Far from the city, past the remnants of old mines, quiet towns, and tired factories there lies a river. This river has become my refuge for trout on the east coast. It has captured my imagination, refined my skills, and satisfied the void for adventure. The trout of a lifetime lurks somewhere in this river and each day I eagerly await our meeting.
My first excursion to this river was as much an exploratory mission as anything. Internet searches turned up dated reports of large trout, but I could find no current information confirming the existence of these fish. Luckily, I don’t require much convincing to explore a new river. As is often the case for approaching unfamiliar water, I shamelessly rigged up the tried and true San Juan worm tied off a midge. Not knowing where to start fishing, I entertained the classic approach, thinking, “If I were a fish, where would I be?” On the far bank of the river, I saw a slow riffle, about 3-4 feet deep and figured it was as good of a spot as any to begin fishing. As a self enforced rule (which I would recommend to all fisherman), I never walk through a run before casting through it first. As I made my way to the far bank I cast, took a few steps, cast, step, repeat. Once in prime location, I worked my casts closer and closer to the best looking water. I cast at the seam of the riffle and mid drift, my indicator paused and I set the hook. The 20” rainbow had taken the San Juan and had completely caught me off guard. Standing in the current in the middle of a river and on slippery rocks is not the best place to be fighting a large trout, especially with a DSLR camera around your neck. But that was where I found myself. I began thinking, “Okay, I’m going to lose my camera or the fish, or both.” I am a firm believer in the buddy system and my buddy, Charlie, must have heard my incoherent screams as he came running downstream, wading out to relieve me of my camera. First problem solved, the next problem was the tip of my rod. My leader knot was caught on my top guide and my leader was at that perfect length where the fish was just out of reach of the net. Waving my rod side to side like a windshield wiper, I eventually popped the leader knot free allowing me to reel in enough line to land the fish. A gigantic sigh of relief paired with some sort of garbled battle cry marked my largest east coast trout to date. The fish was released and while the uncontrollable shaking in my hands subsided, the smile firmly planted on my face remained for days. Days like this are why I fish.
Photos courtesy of Charlie Church and the camera he saved from a watery grave