Editor’s note: This piece is the second part of a four-part narrative published in weekly installments. The first part of the series can be found here.
We continued sliding down the shoreline, still full of joy from our catch. We knew it would take something pretty great to beat that high, but we were on water that could provide that and more. Our lures found a couple of pike and a smallie (smallmouth bass), but we went a while without any fish that really blew us away.
As the drift kept pushing us, Andy spotted a possible fish lying right where a bedded-up smallmouth would be. Smallies prefer rocky areas with drop or slope to the bottom. This particular spot fit that description, and it had one major advantage. An overhanging bush behind the bed provided a safe hiding space for quick escapes.
Our excitement level crept back up as we eased toward the fish. It was a big fish that needed to be caught, if only just so we could see her up close.
For our first attempt, we used a large crayfish pattern to tease her into a mistake. A couple of strips put the fly in her zone, but without a take. I picked it up and put it back.
This time the fish moved, but didn’t eat. She was at least curious. Another cast put the pattern closer to her bed and drew a more aggressive response.
In the boat, we were two grown men acting like kids throwing crickets at bluegill. We hooted and hollered every time the fish reacted.
Third time’s the charm? Yes sir! WHAM!!
She was definitely tired of that thing being close to her bed. With a strip set, I felt her tighten up on my line. Then nothing.
DAGNABBIT! The hook had pulled out.
Andy handed over the five weight with a leech tied on to try. That leech swam by and she bum rushed it. The fish was too fast, so we could only watch as as she ate and spit out the fly in one fluid motion.
Next we showed the fish a with a very unorthodox jig setup. The first cast fell a bit wide. I drew it out of the zone and cast again.
This time, with a better feel for the casting on this rig, I was able to drop it right in front of the fish’s face. She attacked. The take was so quick that my reaction was rushed and too strong.
The fly broke off, and I was left with line, leader, and tippet only. We’d had three different strikes on one fish. It was time to move on.
Slipping along the shore again, it was impossible not to pause and soak in our surroundings. Steamboat Springs is like heaven on Earth; it’s the sort of place that’s very hard to leave.