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The Curse Of Salmo
An Essay By Mark Blauvelt

Most trout fishermen with any time under their wading belts have picked up a few things over the years. One may be that Salmo trutta is, at times, the smartest fish that ever swam. And, on another day and under seemingly identical circumstances, he may grab  the title of 'easiest fish ever caught’ with all the gusto of a politician at an open bar. This dichotomy is a curse, and the curse of Salmo has many faces. Please let me attempt to paint a portrait of a few...

We’re methodically casting upstream, watching the drift and stripping the line, waiting for the telltale stutter that says “strike”. We cast, we strip, we recast, and we strip again. Cast. Strip. Cast. Strip. Cast. Strip. Until we’re in a trance. The same cast, the same drift - over and over. We feel his presence, we know he’s there. We lose focus, mechanically fishing like vacationing zombies. Then it happens, the strike for which we thought we were waiting! Caught off-guard somewhere between snoring and yawning, we miss the hit. The sound we hear in our imaginations is Salmo laughing. His derision is emotionally audible, easily carrying over the burbling of the riffles. So we continue to cast, having mentally marked the spot. Deep down we know that a second chance won’t come but we, the weak mortals that we are, keep casting. At times I’ve heard the laughing sounds as though they were coming from a crowd. When you hear that you’ll know Salmo’s told all his buddies how he was patiently waiting until the very worst moment to take a poke at the fly. It’s a game of piscatorial chicken and he had eyes above the water.

On a different day we may find a trick superficially similar to the one above; the upstream mend moment.  Even when we know these moments exist, we remain susceptible.  We all know an upstream mend can put several feet of slack into the line for a brief, but sometimes long enough, moment. It's a moment of lost contact as we try to strip in the excess and maintain control. Picture this scenario: we, cast across a few seams, strip in enough slack to make a heck of a mend and while our body's twisted and the rod is already as far upstream as it can go - POW!  The indicator/dry fly gets clobbered! We’re left looking like a ballerina on crack, as we gracelessly fumble to take up all the slack, maintain balance and set the hook at the same time!. Yes sir, the end of this story is always the same. We miss him!  On really special days we’ll have him hooked just long enough to see what we’re going to lose. In case you're wondering, that's just long enough to burn a visual imprint on the back of our eyelids.  It's relaxing to know we'll  never have allow another night’s sleep without that image being the last we see as we slip into our dreams. Never forget, Salmo loves knowing that we are seeing this episode played back, over and over in the backs of our minds. Salmo can be cruel.

Here is another favorite. We're having a nice outing; the wife, boss and weather have all cooperated.  There we are, nymphing a favorite run and we're focusing on the water that is straight across along the bank.  We cast a few times, covering the water.  Then we move up a few steps and start covering water again.  We keep repeating the process, moving up through the run. Now we all know that once the flies get past us we'll already start to plan the next move, ever vigilant and anticipating the future.  In a routine no-doubt invented by the Three Stooges, we finish the cast and start to walk a few steps upstream, leaving fly hanging 25 feet straight downstream in the current.  Here he comes!  Salmo is just like a shark hitting a surfer, minus the "Jaws" music of course.  Or maybe there is music, only we don't hear it since we're stuck in own little world.  Salmo pounces on the fly and darn near rips the rod out of our hands, but the S.O.B. always seems to get away clean!

Even when we go to the extreme of wearing garlic around our neck to ward off the evil fish juju, we're still an easy target for Salmo.  Who hasn't had a day when even our very best cast with the lightest of tippets will seemingly spook every fish within 200 feet?  In them name of total disclosure and by strictest definition this our usual game, by the way.  Then there are the other days, the days when the fish can be so focused that we couldn't put them down even if we tried.  While this would normally be a good thing, it seems these days are also when we throw every fly we own at Salmo and he won’t even grace us with the gift of a sniff. It's days like that when we could teach sailors to cuss...


The list goes on and on.  Like walking into a freak trico hatch in November, or that rare stonefly hatch in January.  Despite wearing a 93lb vest, it's a winning bet we won't bring the one box that has 33 dozen exact imitations we tied just for this situation! Better still, we brought them but left them in the car since we're smart enough to figure the conditions wouldn't warrant that certain group of flies.

 

And the days when  we completely forgot how to cast.  Salmo gets a kick out of seeing us hung up all day, while our newbie fishing partner - the guy we just showed how to cast in the parking area -  has the best day ever recorded on the river we're fishing!  Of course when our casting's phenomenal, Salmo's just not eating...

 

And so it goes.  I think you can start to see that there is a higher power that dictates our success on the stream.  I don't have any answers, I just know that on some rare days we might win the battle and catch a few. On most of the other days we struggle with the dreaded curse of  Salmo.

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