The Row and the Coast Fork River Channels 2
As I was releasing my first fish of the day there were other trout starting to rise and I felt I should fish for these trout since there was no guarantee that I would catch the monster fish laying upriver. I retied my fly and proceeded to land two more good sized rainbows before my real challenge began. I walked back upriver and the fish was still laying in the same spot. The water was only 4 feet deep and I knew I could get really close to him if I waded carefully and quietly. Little by little, step by step, I approached my prize until I was less than 30 feet from him. I started my false casting and took a deep breath. After 4 false casts I placed the fly slightly above and to his right with a little upriver curve in the leader. It floated past him. I picked up my line and false casted 3 times and placed the fly slightly above and right in line on him. He came up ever so slowly but I did not panic and everything seemed to be in slow motion at this moment. I saw the top of his head (it was black) then his long back and finally his tail. My first trophy rainbow I thought to myself! My line was getting tight before I set the hook then everything stopped and came to a standstill. Instead of making a run my fish settled to the bottom with my fly firmly planted somewhere in his mouth. Everything done in slow motion. Many thoughts started running in my head concerning what to do next. I knew my little 7 1/2 foot Leonard bamboo rod didn't have much backbone, I thought about my 3 pound leader that I did not retie after my last fish, how much pressure do I dare put on this fish? I started to put on as much pressure as I could and finally this great fish started to move. Slowly. But it only moved about 3 feet and settled again! In desperation I started to jerk my rod up and down to try to get his attention but he did not move. Next I started to put pressure on him with my rod more horizontal risking breaking my light leader. In a split second my fish moved quickly three feet back to his original lie and parted my leader. What words could you use to describe how I felt? I didn't move for a minute. "I should have reached for a rock and thrown them at him," I thought to myself. But it was now an after thought and there was nothing I could do.
On my walk back to my car a thought came to me that would give me new hope. "I will come back tomorrow with my bigger graphite rod and hope he is still there."
The monster trout was laying in the exact same place even though the water had risen a couple of inches. Other trout started rising as the previous day but today I had only one goal. I tied on a gray nymph in size 12 as described in Charles Brooks' book "Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout." The reason I had to go with a wet fly was because I could never get these trout to rise to dry fly if a leader was larger than 4X.
A 4X leader had a breaking strength of about 3 to 4 pounds 20 years ago. I wanted to make sure I could bully this fish if I got him on my line so I went with the wet fly, graphite rod and a leader with an 8 pound breaking strength.
By this time in my fly fishing life I had learned to present the wet fly slightly sub surface without drag. It is similar to presently the dry fly slightly downstream. Because this trout had taken the dry fly and the others were also rising I felt no need to put my wet fly on the bottom. I got into my casting position slightly
upstream (instead of downstream as my previous day) of my fish and my first cast was upstream of him and to his right. My rod came lower to the water as my fly floated downstream. I made 3 more casts with each cast putting the fly closer to the fish until the last cast put the fly directly over the fish. I was starting to think the fish wasn't going to come to my fly since each successive cast usually reduces your chance to hook your fish. I moved out of the water and sat on a rock for 10 minutes.
One more try. I again take my position in the river with a brown nymph in the same size. This time I am determined to make my first cast directly in line with the fish instead of working my fly to him. It works! Again he rises ever so slowly and I see my line tightening as I set the hook. Instead of letting him settle to the bottom I give him the butt of my rod and he instantly feels the pressure. He turns swimming downstream much like a chinook instead of a trout. I do not have to run after him but face downstream and start walking after him until he comes to a stop 50 feet downriver. There he shakes his head and swims side to side in utter confusion. I again give him the butt and this time he turns upriver and jumps out with a great splash then continues upriver to his lie. I turn around and follow him back upriver as I gain line and catch up to him again. He knows he is hooked and makes a few powerful short runs near his lie until he runs out of steam. He is mine! I slide the fish to a gravel bar to examine it. This rainbow look more like an old Silver Salmon instead of a rainbow. It's head is completely black, his jaws are hooked, and his body is almost completely red. And it is a he. A he of about 10 pounds. I see my tiny dry fly in size 16 is still attached to his bottom jaw as I remove the slightly larger wet fly. I am wishing I had my camera before I return him to the Row River.
This is only one story out of many stories that come from fishing the Row River channel in the spring. Technically spring doesn't start till March 22 but I feel it is spring as soon as the Corps start to fill the reservoirs in February. Today is March 11 and I will try to get out to the channel before April 5 if the river stays low and we don't get too much rain. If I have to wait till April I will have to access the channel from the Row River Road side because the reservoir level will be above the old bridge foundations and fishing is best from the north side after April. At the end of April the reservoir should be full and the water under the old bridge foundation will be above the concrete.