Warm Beer and Big Browns
The good news is I hooked a really big brown the other night, one of the kyped up dinosaurs that typically only occur in my dreams. The bad news is I went full rookie and lost Leroy Brown.
I’m at the shop five days a week, and don’t get me wrong I absolutely love it, but sometimes seeing picture after picture of big fish can be trying, especially if I haven’t stuck any in a hot minute. So after work a couple weeks back, before water temperatures climbed to unsafe levels, I vowed to get mine. I left the shop at one, went home to tie some bucknasty streamers and peruse google earth. While waiting for some zap to dry completely I found a spot on a local river that I had somehow missed. From satellite imagery it looked absolutely perfect, overhanging trees, undercut banks, basically all I could ask for when looking for freak fish. I spun up a few sparkly yellow/brown streamers and took off with high hopes but no expectations. Fueling up felt longer than normal and I found myself restless on the drive over, switching every song, never really finding what I wanted to hear. I probably should have viewed this as a sign or at least something that could potentially foreshadow heartbreak. I don’t know, maybe its just me, but music on the drive to the river is crucial. I usually have certain songs I want to hear, and pump up jams as I pull into the access. But that fateful day, I must have been off my game. Anyways, forgive my ramblings as I digress. I got to the river, cracked a cold one and proceeded to rig up. All was smooth as should be until I finished my double surgeons knot and for the life of me couldn’t find the streamers I had literally just tied. You know the feeling, you obviously have other flies that would most likely work but it just doesn’t feel right. Plus, streamer fishing without confidence in your fly is a lot like fishing tenkara, there’s just no point. I spilled my beer, tore my car apart for my flies but they were nowhere to found. Maybe I left them at home but I was fairly confident I grabbed them. Whatever, might as well just move on. At the bottom of my pack I found a yellow sparkle minnow I bought from the shop in days past. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I have decent confidence in that pattern and its better than losing my mind searching through my car.
Rigging up took me a lot longer than anticipated, but its summertime and there wasn’t a car to be found at the access, so what the hell. Half a PBR in hand, I began my short hike into what looked truly wonderful online. After about a mile of walking through brush, sticks, and mud, I thought I had better check google earth to see where I was actually at. Turns out I had wasted a solid 45 minutes wondering around when I could have just dropped into the river five minutes from where I parked. So, I made the trek back to my rig, tossed my empty can inside and grabbed a now, not so cold PBR. Feeling a little stupid, I hopped into the river, the cold water waking me up on one of those days where wet wading probably wasn’t the most ideal.
Reflecting now, it’s a little absurd how much of “fishing” isn’t actually spent on the water. But as I waded downstream I found the area where I wanted, and began my hunt. The first spot was okay, a little shallow but good predatory water. My first couple of casts went unanswered, but as I swung through the bottom of the run, I had a real good bump. I swung, felt weight and let out a little happy yip. The yip was short lived as three head shakes later the fish was off. Although I lost the fish, knowing I had the right color streamer boosted my confidence as I waded chest deep downriver through some “creeks”.
As I took off down the endless stretch of channels the bite certainly picked up, and just about every spot I thought had a fish, did. Catching fish on streamers is always a blast, but I hadn’t hooked or landed anything bigger than 16inches and wasn’t too thrilled about that. As the light started to fade I realized that I should probably turn around, eager to rework a few of the juicer spots with a bigger streamer in the glory that is sunset streamer fishing. And just for reference, when I say a “bigger” streamer, I don’t mean 5 or 6 inches, I prefer streamers that push the limit on what trout will actually eat…and boy you’d be surprised. Ergo, I slapped a big “old yeller” home tie on in brown and yellow. As is usual with the big streamer game, it was a grind. I worked my streamer hard, jerk stripping through countless good looking water with nothing to show other than a few snags. This is the part of the big streamer game where you can’t let up. Sure you could easily slap on a nymph or a chubby and get a few small fish, but that’s not what I’m chasing. If you truly want to throw really big streamers, just like any good relationship , its all about commitment. Just keep grinding, and at some point, if you put enough casts in good spots, you’ll get rewarded. This rang true as I approached one of the last spots of the day, a swift current with plenty of submerged logs and deeper slower pockets. I spent more time than usual observing the run, contemplating where I thought ol Leroy Brown might just be hiding.
I started at the top part of the run, an overhanging tree limb with some foam and everything else that you could ask for. I skipped my streamer under the tree, gave a quick mend to let it sink and began my retrieve, strip strip boom! I gave a stout strip set and waited for a headshake…but quickly realized I just sank both hooks into a tree or rock or something undesirable. The water was too deep and fast to wade through, so I gave a sigh, pulled my rod straight back and broke off a huge streamer that took me a lot of materials and time to tie. I walked back to the bank slightly disheartened as I searched my streamer box for anything that caught my eye. I found another huge fly, an “old yeller” but this time in tan. I checked my leader and found a few nicks, so it was time to retie. A double surgeons and a few loop knots and I waded back to where I had just broke off.
I picked a spot slightly below the snags, a deep pool with a weed bed lining the bank. I made a solid cast, tight to the bank, about ten feet above where the weed bed was. Right above the weed bed I gave my line a small strip, took a step downriver and prepared for my swing. As I stepped down, I watched an enormous trout emerge from nowhere, swirl on my streamer and give me the fin. It was over before I knew what happened, I let a few cuss words slip as I half heartedly swung my fly through the bottom of the run. My mind was elsewhere as I finished my swing and stripped my line back to me. About three long fast strips in, the water erupted in utter chaos as I watched Leroy Brown t bone my tan streamer. To say I was unprepared was an understatement, as the line slipped through my fingers on the stripset and I had to resort to something I truly abhor, a trout set. Luckily I got a hook in him as he took off into the current. I struggled to clear line as my 8wt flexed with every head shake; this fish clearly had the shoulders of a linebacker. Finally, I got him on the reel just in time to get my heartbroken. He tore upstream with a feverish pace, impersonated a steelhead and gave me a solid acrobatic show. The show was incredible to watch, but the ending crushed me. The streamer popped out and I watched in utter horror as Leroy slowly slinked away.
I wanted a mulligan, but supposedly that’s not how it works in fishing. I reeled in my line and sauntered to the bank. I sat in disbelief for a few long moments, contemplating my next move and how to overcome this dreadful pit in my stomach. The only comfort I had was found in 16 ounces of warm Pabst Blue Ribbon. Although it was dreadfully warm, that was one of the better beers I remember having. I sat slowly sipping my beer thinking of big fish I’ve caught before, and big fish to come. Although it was a bitter moment losing that brown, I thanked the river for the opportunity and future opportunities as well.
So next time you’re out on the river and you stick a big fish, pour a little of your beer out for those fish that haunt your dreams and make your fire burn deeper.
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