My alarm goes off at 5am. I roll out of bed and fire up the coffee. Groggy eyed I turn on the news to see what damage COVID-19 has caused in the past 24 hours. Everyone lives through historical moments throughout their lifetime, but this will most likely go down as the biggest moment any of us will live through. I crack open a few eggs and long for the news cycle that consisted of Democrats yelling at Republicans or vice versa.
I take a sip of the strong brew and contemplate a plan for the day. I have a 6 hour window to chase trout, and right now with everything going on in the world that's exactly what my brain needs to settle down.
For the past few months I've been content on just chasing trout. When I have some time I pick up the rod from the garage and drive to the local waters around Bozeman and have at it. It's fun, mindless and stress free. Halfway through my cup of Joe I settle on chasing big fish for the day. I've gone away from "The Chase" in the past few years because of the commitment it takes to consistently catch 20+ inch fish. It's a completely different game. You have to set goals, make plans, scour maps and invest more time then just fishing for numbers. You also have to be willing to find streams that aren't so good and battle through the mental pain of wasting a valuable fishing day. Luckily my first few years out here I spent countless hours finding good solid streams that can produce good numbers of big fish.....so when time permits I can venture to those locations and get to work without much questioning of my decision.
There's nothing like arriving at your spot and knowing there are big wild brown trout lurking in the waters. My Tacoma came to a halt and I quickly gathered my gear. I glanced down at my big ole Rubber Legs and smile, this guy has brought more 2 footers to the net then any fly pattern I've ever fished. I walk swiftly through the matted down grass which just recently got rid of it's winter snow pack. I hear the riffles in the distance knowing my destination is soon approaching. The magpies are chirping and a perched Hawk scans the fields for a quick easy meal. I crest the hill and look down at the meandering flow of water, my escape for the next 4 hours.
The stretch of water I need to cover to get back to the truck would take most people 5-6 hours to fish. I know 4 hours isn't enough to lollygag around and swap flies until I figure out what the fish are eating. I made my mind up over coffee and eggs......hit the prime lies and move on. I peel of the mono rig from my reel and start casting upstream on the inside bends. To me, this is the most likely lie for a big trout. It's that spot of calm water adjacent to the main riffle close to the bank your fishing on. Through the years I've settled on the belief that the big fish hang in this water because they can quickly sense the presence of clumsy wade fisherman. They can also quickly retreat to deeper water when birds of prey come hunting for lunch.
My #4 RL covers the first two runs thoroughly with no action. I feel confident I'm making the right drifts and getting to the kill zone. Questions immediately start creeping into my mind. Is it too cold? Are they keying in on the midges I see scurrying on the water surface? I think back to the plan at breakfast and just decide to cover the prime lies with my big fish pattern. Two more productive runs and riffles yield no results. I'm not here for numbers though. I'm here for one 20+ inch brown trout. I've played this game before when it comes to these fish and sometimes if you stick with it long enough you get rewarded with a fish of a lifetime.
The next bend comes into view and I take a deep breathe. This one is hard to approach. You have lots of slow clear water at the tail end of the pool and countless times I've sent wary trout into the prime lie that notified all the other trout something was up. I took my time and slowly covered the tail out. No action but no fish spooked....at least that I could see. At the top of the run there's a nice deep inside bend with little to no current. I suspect the fish are hanging in there doing their lazy early spring thing.
I watched my sighter slowly tighten and moved the rod tip accordingly to keep good contact with my nymphs. Tick, Tick, Tick. I felt good and could feel my nymphs riding the bottom of the inside bend. I am aware that usually this bend has some debris at the bottom and snags occur. This never effects my hook sets though, that's a lazy mans way of fishing. Toward the end of my drift the sighter hesitated ever so slightly. I set hard and thought I hooked some debris. But....then the debris started taking off upstream. The tell tale sign of a big brown is a massive head shake then it tends to bulldog you by riding close to the bottom of the stream. This is exaclty what happened and I knew I had a good fish on. I quickly started walking to the bank, seeking shallow water to aid in landing this fish. A few good runs up and down the hole and I finally got to visual see the big kyped brown. I knew he was namer material....now I had to seal the deal. I kept side pressure heavy on him, hoping my 4x tippet would hold out long enough to land him. I got him close enough to take a swipe with my net
and to my surprise scooped him on the first try! This usually doesn't happen when battling with a big fish but hell.....I'll take the luck. With the heart racing and a relieved feeling I sat down and admired the beast for a few minutes before taking a pic and releasing him back into the depths.
I was halfway to the truck when I landed the fish I came for. So the rest of the morning I had less focus, but was at ease. I manged to wrangle a few more big fish, and sometimes that's just the way it goes. Today wasn't about numbers......it was all about the Big Fish Chase. I was rewarded with a NAMER....a Troutbitten tradition ( www.troutbitten.com ) Folks meet Mr. Yokozuna. Tight lines all.