The Curse Of Salmo
An Essay By Mark Blauvelt
Most trout fishermen with any
time under their wading belts have picked up a few things over the years.
One may be that Salmo trutta is, at times, the smartest fish that
ever swam. And, on another day and under seemingly identical
circumstances, he may grab the title of 'easiest fish ever caught’ with
all the gusto of a
politician at an open bar. This dichotomy is a curse, and the curse of Salmo
has many faces. Please let me attempt to paint a portrait of a few...
We’re methodically casting upstream, watching the drift and stripping the
line, waiting for the telltale stutter that says “strike”. We cast, we
strip, we recast, and we strip again. Cast. Strip. Cast. Strip. Cast.
Strip. Until we’re in a trance. The same cast, the same drift - over and
over. We feel his presence, we know he’s there. We lose focus,
mechanically fishing like vacationing zombies. Then it happens, the strike
for which we thought we were waiting! Caught off-guard somewhere between snoring and
yawning, we miss the hit. The sound we hear in our imaginations is Salmo laughing. His
derision is emotionally audible, easily carrying over the burbling of the riffles. So we
continue to cast, having mentally marked the spot. Deep down we know that
a second chance won’t come but we, the weak mortals that we are, keep
casting. At times I’ve heard the laughing sounds as though they were
coming from a
crowd. When you hear that you’ll know Salmo’s told all his buddies how he
was patiently waiting until the very worst moment to take a poke at the
fly. It’s a game of piscatorial chicken and he had eyes above the water.
On a different day we may find a trick superficially similar to the one above; the upstream mend
moment. Even when we know these moments exist, we remain
susceptible. We all know an upstream mend can put several feet of slack into
the line for a brief, but sometimes long enough, moment. It's a moment of
lost contact as we try to strip in the excess and maintain control.
Picture this scenario: we, cast across a few seams, strip in enough slack
to make a heck of a mend and while our body's twisted and the rod is
already as far upstream as it can go - POW! The indicator/dry fly
gets clobbered! We’re left looking like a ballerina on
crack, as we gracelessly fumble to take up all the slack, maintain balance and set the
hook at the same time!. Yes sir, the end of this story is always the same.
We miss him! On really special days we’ll have
him hooked just long enough to see what we’re going to lose. In case
you're wondering, that's just long
enough to burn a visual imprint on the back of our eyelids. It's
relaxing to know we'll never have allow another night’s sleep without that image being the
last we see as we slip into our dreams. Never forget, Salmo loves
knowing that we are seeing this episode played back, over and over in the backs of our minds.
Salmo can be cruel.
is another favorite. We're having a nice outing; the wife, boss and weather
have all cooperated. There we are, nymphing a favorite run and we're focusing on the water that is straight across along the
bank. We cast a few times, covering the water. Then we move up a few
steps and start covering water again. We keep repeating the process,
moving up through the run. Now we all know that once the flies get past us
we'll already start to plan the next move, ever vigilant and anticipating
the future. In a routine no-doubt invented by the Three Stooges, we finish the cast and start to walk a few
steps upstream, leaving fly hanging 25 feet straight downstream in the current.
Here he comes! Salmo is just like a shark hitting a surfer, minus the
"Jaws" music of course. Or maybe there is music, only we don't hear
it since we're stuck in own little
world. Salmo pounces on the fly and
darn near rips the rod out of our hands, but the S.O.B. always seems to get
Even when we go to the extreme of wearing garlic around our neck to
ward off the evil fish juju, we're still an easy target for Salmo.
Who hasn't had a day when even our very best cast with the
lightest of tippets will seemingly spook every fish within 200 feet?
In them name of total disclosure and by strictest definition this our
usual game, by the way. Then there are the other days, the days when
the fish can be so focused that we couldn't put them down even if we
tried. While this would normally be a good thing, it seems these
days are also when we throw every fly we own at Salmo and he won’t even
grace us with the gift of a sniff. It's days like that when we could teach
sailors to cuss...
The list goes on and on. Like walking into a freak trico hatch in November,
or that rare stonefly hatch in January. Despite wearing a 93lb vest,
it's a winning bet we won't bring the one box that has 33 dozen exact
imitations we tied just for this situation! Better still, we brought them but left them in the
car since we're smart enough to figure the conditions wouldn't warrant that certain group of flies.
And the days when we completely forgot
how to cast. Salmo gets a kick out of seeing us hung up all day,
while our newbie fishing partner - the guy we just showed how to cast in
the parking area - has the best day ever recorded on the river we're
fishing! Of course when our
casting's phenomenal, Salmo's just not eating...
And so it goes. I think you can start to
see that there is a higher power that dictates our success on
the stream. I don't have any answers, I just know that on some rare
days we might win the battle and catch a few. On most of the other days we
struggle with the dreaded curse of Salmo.