Blood Shot Fly Fishing by Mark Usyk

It’s called “Group 3.” I go to work Monday and Tuesday for the day shift, have Wednesday and Thursday off, then go in at 11:30PM Thursday night and do the same the next two nights. Monday Morning I’m back on days. It’s a vicious cycle, it’s no fun, and the person that came up with such a shift must be evil incarnate. Not only does it mess with your sleep schedule, but it messes with your fishing time. You wake up wondering what day it is and where you should be. And if you’re me, when you get home in the morning from being up all night, the sun rise giving you your second wind, you question whether or not you should go fishing or go to bed. I may look like the walking dead…But I’ll look like the walking dead in waders. I can sleep anytime. Anytime I’m not fishing.

I somehow made it through a night of green, greasy, and smelly mechanics coveralls, foam ear plugs crammed into my ear canals, and battling machinery that wants to chew you up and spit you out like some half-digested undercooked meat. My only weapons wrenches and ratchets. I made the short drive home. And I made it through getting the boys on the school bus and seeing Holly leave for work. And then my second wind, my fishing wind kicked in.

A streamer of natural brown rabbit strip and white faux fur was the only fly I carried. My 7wt in hand, my wader boots carried me down our street and I hooked left to the bridge, the Oriskany Creek passing beneath it. I was holding off sleeping to fish, but only for so long. I meant to make this a short outing, hence the single fly. I would either catch a couple fish or loose the streamer, at which point I would give in to sleep.

I had an idea how the fly would swim as I tied it the day before, placing the brown on top and the white underneath as the belly, my goal to imitate the two-tone look of a small minnow. As I stepped into the creek I hung the fly in the slow water and smiled as it wiggled and swam, looking like a bait fish struggling against the current.

Normally I preferred to go down stream more to get away from the bridge and the manmade scenery and into the green, but today I wanted to stay a little closer, so I didn’t have so far to walk back once my second wind died, which could be at any moment. I made a cast to the bottom of an old rough cut stone bridge piling, into a shadow of only about 5ft square. The water bordering it on three sides filled with sunlight, clear enough to make out every cobble stone, pebble, and old timber of the original bridge that once stood there.

The streamer landed in the shadow against the old piling with a dull slap, and I immediately began a slow jerking strip to keep it in the small dark shadow before the current which picked up speed as it pushed around the piling carried it away downstream. Just as the streamer cleared the shadow and made the sun light I saw it. A movement of something advancing out of the dark from where it had just come, then a mouth opened and inhaled the imposter and made its turn to go back to its ambush spot. I lifted the rod tip and set the hook. As bronze hell broke loose I held on, the fighting butt of the 7wt pushing against my forearm. I reeled. The fish fought. The fish first tried to go down stream, finding it couldn’t go any further and flanked on both sides by the old stone bridge piling walls, it turned and came straight up the current, my line going slack for a couple seconds. I stripped in slack until as the Smallmouth left the pilings and hooked right it meant to try to escape down the next row of pilings and the line went tight again.

The game was played, the fight fought like this three times until I finally dragged the fish into shallow ankle deep water. The Smallmouths in the Oriskany Creek range in color and markings depending on the section they live, and this one was the color of brass that had years of patina and character. I could have fished more, longer, down to at least the bottom side of the bridge, but something told me this was good enough. End on a good note, after only a couple casts. A good fish. A good battle. A fine morning. And now to bed to replay the fight in my head as I drifted off to sleep in the morning daylight, the rest of my friends at work, thinking about fishing.