I just got back from an extended session on the river that included guiding, personal fishing, poker, and some other general tomfoolery that accompanies the Dog Days of August on the river. Overall, fishing was typically tough but consistent and productive if you covered some water. I had action on every session out with some notable risen fish and memorable hookups.I batted a thousand in getting fish for all my clients the days I worked which is always a bonus. It doesn't always work that way.
All of those pale in comparison to the experience my buddy had. Brett has been hanging around the boys on the NU for 5-6 years now and he has definitely been paying attention! His casting and overall fishing prowess has improved dramatically since he first plied these waters. He has been a great student and has gotten a lot of tips from myself as well as a few grizzled veterans that have been fishing here seemingly since time began....you know who you are. Anyway, I want to relate this story because I want to highlight some key elements that make it so awesome.
So, Brett shows up and we fish together the first night. We raise a fish or two( I rose one 8 times that never ate) and have a blast hanging out and fishing together. I then guide for a couple days and don't see him much except at night. He has been hard at it, raising fish but no hookups. He raises a fish in a run at last light and puts it to bed. He tells me later that it was a way above average specimen. He watched as the whole side of the fish slowly came out of the water and missed the fly. It will be rested and ready in the morning and Brett has that fish and only that fish on his mind at dinner.He is present with us but I can tell that he is drifting away to that happy place where big fish hit skating flies and stick. I am right there with him after hearing his story of the first encounter.
Early in the AM he is gone. Gone to do battle with a fish that has captured his mind and full attention. I know the drill. He is rehearsing the whole scenario out in his mind as he drives like Mario Andretti to get to the run before someone blows his chances for a rematch. He arrives at the run to find that at least that part of the battle is won and he is the victor. He makes his way out to the casting station, knowing that now the run is his and he can have first shot at a fish that, if approached properly and carefully will almost certainly eat a fly today. The first time through he fishes a skating fly. As the fly enters into the window where he showed himself the night before, the anticipation,adrenalin and emotion of seeing that fish at any moment are so strong it's almost debilitating. It is hard to explain the feeling of knowing where a big fish is, fishing a surface fly closer and closer to his lie and trying to keep it together and still cast. The sense that something is about to happen is overwhelming.Every drift you are mentally calling the fish to make an appearance. As you get closer, you obsess with cast angle,mending, and swing speed. You wonder if he just may have left the run. Maybe I passed by him already, maybe he's not in the mood today, I'm never gonna get this fish to eat etc etc........and then WHOOSH! There he is! Your knees shake your breath gets shallow and uneven, you start to sweat, your head pounds with the beat of your heart which you are sure is on a PA system blasting over the entire river, announcing to the world that you just rose a fish. But the stillness of the morning is not disturbed in the slightest. You ask yourself," Did I just see what I think I saw?" Was that him?
Brett regains his composure after the fish is raised the first time. OK, he's still in there and he is still BIG! He changes flies to a traditional wet fly and sends it through.He waits like a coiled spring for the tug that never comes.....nothing doing. He changes flies again, a dark muddler of some sort. Same song third verse......nothing happens. A different wet fly nada. Back to a skater.......WHOOOOOOOOSH! but no eat. All told 6 fly changes and back to a purple Muddler.He actually hung up and broke off two flies on the shallow bedrock during this whole scene. He started to loose it, things were falling apart but he got his head back together and kept after it.Now he is pumped with adrenalin,furious that he has to retie a fly,doubting his chances all the more as the minutes tick by. He stays with it.
He shortens up and works his way down to the fish, more or less thinking that this fish just took him to school and it ain't gonna happen. The size 6 Muddler swings lazily across the current going exactly where the rod and the one directing it tell it to. Now this fish has seen an armada of flies come over it's head in the last 15 minutes. Why this fly is any different,who's to say. But it is. With shocking intensity and amazing power and speed, a mid teens buck absolutely hammers the fly going away and it's GAME ON BABY! Brett's 11 ft 7wt switch rod suddenly feels very inadequate as the fish uses every ounce of strength, current and ledge rock to his advantage, leaving little room to counter any of his moves. There is no moving this fish whatsoever in the strong current of this mid river run. If the fish leaves the pool there is no chasing it. They slug it out for a round or two and then with a couple of head shakes and a flip of the tail, the fish does what a fish of this size can and will do. Take you to school. In and out of the ledge rock, a tug of war battle royal ensues. And then just to prove a point and have the last laugh the fish bolts for the back door, wedges the line in the ledge rock, promptly snaps the fly off and leaves Brett a quivering, shaking,hyper-adrenalized shell of his former self.
That's why we fish.
He later told me,that particular fish was easily the most satisfying fish he has ever matched wits with. It all started with a chance encounter.That was then followed by a chess match which was followed by a 15 round tittle fight where only a knock out will win. It's OK if the fish wins
As one of the people that has watched Brett become an amazing caster and fisherman in a very short time I was proud to see that he stuck with this fish. Despite obstacles both mental and physical he played the game that very few can. It was a well planned hunt from start to finish.He kept it together and sealed the deal and got this fish to go. He knew early on in the fight that landing the fish was probably not an option but he still tried.Very admirable buddy, nice job! His success always encourages me.
I never landed a fish in the 3 or 4 days I fished but that fish was in my mind for most of the time I was down there. In fact it still is.
That was a fish we can all share in.....won't you join me?