We were lined up in the middle of the river nymphing when our guide called us together and pointed to the far riverbank. We saw a series of rising trout lined up along a seam in the current. The way they were softly tipping their noses out of the water indicated they were sipping gnats from the surface. Dry fly time.
Our guide had us slowly creep to within casting distance of the rising trout. He pulled three Griffith’s Gnats from his fly box and gave them to us. In a hushed voice, he instructed us to cast above the spot we last saw a fish rise.
My first cast was perfect. The Griffith’s Gnat floated a line that drifted directly where I had last seen a trout rise. But there was no take. I tried again. And then again, but nothing. I moved to another rising fish but could not raise him to my fly.
Finally, I turned to Uncle John and asked for his cluster fly. Earlier, we had laughed at his effort to replicate the Griffin’s Gnat, creating a large mess that closely resembled a pad of hair scraped from a shower. Uncle John gave me one as the guide tried to convince me otherwise. I began to tie it on anyway. The guide sighed and waded upstream to help my dad.
I cast the gargantuan fly to the same spot where I had cast the Griffith’s Gnat. The cast was good, and the big fly lumbered down the feeding lane toward the rising trout. Just before it arrived at the spot where the fish should be, a big green snout poked out of the water. Uncle John and I held our breaths and tensed, but the trout did not eat the fly. I tried the same cast again. This time, when the fly reached the spot, the trout slammed it. I raised my rod and it was hooked.
A few minutes later, Uncle John netted the fish for me. I pulled his fly from the fish’s lip and held it high for my dad and the guide to see. Uncle John and I laughed and laughed and laughed.
“A triumph,” Uncle John said. “That’s just a triumph.”
And it was. Not just because we caught that trout on that fly, but because we were there to experience all of it together.