Marcus' Casts: A Matter of Inches

by Marcus Rodriguez

Harry put his fly rod down and put his hands on the gunwales. He breathed deep and took in his surroundings. "You know, Marcus, I was expecting the fish to be a lot bigger in Texas." I dipped the paddle into the water and propelled us down a swift riffle. The canoe was pulled us towards a cut bank full of strainers. I made a draw stroke and found a seam of water that curved away from the danger. The fishing had been fabulous, but the fish were on the small side. "To tell you the truth Marcus, with the exception of that big bass I caught last year on the lower Llano, I have caught bigger bass in Colorado." Harry picked his fly rod up again and started getting ready to make a cast. I paddled the canoe towards the north bank and let the flow pull and the wind push us downstream. The fish Harry caught the year before was exactly an inch longer than his biggest bass in Colorado. I wanted Harry to catch a big fish, but truthfully, I was stumped. I had not seen any big fish on our float and we had put flies in fine bass water.

We ran up on an inches deep flat of sand. I could hear the bottom of the canoe barely scrape on the bottom. To the right of us the flat extended for about fifty yards then dropped off into a beautiful cut bank shaded by oak, pecan, and sycamore trees. To the left of us the flat sloped away and deepened to about four feet along the bank. The hole was easily fishable, about 10 feet in width and about 20 feet long. On the bottom of the hole I could see small fish holding boulders. Harry made a short cast. The fly, a Matt's Bug hit the cut bank and the water at the same time. I watched the fly sink. "Strip, Strip, Strip." I said to Harry as I watched the fly pulse with lifelike movement. A small Guadalupe bass rose from the depths. In one motion the bass gulped the fly and Harry set the hook. Harry fought the bass for a few moments and then guided him to his trout net. After admiring the fish, Harry unhooked it and released it into the water. "Go tell your girlfriends about me," Harry said as the fish made its splashy exit.

"Marcus" Harry cocked his head back towards me, "I'm going to switch flies if it makes no difference to you."

"Harry, that is fine with me." We had used several of my flies trying to coax a big largemouth out from the depths. Most of my flies were a tad too heavy for the type of casting Harry was used to. "Marcus, this fly here is called a vanilla bugger. I saw the recipe for this fly in Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine and it is a real fish catcher. It is one of my go-to flies when I am fishing and not catching in Colorado." The fly was a basic wooly bugger tied in a vanilla cream color. The nose of the fly was a cone shaped brass weight. Harry had tied the fly himself and it was about a size 6.

I had paddled the canoe out into the middle of the river, while Harry tied on a new length of tippet and the new fly. Harry is a retired electrician. In his early years he was a mountain climber and he blazed many of the first trails on America's highest peaks. As it turns out, Harry is a famous mountain climber and his circle-of-friends are the likes of Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins. I remember when Harry told me this for the first time. He got a really big laugh when I told him I was wearing a Patagonia flats shirt and Royal Robbins pants. I am not sure, when Harry began fly-fishing, but it is now his newest adventure. Harry lives in Alamosa, Colorado on the Rio Grande River. Harry spends much of his time on the beautiful streams in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico and he extends an invitation for me to go fishing with him every time I see him. Harry is my favorite client. I continued to watch Harry wrestle with the thin, hard to see tippet. He worked roughly, but consistently with the line. I have many electricians in my family and several of my friends are electricians. I laughed to myself, it seems like all the electricians I know have the same exactly shaped hands. Harry wet his final knot and cinched it down. "All right, Marcus," Harry shifted his weight in the canoe and started looking for a spot to cast.

I paddled back towards were Harry had caught the previous Guadalupe bass. The hole where Harry caught the bass, ended in a point of land that jutted out about ten feet into the river. On the other side of the point, the water was deep and well into shadow. A small pecan tree grew just to the right of the point and it leaned out over the water. Beneath the tree and about three feet under the surface was a jumble of branches, logs, boulders and river weed. "Hey Harry, see that pile of brush under the water?" Harry made a cast. The fly landed with a plop between the edge of the brush pile and the bank. "That brush pile?" Harry answered sarcastically. Harry stripped the fly. The vanilla bugger sank for a few seconds before Harry made his first strip. I watched the fly bounce with life and then it disappeared. In an instant Harry made a strip set, and I could see a very nice largemouth bass shaking its head, trying to free the hook. The bass shot upward and tail walked on the river surface. Harry dropped his rod tip as the fish jumped. The fish tried to swim back to the tangle of limbs from where he came. Harry pulled the fish away. After about a two minute fight Harry brought the fish to his net. The bass hung out of the net by about an inch. Harry straightened the fish on the net. It was exactly an inch bigger than his largest bass from the previous year.

"Fly fishing is like mountain climbing." I said to Harry as he was admiring the fish.

"Oh yeah," Harry replied "How do you mean?"

"It is a game of inches."

"Ha!" Harry laughed, "Next year will be a real whopper."

Note: Marcus Rodriguez, a long time member of CTFF lives in San Antonio with his wife Angie and daughter Aurelia, who sometimes let him go fishing.

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