|Idyllic spot for a weekday morning, no?|
A whole lot was one my mind- from personal travels to substantial work responsibilities bouncing around, and other assorted nonsense. It has been a few weeks since I was in this area for work, took a wrong turn, and ended up at a put-and-take section of river near the Pennsylvania border. On that day (the story here and here), I sacrificed my lunch hour and instead fished for trout for the first time in at least three years, catching a slew of fallfish, a small wild brown trout, and a 8-9" rainbow trout, all on ultralight tackle and inline spinning flies. I ain't gonna lie - it was fun.
I came back to the same spot this time, ready to push downstream and see if I could get into some larger trout. While I wouldn't call the public access "difficult," it involves traffic dodging, siderail hopping, playing peek-a-boo-falling-concrete-rubble, and resisting the urge to grab onto 2 inch think poison ivy vines when you are about to fall down a 30 foot slope vegetated by blackberries.
And that's just to get on the river.
Mentally, I was ready to fish - something that's been a challenge for me this year. I worked hard - wading mindfully, trying to analyze structure far downstream of where I was fishing....there would be no fish "accidentally" caught on this day. After about 20 minutes of fishing, I landed this small wild brown on a #12 white gnat inline spinner with a gold spoon (the water was slightly stained from an overnight thunderstorm). At that point, the pressure was off, and I was feeling confident about working the next sets of pools and riffles.
I've been thinking about "fishing with confidence" lately. I heard two separate interviews, one with Kevin VanDam (probably the most talented bass angler on the pro tour right now) and the other with Mike Iaconelli (who ranks somewhere in the top 10 on that same list of pro anglers). Very, very different fishermen. And yet, both made repeated statements about hitting the water with unshakable confidence and fishing with resilience (that resilience is what makes VanDam a better angler than Iaconelli in my opinion).
So, I've been thinking about that quite a bit, and trying to concentrate on the task at hand when I'm on the water. Perhaps that's why I landed about 14 female green sunfish in a row, all from one pool, all on the same white gnat & gold spoon. There were two trout in the pool, but they never even had a chance to rise......and so I moved on downstream.
I took a look at my phone to check the time, and invariably it rang, and I took the call. Three minutes later, it was back to "total concentwation." I was fishing the bottom of a thin but deep riffle as it emptied into a wide but shallow pool in the shade. I just had a strong feeling about it. How could a trout or a smallmouth not be sitting in that pool, waiting for my white and gold gnat to tumble downstream into slower water? Turns out, I was right!
You won't believe this, so I don't know why I even mention it, but this fish was bigger than it looks here. OK, OK. It was longer than it looks. It fought well and ran out the drag, zipping around the shallow pool. I assumed it was a fallfish, and it turned out to be a really skinny rainbow trout somewhere around 11.5-12.5". Definitely not a bad fish! And my best trout in probably 5 years. I was really happy to bring this fish to hand.
It took me a few seconds to de-hook him, and just another few to photograph him. I had honestly forgotten how easily stressed that trout can get when they are out of water, even briefly. I slid him back into the pool and worked some water into his gills, the way I used to do with larger saltwater fish. He was pretty stunned and I regretted not having a net with me to help me handle him quicker. Finally, he swam off, and I hope he got some rest.
After all this, I'm still not sure I consider myself a true trout fisherman. Why not? I kind of regret not taking that fish home! I'm very happy he lived, but he would have been delicious, all the same.
And beyond all that, based on fishing headwear (and probably stupidity) alone, I have more in common with this guy:
than anybody who wears this on the water:
Sorry, trout dudes!