Fishing is like smoking. You need that next cigarette like I need my next catch. The longer I go between fish in the net, the more I can accept the fact that I haven’t caught anything. I can look back on an empty afternoon a month from now and enjoy the other things that happened while I wasn’t catching: the discovery of the first spring ephemerals tucked beside a naked oak, spotting a flock of turkeys foraging a snow-capped corn field along the roadside, listening to the drumming of a grouse. But in the actual moments between casts, dammit, I want to raise a fish.
Yesterday’s sojourn to the Sugar River will be remembered in the snow that fell during my first casts and how Matt’s daughter fell asleep on his shoulder while I attempted to take their photo. But at the time, dammit, I wanted a fish. A full week of sulking around as an angling failure is too long before a shot at redemption, so driving home from the day’s errands I took a long detour out to an Owl Creek, a ribbon of water flocked by tangles of brush and gifted with an abundance of wild brook trout.
Most of it is technical water; the small pool alongside the highway however, where the stream is split by a culvert, is not. I usually park at the gravel lot a couple hundred feet east of the pool, walk on the opposite side of the road, wait to ensure the road is clear of traffic, and then follow a circuitous route through a stand of cattails downstream before crossing the creek and sneaking back upstream to the tail out of the pool. If that sounds like a lot of work to access water literally five feet from a public highway, need I remind you that it is literally five feet away from a public highway?
The paranoia paid off in a handful of casts with a brookie fighting well above its weight class. As the fish is brought to net I begin to relax. The greatest distance between success and failure is the difference between one fish landed, and one not.
I plop my ass in the snow bank, one foot in the water, and sit there for the next half hour, slowly stripping my soft hackle pheasant tail jig through the depths of the pool and watching for the slight hesitation in the line that signals a bite. Cast, release, repeat. I hope with each passing that it is driven by a non-angler.
After thirty minutes, and about a dozen brook trout, the bite slows. I pick myself up and hustle away from the hole as quickly as I arrived, having caught my fix. It should hold me over for another week, at least. I’m sure the trout are just as satisfied about that.