The Stalk

I have been riverside almost everyday the past three weeks.  Its been a wonderful time and I am lucky that the lifestyle I live allows me to have so much freedom to continue my pursuit of trout with fly and rod.  I learn more about these wild and amazing creatures every time I step into their world.  There is nothing quite like it for me.  I have been a musician, felt the energy and applause of 35,000 people in front of me, I have felt the vibe of a group of musicians coming together to create something new and exciting while experiencing it simultaneously.  Heavy stuff dude.  I have witnessed three human beings come into this world, seen countless mountains and wild places, experienced wildlife on many different levels, but nothing, nothing compares to watching trout and meeting them through fly and rod for me.  Its truly addictive, I feel the urge to do it now despite the snow and rain falling outside and the 25 mile an hour cross wind out of the north…fish still gotta eat.

I am a little more controlled now.  I am an experienced angler and know when to stay home.  I know when to hit the river to get the best bang for my buck so to speak.  But I find myself searching for trout, that one trout, and spending all day waiting for it to rise in rhythm, as the next wave of mayflies flutters down the rivers surface.  Not the four fish at the top of the slick that are feeding vigorously, although my arm twitches as I contain the urge to cast to the small pod of cutthroat making their presence known. No…no…there is a trout further down the slick that has caught my attention.  The one I saw at the start of the hatch that only broke the surface slightly…a loud ‘Sllyrrupp’ as it sneakily sipped a large olive mayfly from the small foam line.

To the newer or less experienced angler, the pod of fish feeding is almost to hard to not cast wildly at.  But I want this one fish.  This one fish that seems to be the only one keeping its cool while the hatch intensifies.  A slurp here, and then another….about 45 second apart.  The same sneaky nose in the exact same spot below the foam line.  Its a perfect dry fly slick.  The riffle above is multi tiered, with waves of mayflies wafting from the bubbles.  They make their way over the large pool and into the bank where some brush and trees cover the water surface with shade.  The perfect place for a large pod of fish to hide from the eagles and osprey above.  The ultimate trout restaurant where they serve mayflies every season.

There is a large log under a scraggly tree that has its roots exposed along a small back eddy below the slick that the mayflies float down as they dry out their wings.  Easy pickings for the trout.  Three feet out from the log, right along the edge of the shadow from the tree line of the mid afternoon sun…the timing is everything for this trout, there is a small seam that forms along the slight eddy that the log creates.  And there…a large trout sits 2 feet below the surface hovering silently in the shadows.  I see a tail flutter or fin from time to time.  Never a flash.  The trout targets the natural mayflies from almost 4 feet away.  As they move into the window where the trout has keyed into…the trout glides through the slack current with a slight tail stroke, rises, rises, and shows only its nose as it opens its mouth just below the surface and the mayfly falls in quietly.  No splash, no noise, just a small dimple in the water and a mayfly disappears. I see it from the rowers seat as I tie on a hand-tied olive emerger that I do not share with others…a fly I tied that morning specifically for this trout.  I have been stalking this fish for days now.  I met it early in the week, and it bent the hook shank with a head shake.  My friend Ross can vouch for the trout.

I have come back since we first met and watched the fish…never casting at it.  I pick off a few of the more eager cutties, but mostly I am stalking this fish, watching, and waiting to see if an opportunity shows itself.  I was lucky enough to have an opportunity.  A few days after we met, the trout was back feeding…on rhythm.  I spent two hours waiting to see if the fish would rise in a way that would give me the best shot.  This trout is serious, and you only get one shot. The trout rises.  I have come accustomed to its behavior over the past few days.  It rises again.  It eats sporadically at first.  But 15 minutes into the hatch of olives the trout is feeding every 45 seconds or so with each wave of mayflies.  I check my knots, I make sure my leader is stretched.  I wait to enter the water and wade close.  The trout needs at least 3 feet of drift with no line in front.  I spooked it the last time I attempted to trick it, still cursing myself for my eagerness and lack of patience.  The trout rises again.  I keep my cool and I prepare to make my attempt.

I slowly wade out with my desired line already out and coiled in my hand.  The trout rises again.  Its within 30 feet of me and I can just see it along the shadows, about 2 feet under the surface of the river, the water is gin clear.  I let the line out, the water is 45 degrees and I am up to my thighs.  I am cold.  But the trout rises after another 45 seconds and my heart rate increases.  My thumb taps the worn cork on my fly rod.  I wait…the trout rises again as another wave of olives flutter and dry out their wings around us.

I cast…two false casts…the fly drifts perfectly…but the trout does not rise.  I prepare to recast and the trout rises.  I wait.  Counting.  I cast…the fly drifts down the seam, its small CDC para post barely visible in the glare.  I hold my breath.  I see something move in the water column and my heart feels like it stops.  I see the trouts nose break the surface and the fly falls delicately into the wild animals mouth…as if it is just another olive mayfly…I lift the rod almost instantly, as if in anticipation and trout and angler meet!

My heart races as my rod bends in half as the trout dives for the bottom head shaking violently.  The trout screams to the surfaces and jumps, and then jumps again.  Swinging through the slack with energy supercharged by the cold water and angered with the interruption of its afternoon.  I hope the hook holds as the trout is ferociously head shaking trying to make for the log that it has made into its home.  I redirect the trout into the faster water and now the battle turns in my favor and the trout runs up the seam along the heavy current.  After a long bulldog and one final jump the fish decides to relent, and I am able to net the creature.  My mind is blown.  A wonderful wild rainbow.  The blue and purple hue of the gill plate immediately catches my eye.  Like a precious jewel stumbled upon, I am breathless with the beauty of the trout.  My fly in the side of the mouth falls out once tension is off.  The trout is spotted with large round spots on the head and nose, with an amazing heavily peppered tail.  The rich pre spawn colors catch the mid afternoon sun and flash and flare as the fish rolls and splashes in the net.  I cradle the fish in my hand and pull the net away.  The trout slides off my hand with a slight tail flutter and is back into the depths resting.

I breath…fulfilled.  No picture, no fat belly lumped in my hands with a big smile for the world to see.  I have been trying to meet this fish for days…and the trout and I shared our moment and now it can resume its wild life enticing another angler to stalk it.  For only those that pay attention and watch, and use patience as their tool, will be successful in meeting such a sneaky trout.  I float the rest of the day without casting my rod.  I only wanted to meet a certain trout today.  Tomorrow I may stumble upon another quarry that requires my utmost attention.




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