Offered such variety – brown, tan, olive, black – trout can afford to be selective. Only the smolts and fingerlings feed with abandon, hurling themselves recklessly toward anything remotely resembling an insect. The hyperactive adolescents swamp my fly as soon as it hits the water, preventing it from reaching the fish I was casting to. Few trout worth counting are fooled by my various offerings – elk hair caddis, X-caddis, ESP, CDC, gold-ribbed hare’s ear – but when they do succumb, their strength is surprising. They are silver missiles, fat with caddis, making acrobatic arcs and head shaking leaps, coming to hand only begrudgingly. In spite of the occasional reward of a strong-shouldered rainbow, the late-afternoon heat eventually drives me off the river and back to camp.
Only the thought of my shady riverside seat and an ice-cold, sweaty beer keep me trudging forward in my clumsy boots and clownish chest waders. Neither is made for long hikes in 90-degree weather. The mating rituals of caddis aren’t slowed by the heat, however. They continue to copulate in frantic clouds, and as I slump into my camp chair beneath the shady cottonwood, intermittent breezes blow them onto me. Desperate to cool down, I strip to my shorts and caddis clamber across my bare chest. Now a part of the insect orgy, I sit for hours, passing the hottest part of the day in my riverside seat marveling at the phenomenon that surrounds me. A thin layer of dusty sweat covers my body. The cold beer is bitter on the back of my tongue.