As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, I parted the slats in the blinds above my bed to look up at the sky as I do most mornings, and found myself gazing at a heavy overcast. The sky could have been pink with yellow dots and I still would have decided I’d be going fishing, but the gloomy canopy forced me to the shower a little quicker. By the time I was ready to walk out the door, a light rain was falling. I grabbed my rain gear and a mug of hot tea, threw my gear into the truck, and headed south on the Coastal Highway.
My destination this morning would be a tidal canal I’ve mentioned before. As I crossed Indian River Inlet, I was calculating the tides in order to determine if the water would be flowing right-to-left, or vice versa. I also considered that, being the fall of the year, I’d find a significant amount of leaves on the surface of this tree-lined watershed.
As I climbed up onto the barge and tied on a black and olive Woolly Bugger, I found that I’d been right on both counts. The canal was surging away from the ocean, and pushing towards the bay, and the red, golden and brown leaves were going with it. Then it began to rain a little harder. This was not to be my finest hour.
I’m aware of two schools of thought that exist in relation to fishing water scattered with leaves. The first is that it should simply be avoided. the second is that the falling leaves bring with them a host of terrestrial insects into the drink, and therefore produce good fishing conditions as fish move in to feed on them. I have not enough personal data either way, and suspect that there is no true consistency to leafy conditions, but am sure that what we can all agree upon is that catching leaves in your line or hook after an otherwise satisfactory drift is a royal pain in the neck.
A sinking line helps, as it keeps more of the line submerged and allows you to retrieve without having to plow through clumps of leaves. Streamers are preferred for obvious reasons, and a dead drift is a better choice than an active retrieve, since, with some casting accuracy, you can place the fly in a clear spot of water and let the drift do the rest. This is why I chose the Woolly this morning, as it requires no input from me as it is carried along beneath the surface, to appear life-like enough for an unsuspecting fish to eat.
So, I combined my own advice and knowledge and cast as well as I could and caught a lot of leaves an no fish, and then the skies opened up and a torrential rain fell, and I reminded myself that this is why the good days are the good days. I was on the water less than an hour, but I had given it a shot, and sometimes that’s all you can do.
I was going home; my rod, backpack and rain gear in a soggy mess in the passenger seat.