All anglers have memorable catches, or misses, that we’ll likely never forget. The special catches that get stored in long term memory vs the short term where it gets easily replaced the more we fish.
Here’s my latest long term entry:
Yesterday was a warm evening and I decided to take Winston, my 5 year old Shepherd Border Collie mix, to the river. My plan was to practice my dry fly game while Winston swam and chased crawfish.
My rod was still rigged up with the same caddis dry fly from exactly 24 hours prior where I relentlessly and unsuccessfully tried to catch a big riser on the opposite bank a few miles downstream. A little mending practice was in tall order.
Back to last night’s catch.
My casting arm was getting tired from repetitive drills, the fish weren’t rising but I knew they were there. The urge to run back to my truck and grab my nymphing rod kept gnawing at me but “no,” I was there to improve my surface skills- it’s getting dark anyway. With time for a few more practice casts, I targeted a three foot window in some mixed current. I was trying some new mending techniques that I had studied on youtube to see which one would keep my fly floating on the target area the longest- that’s when all hell broke loose.
Just as the fly hit the water, or maybe just before- it happened that fast, the big Brown attacked. The strike was violent- one of those strikes where you can feel the aggression as he attacked the caddis dummy at full speed and continued to take it completely out of the water. This wasn’t just a typical fish who’d just come across a snack- this was a predator looking for a kill and my caddis fly happened to fall in its sights. In those few milliseconds of the take I’m pretty sure my mind flashed scenes I had watched from both River Monsters and Shark Week. But this was just a trout.
With seemingly little effort the fish suddenly took my fly deep in the run a bit downstream of me. Then, nothing- my rod was fully bent but I didn’t feel any movement. I thought the fish had taken my line into a log or a boulder. After a long pause the fight was back on. But now that he’s further downstream of me, my rod is max’d out, and there’s nowhere to run (wade). Absolutely no way I’m bringing this fish to me against the current.
Downstream the river flattens out into a huge gravel bed. I knew that the only hope I had of getting this fish in my net was to “Brad Pitt” it down to that area- I had to go swimming. >
The water is about chest deep so what the heck- let’s do this.
As my angry opponent drags me into the deeper water my waders begin to fill. Now it’s home court advantage for the fish as I’m sort of floating, sort of sinking- trying to tread water with my left arm, keeping pressure on the fish with my right.
My barking sidekick on the bank decided to join me in the brawl and jumped in after us. Now all three of us are headed downstream. This is when things started to get ugly.
Winston dog paddled under my bent rod from left to right and managed to get tangled in the slack floating line coming off my reel. Now the fish is pulling on my rod tip and the dog is pulling on my reel. Very tight lines on both sides of me!
As we reached the gravel bed and I got my feet back under me, I placed the rod in my left hand and used my right hand to free the fly line from Winston.
Now that I’m standing again I should’ve been able to get positioned downstream of the fish to net him, right? Well, with 2-3 gallons of water in my waders, a sprinter I was not. And with slippery rocks and gravel I immediately went down. I got back on my feet in only a foot of water but the fish was still on the move. Further downstream I managed to get in decent to netting position despite the giant water balloons around my legs, but failed twice as he spooked and threw fits.
By this time, we’re at the end of the gravel bar and getting close to the next section of fast water. It was my last chance, and by some miracle the fish cooperated and ran into my wavering net. It was over.
After such a long drawn out fight I was on my knees with the fish in the net. It seemed really odd to me at the time how easily I lifted the big fish out of my net and held him gently in the water until he calmly swam away. It was as if the bell rang while in the net and just like that the fight was over- with a long moment of relief before walking out of the ring for both of us.
After that I lay on my back on the grassy bank and lifted my feet up high to let the water drain from my waders. Winston licked my face. A catch I will not forget.
For posterity, here are the details that I no doubt will forget:
- Saturday night 7:30pm,
- 80 deg F
- June 25, 2022
- personal best dry fly fish (22” Brown Trout) on a #14 Caddis Fly
- 3wt ESN rod
- Stinger micro reel
- 2WT/WF floating line.
By Jeff Sasaki