Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thief and the Trophy Trout

A young Stewart boy learning the basics
of fly fishing on the Crooked River.

Even after 40 years this fish story still grates on my nerves. Back in those early days the Crooked River in Eastern Oregon used to run clear as it flowed out of Bowman Dam. Fishing was usually very good because of the tremendous population of scuds, the consistent hatches of caddis and mayflies, and the variety of nymphs, especially the craneflies.        

On one particular morning I approached a riffle that lazily spilled into a clear five-to six-foot pool. There was little surface activity as I cast a # 8 muskrat fly up and across the mild current. In the past I had good luck using a slow methodic strip which would enable the muskrat fly to move and pulsate like the real cranefly nymph. As I stripped my fourth cast back, I could see the fly working towards me when suddenly a large dark shadow began to follow it. As it swam closer the shadow transformed into a huge trout. I froze but kept stripping, while saying under my breath, “Take it, take it.” Then the unthinkable happened. Just as this trophy opened its mouth to strike, out of nowhere a three-to-four pounder slashed in and took the fly. As I quickly played it out I watched the big fish slowly cruise away upstream. I was totally distraught. 
A week later I was down at the same pool hoping for another chance to hook that big fish, when a spin fisherman walked up and said,

“Having any luck, fella?”
“No, not today. What about you?” 
“Oh, so so. But last week in this same hole I caught a nice one.”
“How big?”
“Well, that sports shop in town weighed it in at 12 pounds 3 ounces!”         
“No kidding. What were you using?”
“Salmon eggs.”   

I was really upset and, rather than telling him how lucky he was, I walked away while wondering, “If it hadn’t been for that thief, I…” 

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