Fish This!

One hour at the lake...


The first light of a silent autumn morning streams out from between two mountains. It sets the water of the lake alight with a polished steel sheen and illuminates a hint of gold from the first of the freshly turned aspen leaves clinging to the steep, distant slopes.
Soon, the undersides of random ruffled clouds are set ablaze with a fiery magenta glow – the sky that lay out behind strengthening its resolve toward lighter shades of blue. Where a creek enters the lake, light is reflected in the disturbed water, every ripple a mirror stretching to the horizon – the blue sky a white glow, the blushing clouds a blood-red streak.
Where the fingers of the crackling creek cannot reach, the water is still and clear. There is an occasional hint at forms which lay beneath – waiting.
A high pitched drone draws focus. It is a newly hatched flying insect hovering a few feet above the surface. Soon there are two, then a dozen. A perfect blend of time, season, and temperature has set in motion the hatching of one particularly miniscule member of the animal kingdom.
In minutes they are swarming. The lucky ones will live a day.
Some of the bugs venture too close to the surface and are trapped in the current. They are swept along the outflow, drawing the attention of underwater predators.
Grayling begin to pierce the water’s plane, their large dorsal fins making popping sounds as they roll over on their prey. As more bugs accumulate, more grayling make their appearance. Soon the surface is a symphony of random circular swirls, as though raindrops are rising from below.
Rising fish usually means good fishing.
Presenting a hand tied fly meant to imitate the hatch is simple. Drop it in the water and let the current pull it along. The line goes tight and the rod bends double. The grayling are just as frantic in the fight as they are on the feed. On this particular day they are also running large, some trophy size.
Some fish manage to get away, others don’t. During one of the few quiet moments in between hooked fish, a wandering, content mind draws the eyes out beyond a ledge where the water turns dark blue and becomes dangerously deep.
Few grayling will venture into this realm where real danger lurks – a danger more familiar than land-based anglers with mechanical reels and plastic line.
In this empty space the flat calm surface proves to be a façade. From a sudden rupture lunges a massive lake trout, easily three feet long. Perhaps a grayling strayed a little too far from the masses in pursuit of a struggling fly.
From underneath a wily lake denizen three decade’s wise tracks a silhouette against the morning light. When the time is right, the trout surges upwards at full speed, opening and closing its jaws with timed precision around the ill fated grayling. Momentum momentarily carries the laker into an unknown realm of air, but soon it finds its way back to more naturally elemental surroundings.
Sights such as these leave an indelible impression on the eye, and set the mind to working toward a logical end result – time to catch lake trout.

A trout hooked but too big to keep. AC

To reach fish in deep water set out beyond the ledge, it is necessary to employ some special gear. Neoprene chest waders keep out both the water and the cold. They also allow access to angles on fish where presenting a lure is possible.
Out beyond the ripples of the creek, the water is chest deep and clear. Grayling swim along at random, occasionally devouring a bug on the surface within arm’s reach. The waders give a sensation of unnatural buoyancy, but keeping still is essential – one more step and the water will spill in over the top.
Keeping the arms elevated is necessary to keep them dry. With a whip of the rod, a carefully chosen lure is arching through air, then sinking toward submerged earth. Once the line stops curling from the reel, the lure has found the bottom. Reeling in slow the lure begins to climb the ledge – hopefully something is taking notice.
There is a finite line demarcating the sheer drop to the bottom. This is a nearby horizon of stones and gravel. The lure eventually rises above this point – following is a big trout. Even the intricate patterns of it skin and scales are visible as it lunges toward the lure, taking it in its mouth as it automatically turns away.
Too late.
The hook is set, and the fish makes a run, taking out line in the process. Stumbling back toward shore, it’s hard to keep all the factors necessary for success in play. The stones are slippery, and the eyes must track the fish, not the direction the feet are moving.
The fish makes a sudden turn and the line goes limp as it speeds toward shore. It tightens again when it runs back out. Soon the fish is in shallow water spinning in a death roll – a last ditch attempt at freedom.
This time hooks and knots prevail. The fish is dragged on shore gasping. Its orange painted fins gyrating wildly; looking for stability – bearings – a means of escape.
The fate of this trout is not sealed. Topping 30-inches and 13-pounds, this fish has been deemed by the Yukon government as worthy of release. The future of this lake trout will ensure future generations thrive in this ancient lake.
The hook is removed. The trout is set back into the water, and without hesitation, swims away.
More fish will follow and every so often another perfect day will come along.