Sight Fishing


By definition, sight fishing requires the need for pretty good eyesight. Unfortunately, mine is not – especially when it comes to the subject at hand. Having fished the streams of the Ozarks for so many years…streams where the fish really stand out because of the whitish, flint rock stream base, I have a hard time seeing the fish here in the southeast. Back in the Ozarks any casual observer, even my wife, sees them at first glance. Not so on my new home waters.

Back in the day if the fishing was poor I could narrow down the reasons.
The question, “Do you think there are any fish in here?” was never stated. We knew without a doubt the answer to that question…why they weren’t biting was the mystery. But here in the Blue Ridge, with such an assortment of rock sizes in so many shades of brown, blue, red and black, spotting fish is a problem for me and an unproductive day usually elicits the above referenced question. All too often I never really know if I’m casting over barren water or not.

Fishing with Ryan can be frustrating as he stands next to me pointing at fish I can’t see. “He’s right there Alan. Cast a little to the left and you’ll get him.” So I cast a little to the left (of what?) and nothing happens. I wonder if there is a fish there or not, and I’m certain that Mr. Harman is just trying to make me look bad. After all, “The fish is right there! Any fool can see it! Why can’t you catch it! You’re either blind or haven’t got a clue in what you are doing!” Of course being the gentleman he is, he would never talk like that…but I know he’s thinking it. And he’s right on all counts.

Phrases like, “There must be five fish in there…all nice ones.” never pass my lips, but Ryan says it all the time. And then he goes on to catch a few of them. He can be such a show-off. I can only hope that given enough days on these waters I might be able to spot them too and attain just a bit of “show-off” potential myself. In the meantime, I’ll just continue casting to phantom fish…that is, until I find a fishing partner that’s older than I am…someone that suffers from presbyopia, floaters, dry eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disorders and conjunctivitis – all at the same time.

When I find that old codger I’ll know just what to say…”Can’t you see them? There’s three nice rainbows – no, one’s a brook – right in front of you!” That or I’ll start fishing exclusively for the Incredibly Nervous Neon Trout…the Palomino.

On hands and knees you peek over the streamside brush to check out the pool. Rising above the weeds, what do you see in the water but a large butter yellow neon trout shouting, “Look at me!”

We’ve all been there and seen that. The Palomino trout…the most nervous fish in the stream. Everyone sees him and no one can pass up the chance to catch him. Your average rainbow in your average stream might go for days undetected (even by the likes of Ryan) and unexposed to the contents of your fly box. Not the Palomino. Everyone tries everything in an attempt to land him. I’m certain that these poor trout have seen thousands of more flies than their less conspicuous cousins. On a heavily fished stream I doubt that he gets any rest at all.

In pangs of hunger he nervously views everything that drifts by, so nervous that he won’t even glance sideways for fear of being tempted…hoping that just a few times a day one of the morsels in the current will be edible. Reminds me of Don Knott’s first character of note, “The Nervous Man,” as seen on the Steve Allen Show way back when I could see the television. If a Palomino could take on a human role, that would be it.


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