I stand in a stretch of the Oriskany Creek, staring down the Weeping Willow that’s attached to the other end of my fly line, a few tugs leading to a few furious shakes, leaves falling to the water and floating on the current as I make the decision to just break off the fly. I pull the line tight, tighter still, until it finally pops…The fly falls to the water and disappears downstream with the current, my eyes follow it in both belief and disbelief at the same time. I shake my head, laugh at myself, and inspect my fly box, wondering which one I’ll most likely lose next.
I tie on a black leech pattern of rabbit fur and make a cast, narrowly missing the same branches that moments earlier dragged a four letter word across my lips. The fly lands against the cutout sand bank and rolls down into the water. A few seconds later the line is tight, the rod arching overhead, a fish fighting for yards like a football player making slow progress with another dragging from his leg. When the fight is over I cradle a gorgeous greenish bronze Smallmouth with the markings of a fierce jungle warrior. I remove the hook from it’s mouth, admire the fish for another quick moment and then lower it back to the cool water. With a kick and a splash it glides off to deeper shadows and I’m left with water and sand speckled on my face. I figure it’s like the fish saying “Here’s mud in your eye.” I suppose I deserve that.
The Oriskany Creek is known as Brown Trout water, and it is. But I’m a horrible Trout fisherman, unless you’re talking about the Wild Brook Trout that I hunt in remote Adirondack streams. Most haven’t seen an artificial fly, they just don’t know any better. But here in the Oriskany the Brown Trout seem to know when I’m here and let the Bass, the Fall Fish, and the Creek Chubs take the fall instead. I don’t mind in the least. Time on the creek is time on the creek, no matter what I find at the end of my line, if I find anything at the end at all.
But I do hook a Brown every now and then to be sure. Sometimes I feel like they might feel sorry for me and reluctantly take a fly just to ease their guilt. I’ll take them honest or I’ll let them think they’re doing me a favor and play along with their ruse. We shake hands during the release, I make my way one direction and they swim off in another, both of us getting a glimpse of another world if for only a few seconds.
The fish and I, we have an understanding. They understand I’m trying to catch them, and I understand they don’t want to be caught. Some days we balance each other out well. On many others the balance seems to be tipped in their favor. I never hold it against them. They’re just fish after all, and I’m only human.