I look at fly fishing as a game of patience. My wife is developing it after several years, and I was born patient. The temperature this morning was 60 degrees, and I work for myself. The local lake was stocked a couple weeks ago, and I decided that it was time to go fishing before the cold weather sets in. Yvonne and I fished the lake yesterday, but she can only hike so far after breaking her ankle 4 months ago. That meant about 400 yards from the parking lot. While I did catch a couple trout in that area last week, they've moved on. Yvonne was kind enough to tell me that she'd read a book while I hiked back to the area were I knew there were trout, but I have patience.
After arriving today at 1pm, I tied a #10 white Wooly Bugger on a 7.5' 3X leader, and took my 5wt outfit back to my favorite cove. I tend to fish this cove from the least likely area first, and make my way around to the best spots. I had a couple of gentle tugs, but after nearly 3 hours of casting that wooly bugger, I hadn't caught a fish. Just outside of the cove, there is a shallow rocky bank, with plenty of overhang from trees. This spot is rarely fished by anyone but me, and will usually hold largemouth and crappie. Fishing close to the bank produces the best results, and casting low gets the fly under the branches and right against the bank. After not getting a single fish in 3 hours, I turned to this spot hoping for a crappie on the way home. I laid my wooly bugger down lightly a few times, and then witnessed an eruption! I thought maybe I had hooked one of the lake's fantastic largemouth, but it quickly became apparent that I had the largest trout I've ever seen in person on the end of my line! I quickly got the line on the reel, and tried to remain calm. I used to do surveillance work, and sitting in a car for 8 hours can lull one into the twilight zone. When the subject of your surveillance appears, the response can often be panic. I wasn't panicked when I thought it was a largemouth, but did panic a little when I realized it was a large trout. It made several runs, and the Galvan OB did a nice job protecting my 3X tippet. While 3X doesn't seem light, I had cast this fly without re-tying for the past hour. Once I got the trout in close enough, it became apparent that my little net wasn't going to work well. The trout easily jumped out 3 times!!!!! I remained patient, however, and was moving closer to the bank with each scoop. With one final scoop, I was able to get the trout onto the bank:
I carry a small tape, and the sucker was 22 inches and fat. I called my wife, and asked her if I should keep it. I had seen hawks taking trout last week, and this one looked like an easy target. The lake is home to a Bald Eagle, and while I realize the eagle needs to eat, there are plenty of cats roaming through the park. I thought that another angler might enjoy catching such a large fish, but almost everyone fishes that lake with dough baits. I decided to keep it. This lake has been a favorite of mine for over 30 years, and people know me because I fish there so often. I also have some friends that fish there on fine afternoons like today. Showing the trout to the usual suspects and friends delayed me for an hour, but that was fine. The two friends that were fishing there were allowed to feel the trout's weight, and they were both impressed enough to make carrying the beast around worth the effort.
Once I got home, I realized that my kitchen sink wasn't big enough for this trout, and having roe spill out on the counter was something that I wasn't expecting! Tearing out the innards of a 12 inch trout isn't very difficult, but 22 inch trout innards are much tougher. After slicing and dicing the esphogus, I was able to get the trout clean enough for the refrigerator. I cooked a turkey last night (it wasn't done until 12:15am), and we intended to carve that up this evening. Now I have to decide whether to carve the turkey, or eat the trout while it's still at its freshest. Yvonne is at physical therapy until 8:30pm, so I have time to decide.
Back to patience. I'm not the type that changes flies often, and that's more a matter of being confident in a pattern. The water in the lake was stained from recent heavy rains, and a white wooly bugger was the most visible pattern that I could think of. It worked last week, and I didn't see any reason why it wouldn't work today. I see people fish that lake with lures, and spend very little time concentrating on one area. With the water badly stained today, I occured to me that I was going to have to land my fly right on the fish's nose, and that was going to take patience.