The indicator hatch

I don’t normally count how many fish I catch and today was no different. I was, however, keenly aware of the fact that I was catching fish every few casts, while my brother hadn’t had so much as a whiff of interest.

This never happened. My brother was a meticulous angler. He covered the water way more carefully than I did and had a tendency to find fish in places I overlooked. Today, though, something was different. The fish seemed to only want the very specific fly I had – a purple dry fly that sat slightly below the surface. 

He tried just about every fly he had and came up with nothing each time. Even his purple flies resulted in nothing. 

I could see that he was starting to get frustrated. “I’m going to head up here a bit,” I said, pointing back the way we’d come. “You can have this spot to yourself for a bit.”

Upriver was no different. Every few casts I hooked into another fish. We hadn’t seen anything the first time we fish through this spot, so I was surprised at the sudden increase in fish. I kept quiet, though, and continued catching fish.

“Here,” I handed my brother my rod after about 10 minutes upstream. “Try this.” 

Something had to give and I was hoping that switching rods would make a difference. He started casting. This time, everything was the same as it had been when I was fishing. Same fly. Same rod. Same line. The only difference was the person casting and that seemed to matter to the fish because he still couldn’t catch anything. 

After a few minutes of watching, I started casting with his rod. I was mainly curious to know what his rod felt like to cast, but also curious to see if I could get a rise out of the fish. “Give me that,” he said after I’d made a few casts. “If you catch a fish with my rod right now I’m going to scream.”

We traded back and wandered over to a log to have a snack before heading further downriver. He would later confess we sat down to eat to calm his nerves, which was pretty obvious at the time. 

I continued to catch fish as we moved downriver, but Andy didn’t. To be fair, the fishing wasn’t great downriver. Not nearly as good as it had been when we’d first started fishing. The river was skinnier and the fish were more scarce, but they were there. We could see them. One run in particular held my brother’s attention. He kept casting to a very picky trout towards the bottom of the run. It always went the same way. The fish would rise, look at the fly, and then turn around with a swirl of water. 

Eventually, Andy did find a fish. A nice one, too. He pulled a larger cutty out of a deeper pool of water. 

With the smell of skunk gone, his luck (and mood) improved. We pushed downriver a little ways, catching smaller cutties and the occasional rainbow, and generally had a great day on the water. 

Throughout it all, though, that one fish kept coming back to my brother. There was something about it that tugged at his brain all day. He was eager to try for it again. When we got back there, I moved to the top of the run, while he focused on the one fish at the bottom. 

By this time, I’d switched over to dangling a nymph under an indicator. The fish had switched over from topwater to subsurface and I was having more luck this way. Andy, on the other hand, was dedicated to fishing a dry fly.

Neither of us had much luck in the run this time around. His cutthroat was still doing the same song and dance – rise, refuse, swirl – while the fish at the top of the run had all but vanished, and, after a little while, we switched places. 

On my first cast, the fish ignored my nymph, rose to the surface, and promptly swallowed my indicator. I panicked and, more out of habit than anything else, set the hook, catching the fish on the underside of the jaw. 

I didn’t even have to look over to know that my brother was staring a hole in my head. But, even still, he couldn’t help but take a peek at the fish that had consumed so much of his day… even if someone else had caught it.

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