Life is too short to be a streamer dreamer.
It is 6:00am and quite dark out. I can either go to sleep or fish for a few hours before work. In my mind, the choice is a simple one. In reality, there is still sleep in my eyes and I’m pretty sure this comforter might be the greatest man nest of all time. But sleep won’t come easy and I’ve got to move my car anyway to avoid the parking ticket ring of death that is Glover Park during morning rush hour. A cup of coffee, fat lip of tobacco (don’t dip kids), and smallmouth bass are all I need to get out of bed. The creek is calling my name.
As the horizon slowly emerges from the darkness, I make out some old athletic shorts and flip flops on the floor. A used Columbia shirt from a previous outing hangs on my door knob. Even in remote darkness, the living room is a relative mess. Bottles of craft beer lay wasted and empty on a wooden table covered in fly fishing stickers from the night before (two fantasy drafts in a row will turn anyone to the sauce). Additionally, various fly patterns are strewn randomly across the entire apartment, which throws an element of danger into turning on light switches or fumbling through random objects on the table. On my way out the door, I swipe a few of the more promising looking creations from the night before along with my can of Grizzly and I’m out the door.
On the agenda this morning is testing an antennae-ed variation of the #sexpanther on smallmouth bass and other creek fishes in Rock Creek Park. The revamped panther has been working well on the bass recently and I’m looking to push the envelope a little bit to coax a bigger bronzeback into coming out to play. The pattern is big, leggy, and to this point, only full of potential. It’s time to find out if its up to snuff. Hopping into my beloved, dust covered and fish sticker ridden Explorer, I turn on the headlights, switch on the bluegrass station and begin my short descent out of Glover and into the raising darkness of Rock Creek Valley.
Parking near the ambassador to-some-foreign-land’s residence, I throw on the studded boots and wet wading booties (I will not wet wade in Rock Creek, just a precaution in case I need to wet an ankle). In the early morning darkness, the valley seems to transform into a primitive place. Deer graze casually in the shadows of multi-million dollar homes and the parkway, where cars rush in upwards of 50+mph during rush hour, is silent. For a few precious minutes, the babble of the creek will overtake the commotion of the most powerful city on Earth. That is a beautifully refreshing sentiment in my mind. But soon things will start moving again. They always do.
Stringing up the 4wt to the bemusement of a few early morning joggers, I tie on the new panther pattern I put together last night. Compared to the last week or so, it actually feels refreshing to be outdoors. The morning air is cool and crisp, the coffee warm and inviting in my hand. Fall is definitely on its way and all is good in the world as I look out onto the trail. The clock reads 6:45AM.
Making my way down stream, the first few holes I hit aren’t entirely productive. I see a few fish rising here and there, but nothing is hungry and they seem small. As the sun rises higher in the sky, my fast retrieve brings nothing to hand signaling that it’s time to change things up. Sticking with the same panther that got me out of bed and onto the stream this morning, I work a few of the deeper holes in the creek making sure to get the fly down on the bottom. But still, the fish won’t cooperate.
Each empty hole I pass on my way down stream conjures up memories of past victories and fish stuck in the face. When I close my eyes I can see smallmouth bass erupting from behind rocks and flying out of fallen trees to gobble down streamers. In this instance, I’m reliving the times when everything lined up just right – the fly, current, and fish all cooperating in a beautiful amalgamation of chaos and natural order. But on this morning, I’ll have to be content with memories. The creek is eerily still.
As I make my way around the creek bend, a fishless fly and hour glass weighing against my confidence, I spy a nice bass (14=16”) holding at the tail end of some shallow riffles. Once in position to cast, I can feel the rod load in my hand as the line queues its eloquent unfurl into the oblivion. In less than a second, my fly is in the water, drifting towards its inevitable fate. In less time than that, the fish will make a split-second decision whether to devour the weird, food-resembling object drifting toward its general area or not. His decision will be based upon a myriad of things I will probably never fully understand. Still, I will take its refusal to eat quite personally.
The fly lands several feet upstream of my quarry and slowly tumbles towards the creek bed. I mend the line to get it down just a little bit farther and watch the fish in anticipation of the indescribable. Almost like it was prompted by some dark, unseen force, the fish races out to investigate the fly. I take the fish’s cavalier attitude as a sign of appetite and give the fly a quick twitch as if to speed things up. To this day, I have never seen a smallmouth bass exit stage left more rapidly in my life. The rejection is hard to take.
In the last half hour or so before I have to go home and get prepared for the work day (3 eggs, 2 English Muffins, and a quick shower are all I need), I change up the fly for a small foam hopper and proceed to wail on a dozen or so sunfish before calling it a day. Despite the action, I can't help but feel unsatisfied and begin to think introspectively.
On a different day, would the same fish have eaten that same fly no questions asked? Did that slight twitch essentially tell the fish to f*ck off? Is the new panther pattern salvageable? I’m not sure. “Probably,” is the most thorough answer I can give y’all. But I guess that’s why I’ll continue to get out of bed in the morning while my peers hit the snooze button.
Life is too short to be a streamer dreamer.
Remick Smothers is a native son of the District of Columbia and the founder of FlyTimesDC. A self taught fly fisherman and fly tier, Rem graduated from Rhodes College with a double major in fly fishing and English in 2012. He has been celebrating the fly life ever since. Just remember, if it's dark out, there's a shark out. Above all else, stay fly. #flytimesdc