Topwater Voodoo

There is a fine line between focus and pathological obsession. By the look in Scott’s eyes, I figured he’d blown right past it somewhere before the last fly change. I could tell. I was right there with him.

“Half a stroke closer?” he asked, false casting over my head.

“Yep.” I said, easing the boat forward. “What’d you tie on?”

“Big fatty P-Adams with a microscopic BWO trailer.”

That was at least the sixth offering. We’d tried matching size and color. Cripples, spinners, emergers and drowned dries had all gotten shots at the title. We’d even gone gaudy. Nada.

Watching trout mouths all but push our best guesses out of the way in order to gulp from the raft of naturals had been terribly exciting with the first couple of set-ups. We’d then progressed through vexing in short order, and arrived ultimately at downright painful.


“Yep, “ I said, silently backing us away from the riot.

The other boats in our party had moved on forty-five minutes ago, content to keep sticking fish on the bottom. We’d have to ignore several productive runs later if we were ever going to catch up, but we didn’t give them a thought. It was like we’d been bewitched by Sirens. If we ended up on the rocks, so be it. Leaving those risers with out consummation was not an option.

“Seriously… did you just… REALLY?!” The frustration evident in Scott’s voice had already tied a knot in my gut. The sound of graphite snapping over a knee would not have felt out of place.

“This is masochistic… you know that right?”

Scott didn’t reply, just bent forward over the gunwale and recast.

They were great fish, putting on a hell of show. There’s no doubt about it. But that, in and of itself, couldn’t fully explain our state. Something else was going on. Maybe I had some form of angling cabin-fever after the long Wyoming winter. Maybe Mars was retrograde through Aquarius while the moon rose above my Sun House. Maybe I just needed to measure up. Whatever held me captive, I suspect it lives in the dark backrooms of my mind, where the conscious me never gets to go.

“Fish on…ha,” said Scott, straightening his back as his rod bounced forward. The words came out quiet and flat. Instead of triumph or celebration, they betrayed the faintest sigh of relief.

With that, the spell was broken. We laughed at ourselves, exchanged high-fives, took a moment to admire Scott’s hard won fish, then rowed back into the current of our lives.

I was glad to move on.

And I can’t wait to go back.

2 Comments on “Topwater Voodoo

  1. Very well written. A lot of fly fishing blogs try too hard to turn a fishing story into a meta-narrative about life using every word they can find on You’ve landed on a nice balance here.

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