Dec 15 2008 11:25 am

those that got away

I’ve helped a few of my friends with the fly fishing.  Though none of them have shown the commitment to standing in a cold river for hours on end waving a stick of graphite around quite like Justin has (no offense Ian).  Justin and I have gone fishing for five days over the last few months and he has caught fish.  Yesterday, in fact, he was the only one to catch a fish.  And for someone’s fifth day of fly fishing ever, it was a pretty nice freaking fish.

But this blag post isn’t for celebrating Justin’s monster brown trout, despite its rippling pig fat and long, torpedo-esqueness.  Rather, my skunking yesterday has made me reflect on the big fish I’ve lost this past year. 

There are two that really stand out. 

The first was in June I think.  I had purchased a new TFO TiCr 8 weight rod a few days before and was taking it out for the first time.  I arrived at the spillway around 6pm and started casting a little orange and white clouser across the top of a pool and letting it swing down into the depths and then stripping it back, hoping to hook up with a Monroe Rocket (hybrid bass) or one of the monster walleye that are supposed to live there.  On the fourth or fifth cast the fly stopped dead about half way through the swing. 

Everything stood still for a few seconds and I remember it now in slow motion, looking down at the slack line then to my hand reeling it in, reeling it in, reeling it in and it finally came tight.  And in that moment, as soon as the line came tight to the reel, the peace and slow motion were shattered in a ferocious display of force.  The frenzied and high pitched drag whine, the violent bucking of the rod, the reel handle turning with such power and speed that I lost my grip of it and it whacked me upon the knuckles thirty times in a row in the moment it took me to move my hand away.  I tightened the drag and tried to turn the fish’s head but it was deep down in the hole with almost all my fly line and would not be turned.  Blood ran down the back of my hand as I wrenched the reel around a meaningless few times.  The bucking stopped.  I could reel no more.  He was hung up on something.  So I broke it off.  Thankfully retrieved my fly line.  And stood there motionless again, knuckles throbbing, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, telling myself: that was not a catfish, that was not a catfish.

The second time was in October.  I hiked to the mouth of Noland Creek in the Smokies looking for lake run rainbows.  The water was way down so I had to traverse a wide sticky mud flat to reach the lake.  There was something going on because baitfish were running scared in the shallows and every once in a while the water would erupt where they ran.  Turns out it was smallmouth and I caught a few going to about twelve inches on a chartreuse and white clouser.  But as the sun rose up over the ridge and the light seemed to race across the lake, something was happening out in the middle of the creek channel.  There was something feeding out there and feeding violently. 

I struggled out in the muck to a small rock that stood maybe a foot above the water and I still had to cast my five weight line almost one hundred feet to reach the feeding fish.  But reach them I did.  As soon as the, excuse my hyperbole but I felt good about it, epic cast landed I began stripping the fly back as quickly as I could.  Just a few strips back and something grabbed it, shook it around, then took off to the right, out into the lake.  The backing was traveling through the guides at a decent clip and I palmed the reel and turned the fish back to the left and began reeling as fast as I could.  I managed to get some of the fly line back on the reel and was recovering it fairly steadily as the fish struggled out and I struggled in.  But then he changed his mind.  He went with my pressure until he had was running straight at me and he turned to the right but at a steeper angle so that he was heading for the flats instead of out into the lake.  He ran for a big log that lay partially submerged, prickly with branches and promptly tangled himself up.  Broke him off.  Was it a trout?  I’m gonna say probably not. 

Whatever.  Putting someone else on the fish is just like catching them yourself…cough, cough.  

Congratulations on the nice fish Jut.

Also, I have no pictures of the Lake Monroe spillway because it’s disgusting.


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