Thanksgiving presented an unexpected fishing opportunity this year. Our plans for outdoor festivities with friends were upended by bitingly cold wind and a friend's positive covid test, which left me with a few free hours in the middle of Thanksgiving day to check out the river. Stepping out of my truck on a sunny sage brush flat, the wind sliced straight through my puffy and cotton t-shirt. Cursing the lack of forethought, I rummaged for another layer of clothing without luck. Feeling stupid and a little desperate, I exhumed a buff matted with dog hair and crumbs from under the driver’s seat. With a shake, on it went.
Underdressed and still distracted by events of the day beyond the river, I lobbed nymphs into the low sun. Gusts of wind strafed the leader, dragging my euro nymph rig out of the deep seams and slots. I swapped in heavier flies, hoping they would stay better planted in the bottom current while the wind ripped the leader under the rod tip. I cast again, coaxing the rig into a deep turquoise lane. In the bottom quarter of the drift I spotted a submerged boulder and stared at it as my leader meandered by, thinking it was the spot to target with the nex—YANK. I wasn’t ready for the downward force of the take or the speed of the trout barreling straight downstream out of the hold. I dumped line off the Stinger and played slack through my fingers, already rubbery with cold. Still surprised, I held tension and waffled on the next move with the fish already 20 yards downstream in a complicated riverscape of boulders and roiling current. Rod tip high, with no plan where to steer the fish, it bested me in a handful of seconds, shaking hook with a decisive upstream surge.
I checked my knots and flies, noting a section of a buff whitish abraded tippet above the point fly where the fresh rig was drug against boulders during the fight. Shaking with residual excitement and cold, I fumbled with a new section of tippet and cast up into the run again. I stood in thigh deep water and was quickly stiffening in the cold. It was time to walk a bit downstream to warm up, but turning to retreat to the bank, my boots lost all traction and I collapsed in an awkward heap, shipping plenty of icy river down the front of my waders. Now fully disappointed in my performance, I shuffled to shore and peeled off my soaking kit. Normally getting soaked would (and should) mark the end of a late November fishing session. But the wind slackened, and the sun felt warm on my t-shirt. Plus, the image of golden-yellow thrashing when that trout erupted to shake my little jig was enough to keep me going.
I walked a ways downstream along the railroad tracks to warm up and managed to salvage the afternoon with some great fishing. Good-sized browns and rainbows were feeding on blue wing olive adults and I managed to catch one of each, tossing a CDC emerger at the rising fish. They pounced with same vigor of the first fish, but this time I was ready. Working upstream through railroad rip-rap and submerged boulder fields, I caught several more nice fish by dead-drifting microstreamers. The sun slipped behind the pine tops and I returned to the truck, made wooden by the chill of sodden cotton and deeply happy.
Story by Greg Dering, guest writer and Stinger fanatic.