Fishing Big Water
It was an ambitious maneuver by my humble standards – dropping her portside edge into the narrow channel, a quick 45 degree spin back to starboard, then wrenching her from the wave-train and into a balance-beam eddy. A few well-orchestrated, graceful strokes could stall us within striking distance of an obscenely juicy seam. But a poorly feathered oar, miscalibrated pull, or frozen moment of indecision would send us log-fluming past the sexiest water of the day… just like every other time I’d rowed this section.
I lined us up, took a deep breath, rolled my shoulders and tried in vain to relax. The horizon dropped away from the bow, and for six long seconds the world contracted into torque and turbulence, angles and adrenaline, surges and slides. Then stillness.
“Nice!” said Steven bobbing in the casting brace, already working line from his reel.
“Thanks,” I said, orienting myself to the newly re-expanded universe. We were perched in a boat-sized bucket of calm amid a rat’s nest of brawling currents, directly across the largest of which I saw…
“Nose!” I said, pointing with my chin.
“Where?” asked Steven.
I was no longer sure. The dissonance between the splashing, flashing, dashing water flooding my field of vision, and the sensation of stillness filling the boat had my head spinning. Was it a trick of my imagination or had I actually seen…
“Big dorsal!” I called. “Nine o’clock… where the bubble-line meets the big wave.”
Suddenly the world was small again, bounded now by a swirling raft of thin foam.
“Got it…oh man… oh yeah,” answered Steven reaching for the dry fly rig.
I stared at the spot, willing the fish to resurface; risking in the process what little remained of my equilibrium. Each fleeting appearance of a fin, side, tail, or snout gave me a shudder. Rising trout suddenly felt exotic, like glimpses of another place and time.
Steven gauged the distance with a series of false casts.
A dark back broke the surface and was gone in an instant. Just as quickly I knew it did, in fact, belong to another universe. We were two predatory teams, sure; separated by less than a boat length; each evading the current; each laying an ambush for smaller, weaker, unsuspecting prey. Yet we were forever divided by millions of years of evolution and an unbridgeable gap in outlook and sensory experience.
Steven laid his line on the water.
I stared harder.
He threw a mend.
I held my breath.
The soft water swelled… then split wide open.
“Different worlds my ass!” hollered Steven.
Or maybe it was “Fish on!”… everything was happening pretty quickly. Either way the message was clear.
I goosed us back into the current to give chase, even more ambitious and more humble than when I’d first sized-up the run.
What more can you ask for from big water?