Hundreds of thousands of them. Sizes twenty and twenty-two, and every fish, no, let me say every fish, is up and dining at their leisure.
From my vantage point about a third of the way through this particular section to downstream past where the current has begun to slow, a distance of approximately two hundred feet, the surface teems with activity. It is about here where I stand, at a little past one on a cloudy, chilly afternoon that the olives begin appearing, their transformation from nymph to imago kicked into gear. As my eye travels further down the run, the numbers of newly hatched mayflies multiplies geometrically. It's no wonder that I see so many rings, so many noses. The number of blue-winged olives and the rings that itinerant individuals disappear into is simply amazing. For the next two and a half hours the trout will feed heavily.
It has long been my belief that a certain, almost palpable energy level evidences itself when trout are setting into the feed. Now, watching the tiny members of the flotilla aligning themselves in perfect randomness across the width of this run, I can feel the electricity. The urgent need to get my imitation into the mix is underlined by the fact that I know I have only a small window, for time is the enemy, because soon familiarity will breed contempt for any and all imitations I might utilize that do not fit the bill to a 'T'. In other words, the longer the hatch, the more perfect the match needs to be. And after a couple of days, or, on a daily level a couple of hours, these trout know exactly what they're looking for. Both in appearance and behavior. Add to that the fact that the surface is dotted with such numbers of imagos that the fish, always eager for the easy meal, will not often, if ever, move more than a foot out of their feeding lanes to eat. They don't have to. So I have to keep that in mind, too. Not only will they refuse my imitation on the grounds of insufficient debauchery, location, location, location, to overwork a phrase a little more, is also paramount.
My dexterity is slipping. I've been at it for a little more than two hours, and even with my wader pockets stuffed with heat packs the cold has sapped more and more of my ability to perform the necessary operations quickly, deftly. It becomes a conscious, arduous effort to complete the simplest tasks, making it imperative to get it right, be it the choice of flies or the knot, the first time. While I labor, a blue heron stands on a rock a hundred yards downstream from me staring into the river at his feet, quite oblivious to my struggle. I am envious of his comfort level, not to mention his approach. My rod goes back under my arm as I again bury my hands in among the packets, cursing my DNA as time just keeps ticking away...
I'm rather proud of my parachute upwing. It's not an easy tie. I figured out that I could use 4x mono as a post for the wings and the hackle, which adds rigidity to the structure of the feather components while preserving the overall look of the fly specifically as far as what the fish sees. And it lands right side up. Every time. It's now at the end of a nice 'S' cast and settling slowly toward the water. When it lands, I am pleased to see that I can't tell the difference between it and the hundreds of real ones close by. And apparently it looks good enough to the fat rainbow who barely disturbs the surface as he rises to eat it. I hesitate for a split second after feeling the jolt, then raise my rod, and involuntarily gasp as he flies skyward, one, two, three times before streaking away across and downstream. I know it's not the case, but I go ahead and wonder if half of the energy a fish uses in his attempt to flee is a result of the chagrin at being fooled. I realize that by saying that I've given all of you a view of the way I would react. I'm not a real good subject for practical jokes.
I back the hook out of the fish's upper jaw and release the trout, thanking him for his infinite appreciation. After pulling my fly through the water to clean the slime off, I cut it off, park it in my foam patch, dig out the box, and pluck another one from it's perch. Experience is a good teacher. I know better than to think I can fool another fish with that one. It's in good shape, but it'll be a while before it's put to use again. Probably not today. C'mon hands...