ven•er•a•ble

adj.

1. worthy of respect or reverence, as because of great age, high office, or noble character.

 

The Redbreast sunfish may be the very first fish that I caught on fly.  In fact, I'm quite sure of it.  In my early years of fly fishing, I saved up my lawn cutting money and purchased a pflueger purist 4wt.  I was learning alongside my father who had become smitten with Appalachian blue lines.  We made trips up as often as we could.  However, my first fish wasn't one of those native rainbows or brook trout.  It would be years before I got my first trout on fly.  Even though trout weren't exactly the most accessible fish to me during that time in my life, I was completely enamored with moving water.  In my home town, the Savannah river spilled over 6.5 miles of rocky shoal water that reminded me of mountain streams.  My friends and I spent our summers along its banks, swimming and drifting worms under corks.  Redbreasts were eager opportunists in those days,  though I confess I did not appreciate them the way I do now.  

The redbreast sunfish was plentiful in my home waters.  They inhabited beautiful blue green pools between the rock ledges of the river.  Standing on the rocks and letting a black or olive wooly bugger swing through a likely hole was almost certain to produce a vicious take.  The hand sized redbreast was no slouch on a 4wt in the current.  Today, I think this is one of the things I appreciate about him most.  While many other panfish prefer the still waters of a pond or very slow moving water at best, the redbreast prefers faster water.  He hides among the rocks over a gravel or sand bottom, and feeds on anything that comes his way.  

The redbreast wears the colors of royalty.  Woven of deep olive, turqoise, and orange so bright it rivals the sun, it's difficult to understand how he conceals himself so well. Among the ranks of the panfish family he commands a high position.  His history, standing, and noble character, demand respect.  He is the crown jewel of creeks and rivers across the south.  The redbreast eats the fly the way a fish should, with reckless abandon.  However, there are times when he may reject your fly as if it were beneath his station.  He is truly a treasure anywhere he is found.  

Today, I would have to say that the redbreast is by far my favorite fish for all of the reasons I have described.  However, today, I admire him for a much different reason.  I often invite close friends to my secret stretches of water where he is found.  What they discover, as they bring that first fish to hand, is the key to a vault filled with memories of years gone by.  As the water swirls around their legs in the fading afternoon light, time reverses it's course.  Wrinkled brows begin to smooth, and smiles return to weary faces.  It's here that they find themselves completely at ease.  It's a visible transformation of the angler's soul, that lasts for days.  It is for this, that we bow our heads to the venerable redbreast.