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Fish / August 28, 2016

Fish and Boating in the Yampa Valley: Part 4

Written by: Eric Jackson

Editor’s note: This piece is the final part of a four-part narrative published in weekly installments. The first piece in the series can be found here

There’s something special about shore lunch. Something about the locale makes the food tastier and the drinks colder and more refreshing. That sensation is only enhanced if the day has been full of big, beautiful fish.

After lunch, we started off with streamers. We prospected the banks for big fish that would crush an easy target. We landed cast after cast tight to the bank, but found no players.

We switched back to a nymph setup as we rolled back into a prime run. We had taken most of our fish on a pink worm, so we decided to try a purple worm. 

This switch is often made by guides who want to prepare for a day ahead of them. A guide who has a day set up with a less experienced angler, for example, will be able to save the day with bait they’ve tested the day before.

 

The fishing had been good—so good that catching 18″ rainbows had begun to seem almost commonplace.

Almost.

We jolted back to life after a strike thundered through the rod to my hand. The indicator yanked. This fish was fighting hard to shed the hook from its jaw.

This was not a running fish. It had decided instead to just bury its face into the bottom of the river.

I took care not to break the tippet—a real fear with a fish like this—while still forcing her head and wearing her down. I soon had her in the boat, and found her a thick and heavy 22″ brown trout.

When she propelled herself back down to the safety of the deep, she did so with smooth, powerful strokes.

Our quest for even larger fish continued, and we moved into some private water on the Hogue Ranch.

This was a good stretch of water, and at this high water it offered the opportunity for the fish of a lifetime. That was our goal for the day.

As we moved through the Hogue, I began to recognize spots I’d visited the year before. Previously, many of these spots had been mere trickles or even dry creek beds. They were all fishable now, and looked very fishy to us as we glided along.

Andy took out a large, articulated pattern for this section of water. As I cast, it tucked under trees and landed tight to the edge.

A smaller brown soon took the fly, but this was not the fish we were looking for.

We kept banging the banks. We searched and searched. Cast after cast landed tight to the bank. Then, finally…

Strip, strip, strip… WHAM !

I felt a take with enough stomp to bring two grown men to shouting and screaming.

Big fish like this one almost always stop at first. They’re apex predators who feel no need to run from things. Until their head is pulled in a direction they don’t like, that is. Then all hell breaks loose.

The drag screamed as line peeled of it. Andy kept the raft in position, and I fought what I knew might be the fish of my life.

She turned back toward the safety of the brush, which was no good for me. That provided far too many opportunities for the line to snag and break off.

It was time to really put the pressure on—I had to keep her out of there or she’d be gone. I kept the rod low and away, and dove the rod butt into my chest for leverage.

Violent headshakes pumped through the rod as it bent deeper and deeper. She turned deep and headed under the raft. Not much better than the reeds.

I buried the rod tip into the water the guide her out, and the fish turned to come out from under the raft. She headed up to the surface almost lifted herself into the air.

Almost. This trout was so big she could hardly get her body out of the water. Her efforts appeared to have worn her out, and she began to follow my lead toward the boat.

At this size, though, even a tired fish can break off at the end of a fight. Her weight could snap a heavy tippet like a thread.

Andy threw the net under her after she headed to the raft, and we lifted the giant brown into the boat.

Once we secured the raft and gave the fish some time in the water to recuperate, we took picture after picture. It’s not every day you catch a 25″ brown trout, after all.

 

What a fish! What a moment! We agreed to take a break and celebrated with fresh, cold beers.

We knew these special times are few and far between and held them close to our souls. It’s these moments, after all, that truly keep us alive.

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about the author

Eric Jackson

From the time a nine pound catfish nearly pulled three-year-old Eric Jackson in the water to the time he waded the flats of the Texas coast for redfish, all of these experiences have led Eric to share and guide others in fishing.

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