Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Losing A Big One

Tonight, I drove out to the Riceville Bridge and hiked in about 2 miles to fish the banks of Belt Creek once again. New territory for me this summer as it is only one of a handful of times I've been on this stretch. The water is quite low along most of the area, with a few boulders strewn between a few deep runs and shallow riffles. I fished a slow deep pool against a rocky ledge for the first hour. Smaller trout were rising every few minutes, sipping on very tiny insects. I couldn't figure out what it was they were munching on so I just threw out the normal go to patterns. Parachute Adams, Adams Naturals, Brown Caddis, Yellow PMDs, Griffith's Gnats, Yellow and Orange Stimulators, and even a Dave's Hopper. All falling short of even a strike, I became frustrated and decided to move ahead to some runs to nymph as my top water attempts failed miserably. Nymphing my go to Purple Bead Head Prince produced zero results. It was coming up on about 8:30 with about 25 minutes till sundown, so I moved upstream to a bend I had never fished. The current picked up some good speed forming a long run which held fish sipping on the tail out. My angle to the middle of the run was nonexistent so I waded around the tail across the bank to get some better casting room. As I passed the current seam, I looked on the water to see any insects passing by. To my knowledge, what I was noticing were little 18 to 20 red quill mayfly spinners floating along the surface. They were a dark brown almost reddish in color. I had nothing small enough to match the natural, and with daylight just about gone, I grabbed a size 14 Royal Wulff. It was red and it was large enough for me to see in the dwindling light. After about 7 or 8 drifts, I finally got a hit by a small rainbow. I was pleased that after a couple hours of fishing fishless flies, I had one in my books. As I was releasing the little guy, I noticed a bigger one sipping directly across my position just off the seams of the run. Two casts later I had him on, but only for a few seconds until he spit out the fly and was gone. Action slowed for about 10 minutes with no more rises. The sun was just going over the ridge in the West and darkness was setting in quick. With very little visual on the Wulff at this point, my strategy was to just cast slightly down and across and wiggle my line out to extend the drift as long as possible. After about 4 or 5 of these drifts, on a lift for a recast... BAM! My line went heavy. I figured it felt that way because I had at least 35 to 40 feet of line out. I lifted my rod high, and immediately put the fish on the reel. As soon as I began reeling in, the fish took off downstream another 15 feet! Holy Shit! This fish was not ready to brought in. I reeled the line at intervals, hoping to keep pressure and tire him in the current at the same time. Finally after a short struggle, he ran directly upstream right at me! I cranked the reel as fast as my hand could turn. He was 20 feet from me now and got a good look as he rolled around and hit the gas downstream again. At this point all I know is that my heart was pounding, instinct set in and I knew I needed to force this brute in before I somehow lose him. Pulling back on the rod turned him towards me and again he swam hard upstream. This time I had him 15 feet... 10 feet... 5... I had him slightly on the bank. With as much adrenaline that was running through my body, my head became weak, weary, and felt like I was going to pass out! All instinct was lost at this point and I felt like this was my first time ever catching a fish. I became clumsy and fumbled my rod, reached for the line to keep it near me. By this time, the mighty brown was behind me thrashing in the ankle deep rocky water. I thought to myself, "Oh my God, that thing has got to be 20+ inches". My biggest of the summer. It was dark, my knees knocked, I yanked the line close to me and... SNAP! SHIT! I threw my rod down, threw my body on the rocky bank like I was after a slippery football fumbled on a field. I got him... wait... no I don't got him. One slippery grip and a tail flick later... gone, out of sight. I had lost him! UUUGGGHHH!!!

It took me about 5 minutes to realize what had just happened. Mind you, it was all over in a matter of seconds of having him near the bank. Still in shock, all I could do is grab another big fly out of my box in hopes to catch him again. It's funny how the mind thinks when your adrenaline is pumping that hard. I had lost my mind! It was 9:15, dark as hell and I was trying to tie on another fly to catch to same fish. Wow! I had surely lost my marbles. I couldn't regain my composure, fiddled and faddled with my line and fly for another 10 minutes just making a mess out of my leader and tippet. I was done. The fish had gotten the best of me. The night was over and I still had 2 miles to hike back to my car, in darkness.

On the trail back to my car, I still felt crazy. "All this for what?!" "To catch some stupid fish!?" I replayed the scene over and over again in my head until it all became fuzzy! "What the hell happened!?" "Get a hold of yourself dammit!" "There's always tomorrow". I was immediately brought back down to earth and realized that this was all part of the sport and why I love it so much. I hadn't had a rush like that on the water in a long time! It's things like this that happen for a reason to keep me coming back for more. I don't regret a single moment of losing that fish, I had realized that it was just a learning experience for me to come back next time to try and keep some composure in a similar situation. It's moments like these that keep us human, and it made me realize, this IS why I fish.

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