April 12, 2002
I have the lab to myself this afternoon. It is 1:00 pm Friday and everyone is away at a conference or on vacation. After working fruitlessly on the Draft Final Report all morning my mind wanders to thoughts of fishing and Middle Earth. Why not, the temptation is too great. I go to my Jeep and grab my fishing gear and return to the lab. I boot the computer and power on the Signal Generator. I load the parameters calculated over a week ago and change my clothes. The air in front of the signal generator shimmers. As an after thought I grab a disposable camera off my desk and step into Middle Earth.
I am standing at the southern tip of East Farthing, where the Thistle Brook and the River Shirebourne meet. Both streams originate in the Green Hills, visible to the northwest. The town of Willowbottom lies two miles upstream on the Thistle Brook. I will fish upstream on the Shirebourne. Looking around I see no one, but to the south, across the river are endless fields of tobacco, the famous Longbottom leaf. I stand transfixed watching the breeze turn the fields into a green lake.
I begin to walk upstream looking for a good spot to begin fishing when I realize my mistake. I return to the spot where I entered Middle Earth. Luckily my tracks are easy to see. I take out three pennies and set them on the spot. I don't want to repeat my mistake from last time. If I can't find this exact spot I will be stranded here unable to speak the language, without a viable trade and obviously an alien. Now don't get me wrong I love Middle Earth but living the rest of my life here is something I need to ponder long and hard.
Having marked my entrance, I return to the matter at hand. Here fishy, fishy, fishy. The Shirebourne is wide, rippling, foam-flecked and fast flowing. The air smells fresh from a recent shower and the sky is slightly overcast. Scattered across the landscape there are green mounds too big to be man-made burial mounds but too small to be hills. I wonder what they are.
I scan the pocket water, edge water and seams for fish and I see a rise. I pause, and see numerous delicate sips that leave a bubble on the surface to indicate their presence. What are they feeding on? I wade into the stream a bit and I see many small mayflies. Capturing one I take a closer look. It's a blue-winged olive dun about 4 mm in size. I return to the streamside and rig up.
My fingers quickly tie on a 9-foot 7x leader. I always use a tube knot to attach my leaders. It's easy and strong. Next I look at my dry flies. I decide to use a size #22 parachute Adams. I strip some line and reach cast to the trout. The stream is relatively fast and I find I need to mend the line quickly to maximize my drag-free drift. On the second cast I catch a nice 10 inch rainbow. I adjust the drag on my Ross reel and play with him a bit.
Over the next hour I catch 15 rainbows all 8-11 inches, have 22 LDRs, lose three flies while only traversing about 200 yards of the river. Nice spot. Glancing at my watch I realize I still have about half an hour before the window opens. I begin walking upstream looking for calm, flat water where bigger trout surely must be hiding. Around a bend in front of a large boulder is a bit of pocket water with a dorsal fin sticking out. I watch and detect the owner of the fin, a big boy. I do a reach cast and notice my fly is immediately pulled under by the current. I reel in the line apply some floatant and brush on some Frog's Fanny. I try again but the old boy isn't interested. I repeat the process until I match his rhythm. He takes it and I gently set the hook.
The Reel sings as he runs. I quickly increase the drag as I watch the line. I gently play the fish, trying my best to not snap the fine leader. He is a strong good fighter and I wonder how big he truly is. He changes tactics and swims upstream and I quickly reel in the slack when I catch a glimpse of red between the gills and the body, a cutthrout. The reel sings once again as he heads for deeper water. Eventually I work him in closer and he fights all the harder. I estimate he is over 20 inches. I allow him to tire himself before reaching for my net. As I work him close to the net the alarm on my watch chimes. I flinch, he thrashes, the line breaks and he disappears into the river. Damn that was a nice one. Time to head back. I realize I have a 'One that got away' story to tell.