Arlington, Virginia, October 15, 2010
Fishing at night or in low light presents a whole new set of problems when you're fishing and I found myself waffling about whether to head out that early in the morning--or not. But after checking the tide chart for the tenth time it was either go early or don't go at all. And I convinced myself that I wanted to go. So I did.

I knew it would be dark when I arrived at the drainage so I rigged the spey before I left home.
A baitfish fly with a non-slip loop knot. Check. Fly line properly threaded through all the guides on the rod. Check. Rod sections arranged for easy assembly. Check. Leader laid out so it would not tangle when the rod was assembled. Check. Extra flies, tippet material and nippers in easy to reach pockets. Check. The only problem would be finding the line's load point. There's a 6-inch long black mark that indicates where the line should dangle from the tip-top, and that's a bad color to use when the sun isn't shinning. I would have to do it by feel after shaking some line out. However there was another problem that I would not find out about until AFTER I had slogged out onto the water and was setting up to cast.

I arrived at the parking lot to find one taxi sitting there, idling and waiting. The driver looked like he was asleep behind the wheel but I must have startled him because he woke up, gunned his engine and took off. It was cold outside the car and I could hear the whoosh of the rush hour traffic as people began to trickle into the city. I quickly assembled the rod,
taped the sections together then headed for the water.

Over the sounds of traffic I heard voices coming from upstream. In the early morning gloom I saw two or three people fly fishing the fast water. One person was standing on the sandbar not quite midstream and the other two were tighter to the bank. I moved further downstream to give them room since I figured they were swinging flies and they'd need at least 60 or more feet clearance. I stood in waist-deep water and settled in to begin casting and at this point I found out I had a problem.

When I taped the ferrules I made sure to clear the fly line and monofilament leader before laying down the spiraling layer of electrician's tape. Evidently, in my rush to get to the water, I forgot to clear all of the leader and had taped some of it to the rod. Duh. However monofilament can and will cut through a variety of material (including cold, wet flesh as I found out on a trip to Alaska) so when I applied some tension to the leader it sliced through the tape and I was soon fishing.

Cast. Drift. Swing. Cast. Drift. Swing. Cast. Drift. Swing. I could see splashes here and there along the current seam and I thought I had a grab, but the action was slow. The folks above me were still fishing but it seemed to be slow for them as well. As dawn was beginning to color the sky I noticed the anglers below me had reeled up and left. I heard them walking down the trail behind me but then I heard a friendly voice behind me asking who I was, since it was still a bit too dark to see clearly.

It turned out to be
expert spey caster and Orvis fly fishing store manager Dan Davala with his wife and a friend. As I was talking to Dan I noticed it wasn't a backpack strapped to him but a baby carrier. With a baby in it. Awesome. Break them in young! We talked about fishing, rods and lines for a bit then they were off to grab a hot cup of coffee. Which at that point sounded pretty good to me since I was starting to shiver despite the thermal layer I wore under the waders. I don't think Dan noticed the bit of quaver in my voice but my teeth were beginning to chatter. After they left I moved closer to the bank and walked upstream to their spot just to get the circulation moving a bit.

I tied on a deer hair chartreuse and white clouser and began fishing again. I decided to stay until 10am because I had to
smoke some ribs for a picnic the following day. When the tide ebbed I stopped fishing and took a stroll downstream to check out the drainage bottom--looking for snags, and where the deep and shallow spots were located. I also noticed that whenever I stopped walking, a cloud of baitfish would immediately begin clustering around my legs, looking for cover. If I walked slow enough, they followed me around and as more fish joined the school they would form a small ball as they swirled around me. But I must have looked a bit suspicious walking up and down the drainage because a police SUV showed up on the opposite bank and parked there with the engine idling. The occupant gave me the eyeball for about 15 minutes before speaking on his radio and driving off. He probably thought the only person who would be standing in cold water when it was 50 degrees outside is either an escapee from the asylum or a fly fisher. I hope he thought I was the later.