Written by Jennifer Olsson
Illustration by Parks Reece
Big Sky Journal – Fly Fishing 2010
It was on a wild western river that rolled over worn rocks and boulders when I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Like last call at a pub, trout feed more brazenly on the surface just before the sun goes down, and he was making time in a back eddy.
He rose once, then twice. The best trout of my life have always been sly. I admired him as he sipped caddis pupae, careful not to expose himself. I could tell by the large ring he left he was a bad boy, the kind I could brag about on Facebook. The kind with a tail so wide it would look like a baby whale had taken a header into my landing net.
He was no fool. I’d have to be wise. Make him think it was his idea. Keep a low profile, pretend to ignore him. This drives them crazy because when you finally strike, they have no idea what hit them.
I didn’t want to take any chances. I used a fresh 10-foot, 4X leader on an 8-foot 6-inch split-cane rod. I had to have every advantage, be my best, and look my best.
He had just fed and turned under when I made my play. Casting downstream I allowed the leader to pile up in nice loose loops. He wouldn’t get upset by any drag.
“Hello,” said my number 16 deer-hair pupae.
“What’s up,” he said coolly while taking down a natural.
Then I waited, not wanting to be too obvious. He fed twice, his big shoulders rounding as he pulled through the water. I felt dizzy. I wasn’t sure who was in control. He was teasing me to distraction. I cast again. My fly floated past his feeding lane. He didn’t come up. I know he was hungry, but I would make him wait.
He rose again. He took my fly into his mouth. The heft of the mighty trout’s body pulled my desire behind it. The reel screamed, I screamed. Geese scattered. I could tell in the first 10 yards I had met the trout I had waited for all my life. He was magnificent. Coming out of the water he cartwheeled across the surface. “You’re feisty,” I complimented, hoping to flatter and get his attention while turning him against the current.
But then he played hard to get. He bucked and shook then torpedoed downstream. I thought it was temporary, he’d see things my way. But I was so wrong. He John Wayned me over rocks and river bed. He was rough but I tried to be stronger, taking his abuse while running clickity-clack in studded wading boots over slippery stones. Couldn’t he understand my dedication? I was giving him everything and he only took. ‘
“Don’t go. Please don’t leave. Stay.” I begged. The backing started to play out anyway.
I knew it was over before it was over. I just didn’t want to admit it. Not enough line control. Maybe years ago when I was younger I could have kept up. Why do I torture myself with the likes of him? When will I ever learn?
I had already begun to quietly weep when the line went slack.