By Paul Corliss
I was stalling, looking for that gap in the verbal traﬁic that would rescue me from my dilemma. The only alternative I could think of was to simply move very quickly across the shingle and punch him in the face. Probably not a good move considering his present demeanour, and a bit over the top, regardless.
All I had asked him was if I could fish through his pool while he farted about with his tangled leader and flies. It was the third or fourth time I’d broached the issue and his response had been un demand had crept into my voice.
Pool sharing arguments
It was a pool of great promise, thin in the glide but an eye that fairly shrieked trout. As the current dropped softly through the throat it eddied and curled invitingly over a deep hole. God, it looked exceptionally good. If there wasn’t a good trout in there I’d eat his rod, reel and fly line included.
The hatch of caddis was by now trickling to occasional ﬂutterers. In another few minutes, the prime time would be gone and the opportunity wasted. Hell, he must know that. Was he prepared to allow the moment to drift aimlessly away, simply because I was in a position to exploit it and he wasn’t?
The silence was becoming an embarrassment, I couldn’t think of how to rephrase the question. My mind was racing. Perhaps I could execute a delicate little side-cast around his body and drop the elk-hair just so, allowing it to toddle over the drop and into the inviting window at the edge. I could already imagine the big gaping mouth gulping at the fly. God, it was tempting.
But I resisted, thinking of the three miles of water ahead and how a souring of our relationship would only detract from the fishing. Anyway, he was right. It was his pool in the leap-frog order we had adopted.
”I know what,” I said, annoyed at myself as a wheedling tone entered my voice. ”I’ll fish this one and
you can have the next two pools at the base of the bluff.
You know they’re loaded and I’ll be bound to have fished through them both before you’ve sorted that mess out.”
It sounded more than fair to me, a reasonable and logical solution to the problem He didn’t even speak. He simply looked me straight in the eye and arched his ludicrous hairy brows high. What the hell was that supposed to mean? A simple ”you carry on” would have been enough to confirm his decision, this body language stuff was uncalled for.
“Bugger you then,” I sulked. ”I’ll just carry on and neither of us will get any pleasure from the pool. It seems bloody ridiculous to me to waste the chance.”
I was going to follow up with something along the lines that I would have agreed to my suggestion if I’d been in his position but thought better of it. There was an outside risk that this could actually happen further up the river and he’d use it against me.
I trudged up the left braid, leaving the other one for him, mainly because I couldn’t cover both at the same time. With the sun on the water and no wind, the two pools at the base of the bluff were as predicted, a delight. The flooding last month had altered them a little, but the same deep hole at the top of each was tucked in behind the big limestone boulders that guarded the head of the pool. There was only one way to fish these. After polaroiding the shallow tail to ensure there was not a lazy trout sitting in the slack water, the best lie to cover was the hole itself. By dropping the dry on the ripples that dropped in at the throat, the fly could only go one way. With a curling ride in the swirl at the boulder, the best water was covered on the first cast. If there were trout in residence a few of these casts would soon tempt them to show.
And it did. As sure as someone made little green apples, I was entitled to feel a little smug. I landed three good browns of between three and five pounds. All three rose slowly to the elk-hair dry, sucked it in and gently turned back down. The fight was torrid and time-consuming.
By the time I had reached the junction of the two braids he was no longer in sight. I was gradually becoming immersed in my own fishing and the promise of each successive pool. Each tricked trout took the dry and those that didn’t seemed to sit morosely near the bottom ignoring every presentation. I couldn’t quite work it out. lt didn’t matter, there was enough action to satisfy the meanest angler, as pool after pool unfolded and usually delivered.
I returned whatever I caught, but kept one fat four-pounder to smoke. The rest were a little smaller and not as well-conditioned. I needed something reasonable to rest my laurels on when it came to our post-angling debrief. We’d agreed to keep a maximum of one each and I’d stick by the arrangement, the kept trout sufficient to illustrate my tales of piscatorial treachery. We’d sit around the glowing embers and I’d regale him time and again of my artful deception.
I reached the tent pleasantly tired and very pleased. A cup from the thermos and a quiet fag would top the day off rather nicely. As I sipped and puffed I could see his distant shape coming around the last bend in the river, his rod moving smoothly as he worked his fly slowly through the rippling water. His rod tip never signalled a take all the way up the long run, which was a shame really, as it would have been enjoyable to watch as I sat and waited.
I’d had a good day and the fire of the earlier confrontation had burnt low by the time he crunched over the gravel toward me.
”How’d you get on in that pool?” I queried, guessing he’d left his run too late to take advantage of the hatch and secretly thinking, without malice now, “serves him right”.
He didn’t say a word. He reached for his pack and abruptly upended it with a theatrical flourish. A great weight thumped onto the gravel, wrapped in a mutton cloth with a thin stain of blood on the edge. He unrolled it like a large salami and exposed a deliciously fat brown of seven or eight pounds. Its back was speckled with red and black stars and it was very meaty.
The brown had hit his size 14 nymph on the second drift and taken him on a scrambling dance downstream, finally coming to the net on a sandy beach next to the old stock bridge. A nymph, he’d caught it on a bloody nymph!
“Why do you think I wouldn’t let you fish the pool?” he questioned, not even waiting for me to answer as he continued. ”I’d already spotted this beauty when my leader tangled. He wasn’t going to be interested in your bloody caddis, I could see him sipping nymphs deep down by the bottom. You were blathering away like a demented chook and this little baby was just sipping and sipping, waiting for you and your elk-hair to bugger off, a bit like me really. You weren’t in a mood for rational discussion so I just ignored you as I changed to a nymph.
”You rotten selfish sod,” was all I could think to say. “You should have left him as breeding stock. I would have.”