The washboard-surfaced road was getting tiresome to drive, but I knew I was only about a mile from where I wanted to start fishing. So I stayed with it, only moving fast enough to keep the fillings in my teeth. There was a little fog coming off the water, and its misty haze made for an eerie glow to the stream.
I pulled my truck off the road and slid to a stop. This was where I would start, hoping for a good day in the serene quiet of the mountain pass. There was still snow in some of the shady areas around the road, making for a real wintertime feel of things. I had already tied on my weapons for the day; a sinking black and gold Rapala on my spinning outfit, and a small olive wooly bugger on my fly rod. I had a deep hole I wanted to check out first, so I chose the Rapala to begin with.
A flick of the wrist was all that was required to get the lure across the stream where it would sink by a fallen tree. I let it sink for a count of five, then began a slow retrieve. Two turns of the handle and I was into a nice 16-inch brown, beautiful in its fall colors. He stayed deep in his fight, and once brought to the shoreline, I admired his coloration. One more fish latched on to my wooly bugger as I feathered the line down into the hole, and another brown came to my hand. I quickly released both fish, not wanting to deplete the water of its occupants.
I’ve always practiced catch-and-release on this particular stream, as I do on many rivers. There’s a great sense of satisfaction in letting a gorgeous trout back into his habitat.
With the cold weather that morning, I suddenly noticed how frozen my fingers felt. But that was quickly overridden in the grand scheme of things. I was into some fish, and the excitement would warm me up soon. That and the rising sun, as the sky was clear and only a slight breeze stirred the trees.
Some holes produced, and others did not. But that’s stream fishing, isn’t it? I didn’t wade; I just cast from the bank and stayed out of the water. I wasn’t anxious to step into any redds the browns might be occupying.
As the morning progressed, I also latched on to a few cutthroat trout. Also beautiful in color, they made for some great action in shallow riffles over rocky bottoms.
Once I decided to take a lunch break, I parked the truck in the full sun and sat on the tailgate to eat. The sun really warmed me well now, and the cold fingers were almost completely gone. I laid back, and managed to take a short snooze in the truck bed. Not really comfortable, but by my watch I figured I napped about 45 minutes. I realized that good fishing time was getting away from me, so I hurried and put things back in the cooler, and took off toward the next stretch of water that tended to hold trout.
I made a cast, and promptly hung up my Rapala on a fallen tree trunk. Durf! Those treble hooks held solidly, and weren’t about to come loose. So I broke it off and tied on another sinking model, this one in rainbow trout colors, just to try something a little different. I like to experiment anyway, as I have the feeling that something else will always work better.
I continued to switch back and forth between poles, having about equal success with both. Little did I know that I was yet to catch my biggest fish of the day.
A deep hole running along an under-cut bank looked very enticing, so I made a cast parallel to it, once I managed to maneuver into position for my best approach to the hole. I flipped the Rapala past the deepest part of the hole, then began a jerking retrieve that made for an erratic, wounded minnow movement. The strike that followed was easily the best hit I’d had, so I knew I was into something special. I had to forcefully move the fish out from the undercut edge, and once I did, I got a glance at him. A big brown, and as it turned out, he was 20 inches. Still in a feisty mood, I worked him over to my hand and got a grip on the lure. Big mistake.
The brown flipped one last time, burying one hook into my finger well past the barb. It was then a comedy of pain as the trout continued to flop around, with both of us now attached to the lure.
I managed to get the trout loose using needle-nosed pliers, which took some doing. But now the next problem; getting me loose. I put my hand in some of the snow that was still present, and left it there for several minutes. My hope was to numb up the finger for a little on-site medical attention. Once I couldn’t feel anything, I used the needle-nose to twist the hook and bring the point back out by making a new hole. I was then able to cut the barb off with the wire-cutter portion of the pliers. Free at last.
Sure, the finger hurt once it thawed out, but I kept fishing for about another hour. After all, I was already there and the day had been good to me. But I did put the Rapala away and focused on the fly rod for the rest of the time. And it continued to produce for me, too.
All in all, a pretty good day. I got a tetanus shot a few days later, but really enjoyed my day on the stream, nonetheless.
Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.