Andrew says he has a vendetta against this fish.
We’ve just spotted it feeding along a collapsed dirt bank on the outer edge of the river’s bend. It comes up again, porpoising nose-first to noiselessly suck down a passing bug on the surface of the water, then sloping back down toward the bottom, showing its dorsal fin and tail. It is big. Andrew, our guide on Wyoming’s Green River, explains: this fish, in the same spot, feeding in the same manner, has foiled him three times with three different clients.
Andrew’s accent and blunt friendliness give away his Wisconsin origins, but based on his knowledge of this water he might as well be a Wyomingite. He is fishing-wise, replete with a long beard, a Milwaukee Brewers hat and a lip of Grizzly. (“I only smoke if my clients smoke,” he says.) He reads the water like a dogeared page of a favorite novel; when asked what one learns in the fishing profession beyond amateurism, he talks about simple things that the uninformed would never imagine, like water temperature, wind, shadows, feeding habits when the sun shines or the clouds cover. He can also ascertain where certain fish consistently hold; his refrain is a steady beat of left bank, right bank, seam, ripple, slick, cutbank. He knows where the fish are and what they’re eating. He calls them his business partners, and he’s right — a guide and his fish need to be on good terms. They seem to be. Except for this fish. He won’t cooperate, and Andrew looks on this as a problem to be tackled with the utmost concern.
Andrew ties on what he calls a “crippled PMD (pale morning dun) flash” that resembles a fly stuck in its molting case, helpless, half on the surface and half in the water’s top film. It’s a tiny little thing; breakfast to go for mister trout.
This sort of fly fishing is closer to big game hunting than anything. There is the stalk, as Andrew maneuvers the boat into range, dipping his oars gently to keep from spooking the fish; there is the aim, when I cast 10 yards or so, upstream of where the fish last rose, getting one chance to put the fly into the fish’s “zone” where he’ll see it, and adjusting the line so the fly drifts naturally when the fish does see it; there is the shot, when the fish rises — he does rise, on the second cast — and eats the feathers tied to a hook, and I set the hook with an upward jolt of the rod.