Stream of Consciousness

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

like gold in a miner's pan. I move to a new pool and this one, like the last two, is crammed with bass, swimming back and forth like teenagers cruising the square on Saturday night. Still, it's not what I would choose for an ideal smallmouth fishing situation. I'd like a substantial flow of water running over big rocks into a pool. I'd cast into the swift water, let my woolly bugger tumble down the run into the washout and retrieve it as it swings in the current.

The riffle would break up the shadow of my falling fly line, and the fly would move so swiftly that fish wouldn't have time to think-they'd have to react instantly or lose it.

But there's only a limpid pool filled with fish as suspicious as IRS auditors. And I am standing on the bank with my 1040 long form, tipped with some deductions that bring new meaning to the word "creative."

I let the woolly bugger sink among the fish, then deliberately retrieve it. A small bass, maybe 7 inches, follows and then nails it, possibly to beat a charging green sunfish. I set the hook and the fish makes a sidelong run that takes it to the end of the pool. It is no match for 18-pound test monofilament, and I slide it to the shallows, wet my hand and lip it. After I work the woolly bugger free, I admire the little red-eyed, copper-colored fish then free it.

It streaks back into the pool. I believe without any evidence that released fish go back and tell the others not to make the same mistake.

I make a dozen more casts, each time deliberate, each time watching the white end of the fly line for some indication of a strike. The line pauses-no dramatic twitch, just a hesitation. I raise the rod, and a 15-inch bass clears the water a foot or more. He hangs in the bright sunlight, then tumbles back into the pool, lashing the water. He makes a powerful run to the far side, ripping line through my hand, then darts first one way then the other, seeking reprieve.

I work it into the shallow water and kneel to release it. "All right!" I exclaim to the universe. There is no need to explore further. The late morning sun burns hotly through my shirt, and sweat trickles down my face. It is too hot to fish and enjoy it. I have caught my fish and justified my faith in woolly buggers, fly fishing, small streams and life in general

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