When I get frustrated, it is helpful to hit the reset button and try again when I feel ready to see the water.