The Simple Joy of Trout Fishing

Why is that man standing in the river smiling?

I was out trout hunting again yesterday afternoon and, despite having the eagle greet me upon my arrival, the hunting did not seem destined to produce any big Catskill trout. I was seriously fishing terrestrials, though they brought no response, not even when cast to a bankside rise. As I approached some faster water, I noticed a couple of small rises, so I tied on a little sulfur cripple and made a few casts. When I decided to move upstream, I let my line drag behind me. By ignoring my fly I caught a trout.

The little brown brought a smile to my face and changed my focus, helping me to rediscover the simple joy of trout fishing!

That tiny cripple wasn’t floating too well in the riffled water, so I tried a pair of sulfur comparaduns, first an 18 and then a 20. I remembered this riffle from last autumn, and felt there ought to be some good fish around. I decided to tie on the lone size 12 Halo Isonychia in my box and fish that riffle in earnest. It was the right decision at the right time.

There were a lot of trout in that riffle, and a number of them were willing to come up and take a swipe at my Iso. Another brownie was the first taker. All of ten inches, he fought the soft tip of the old Granger bamboo with all the heart of a trout twice his size. I let him have his head a bit before bringing him to hand. The smile was growing.

It was a warm, beautiful afternoon on a gorgeous reach of Catskill river, and I was alone. The Granger kept flicking the water from that dry fly, and then placing it in another lie, anywhere I could see a deeper slot or a larger rock on the bottom. The trout responded.

As I worked my way upstream into faster sections of the riff, wild Delaware rainbows replaced the browns. Their characteristic quick little spurt rises were hard to react to, as I was stripping as fast as I could just to retrieve the line while my fly bobbed rapidly down the current. I missed a number of them: whack, there and gone in an instant, until I adjusted to the pace of the river.

Between misses, I caught a few chunky bows, every one fighting like the legendary senior members of their tribe. None of these wild trout quite reached a foot in length, but they had the wide profile of healthy, well fed fish. They sure could pull as they cavorted against the arching tip of my old cane rod!

I smiled and laughed at those caught as I twisted the hook free, and laughed even harder at those quick strikes that left me no time at all to react. I finished my afternoon right there in that riffle, grinning. I could hunt leviathan another day.

Sometimes we get very, very serious about trout fishing. If we hook small fish when we feel we should be catching trout of a certain size, we can feel like we are missing something. I hate to hear the scorn in some angler’s voices when they frown and say “nuthin’ but dinks” to a query of “catchin’ any?” The youngsters are as wild and beautiful as the elder members of the clan, and their heart is undeniable. We should all appreciate them more then we do. Trout don’t pop out of the gravel at eighteen inches long, they all start out little, and we owe our trophy trout fishery to the stamina and tenacity all of those small fry swimming in the rivers and streams.

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