Down But Not Out

June 2, 2018

Down But Not Out

4:30am wake up call. Checked the flows last night, rigged up all my rods and for once even made a sandwich.  Two cups of coffee, another tank of gas. High hopes and a decent caffeine buzz. The hour long drive passed slowly even at 80 mph, and I’m not afraid to admit I had a few butterflies in my stomach anticipating the sunrise streamer bite. When I finally pulled into the access, as usual, the river had other plans for me. My biggest fear actualized… high, freezing, and totally muddy water. I thought what the hell, I drove an hour out here, maybe this high water will bring out the brown trout that tend to taunt me in my sleep. I slapped on my half dried waders, tossed my sandwich and a PBR in my pack and set off. The first half hour passed with nothing to show, an occasional riser sipped a midge, then slithered away never to be seen again. I kept grinding, confident in my spot and my trusty black streamer that always seemed to be oh so good to me. I kept wading, casting, and stripping the early morning away, keeping my spirits up. I knew one eat from a kyped brown could easily turn the day around, and I made sure to cling to that notion. Another hour passed, and my hopes were beginning to diminish. I managed to strip set the living goodness out of a log, and snapped the loop off my sink line attempting to break off. I checked my phone, and was truly bummed to see it was already 10am. I had till two o’clock to fish and I sat drinking my PBR, contemplating fishing elsewhere or simply admitting defeat. I knew better than to keep fishing chocolate milk, and decided to be a good boyfriend, head home early, do the dishes and clean up before my girlfriend got home from work. I’ll be the first to admit I was pretty salty driving home and a little bit humbled. Anybody who tells you they’re just happy to get out fishing is a liar. Not catching fish can hurt your pride, especially after having such high hopes. On the way home however, I drove over a section of the river I had previously ignored. It looked green, and I cut across two lanes to take the next exit. Unlike the previous river, I didn’t expect much. I just flat out needed to catch a fish, you know how it goes. My rod was still rigged and I figured I would just make a few casts from the bank, so no need for waders. I stepped over the mud hole I parked next to, careful not to get my “good” jeans muddy. Quickly, very quickly, I remembered why I had never fished here. It appeared that what was spoken by friends was true, its one of those spots on the river “that just isn’t worth your time”. I made a few more half assed casts, missed a small trout that ate my streamer near my feet, and the frustration continued its growth. At this point I tried to accept that today just wasn’t my day and I took off for my rig. I’m truly terrible at admitting defeat and reasoned that I could afford to make a few more casts in some actually decent water. I casted to the bank with my 7wt, watched my streamer disappear, stripped, stripped, and nothing. Absolutely nothing. I looked around, watched an eagle cruise overhead, and made one final cast to some appealing water on the far bank. I gave two quick strips to snake my streamer over the weeds, paused as it sank under a log gave a long slow strip and once again, nothing. I let out a few curse words and gave one final strip before calling it for the third time. I was looking elsewhere on the river as my rod nearly got jerked out of my hand. The water erupted and I watched in utter horror and amazement as one of the bigger browns of my life leapt into the air, thrashing and desperately attempting to pop the hook. New shoes and good jeans be damned, I jumped straight into the river, begging, pleading for that hook to stay in. Of course, as I jumped into the river, the brown ran straight at me, and in my panic I lost my footing and fell to my knees. I gave a noble attempt to net this fish, scooping his whole head into the net only to have him death roll out. By now I was doing everything in my power to get this fish, but the realization this fish would become nothing but a story crept in. I remembered the nick in my line from a snag earlier, and prayed my hastily retied nail knot would hold true. The fish took off for the log, and my 7 wt looked like it might snap. I don’t remember this part all too well, but I’m fairly confident I let out a yell and decided to try to steer his head of out the snags. I probably muttered “stay on, please stay on” fifty times. This was the first clear look I had at this trout, and I was going to do everything in my power not to lose him. I waded deeper, cold , frigid, water rushing over my jeans as I struggled to steer his head. He turned towards me and I knew this was my one shot. I stretched my net as far as possible, bent my rod far more than I should have and scooped the brown in best I could. Half his body escaped the net, and he gave a few finals death rolls before finally accepting his fate. Staring at this brown, I may or may not have shed a tear. I spent a minute holding this perfect specimen in the water, snapped a quick picture and sent him back to the depths. Walking back to my car I passed a few guys rigging up, they asked the standard, “catch anything” I let out a huge grin and simply said, “no”.




Chris Miller

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