It was a great day for December.
My dad and I had fooled quite a few large rainbow and brown trout, and it was decent sight fishing conditions, crystal clear water, with pretty good sunlight. We were casting tiny flies to large fish and got to watch the whole denial or acceptance go down, which to me, is just as fun as dry fly fishing.
We walked and fished when the sunlight pierced through the trees at just the right angle. Underneath an overhanging bush was a monster New Zealand-sized rainbow. Her perfect, mossy green tail never ceased pumping and gave her away.
Failure was not an option. She wasn’t spooked and was feeding. You could see the white in her mouth every now and then as she snacked on some minuscule insect. In that moment, everything from the day dwindled down to that fish. If I could catch her, I would be happier, or so I thought.
After watching her movements for a few moments, I cast my fly several feet upstream to let it sink down to her in the slower deep water. I lost track of the fly, but as my drift continued, I never saw her move. I went to recast when I felt a tug. A smaller brown decided the drifting midge looked pretty tasty. He was visibly shocked when I unknowingly set the hook into his jaw, but after an explosive leap, he came unbuttoned.
I hadn't even seen the little guy behind the big lady.
I casted again a foot or so farther upstream of her seam to see if the drift would get a little deeper. I knew it had to be right in front of her face. This time I somehow caught a glimpse of the white bead head on the little midge pattern and tracked it as it tumbled a few inches from her left side.
She could not have cared less.
I kept my eye on her and lifted the rod tip back to make another cast.
I could see the flash of gold as the brown trout tried to free himself of the hook. I landed this little fellow, a slim foot-long fish. He was very happy to be released, and I watched him swim off and pulse downstream of my fair lady.
She was nearly double his size.
She was still happily swimming in place. Apparently, she didn’t care about the caught fish behind her enough to move. And I was far enough downstream that it seemed a quick scurry of a caught fish didn’t put her down.
I made another cast.
It drifted by her. I watched her move to the side and open her mouth. I knew my fly should have been right in front of her in that moment, so I set the hook. There was a cold shiver that seemed to shake her from head to tail, and I knew it was me. In an instant I felt the solid weight on the rod.
She immediately spun around and tore off downstream. She did it with such force and speed that my little sz. 20 midge never stood a chance. Almost as fast as I hooked her, the fly came loose…
I sat, heart beating out of my chest, but in happy disgust.
The biggest fish of the day, and I had her hooked. At least watching her eat is better than making a stupid cast and turning her munchies off for a while.
As I sat, my dad continued to fish downstream. He laughed for a second at my misfortune, then consoled me.
While I looked back to where she was laying on the river bottom, it was like someone peeled skin off my eyes. This pool was teeming with fish. I tried to count, and after 15 fish in the truck bed sized pool, I lost count. Somehow I had managed to completely miss all of them after looking at big mama for so long.
I let the water rest as I sat, then got my dad into a few fish before we moved on.
The joys of winter fishing with tiny flies.
Oh well, I know where her winter home is now, and I will be back.