We drove, drove, and drove. Finally, in the distance we could see the bridge that crossed our river.
We had our smallmouth and musky rods pre-rigged and ready to throw some flies to hungry fish. However, we were not expecting what came next. When we crossed the bridge and finally could see the large, usually clear, river it was a torrent. It looked as if millions of gallons of chocolate milk were flowing through the valley. A recent storm had sent surges of mud, grime, and debris down the river. The rain the day prior wasn’t even that much, but apparently the river thought differently.
We didn’t drive all this way to turn back, so just like any true (stupid) angler would, we launched our kayaks and paddled into the chocolate milk. After all, the water wasn’t up a lot higher than normal - it was just murky.
I didn’t want to tell my dad, but my expectations were shattered the second I saw the color of the water from the bridge. Of course, the fish are still around, but finding them and then putting a fly in front of their face in an unfamiliar section of water is a completely different story.
We only brought one car and planned on paddling upstream to a wide section then drifting down while fishing to the truck. Two paddles upstream were the equivalent of one stroke, so getting up the river was a chore, but once we finally paddled to a calmer section I took my fly and started chucking. I arrived to the calm section first, and while my dad was still paddling up I sent out 2 casts about 20 feet from the back. Cast again about 10 feet off the bank. I cast again inches from the bank and let my 8” solid white fly drift through the current then swing a little bit for another cast.
This casting style was mainly laziness, but I don’t like waiting on a river without a fly in the water. I was just waiting to show my dad the ropes of casting big flies (not that I have that much experience with them myself). I looked back to see how far he was and he was making a steady pace towards my kayak. I sent out another cast with my 10 weight a few inches off the bank. The Changer made a good splat and as I looked back to see my dad I heard an unmistakable gulp.
I thought I must have been hearing things, but then I saw a splash and a portion of a tail going quickly under the water, right where my fly landed! I pulled the line for a strip set and brought the rod up, and all I could feel was the line screaming as it ripped out of my hands.
I yelled back to my dad that I had a fish on, and he had no clue what I said. He assumed I was just stuck on a rock or something - which would make sense, because you couldn’t really see the rocks in the chocolate milk mess.
Anyways, I had never felt a fish on a fly rod pull to this extent. My 10 weight rod, made for landing big fish and throwing big flies, was getting the best workout it had ever seen! Knowing that this was musky water and considering that’s what I was trying to catch I just knew I had a musky. I brought the drag up a good deal on my Behemoth and watched as the line slowly stopped peeling off the reel so ferociously.
Then all of a sudden it was like someone put an engine on my kayak! My whole boat started moving upstream in a powerful jolt! I yelled back to my dad again, who finally realized I had a fish on the line, that I needed him to paddle up to me and help somehow.
I had no clue how I would land this fish. It was tugging my kayak up the river at the same speed my dad was paddling. It was a big river, and I was being pulled almost to the middle! If we went downstream, there were visible logs, rocks, and small islands everywhere, I couldn’t get on a bank because of the ledges, bushes, and trees. So on my kayak I sat. No direction or plan. I justsat in survival mode hoping to land my newly discovered motor.
My dad finally got up to me, and in quick thinking thought to drop his anchor so he could grab hold of my kayak and I wouldn’t be tugged around the river. The problem was, by the time my dad dropped his anchor and reached to grab me, I was already several feet away! Of course I could have dropped my anchor, but in the moment I just had both hands holding on to my rod, and my brain wasn’t really thinking about actual ways to land the fish.
It was a nice sleigh ride that finally ended when my dad grabbed hold of the back of my kayak and then dropped his anchor. But the fight wasn’t over. The fish didn’t like all that extra force so he tried to escape with even more energy. The fly line started escaping again, and I held tight hoping my knots were all good.
In the chocolate milk mess, I hadn’t seen the fish the entire time other than the glance at his splash when he inhaled the fly. So I had no clue what size this thing must have been. Imagination aflame I pictured myself holding the musky of my dreams, or perhaps the leviathan…
Finally, I made pulled with enough force that I got a glance of my musky. My heart dropped. It didn’t have a musky tail… and he was a whole lot more fat and blue than the slender Ferrari look of a musky. Now, my mind still hadn’t put two and two together yet - I knew it was no musky, but in the heat of the moment I couldn’t think of what I had on.
I made another strong effort to drag my fish up from the depths and for a moment the fish relaxed, which allowed my dad to get the fish in the net.
We got the fly out and I held the fat blue cat. After soaking in the view for a few seconds we sent it back to terrorize some more fish or maybe another angler.
It was a solid fish, and it gave me a fun ride. One of the best things was, it was on a day I was truly expecting to catch nothing. I’d wanted to land a catfish on a fly for a while, but it wasn’t on my radar as I was searching for musky that day. Of course, the first fifteen minutes of that trip set high hopes for the remainder of the day which were never met. The rest of that day was a whole lot of nothing casting heavy flies here, there, and everywhere into the millions of gallons of chocolate milk with only a sore arm to show for it.