Tight lines: Big fish versus …
special to the Daily
Lately, we have been blessed: Everything is hatching now and there are tons of willing fish to boot! The true beauty of the sport of dry-fly fishing is in abundance every where you go. What follows is the experience of fighting a perfect Rocky Mountain rainbow.
There is nothing better than a long cast across multiple currents, your fly landing like a rain drop on the water’s surface, and the indescribable and near un-teachable (far from text book) line-mending techniques that are acquired through years of practice. This requires keeping the fly perfectly adrift and running the length of the feeding lane in front of you.
All the while, you are hoping a trout may casually rise from the bottom of the river with its jaw slowly opening, targeting your fly floating naturally downstream. Then, all of a sudden, scarred, boney lips break the water’s surface, closing around your fly as the fish turns back for the depths. Next, you lift your rod, set the hook and feel the tension.
The fight begins.
This time it’s a worthy opponent making a defiant run toward his log-filled safety lie. Now, you must keep the line pressure pulling away from his destination. You feel the 7x tippet stretching as you tighten the drag on the reel. The fish is sitting at the edge of a log jam, thrashing side to side, his nose still pointed with intent at entering the entwined, line-breaking mess of sticks he calls home.
Your heart is pounding, as is your opponent’s. The intensity runs high: You don’t want to get snapped off and lose the fish and/or fly, and he doesn’t want to be landed. Each takes a moment to regain composure.
You watch him closely: His long, sleek scale-covered silhouette paused in the current of the river and the light pulsating in rhythm off the side of his tail as it waives like a flag. You know he is developing a plan of escape and building up energy for another attempt at entry into his lair of your certain demise.
Next, the rhythm of his tail slowly quickens. One of you must make the next move. Your eyes lock, each with an “I’m going to win” squint. When your grip tightens on the cork handle of your rod, you can tell the fish felt it from the look in his eye.
Then, gently, you lower the tip of your rod to the ground, hoping to pull his head into the current and get him across to your side of the river. Afterwards, you apply some pressure to execute your plan. He feels it and responds, with powerful whips of the tail struggling to hold his position and thrusting toward his lair.
You stumble over some slimy, free stones under your feet. It’s just enough accidental pressure to pull the fish into the current. He doesn’t want to lose, so he jumps high into the air shaking his head violently. You lower your rod and bow to the fish while feeding him some line. As his body re-enters the water, you raise your rod back up and feel the hook still in his jaw. A moment of relief envelopes you: Now you are certain he is yours. A few head shakes later, he is in the net.
This sort of catch holds a special place in a fisherman’s heart with all the essential elements: an excellent hatch, a dry-fly, water, fighting a worthy opponent and success. Who doesn’t love to net a big fish at the end of a great day of fishing?
Recently, I ended such a day with a fish measuring 21 inches which I caught on a No. 24 pale morning dun (adult) floating high on the water. I tend to find trout much more enticed by the PMDs when multiple insects are hatching and PMDs are in the mix. Perhaps they just taste better, provide some sort of extra nutritional value giving the fish more energy or boost its immune system. Honestly, I have no idea. I just know, for whatever reason, it works.
Final thought: Whoever says 20-plus fish don’t take dries is full of … well, take your pick.
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