Matthew 28:6 He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
Dreaming of low water became a reality recently with zero units at Bull Shoals Dam. I quickly quaffed a big breakfast planning an all-day trip.
A lonely parking lot with only one vehicle greeted me. Wonderful! Almost the whole river to myself. I pulled a fleece jacket over my head, wrapped a headband around my ears and shoved my winter hat on my head. My rod came together easily. The wind whistled at my back as I noticed my tangled fly line within the reel. The prospect of pulling the reel apart by pushing the button caused my sore thumb to protest. But there was no option. After a couple of fruitless tries, I saw the owner of the vehicle arrive. I asked how he did. “Pretty slow,” he said. We spoke and I continued to struggle, but decided I wasn’t too proud to ask for help.
He quickly pulled the reel apart and told me what flies he’d used. “I’m gonna rest my back awhile. There are a few Caddis hitting the water.” The last comment changed my battle plan and I decided to start with a large blue/green soft hackle with sparkle to the tail. This character captured lots of fish during the last Caddis hatch.
As usual, since I hadn’t fished in several weeks, it seemed to take forever to gear up. I longed for my feet to fly across to the main channel, but had to satisfy myself with a slow steady walk across two shallow gullies until I reached my chosen spot.
The soft hackle warranted only one small take which I missed. After that it produced nothing. I did notice a few Caddis dance on the water where trout gobbled the tasty morsels; but I observed nothing quite as exciting as the frenzy exhibited during a large hatch.
I switched to my old standby Partridge and Orange with no greater results. Within the next several hours, I fished with an emerger, a Green Butt and a Caddis Sparkler. Eventually I switched to a strike indicator and alternately tried a pink jig, a white jig, and a pink midge.
My frustration built. Would all my waiting and hoping and longing for low water reap no results for this day? Finally I realized my tippet had shrunk and it was time to tie on more. I made my way to shore, sat on a grassy hump to rest myself and tied on an extra-long length.
This time I thought long and hard about my fly choice. I hadn’t tried a yellow Anna K, so named after the granddaughter of my friend and fly tier, Ron McQuay. Maybe, just maybe this would “represent” those little Caddis to the right trout.
Within 2 casts, my choice was rewarded with a small Rainbow. Since I’d tied on extra tippet, my line was now too long to get the fish into my net in deeper water, so I backed up into shallows and quickly landed and released the fish. My pulse thrummed after catching a fish on this long day of failure.
Over the next hour, I tried several spots where I’d been unsuccessful the whole morning. Each one produced only average stockers but a lot of fun. Finally one take seemed particularly vicious and I could see a thick Rainbow fighting to lose my fly in the deeper water. Again I had to back into shallower flow to work with the longer tippet, but landed a fat feisty customer around 14” who was starting to develop the big head of a much larger fish. This was worth the whole day, I thought.
A couple in a canoe with two small dogs paddled by, headed straight for a large rock. She paddled while he used his paddle like a rudder and they managed to miss it. They pulled up on the large gravel bar downstream and the dogs jumped out to play. Within a minute, another couple in a canoe swept by. She crouched in the bottom with head against the middle seat while her partner did the work. “Looks like the lap of luxury to me,” I called out.
She hollered back, “I’m lovin’ this.” They joined their friends and the dogs, spread a blanket and had a picnic.
My sore muscles told me it was time to head home, but I saw one more spot in a different rock bed that I hadn’t tried. The current was faster there and I picked my way carefully over slick rocks and the harsh push of the water until I arrived at my destination. After a couple of casts, I landed another small Rainbow. The wind kicked up even harder than the morning and I decided to quit, go home and prepare for church the next day.
Sunday morning I arrived in the choir room to unexpectedly learn that I was helping serve communion. I mentally reviewed the tasks from the last time I’d assisted the minister. When the appropriate time came, I carried the plate of small “wine” cups and bent to each kneeling member, held out the tray and said, “The blood of Christ shed for you.”
This simple task always strikes me as a humbling experience. Not only am I acting as a servant of God, but am allowed a closer observation of the faces of those who kneel. They communicate through unguarded expressions eagerness, gratitude, and something else … yearning for the forgiveness and restoration that this experience brings.
And as I return to the choir loft and we begin the last hymn, I carry those looks within me as tears cascade down my cheeks and realize that in those yearning-to-yield faces I find my own.
Are you trudging through your own gullies of sin and worry this Holy Week? Have the dark winds of despair swept across your spirit bringing no answers? Easter Sunrise calls to us across the river. The risen Christ stretches out his nail-scarred hand. All we have to do … is clasp it in our own.