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A Fish Story

The story / remembrance you are about to read is based on actual events, no names were changed to protect the innocent

One early morning while fishing Spring Creek in Pennsylvania I was having what I would call reasonable results and had managed a few pretty nice brown trout. All of the fish caught were of good size, however my fishing partner of about 20 years at that time had caught nothing. I offered him a fly of my design 'The Answer' but he declined. I never really knew what fueled his choice not to take the streamer but then he is a fly tier himself and had plenty of his own creations in his boxes. So as the early morning pushed on toward mid-day and a slight drizzle had begun. My friend was fishing a Hornberg wet about 30 yards up stream of me when he managed to get a back cast snagged in a big old Sycamore tree about 10 or 11 feet up on a fairly stout branch. (After all of the festivities were over he told me that the snag happened because he was hurrying his cast.)

The reason claimed for his careless back cast was that I had been double hauling long casts upstream of my position and he was trying to reach further downstream before I 'ruined' any fish that might be there. In hindsight I believe he may have had valid concerns. I had been on a pretty good roll thus far and was eager to feel another heavy fish pull on my fly.

But for now, let's get back to that fair Hornberg snagged high upon the limb. As Steve tugged and struggled to free the fly hooked well above his reach, I could see that he was nearing the breaking point of both line and spirit. He was taking on the look of a beaten man not withstanding the string of vulgarities he had begun to pelt the poor tree with, he was sounding pretty aggravated.

Seeing the need for some cool headed intervention I rushed up to him calling out that he should not break off his fly, and that I would help get it. You see, I'm 6' 5" tall and have an 8'6" reach without jumping. With my height and athletic ability it seemed appropriate for me to assist because my friend, by his own description, is a bit portly. Surly I would be able to save his fly and perhaps his mood from souring any further by my kind gesture. Some would have kept fishing and left the poor fellow to deal with his own problems, but not me.

Before heading to the scene of the crime, I tossed my fly into the water close to shore and flipped a loop of line into the creek then laid my rod down in the tall grass and reeds with the tip extended out over the water so that there would be no danger of either of us stepping on it. Then I hustled over to the scene of the tree caught Hornberg. We discussed a strategy wherein he would gently pull the offending limb down to about 9 foot so that I might be able to jump up and catch hold of it.

As Steve gingerly pulled down on the branch with his 8 lb. leader I was jumping and trying to grab the limb. With each attempt I could get hold of some small shoots of the main bough but as I would try to pull it closer, they would invariably break and back it would spring, out of reach. As we labored at our new sport, we both took note of a sound that we also both recognized. I shot a quick glance over my left shoulder to confirm the source and it was indeed caused by the spring & pawl drag on my CFO IV reel. At the time when I had looked, the reels handle had gathered enough resistance by winding up some of the long rush’s and grasses that it had quit paying out line. My rod was being dragged through the weeds and was about to go off the edge of the bank into the water.

With these events unfolding at a brisk rate, I turned my back on the fly retrieval mission and with loud exclamation ran for the rod. Just at waters edge I snatched it up and hauled back with no idea of what was happening. Remember this is fly fishing not live bait, no fish just grabs a fly laying on the bottom right?.......... I lifted the rod overhead and the line cut a long V downstream through the long slow pool as I took up the slack. When it went tight it gave a spray into the air which only added to the dramatic effect as one of the biggest brown trout we had ever seen hit the surface like a salmon! After a fast but furious battle full of jumping and corkscrewing rolls the fish won the day as my hook came loose. I cried out in utter dismay **** or some clever but fitting curse, then launched into a tirade over my foul luck.

!#@^%* THAT DOES IT ! My buddy exclaimed as he snapped his leader leaving his Hornberg to the birds, I'm Done!

I tried over lunch, and again over the hour and a half drive home to console him and make excuses for what had happened but nothing seemed to work. "How the hell is it" he ask; that while I fish my ass off all day and catch nothing, it isn't bad enough I have to watch you hauling them in all morning but you hook a thirty inch fish while you are not even FISHING!?

I give full credit to the streamer pattern “The Answer” for the events of that day.
This is my streamer creation, circa 1993, it was designed specifically for brown trout fishing. The dyed partridge flanks are tied above the bend of the hook and extend giving the tail a unique swimming effect. The tail allows for the fly to be long but to have no feathers getting wound about the bend of the hook while fishing.

Seen here wet

Steve and I shared 25 years’ worth of fishing memories and I am sure he can still see that fish leap and roll in the air as well as I can. I have had an occasion at the same creek to allow a Gray Ghost streamer to rest on the bottom and I watched as a group of three big trout examined it. I eventually gave the fly a twitch, ever so slight and this was answered by the largest of the fish instantly inhaling the fly. They will stop to look at things lying on the bottom. And I guess sometimes grab them even if they don't move.

We still talk now and then over the miles that separate us, and the 'Incident' still comes up every so often. We are in agreement that since we had a clear look at it on several leaps clear of the pool, it would have made the largest trout I had ever caught. It was salmon size...............

Now I fish every year for the great Alaskan Rainbow that will touch near the 30" mark, no joy on that one yet either


Updated 05-11-2013 at 01:25 AM by Ard



  1. Davo's Avatar
    Another captivating tale Ard. Thanks for sharing!! A friend of mine caught a nice 28' inch brown on the South Fork in similar fashion. While floating through a riffle he had cast his line into the soft water on the inside corner. Then turned around to finish telling a story. Not moving or even paying attention to his fly. Suddenly the line went tight, he pulled on the rod thinking he snagged the bottom. Then the line took off up stream and the fight was on. I truly believe some of the nicest fish are caught by accident!!
  2. mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: Thanks, another great story, thanks for sharing! After that experience I can see how your fishing partner was frustrated! LOL!

  3. Ard's Avatar
    You're Welcome Dave,

    I have had numerous occasions when a fly was hanging in the current and a fish grabbed it. What made this different was that the streamer had been tossed in very slow moving water about 2-3 foot deep and right at the bank. The amount of time that passed between my leaving the rod lay and the line taking off downstream was a fair number of minuets. No doubt the fly was lying on the bottom, had I not seen it in person I would have thought it not very probable. I don't think it'll ever happen again.


    Steve got over it and he kept fishing with me until our last trip before I left 8 years ago. He has not had to endure any of the unusual things since that which often happened when I was around.