Sunday, September 13, 2009

For the Record...

...the photographic evidence should leave no doubt.

On a recent family vacation, I was given a ribbing over some grievous allegations of "enhancing" or "inflating" my numbers with respect to my accounting of fish caught.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll concede to having occasionally added an inch or two to a trout I've caught. It's a time honored tradition among fishermen, and who am I to mess with tradition?

But doggone it, pictures don't lie! Today, I have no tall tales to weave. Today's match up in the ongoing "Poudre '09" battle was one to remember, and Dad and I have the pictures to prove it.

Three short hours were all it took to land two of the four biggest trout in the battle so far. Over the summer, we've developed a nice routine. We begin in a fast riffle where someone almost always strikes first blood; fish a long stretch of steady water adorned on the south side by numerous overhanging trees and deep holding areas; progress to "the hub," a playground of sorts where the river ebbs and flows in alternately fast current and deep, slow runs; and finish in a stretch of slow dry-fly current where fish almost always rise to the surface until just before we get in the water.

Following this familiar routine, I started nymphing while Dad went with a hopper pattern. Dad quickly progressed downstream to get the hopper out of the swift water, while I stayed at the riffle a bit longer and drifted nymphs along the bottom. Just as I had about given up on the nymphing, I turned to see Dad's rod tip bending dramatically, twitching back and forth. No more than five seconds later, my indicator sank and I set the hook. I landed a nice, fat rainbow, seen below.

I turned to get a look at Dad's fish, only to see that he was still playing it, and it looked like it had some more fight left in it.

I made my way downstream, knowing that Dad would eventually land the fish, and I wanted to be there for the picture. The photo op wouldn't happen for another 10 minutes, when Dad finally got the fish out of fast water, having tired it out enough to land it along the bank. A beautiful rainbow, probably approaching 20 inches.

I decided to keep nymphing, wondering all the while if I were making the right strategic choice. My doubts grew as I turned to once again see Dad calmly playing another strong fish. He was close to shore and I was up to my thighs in water, so I decided to stay put. Dad jumped into the lead with a nice brown, the only one of the day.

By this point, I decided I would give Dad one more fish to prove to me that the hopper pattern was the hot fly of the day. What's the old adage? Good things come to those who wait? I tossed the nymph upstream and concentrated on the float. The bright orange indicator stopped a couple of times, and I responded with a quick tug on the rod, as I was always taught. I assumed I was hitting rocks, which happens often. I thought back to some reading I recently did and told myself to keep setting the hook when the indicator stopped. On the third cast upstream, the indicator took a nose dive. I set the hook and felt the solid resistance. For a split second, it felt as though the fly had lodged securely under a rock. Suddenly, the rock started shaking the line and moving, and then started running downstream. The rock, of course, was a very strong rainbow trout.

The rainbow seemed content to pull steadily and stay in the deep water, and really didn't start to fight until I coaxed him into some shallower current. Initially, it didn't feel like that much of a fish. As I continued to play him in the shallow water, he seemed to get stronger. "I think this one might have some size to him," I remarked to Dad, who by now was watching intently. As the fish finally surfaced for the first time, Dad let me know that it indeed had some weight. "Biggest one so far," he said. A few minutes later I landed him along the bank, and Dad got to do the honors with the camera this time.

What a comeback! Shortly after being safely released back into the river, he must have had the last laugh. As I began to make my way back to the bank following a few more casts, I paid too much attention to casting and too little attention to wading. A quick misstep sent me tumbling face first into the river, thoroughly soaking me from head to toe. Thank goodness for my waterproof camera bag.

The remainder of the day was anti-climactic. "The hub" produced nothing more than a solitary hit on my nymph. For good measure, Dad turned a beautifully casted dry fly into another nice rainbow...just to break the tie. I was too slow on the one trout that came after my elk hair caddis, and then my toes started to turn numb from the cold water that had flooded my waders during my less than graceful fall into the drink.

In any event, Battle Poudre '09 remains tight. And nobody can accuse either of us of embellishment, not one bit.

At least not until the next family get together.

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