The season is upon us. I have been riverside the past few days, patiently waiting for the river too ‘turn on’ so to speak. The days are warmer, the trout are waking up, and the spring is moving right along. The river is acting like her normal self, with a tinge of color, some heavier flows, and some persnickety trout.
The conditions are still slow, we are waiting for the water temp to stay above 42 degrees consistently. We are almost there. But there will be runoff to deal with this season, something that has not been as much of an issue the past several years. As I venture out and re-discover the river, I also get to meet the trout.
Last season I met several trout that still haunt me. But there is that one fish, that one trout, that I pitted myself against multiple times last season and came up defeated on every occasion. While I have felt the sting of defeat I also know how to play the long game and be patient. A few years of angling will do that do you, and like I tell all my clients, I develop a special relationship with these trout.
This one fish, is of course a large Cutthroat, and when I say large I mean so large that a picture of it would literally make everyone who has ever fished this river lose their shit. I hooked into this trout three separate times last season, same spot of the river, same trout, no doubt in my mind, every time the two of us faced off, the trout bested me. Once by heading straight for the log jam it calls home, twice by running down river and then back up into the current causing slack and rolling off, and thrice by pulling so hard and going so deep that I was unable to best it and it snapped off on fine tippet. I met this same trout several other times where it would give me the big fat middle finger and only track or look at my fly from the hole in which it resides.
I floated by the trouts lair on Friday, I let my friend take a shot, I was not mentally prepared for such a fish and I figured my only way of ever getting to meet this fish may be if someone else catches it, which I am okay with as an angler. It’s a special trout and it would be a priveledge to introduce an angler to it with my net. This fish deserves respect. So I waited. I floated by the lair on Sunday afternoon with a determination to at least see if the trout was still there. I felt as though it was.
I parked my boat upriver giving the hole a wide berth. The water in the upper river is back to its normal gin clear self and the fish are no less spooky this season. I approached from the side, knowing the trout was more than likely deep in the hole right below the shelf, lazily waiting for food to come to it. The hole is a marvel of natural aquatic engineering. Beavers have caused large root wads and limbs to clog the river in this area. Adjacent to one of these obstructions caused by the waffle tailed fur balls, is a massive hole around 6 feet deep and twice as wide. There is a large shelf where the water is knee deep right below a riffle. The shelf drops into the hole creating the perfect place for a large trout. Cover from above in the depths, food brought down from the riffle, over the shelf, and into the hole, right on top of the trout.
I have never seen this trout eat a dry fly or natural top water insect. Only nymphs. Smart trout. I have watched this fish for minutes eating and feeding, amazing just to see this trout in the wild let alone be able to cast at it. From my position I could not see the fish but I could feel that it was there. I had a stonefly nymph and worm below an indicator. I casted up above the hole into the riffle, mending my line so the bottom fly rode right over the edge of the shelf. Immediately, I saw the trout. It is the same trout that bested me and haunted me all last season there is no doubt.
The immensity of this fish astounds me, it lazily rolled riding the upwelling current from the hole and swiped at the bright fuchsia worm I had tied on the bottom of my rig. My heart jumped into my throat and then sank to my toes. I watched the trout lightly take the fly, only to spit it out as I lifted. I felt the slight tension, like a light kiss on the cheek from a long lost lover, and then the trout settled back into the depths.
I missed my opportunity, I was heartbroken, but I would not have been satisfied catching such a respectable trout on a worm pattern. So I put my rod up, tipped my hat to the trout, and moved on. We met again. After the long winter. And this trout and I have a relationship and the wild creature did not disappoint with how it said hello. I whispered some expletives to myself and the fish as I floated by, just to keep our rivalry going. I will meet this large cutthroat again this season. Maybe it will grace my net with its presence, or completely ruin a clients life by finally being defeated by an angler.
Book a trip…it could be you.