Saturday, March 17, 2012
The smartest fish in the stream
You all know what I'm talking about. There's your favorite local stream, and you know it inside and out. You know the hatches, the feeding lanes, and even certain fish that live in certain stretches. But no matter how smart you get, how beautiful your flies are, and how perfectly you cast, this one fish will not fall for your tricks. He may not be the biggest, or prettiest, but he's educated, and it haunts you every time he refuses your offering.
There has been a rainbow trout that I've started to consider the smartest fish I've ever faced. In the last 4 weeks, I've went up against him and lost every weekend. He loves to hold behind the same slate rock, and has a way of darting around the far side of it, sipping two bugs, and then running back to cover. He has this same approach to feeding every time I see him. He's not huge, probably a little over a foot long, but he is so damn smart.
I got to the stream today and he was the first fish I saw rise. I figured I would just take my time and work on him until I got him. It was a free for all with hatches and the fish were rising to everything from BWOs to midges, to caddis, to black stones, and even a few cahills or sulphurs (not sure what they were but today was the first time I've seen them this year). I started with olives. Size 18, not even a look. 20, nothing. Ok, let's try a 22. He rises, inspects, backs down. I cast again, he comes up again, stops fighting the current, and drifts downstream with the fly about an inch from his nose, examining it for a good 5 seconds before backing away.
This game continued with every fly I threw at him. As soon as my cast went over his head, he'd run out, take two naturals, and head back to his spot. It was driving me crazy. After about 200 casts, I was about to give up. I tossed out a size 20 Griffith's Gnat, and then was distracted by a young college girl jogging past in yoga pants. DAMN, missed a hit. Maybe he's not so smart. Tried the same fly again, nothing.
I walked a little upstream and sat down at a bench, just watching this fish continue to rise. An older gentlemen walked right into the spot and started to work the fish. He couldn't even get a look and went on his way. I decided to tie on the smallest fly I had and make one more cast before heading home. Out came the 8x with a size 24 Griffith's gnat. I got a look, but no follow. One more cast. Nothing. DAMN this fish is smart. I then noticed a brown feeding pretty fast and moving right into the same feeding lane. One more cast.
It landed perfectly, drag free drift, right in the zone. It was like slow motion. The bow had noticed the brown in his space and wanted to beat him to the fly. I watched him shoot at the fly like a rocket, I saw white as he opened his mouth. SET. GOT HIM.
I finally outsmarted him, and it felt better bringing this fish to hand than any fish I've caught in a long time. I think the most amazing thing about this fish was that he was rising again in the same spot a few minutes after I released him.