Years ago, my fishing partner and I went out West to explore some new rivers and expand upon our trout fishing knowledge. One thing we have learned, is that while there are some basic similarities to trout behavior, and diet, there are also subtle nuances that can make the fishing a bit challenging from place to place. This is when “fishing” becomes “problem-solving”, and the focus is finding the right combination to interest the fish. Sometimes finding the combination is easy, like adding more weight to the line to get the bait deeper, sometimes the color of the bait, sometimes the presentation, sometimes even the clothes you wear, and sometimes you never get it right. But when the right combination is dialed in, then fishing becomes catching, and the day becomes very exciting!
It was on this trip I saw an apparition of sorts; kind of like a ghost. This one was dressed up in the dark clothes of a ninja. His face was covered with a mask, but instead of a bo staff, he carried a fly rod. The Ninja appeared from the shadows of the trees that lined a sharp bend of a River in Southwest Montana. I figured him to be one of the local fella’s. You know the type; the folks that really know their home water, because they have been fishing it since they were a small child with their dad, and because of that experience, they instinctively know the right trick to use to entice the fish to bite. I figured that since I had little experience with this river; or for that matter; apparition’s, ninja’s, or opportunities to watch a local fishermen (outside of hiring a guide), I thought it prudent to stop what I was doing and pay attention.
Previous to the apparitions’ appearance, I had been beating that same section of river to a foamy froth with a #16 Caddis fly, and prince nymph dropper trying to make something happen. This all occurred during the, “mid-afternoon lull”, where the fishing grinds to a halt and the fish, seemingly disappear to the more secluded places that fish go to rest and recreate in their fishy way. Thinking back, I should have been resting in a hammock somewhere, with my waders hanging on the porch with a good lunch settling in my belly, while happily drifting in and out of dream sequences brought on by the antics of big, bottom-dredging brown trout, and high-jumping rainbow trout that were pulling me up and down the river that morning. Instead of doing that, I was walking heavy, flogging the river in frustration, and finding no success because of either the afternoon lull, or the steady stream of “encouraging” words I was casting to the finned monsters, who ignored my offerings, as their broad tails stirred the rivers depths. Now here I was beginning to hallucinate about ninja’s showing up to the river to fish. My family and friends warned me, fishing would make me crazy, and this guy in the odd get-up was the proof.
After foul hooking a clump of weeds on the river’s edge, again, I thought I would surrender to my hallucination, and see if it could do any better. What I saw was amazing! Every place I had fished and failed, the ninja pulled out three fish or more. When the foliage allowed he was even catching fish on his back-casts! It was an amazing sight to behold, kind of like a magicians trick. I even found myself applauding the show he put on. However, before I knew it, the ninja once again blended with the shadows of the tree-lined bank, and disappeared.
As I sat on the bank pondering the lessons learned from that mentor ninja fisherman, I was determined to change my approach to mid-afternoon fishing in two ways. First, I raised my right hand, in the classic oath taking position and began oathing.
“From this point forward, when the mid-afternoon lull hits, I will be resting in a hammock somewhere, with my waders hanging on the porch, with a good lunch settling in my belly, while happily drifting in and out of dream sequences brought on by the antics of big, bottom-dredging brown trout, and high-jumping rainbow trout that were pulling me up and down the river that morning.”
And second, figure out where fishing ninja’s do their shopping, because he got away before I could ask him where he got the cool ninja fishing clothes.