Every trip to the river tells a different story. Some stories we end up falling in love with and others are those made of nightmares. A few weekends back two buddies and I went up to one of my favorite rivers. Every time I slide on the waders and step foot off the bank and into this river's cold waters I find my mind swirling with high hopes. Could this be the day? Big fish? Prolific hatches? The fight of a lifetime? I love that about fishing. It almost forces you to be an optimist.
The three of us hit the water early in the morning, probably too early for the fish and bugs but we were fired up and wanted to get our flies wet. A few hours of wading, casting, and changing bugs had gone by before we had any excitement between the three of us. Of course... the guy on his first fly fishing trip was the one to dace with a local trout first. I was up river when I heard Aaron holler like I hadn't heard before. I looked back and Kevin's rod was bent in half! With curiosity I moved down stream to see what he'd brought to the net. Peering between his hands from the other side of the river, the fish looked like it had some real length. Aaron snapped a few photos before letting the beast head back into the frigid depths of the river. By all accounts, Kevin's first trout on a fly rod was a 23" brown trout. Not bad if you ask me.
Aaron and I were understandably excited for Kevin's virgin foray into fly fishing for trout. We also chalked it up to a little beginner's luck. This particular river doesn't give up it's fish easily. As relatively experience fly anglers we were hoping to land a solid fish or two over the weekend, but a 23" brown as your first trout on a fly rod? Well...that doesn't really even sound fair.
We moved on from that spot to another likely section of river. As soon as the bugs started popping off, I came tight on a solid rainbow. We measured it on the net and got it back into the water quickly. Twenty-two inches of wild rainbow trout had me sitting amongst the grass with an ear-to-ear grin. Stoked! Aaron was now the odd man out.
The rest of the day we slogged on, looking for more signs of life. Sipping trout in the foam line. A flash at a streamer. Something. As the sun set Aaron and I both had a few nice fish come up to inspect our drifting dries, but nothing hooked up for us. A solid 12 hours of fishing and Aaron hadn't even had a fish on the line. To make matters worse, Kevin and I had both landed (and celebrated with) some notable fish. I'm sure the minutes before falling asleep had Aaron reflecting on the day and making plans for the next.
We were up early again on Sunday, but waited for the bugs before we started fishing in earnest. The first hour or so of the day we went to some of our favorite runs before trying one last spot, a spot we'd never tried before. With a solid fish under my belt, I let Aaron take first shot at the run. It looked like a really promising section of river. The car was packed up, spare rods were tucked away in the rod tubes, and the car was gassed up and ready for home. We just had to give this one run a try before sitting in traffic on the way back to San Francisco. We're basically done right?
I broke out the camera in hopes of getting a few good shots in the less than ideal lighting and Aaron started drifting his flies between rocks and along current seams. Then...boom, it happened. I looked back down river and he had a fish on the other end of his line! There was a good little battle in the high current and I grabbed the net to make sure we made this one count. A few minutes later, Aaron had a beautiful brown trout (his spirit animal) in hand. Needless to say he had a massive smile on his face and was beyond happy with a 21" brown. After releasing it to the river where it belonged, we walked back up to the car and packed up for the ride home.
The great thing about this river is that it's always a challenge. The reward, however, is usually well worth the effort and time. It takes patience, confidence, and a commitment to the process in order to land these fish on a regular basis. We had logged some some solid time on the river and came away with some stories, time to reflect, and 66" of trout on three hook sets. If it weren't for persistence, that last run just might have been left for the next trip.