It was one of those days when catching
took a backseat to fishing. The sun was
shining, a warm breeze was blowing through,
and at least I was out there. I had been
standing waist deep in the cool alpine lake
since about 6:00 am, and hadn't caught a
thing. That's OK. I was learning. I was
learning how to use the wind to my advantage.
And I was learning how to avoid piercing my
right ear when the wind picked up. Besides,
casting on this clear, cool, crystal blue lake
beats sitting in front of the tube sipping
coffee, anyhow, right?
Looking at my watch, I realized it was almost
11:00 am. Time to pack it in and head home.
The fish weren't biting, the kids probably
missed me, and I hadn't even told my wife I
was heading out.
"I'm probably gonna catch hell for it, but
it's worth it," I thought. Even not catching
anything, it was worth it to be alone in this
beautiful lake for a few hours.
Walking back in towards shore, I passed
by a very likely looking hold. "What the
heck. One more cast won't hurt." So, out
comes the rod. I tie on a #22 Royal Coachman
and head back into the water.
Now, I know a Royal Coachman doesn't actually
look like any real bug. Shouldn't matter,
because there isn't anything hatching, anyway.
And I know that nobody ever takes a substantial
trout from this lake on a dry fly. I've heard
it too many times before, "You need to git
yerself a big fat Woolly Bugger to get the
big'uns from this lake," or "A deep nymph
will pull the big boys offa the bottom fer
ya, but that dry fly ain't gonna net ya
nuthin," but I never really paid any
attention to what 'they' said before,
so why should I start now?
So on goes the Coachman and in the water
I go. My first 'last cast' gets caught
in the wind and lands way off base. "Well,
that just won't do," I think to myself as
I pull in the slack for another cast. My
second 'last cast' catches the right earlobe
perfectly. "Thought I figured out how to
avoid that. Good thing it's barbless." Oh
well, that won't do either. One more last
"This is it. You gotta get home for a
shower before work, so this is the definite,
no more, last time, last cast."
I feel the loop form behind and the rod
tip load. Swing forward and feel the tip
load. Watch that beautiful loop form in
front me. Once more back for a little
more distance...perfect. Now forward
with a nice, soft and subtle presentation
...That's it. A perfect cast. Wind and
all, this one lands right where I want it
to. Right in the middle of the deepest
part of the hole, and just the other side
of a visible rock. Now wait. Just a bit.
Couple of little twitches to give it some
life. That's it. Now patience.
Then I see Him coming. I see his mouth
opening up...patience. Don't get anxious,
wait for the bite...wait. He just barely
breaks the surface and sips that tiny
Coachman. He's HUGE! I set the hook, and
pray. "I'm fishing a 1wt.! There's NO WAY
my 7X tippet will hold!"
Let him run. Out to the backing, my reel
screaming in protest. He dives deeper into
the lake. My patience pays off and he
slows down. Ever so gently, I bring him
closer to me. Closer and closer, inch by
inch. "I can't believe my tippet is holding
this monster." Than, he sees me and is off
again! Out to the backing one more time.
Dive! Dive! "Don't fight him, play him.
He's too big, he'll get tired."
And he does. Slowly again, I bring this
monster from the deep closer and closer.
He sees me again, but he doesn't have any
heart left. One or two flicks of the tail
is all he can muster. He's too tired.
He gives up.
I get the beast in the net, and the moment
tension is released, my tippet falls apart.
The hook, just barely in his upper lip, is
bent so far out of shape, it is almost
straight. The tippet, well it no longer
exists. It is simply a mound of chewed
and shredded line. No more knot, no more
strength. One more run and I would have
lost him, for sure.
But none of that matters. He's in the net,
and he's mine. A beautiful 4 pound rainbow.
He's got all his fins and the coloration of
a wild trout. He just might be. After all,
he hit the dry fly, knowing that Woolly
Bugger's and Copper Johns aren't a real
food source. He just might be...
Walking away from the lake, with this one
prize I've decided to harvest, I can hear
the "old timer's" now. "What'd ya take
him on? Woolly Bugger?" "What size tippet,
3X?" But I just smile. "Size 22 Royal
Coachman. Came out of the hole like one
of those monsters in the old Godzilla movies."
They don't believe me. They can see my 1
wt., yet they still don't believe me.
But I don't care. I know it's true.
And the fight that this beautiful creature
gave will live on forever, burned into my
memory like my first day of school. Or the
last big fall before learning how to ride
a bike. An experience like this is once
in a lifetime. A trout like this is once
in a lifetime. A day like this is once
in a lifetime, and I will never forget it.