Unity is a Beautiful Thing
By Dave Jensen, Alberta, Canada
The day was stellar. Clouds hung to the peaks
on one side of the valley leaving the
other bared to the morning sun. We arrived
the night before after a long drive to
this foreign water. It was my third day of
the year on this stream, which should tell
you how remarkable it is considering the number
of hours it takes to get there.
I've yet to break that magical 30" bull trout barrier.
Try as I might each spring and fall it just seems to
never happen for me. So there I found myself driving the 6
plus hours back to the land of opportunity yet again.
But I'll tell you what, the first two trips were worth
every moment. Now I could finally take my wife Amelia
there and cross my fingers.
The week previous I made the trek and was frustrated
at a particular big bull trout's refusal to hook itself
properly. To back up a second I had spotted the fish
in a chest deep run behind a small boulder. It refused
to take a streamer even though it lunged twice at mine.
I opted to try the back up plan, nymphing. I had it
take twice that first trip, once rolling the fish on
the bottom and the other was a head shake before flipping
me the fin.
On this trip, I told Amelia what to expect. We would
spend most of the day sight fishing to some incredible
fish. Our first stop was that same bull trout. Again, as
hard as I tried it refused my nymphs. We were there to
get Amelia into a large bull so I wasn't too disappointed.
My best bull trout to that day was 26". We had never spent
too much time targetting big bad bulls so her largest to that day was
only about 23". Things would change for one of us that day.
After fruitless attempts nymphing, Amelia stepped up
to bat with the streamer. The fish charged at the fly -
almost as quickly as Amelia pulled it away from the
fish, but not quite. Subsequent casts were ignored. It
was disapointing to not have her catch this fish.
However, one of my goals has always been to sight
nymph a big bull trout on a small nymph. To me it
is almost on par with casting small dries to a large
brown trout on a glassy slick. I was in luck because after
the bull charged her fly it nestled into a glassy flat
behind a series of smaller stones.
A quick flip of the #14 bead head pheasant
tail nymph caught the seam line. The bull moved over
6" and rose a foot to meet my nymph. I'd stuck him
twice before without moving him so I cringed as I rose my
rod. Solid! Finally. The only question now was whether
or not I had a good hook set. There was no chance the
fish would snap me off. Not with my 14 pound Trilene
'tippet'. The fish hammered down across the river,
keeling over my Scott rod. It wasn't pretty. I'm sure
even Scott's engineers would have been grimacing.
Alas, a few minutes later the horse moved into the
eddy and into the net. I finally had a good, solid
bull trout on a small nymph. Elated? Yes! Contented?
You bet! That 25" bull to the right has my little bead
head in its mouth. If my writing doesn't convey my
elation, there's a reason. I blame it on my wife.
You see, I've waited a long time to get a good bull
trout on a small fly in a sight nymphing situation.
Leave it to Amelia to 'ruin' that. But more on that
We saw no other fish in that run so we moved back
to a hidden run. I had fished it before and had
spotted a couple of fish in the shallow chop on
the far bank. A friend had caught a nice bull that
we spotted in a 3 foot deep flat. Strange place
for it but there was a reason it was there. It was
not there for Amelia, however. We moved back up to
the run. Amelia walked to the head of the run and I
stayed back where I knew a few fish would be. I said
nothing but I turned a nice fish on the nymph and
also had a solid head shake on the streamer. Amelia
made her way back down to where I was.
We both saw it at the same time. A
lunker appeared as the seam changed
from a roll to a glassy paned viewfinder
to the bottom. She tossed a streamer and
I my nymph. But it wasn't to be. Amelia
hung up on the bottom a couple of casts
later. She cursed mildly and gave the line
a solid tug. I'm not sure if she screamed
before or after the bottom of the stream
errupted into a golden flash tearing
across the stream up to the head of the
run. Don't much matter now does it? I
photographed the sequence of the fight, it
was one that lasted quite a long time. By
the time Amelia got Tiny Tim into the eddy it
was obvious I was going to have to
net the fish. Yup, I was quite pleased with
myself, sight fishing a big bad bull on a
small nymph until ...
Did I mention that I had never caught a 30" bull
before? Good thing my wife came to my rescue by
catching a 31" bull from below my feet!
There was some hooting and hollering right then and
there, let me tell you. As I had it in the net the
thing literally kicked my butt, rocking back and
forth. I had to take a knee and get a two solid hand
grip on the net in order to control it. We took a
series of photos. As we were lining up to take the
last set, good old Tiny Tim kicked Amelia's butt too.
He slapped her wrists, startling her and sending her
backwards as it made a dash for open water.
He made it.
A few smiles on a couple of faces. We took a break
for lunch and sat smiling and giggling over what had
just happened. Our day was not over yet. Not by a long
After lunch we worked a deep trough where a friend
reported a couple of very nice bulls. Oddly we caught
nothing. We continued to work our way down and found
a nice bend; a deep trough cut down the middle by a
rise of boulders. I fished my side with no success.
I saw nothing in the run on "my side". Amelia was
working her side slower than I was so I crossed over
to her side thinking I would get a few casts in the
back end as she worked down. She lost her streamer on the
bottom so the run was now mine. What's this? Hugging
the bottom in front of me was a long, dark shadow. The
glassy flat gave the bull a floating appearance, the
water so clear the fish seemed to hover above dry rocks.
Wouldn't you know this fish charged both of my streamer
casts to it. Both times it charged but stopped short.
Odd fish, these. To charge a fly for 5 feet and stop
I knew it would take the nymph and it was
a perfect place to see an excellent take. I
convinced Amelia to take the first cast with
the nymph. She wanted me to catch this
one after having just had her 'moment.' But
this was her day. She adjusted the depth of
the indicator and she cast 10 feet above the
bull. The indicator passed overhead, the
bull trout moved over and then up as it did.
Its mouth opened to feed and it turned back
to its lie. Amelia set the hook. What more
can be said? Amelia's second fish of the
day was a 27" bull.
We were starting to run out of film and
digital memory. The cameras had worked
overtime already but I had one or two more
special pit stops to make yet. No,
neither the day nor the camera work was done
yet. Not quite.
We came up to the shallow riffle. It is a long one.
Hundreds of yards on either side offer nothing but
knee deep water, except for the deflection of boulders
creating a small truck sized pocket. It was Amelia's
day. Guess who cast first? Guess how many casts it
took? One flip of the streamer behind the submerged
rock. The streamer came out of the seam line into
the shallows. We were actually both disappointed. I
was about to say "cast further up" when Joe bull
trout came snorting out of the seam line pectoral
fins a blazing and mouth open wide enough to
chomp Amelia's leg if it per chance missed the fly.
It didn't! Another solid hook set and another stellar
fight with another exceptional bull trout. Granted,
this was only 26", but it rounded out the day nicely
with tape measured 26, 27, and 31" bulls for Amelia.
For anyone that knows the joys of fly fishing with a
husband or wife, you know that not every day will go smoothly.
Sure, most will. Some will go negatively. Most will be
fun and enjoyable. Then there's the very odd day when
the world smiles on one or both and it is simply a joy
to behold. I can honestly say that this was one of the
best days I've had in years. Sure, Amelia kicked my butt
fishing. It wasn't close. But I got to take the photos,
to capture the moments she's never experienced before.
I was able to share each one and each one was different.
When she put the net to her 27" bull that she had
sight nymphed to, casting and drifting perfectly, it
confirmed what I had known for a couple of years now...
the next photo, while not 100% crisp in appearance is
crisp on the fact... she's a helluva fisherman.
It's a special thing we have. Having guided as many people
we have over the years we've come to realize that not
everyone is able to enjoy time on stream together. It's
taken some time for us to get to this place, but the
journey has been wonderful. If you have the time and the
desire, why not invite your partner to come out and spend
a day together? If need be to rent a drift boat or hire a guide
to take care of the little details you know you might forget,
wouldn't it be worth it? It takes time to develop an on
stream relationship, and that relationship is different
than day to day living. But with some time and fostering
it is one that I'll guarantee will see a better relationship
in all areas down the road.
I took Amelia to a special place hoping something special
would happen to someone special to me. It did. It blew us
both away. What better thing to know that you can spend
that time together and - perhaps more importantly - remember
those times together. Unity is a beautiful thing.
~ Dave Jensen
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