Pat Cohen has received much attention of late. He's a talented fly tyer, whose flies - especially his deer hair creations - belie the fact that he's only been lashing fur and feather to hooks since 2009. His bugs are tied with special attention given to the marriage of colors, and with materials that lend themselves to movement and attraction. I consider myself a competent tyer, but Pat's tying demonstrates a brand of creativity that my own flies lack. The finished products are pieces of functional art, as likely to be displayed on the wall as they are to be tied to a tippet.
What impressed me most about Pat, however, was not his tying or the contents of his fly boxes. Ultimately, it was the man's candor, humility, and appreciation for the water that brought a smile to my face. I enjoyed watching Pat fish water that I've kept to myself for years. At the end of the day, I was glad to have made the invitation, and was left looking forward to another meeting. That isn't to say that the day passed without a hitch because it did not.
Fishing has been a bit difficult over the past two weeks. The heat that has impacted much of the country has made its mark here; the river is very low, most of its better fish have sought refuge in the deepest channels, and they're generally outside the reach of an intrepid bug chucker. Consequently, I thought Pat and I should start the day fishing a section of the river, which I've avoided for the last several years. This piece of water has always been loaded with eager fish regardless of the season, but the wading can be treacherous. The river didn't take long to remind me just how treacherous it can be.
Anyone who knows me understands that while I am a great many things, graceful I am not. I can be counted upon - at least once per trip - to fall in the water, and generally make an ass of myself while doing it. I've gone swimming in the Battenkill (in February), taken a dip in the Salmon River (again, in February), tripped on the Delaware, and bobbed for apples on both the Yellowstone and the Madison. I destroy breathable waders and wading staffs. My lack of grace will rear its ugly head regardless of the company I keep, and it always seems to do so whenever I'd like to keep my pride intact. This trip was no exception.
Less than thirty minutes into the day, my brain decided to take a bathroom break, and left me stepping onto a rock that I knew would move underneath me. In my mind's eye, I saw everything happen before it actually occurred. I would step up on the piece of slate, which likely weighed two hundred pounds. My weight and prodigious girth would cause the slab to shift on the fulcrum upon which it rested, I would lose my balance, slide off of the side, and my leg would drag over the jagged surface. I knew this would happen before it did, but in a moment of epically poor judgement, I moved forward regardless. Everything transpired just as I knew it would. Pat may have chuckled a little as I dragged my bleeding appendage out from under the rock, but he was gracious enough not to give me too hard a time. When - several hours later - I walked through the front door of my home, my son asked if an alligator had grabbed my leg.
"Yes," I said. "But I was able to fight him off. Daddy doesn't play."
Vicious wounds aside, the trip really was quite a lot of fun. Pat and I tied into any number of smallish bass and a few willing carp, which we were able to spot before casting to them. So much of the appeal of carp fishing is the visual nature of the endeavor. To my way of thinking, watching a 10, 15, or 20 pound fish suck in your Woolly Bugger or San Juan Worm is at least as gratifying as watching a hungry bass explode out of the lily pads for a popper or a thick bodied brown trout suck down an emerger. For twenty minutes or so we cast to a cruising mirror carp, whose few scales were all the size of half dollars. The fish chased - yes, carp will chase a fly - Pat's maggot imitation, but a hook-up just wasn't meant to be.
In reflecting on the day and writing this report, I realize that I'm at a point in my life where I do not need to catch the biggest fish in the river. Not anymore. As a matter of fact, I do not necessarily need to catch any fish to genuinely enjoy a fishing trip (although that mirror carp would have been nice). Naturally, it adds to the experience when I do hook up, but it strikes me that fly fishing is about so much more than the fish. Fly fishing is - at least in part - about having the opportunity to spend time with old friends, maybe make a few new friends in the process, and to do what we can to help them all enjoy the water as we do.
Glad to have met you, Pat.