Karma on the Willowemoc

It was the last night of the annual fishing trip to the Catskills. I was already far ahead in making up for the previous year when I went home empty-handed. On the first night out this year, I had caught a fourteen-inch brown trout within the first ten or so casts. After that, I could relax and just enjoy the escape. There’s no feeling like not having any pressure to catch something. Especially when you’re first. Over the course of the week, I had caught an additional two or three smaller trout, nothing worth taking a picture of or remembering in detail.

My dad parked the car at the cabin the rest of our group was staying at. They were already fishing upstream. We put our waders and vests on, assembled our fishing rods, and walked across the road to the bridge. It was perfect, there were only three people there. One guy just out to the left of the bridge, one guy a little ways downstream, one guy just on the other side of the bridge. Plenty of room. There had easily been eight or so anglers crowded in this area the first night.

We stand on the riverbank, tying flies onto our lines, assessing the water and looking for where the fish are rising. The guy in the middle of the three people on the river turns around and sees us on the bank. He immediately turns ninety degrees to his left and starts casting directly downstream.  It was a completely selfish, passive-aggressive move that said, “Go somewhere else. This is mine.” He does this a few more times, then turns completely around, faces upstream, and starts casting again, completely perpendicular to any reasonable intent. “I need all of this. I refuse to share.”

Not only was this bad fly fishing, it was inconsiderate and ill-mannered. The self-centered pig does this for a good while as we’re tying our flies on, so me and my father give each other a look and walk back across the street, around the bridge and behind the cabin. We were upstream from the bridge a good fifty feet or so to start. I go upstream just a bit further to where a rabbit had swam past me on a previous day. The water was channeled between two sets of rocks and settled down afterward. I thought it’d be a good place to start, but I hadn’t caught anything in this area the entire week. We were upstream from the bridge and the big fish were usually right under it or downstream.

I cast my line out into the water and watch the fly drift lazily downstream. Nothing. I wait for a few moments, pull it back into the air, and cast again. Still nothing. I remembered the Pirates game was on, so I pull out my phone and turn that on. I keep the volume low, wanting the sounds of nature to rustle around me. The announcers were settling into their routine as I got into mine. I cast again. The fly hits the water and starts drifting along with the current. Then it disappears. There’s a sharp tug on the line. It’s a bite. Strong. Heavy. The fish is tugging away at the line, then swimming out as far as it can. I start fighting with it, pulling the rod back, reeling the line in and letting it go back out depending on how far the rod is bending. Meanwhile the Pirates score a run to tie the game. It couldn’t have been any more fun. I continue to grapple with the fish, slowly reeling it closer while dodging the branches overhead. The Pirates score another run as I pull out my net and catch the fish. It’s a big brown trout, sixteen inches and fat. My dad gets a photo of the fish in the net and then me holding it. Probably one of the largest fish I’ve caught.

After the photos were done and the fish was released, I walked a little bit back upstream to get to where I started at. I cast my line out again and move my phone around in my vest so I can hear the baseball game a little bit better. There’s a tug on the line. Another bite. I wasn’t even trying. It was nowhere near as big, but I have fun reeling it in anyway. Meanwhile the Pirates scored another run to take the lead. Two fish within minutes of each other and the Pirates playing good baseball. It was great. The day was already a success and I had only been on the water for a quarter-hour.

Those guys down by the bridge? Nothing but karma.